Atlantic City lost four starters to graduation, but do not feel sorry for the Vikings.
Gene Allen's team has a wealth of talent, and it includes one of the state's premier freshmen, Rashaun Rasheed, a 6-foot-5 forward.
"In my mind, we're the team to beat in both conferences," Allen said.
Atlantic City is heavily favored to win the Cape-Atlantic American I title, with Vineland its chief competition.
Khalif Toombs, a speedy 5-8 senior guard, is Atlantic City's only returning starter. But the Vikings have several returning letter-winners from a 23-7 team, headed by 6-foot junior guard Umar Shannon and 6-5 senior forward/center Anthony Woodard. Rasheed will also start, while 6-foot junior Levander Jones - whom Allen calls the team's most athletic player - and 6-5 sophomore Muji McBride are battling for the other starting spot.
"We're a lot faster than last year," said Allen, who is leaning toward using a three-guard lineup, "but a little inexperienced."
St. Augustine, which will play in a new state-of-the-art gym that is named after its coach, Paul Rodio, returns three starters and should have another outstanding season.
Josh Thompson, a 6-4 swingman who has signed with Wagner (11.4 points per game last year), and 6-8 senior center Gene Teague (16.1 ppg.) lead the Hermits. Teague was an Inquirer third-team all-South Jersey choice last year.
Bill Giberson, a 6-4 swingman, is St. Augustine's other returning starter. St. Augustine has two promising freshmen: 5-8 guard Isaiah Morton and 6-5 swingman Charlie Monaghan.
Mainland eyes title.
The Mustangs, led by standout senior guards Eric Williams (6-2) and Sean Bannon (6-3), will be tough to beat in the Cape American II.
Charlie Law, a 6-7 senior who is one of South Jersey's best pitchers, will give the Mustangs rebounding. The addition of Shaughnessy gives the Mustangs big-game experience.
Hammonton a contender.
The Blue Devils, who went 15-12 last season and posted their first winning season since 1955, should battle Mainland for the division title. Among the Blue Devils' returnees: Anthony Barone, Travis Washington, and 6-9 junior Kevin Kohr, who 108 blocked shots last year.
St. Joseph returns four starters, including standout forward Norman White, and should battle Pleasantville and Wildwood Catholic for the Cape National II title.
White, a 6-5 senior, averaged 18.6 points and 6.5 rebounds per game last year. The other returning starters are 5-10 guard Mark Senese (6.8 ppg., 5.0 assists per game), 6-4 Brandon Sharp (10.7 ppg.) and 5-10 guard Joe Farina (5.2 ppg.).
Even though it returns just one starter, sharpshooting guard Jason Thompson, Middle Township is dangerous. Tom Feraco (552-154 career record) has coached the Panthers to 18 20-win seasons in the last 20 years.
Middle is counting on guards Ira Thomas, Tom Salvesen, C.J. Rodriguez, Taz Harris and Austin Johnson.
Vineland returns nine letter-winners, including starters Hassan Williams (6-0) and Marcus Ware (6-7), as it tries to improve on last year's solid 17-11 season. Matt Haddix, a 6-6 senior center, is among the letter-winners, and Oakcrest transfer Sergio Ortiz, a 5-9 senior guard, will aid the Fighting Clan.
Around the league.
Egg Harbor Township returns three starters from an 8-18 team and figures to make strides. Andrew Martinez, a 5-9 senior guard who averaged almost 13 points per game last year, and 6-1 senior guard Steve Costa (11.8 ppg.) are among the veterans. EHT also returns 6-2 Jeff Steinberg. . . . Cape May Tech returns four starters, including 6-1 junior Robby Davis (12.2 ppg.), as it tries to improve on its 3-21 record. . . . Buena, which is aiming for its first winning season since 2001-02, will build around 6-3 forward Mike Ney (9.4 ppg.) and 5-10 guard Darius Melton (5.5 ppg.) . . . Oakcrest will revolve around Alex Nelson, a 6-4 senior forward who is one of the Cape's top players. He averaged 16 points per game last year. Also back is Garry Farrow, a 6-2 senior who was the team's top rebounder last year; 5-10 James Coleman; and 6-2 Nick Ranalli.