Patriot Division. Woodbury returns three starters, and all know a little bit about winning championships. Isaiah Roberts and twin brother Jared, who are 6-foot-2 seniors, and 6-2 senior Brian Purnell are on quite a roll. They were starters on last season's Colonial Patriot and South Jersey Group 1 basketball championship squad, and followed up by winning both titles this past football season.
With those three being the focal point of this season's basketball team, the Herd could earn a few more trophies.
Woodbury is the favorite to defend its title in the Patriot Division.
"Having those guys winning the championship in football was a tremendous momentum-builder for us," Woodbury second-year basketball coach Kenny Avent said.
While Purnell is sorting out his football recruitment, both Roberts brothers are headed to the Naval Academy to play basketball for coach Billy Lange, a former Bishop Eustace point guard.
"It's a tremendous achievement for any kid to be able to further his education and athletic career at the Naval Academy," Avent said.
Although those key players return, much of this season's success will depend on players who weren't starters a season ago stepping up. Those include 6-3 senior Jordan Rhodes, 6-4 junior Aamir Petrose, and senior point guard Eric Blackwell.
While Woodbury is the favorite, Paulsboro is a team that has a good combination of youth and experience. The leader is 5-10 senior point guard Kevin Johnson, who was quarterback of the football team. Johnson and 6-1 senior forward Terrance Rone are the only returning starters. A player who has caused a buzz is Xavier Lundy, a 6-3 freshman, who is expected to make an immediate impact.
Three football players - 5-10 sophomore Calvin Johnson (brother of Kevin), 5-10 senior Terrance Downs, and 5-8 junior Aaron Tilden - will provide quickness in the backcourt.
Audubon could be improved from a team that won 11 games and earned a berth in the state tournament.
Brandon Hill, a 6-6 senior, who missed the final month due to injury, is back and he will team with fellow 6-6 senior Wade Gies to give the Green Wave a strong frontcourt. In addition to Gies, the other starters are junior guard T.J. Tassi, senior guard John Flacco and junior forward Joe Furlong.
Other letter-winners who figure into the mix are 5-8 senior Josh Arroyo, 6-1 junior Charles Slack, 5-8 junior Pete Coulter and 6-1 junior Matt Knoll.
Haddon Township has just two returning starters but both were major contributors. Senior point guard Matt Donaldson averaged six points and eight assists, while 6-1 senior Mike Magee averaged 13 points, eight rebounds and three steals.
Ryan Rust, a 6-0 junior, is a returning letterman, while the Hawks should receive a lift from 6-3 senior Chris Murphy, who didn't play last season.
Four juniors up from the JV are 6-3 Colin Duffy, 6-1 Vermandel Blake and 6-0 Kyle and Drew Hart.
Lindenwold will bank on two returning starters, 6-0 senior Leon Jones and 6-3 forward Charles Robinson. Jason Hutzler, a 6-3 sophomore who led the JV in rebounding, is among the key newcomers. Other newcomers to watch include 5-9 junior Zhaire McCormick, 5-10 senior Jordan West, 6-3 senior Mike Scott and 5-10 junior Tyrone McLoud.
Gateway second-year coach Tim MacDonald is seeking improvement with five returning starters led by 6-6 senior Jon Miller, a first-team all-conference choice. Other starters back for the Gators are 6-3 senior Kevin Robinson, 6-0 senior Dan Connolly, 5-7 senior Pat Reed and 5-8 senior Richie Tray. Justin Engle, a 6-5 senior, is a returning letter-winner for the Gators.
Liberty Division. Last season, Collingswood won the Colonial Liberty by one game over Haddonfield, and the two should wage another tight race.
Both have experienced teams.
Collingswood is led by 6-1 senior Tyrone Mann-Barnes, who averaged 18.8 points and is drawing Division I and II interest according to coach Joe McLoughlin.
Five other players who started at least one game return, including 6-0 senior Kyle Bowman, 6-5 senior Brian Myers, 5-10 senior Anthony Dillard, 6-4 senior Malik Bond and 6-2 junior B.J. Jones.
Other key letter-winners are 6-7 junior Julian Welsh-White and 5-10 junior Jermaine Feaster.
Julian Stewart, a 6-2 senior who didn't play last season, adds depth to the rotation.
Like Collingswood, Haddonfield has its own prolific scorer returning in 6-3 junior Wyatt Polk, who averaged 18.8 points and six rebounds. Tony Devlin, a 6-1 senior, averaged six points last season.
Other players vying for time in coach Paul Wiedeman's rotation include 5-11 junior Anthony Parenti, 6-2 sophomore Jack Speake, 6-4 sophomore Mike Lacatena, and 6-4 senior Brendan Tritt. Chris Biddle, a freshman forward, could also help the frontcourt.
If a third contender emerges, it very well could be Haddon Heights, whose guard lineup compares to any in the conference.
Andrew Wilcox, a 6-3 senior, is a returning first-team all-conference guard. He is joined by 6-0 junior Michael Pitts and 6-0 senior Markieth Palmer, a transfer from Sterling. This trio will be dangerous to contend with.
Others looking to get into the rotation are 6-2 junior Darius Jones, 5-8 sophomore Matt Talor, 6-1 sophomore Nick Lundholm, 5-10 sophomore Julian Diaz, 5-9 junior Donny Lang, 6-2 junior Shaquan Hall, 6-0 senior Franklin Harper, 6-4 senior Kayhere Outterbridge and 5-10 senior Dashawn Scott.
Sterling hopes to improve on an 11-win season. Coach Rob Atene has two returning starters, 6-3 senior Kevin Walsh and 6-1 junior Will Stallworth, who will likely carry the scoring load, especially early in the season.
The team's best defender is 6-1 senior forward Jimmy Furniss, while 6-0 junior Donte' Smith is the Silver Knights' most versatile player, according to Atene.
Two seniors who give the backcourt some depth are 6-0 Dom Macaluso and 5-10 Josh Williams.
Overbrook doesn't have much size or experience, but a strong sophomore class is a good sign for the future.
The most experienced player is 6-1 junior Dan Wilson, while 5-9 senior Mike Sloan saw substantial playing time last season.
Three sophomores who are among players from a 16-2 freshman team are point guard James Bullock and brothers Devon and Deandre Dredden, a pair of 5-7 swingmen.
West Deptford will be in a rebuilding mode, returning only two players with varsity experience. They are 5-8 point guard Cory Sloan and 6-0 shooting guard Kyle Britt, both seniors.
Jordan Haines, a 6-1 junior, should start at forward. The Eagles will be boosted by three sophomores - 6-4 Jamil Pollard, 6-2 Tom Jakubowski and 5-8 Tim Krott. Pat McShane, a 6-4 junior, adds depth up front.
- Marc Narducci