There's a new team in the Cape-Atlantic American Division 2, and it already has caused quite a stir.

St. Augustine Prep moved up from the National 1 to replace Lower Cape May, and coaches are calling the Hermits the front-runner in the division and possibly the entire conference.

The Prep brings quickness, size and depth to the hardwood.

Last season, the Hermits had a record of 6-2 in the National 1, in which they placed second to Holy Spirit, and were 21-7 overall. Spirit also nipped them, 55-52, in a South Jersey Group A semifinal.

Hebert Guanipa, a 6-foot-9 transfer from the Patterson School (N.C.), is slated to start at center. Guanipa will be joined in the frontcourt by senior Brandon Harris and sophomore Charlie Monahan, both 6-5.

Isiah Morton, who scored 460 points last season as a freshman, returns at point guard. The sophomore will be paired with juniors Matt Norman, Junior Chapman or Paul Rodio, coach Paul Rodio's son.

Atlantic City seven.

The only boys' Cape team to win a sectional crown last year, Group 4 champ Atlantic City has seven returners, and they have size, athleticism and basketball smarts.

The defending American 1 champions will probably vie with St. Augustine for the right to play the best team in the National Division for the conference crown, presently held by Holy Spirit.

Seniors Umar Shannon and Levander Jones make up the best backcourt in the American Conference. A three-year starter at guard, Shannon averaged 14.8 points per game last season until the playoffs began. Then the St. Francis signee averaged 17.9 points.

An excellent defender, Jones averaged 10 points. He signed with Syracuse to play football.

The forwards are junior Muji McBride and sophomore Rashaun Rasheed. At center, coach Eugene Allen will choose among 6-8 senior Lucas Levinson, 6-7 senior Rodney Blunt and 6-6 junior Jamiel Stewart.

Best in the league.

Second-year Vineland coach Jack Martine says he has the best player in the league in Marcus Ware. The agile, 6-7 senior center/forward can score inside and outside and has a sure-handed three-point shot.

A four-year starter, Ware signed a letter of intent to play for Monmouth.

Gridiron group.

Mainland has no returning starters. However, it does have letter winners, most of whom played football.

The gridiron group consists of 6-5, 220-pound center Frank Champion, forward Casey Dillon, guard Kyle Davis and St. Augustine transfer Mike Shaughnessy, a point guard.

Role players.

Kevin Kohr, a 6-8, senior center, and Mike Bertino, a senior guard, are the only players returning to Hammonton. The rest are role players who have size and rebounding skills that could ignite the offense.

Height and talent.

Defending National 1 champion Holy Spirit has height and ability. Three senior starters return in 6-5 forward Giovanny Perdomo, shooting guard B.J. Bailey and point guard Preston Smith.

Taz is back.

Middle Township has one returner from last season in guard Taz Harris. Senior Austin Johnson likely will join him in the backcourt.

Another One.

St. Joseph, which shared the National 2 crown with Pleasantville last year, also returns one starter, guard/forward Greg Cusick, a three-point specialist.

- Bill Iezzi