Big shoes.

John Roe has some big shoes to fill as Downingtown West's new coach. Roe succeeds Damien Blair, who left to take over the men's program at West Chester University, where he is the school's second all-time leading scorer.

Under Blair, the Whippets won the Ches-Mont League National Division championship last season and finished with a 22-6 mark. Blair spent 10 years at West.

Roe came to West from a stint as an assistant coach at Cabrini College. He's also served as a coach at Archbishop Carroll, Central Bucks West and Lehigh University.

"I'm very excited about taking over for Damien," Roe said. "I hope we can continue the success."

To do it, Roe will need to get solid efforts from a pair of 6-foot-4 seniors, Tim Flecken and Ryan Kendra. Flecken was the Whippets' leading scorer last season; Kendra was a big reason for the Whippets' success on the football field this fall.

The Whippets figure to be in a fight with Coatesville for the Ches-Mont League National Division crown with Avon Grove and West Chester Henderson potentially in the mix.

Lots of height.

Rick Nelms guided Coatesville to a 19-7 record last season in his first year after taking over a program that had fallen on hard times. Nelms, who won a PIAA Class AAA championship at Kennett in 2002, is shooting for an even better performance with the Red Raiders this season. With an abundance of height, it's easy to see why he's optimistic.

"I've been very pleased with the kids," noted Nelms who will look to seniors Jim Slater, Alex Reed and Kenneth Compton and juniors Kenneth Thompson and John Warnigak. All are at least 6-4, with Slater topping the group at 6-8.

Watching the Warriors.

While Downingtown West and Coatesville are expected to battle for the National Division crown, don't count West Chester Henderson out. The Warriors saw their four-year reign as league champs halted by West.

Coach Leon Bell will look to 6-4 senior John Rowland, sophomore point guard Austin Constable, and junior forward Scott Sexton.

Added success?

Bayard Rustin coach Keith Cochrane is hoping that some of the football team's success carries over to basketball. The Golden Knights won the District 1 Class AAA football championship in just their third year of competition, finishing with a 12-2 record. Among the football players who should help are 6-5 Andrew Register, brothers Rahmier and Rondell White, and Anthony Verderame. The Golden Knights were 11-13 last season.

Hobson returns.

Chris Hobson, a 6-5 center/forward who contributed 10 points a game, is the lone starter back from last year's Great Valley team that finished 22-7. Sean McGough and Dan Shackleton should step into a couple of vacated slots.

Heavy losses.

Octorara was 16-9 last season but will have to contend with the loss of four starters. Veteran coach Gene Lambert is counting on leading scorer Moses Togbah, Cody King and Pat Evans to lead a very young team.

Another new coach

. Kennett's new coach is Ken Riale who is no stranger to the Chester County school. He served as an assistant at Kennett to Dan Augustine and Nelms before becoming the head girls' coach at Octorara.

He takes over a program that was 3-21 last season.

"I just got the job in September, but I had 50-plus kids out," Riale noted. "We'll be very small. It will be an interesting year."


. Sun Valley joins the league's American Division this year after being a longtime member of the Del-Val League. Second year coach Kevin Kelly's team was 4-20 last season. He's looking to Dan Vucoul and Tom Brennan, a 22-points-a-game scorer to lead the Vanguards.

At Oxford, Vinnie Sanders, a 6-5 sophomore, is likely to make people take notice, according to coach Sean Harvey. Harvey said his team is so young that he's had to go back to basics.

- Don Beideman