Heavy favorites. It won't be a worst-to-first situation.
But the Neumann-Goretti boys' basketball team still has a chance to do something special.
One season removed from a disappointing 15-10 campaign, the Saints are a favorite to win the PIAA Class AAA state championship. They are also The Inquirer's top-ranked preseason team in Southeastern Pennsylvania. And Neumann-Goretti is heavily favored to win the Philadelphia Catholic League's Blue Division.
"These guys are ready to pony up and get into a fight," said Neumann-Goretti coach Carl Arrigale, coming off his worst season. "They did a good job in the summer time. They are anxious to get started, and turn over a new era."
Tony Chennault, a junior guard, is undoubtedly the leader of the team. The three-year starter has already made an oral commitment to play at Wake Forest.
Senior forward and Niagara recruit Andre "Scooter" Gillette, junior forward Daniel Stewart, and junior point Tyreek Duren make up a talented supporting cast.
Young teams. Interim coach Sean Tait only has two seniors in shooting guard Tim Fay and small forward Sean McCartney on his roster. Junior center Fran Dougherty and junior guard Brian O'Grady will likely play vital roles for the Vikings.
For Bishop McDevitt, undersize senior power forward/center Courtney Haven-Dobbs is the only Lancer who played valuable minutes last season - and he came off the bench. But that doesn't concern coach Jack Rutter.
"I'm going to play 10 players," he said. "We are just going to press you all night."
Playoff hopefuls. Senior guard Rob Hollomon , sophomore point guard Acquil Younger and senior guard Haleem Hayward will lead the West Catholic Burrs to what they hope is a Class AA state playoff berth. They also will rely on center Adewumni Barek, a transfer from London.
At Archbishop Carroll, the Patriots have a great chance to end their five-season playoff drought. Sophomore point guard Jaun'ya Green , junior shooting guard D.J. Irving , senior forward Andre Wilburn, and senior power forward Kasheef Festus will share the starring roles.
Looking to improve. Kennedy-Kenrick senior center Brad Miller, junior forward David Tornetta, and senior shooting guard Kevin Shemar are the returning starters for a Wolverines team trying to improve upon last season's 3-21 campaign.
With seven seniors, the Conwell-Egan Eagles have a chance to improve upon last season's 13-11 record. Seniors Shayne Bonner and Jonas Skovdal will be Conwell-Egan's two-headed attack.
New coach, new league. Lansdale Catholic, formerly of the Pioneer Athletic Conference, has a new coach in Bernie Fitzgerald and will compete in a new league. Senior shooting guard Brendan Stanton will be the go-to guy on a team looking to improve on last season's 4-19. The Crusaders have a quality point guard in senior Liam Coyne.
Starting over. The Cardinal Dougherty Cardinals lost all five starters from last season's 14-11 squad. As of Sunday, coach Mark Heimerdinger didn't know who would replace them. "We don't know who we are right now," he said. "And we don't know how to play."
In the Red Division. Archbishop Ryan returns two starters in senior guard Russ Slawter and senior forward Anthony Keiter from last season's Catholic League finalist. Senior center Jerry Smith will be looked upon to contribute.
At Roman Catholic, interim coach Chris McNesby has arguably the area's guard tandem in senior Maalik Wayns and junior Rakeem Brookins. Senior forward Koron Reed can finish near the basket. Junior center Anthony Mayo will provide an inside presence.
New faces. North Catholic junior point guard Woody Redding and junior forward Bob Makor are the only returning starters for the Catholic League champions. That may not be a big deal, though: Sophomore center Rakeem Christmas and sophomore forward Xavier Harris are expected to contribute.
At Monsignor Bonner, standout senior forward Lijah Thomspon is suspended indefinitely for a violation of school policy. If he returns, he'll join the starting lineup that returns junior point guard James Melvin, senior shooting guard Brian Boyle, and senior forward Henry Smith.
At Father Judge, senior swingman Josh Jaskowiak, power forward Tom Ryan, and center John McGrath will provide an inside presence.
At St. Joe's Prep, the Hawks don't have anyone on the roster who played extended varsity minutes last season. Senior forward Dan Fitzpatrick, who averaged six minutes, is the most experienced player.
- Keith Pompey