A year after sharing the Cape-Atlantic National Division I boys' basketball title, Holy Spirit seems primed to win the championship outright.
It won't be easy.
St. Augustine is extremely talented, and Middle Township is always formidable.
But, on paper, Spirit has the edge.
Spirit returns three starters from a 17-9 team, including 6-foot-9 senior forward/center Ryan Brooks, who has signed with Rhode Island. The other returning starters are 6-3 junior B.J. Bailey and 6-8 forward/center Matt DeSouza.
Bailey will move from shooting guard to the point this season. "He's more aggressive at the point," Spirit coach Jamie Gillespie said. "He has lots of potential."
He has so much potential that Wake Forest has made inquiries, along with several Atlantic Ten colleges.
Bailey has been moved to the point to replace Anthony Taylor, a sophomore who transferred to Faith Living Christian.
Junior Preston Smith, a 6-1 guard who lettered last season, will also start, along with Giovanny Perderma, who transferred from Mainland last January and played on the junior varsity level. Perderma, a 6-3 junior swingman, has impressed Gillespie.
"He's a good role player and he fits in well," Gillespie said. "He gives us defense and rebounding."
Sean McGonigal, a 5-10 senior guard, will be the sixth man for the Spartans, who shared the division title with St. Augustine and Middle last season.
Gillespie took over last January after Tom Attanasi resigned suddenly. Being the head coach from the start of the season adds some stability to the situation.
"We've had a full summer together, and they know my personality and my expectations," Gillespie said.
Spirit has lots of speed and athleticism, and will cause matchup problems for most of its opponents.
"We have to play hard and not take any quarters off. If we do that, we'll be tough to beat," Gillespie acknowledged. "The talent is there. My biggest concern is depth, but I'm very comfortable with the first five and with Sean [McGonigal], but we're not real deep after that and we're still looking for others to fill some roles."