Still a contender.

Shawnee coach Joe Kessler has arguably his least experienced team in his 21 seasons. The only senior among the top eight in the rotation is 6-foot-5 Ben Simms.

"My leading returning scorer averaged 4.5 points, and I never had a team where the top scorer averaged under five points," Kessler said.

Still, with Kessler's resume - which includes 15 division titles, nine sectional championships and five state crowns - look for the Renegades to compete in the Olympic Patriot.

Raining threes.

One of the Olympic's top outside shooters is Seneca 6-3 senior Rich McNamara. Last season, he averaged 14 points per game and enters the season with 90 career three-point field goals.

With McNamara and the return of 6-4 senior Eric Zimmermann, who missed his junior year with a knee injury, Seneca looks to compete for a Group 3 playoff berth.

Consensus picks.

Defending cochampions Lenape and Cherokee are again the favorites in the Olympic Conference American Division, according to an informal poll of coaches. Cherokee, led by 6-5 Ronson Quick, who has signed with Assumption College, gets the slight nod.

Lenape returns a veteran team led by forward Isiah Dixon. Washington Township and Eastern are considered contenders but not favorites. Township welcomes back four starters, led by senior guard Rick Hudson and his 17.6 points-per-game last-season average. Eastern has a great scoring punch in guard Bobby Harris and forward Shumeek Scott, who combined to average more than 33 points per game last season.

Camden Catholic, The Inquirer's preseason No. 1 ranked South Jersey team, is a favorite in the Olympic National. Camden, with senior guard Aaron Walton, who led South Jersey in scoring with 25.9 points per game, is considered the top contender.

The Olympic Patriot last season was shared by Winslow Township and Shawnee, and both are contenders again. But the favorite is defending South Jersey Group 3 champion Timber Creek, which has three returning starters in guards Montez Blair and Jameer Briggs and forward Collin Johnson.

Another Valentine.

Don't be fooled by the fact that Winslow Township has no starters returning. The Eagles routinely have a deep rotation and return seven letter winners, led by sophomore guard Shawn Valentine. "I think he should be one of the top sophomores in South Jersey," coach Chris Martin said.

Valentine is the third member of his family to play for Martin, who also coached Marcus, a three-year varsity player and 2007 graduate, and Percy, a 2004 graduate.

Super sophomore.

Winslow Township isn't the only school with a highly touted sophomore. Cherry Hill East returns 6-4 sophomore Chris Santo, who averaged 12.3 points and 6.5 rebounds last season. Coach John Valore, who begins the season with 490 career victories, said that Santo has recovered fully from a broken ankle suffered during the summer.

Another key player back for East is 6-0 senior Logan Marro, returning from a knee injury.

Impressive junior.

Eustace junior forward Pat Vasturia's grade point average is even more impressive than his scoring average. And that is saying something.

Vasturia averaged 15.5 points in earning all-Olympic Conference National Division honors. His grade point average is 3.75.

Inside-outside combo.

How's this for an inside-outside combination at Cherry Hill West: 5-4 junior Darryl Nable and 6-8 junior Chris Gebhart? It's easy to see why West wants to get the ball to Gebhart, who averaged 16 points and six rebounds last season.

Growing player.

Washington Township junior center Matt Lopez continues to grow, according to coach Bob Byatt. Lopez has grown two inches and stands 6-10. Byatt said there have already been Division I offers for Lopez.

- Marc Narducci