Patriot Division. Last season, the Shawnee boys' basketball team went 20-10 and advanced to the South Jersey Group 4 final before falling to eventual state champion Cherokee. Now there is the feeling that the Renegades could advance further this year.
Shawnee is the clear favorite in division despite having just two returning starters, senior guard Joe Bodnar and sophomore guard Ryan Bodnar.
A key is the inside presence of 6-foot-7 senior Matt Chiusano, who was injured for much of last year.
"I think he's one of the best big men this year," said coach Joe Kessler, who enters his 23d season with a 503-140 record.
Two other returning veterans are sophomore guard Josh Borrelli, one of the top pure shooters in South Jersey, and 6-2 senior Dan Kelleher.
Timber Creek has just two starters from a team that shared the Patriot Division crown with Shawnee and Winslow Township, but coach Bill Fahy said 6-0 senior guard Mikal Demby and 6-2 senior swingman D.J. Dunham are foundation players.
Johnathan Taylor, the girls' basketball coach at Camden last season, takes over at Pennsauken and has two returning starters, 6-5 senior Frank Small and 6-1 senior Marcus Jones. Small averaged 17.7 points last season. Senior swingman Malcolm Johnson is a key letter winner. Kyle Johnson, a 6-4 junior who played varsity and JV last season, will help the inside game.
Winslow Township will feel the loss of 6-6 Shawn Valentine, a Rider recruit who decided to attend the Phelps School for his senior year.
Senior shooting guard Richard Smith (6 ppg.) is the lone returning starter. Stacey Upshaw Goree, a 6-4 senior, is a key letter winner, while 6-2 senior Geoffrey Jones, who was injured last season, has returned and will be a rotation player.
Two transfers, 6-0 senior Stephen Jones from Roman Catholic and 6-0 junior Billy Johnson from Lindenwold, must sit out the first 30 days of the season in accordance with NJSIAA transfer rules. Sophomore Adonius Melvins is a key addition at point guard.
Triton welcomes back just one returning starter from a 14-12 team, senior forward Dominic Scafidi, a second-team all-conference choice.
The one returning letter winner is junior forward Brian Keller, the football quarterback.
First-year Cherry Hill West coach Hamisi K. Tarrant faces a rebuilding season with no returning starters.
Among the key retuning varsity players are junior point guard Derrick Ray, junior guard Marquis Goodman, 6-2 senior forward Terrell Williams, and senior guard Tommy Hays. Sophomore forward Ryan Lee and freshman guard Rodney Williams are key newcomers.
National Division. Bishop Eustace and Paul VI are considered the front-runners in the deep Olympic Conference National Division.
Paul VI is led by 6-5 Siena recruit Rob Poole, among the top long-range shooters in South Jersey. Ron Curry, a 6-3 junior, is a third-year varsity point guard.
Bishop Eustace is led by a deep junior class, with the nucleus being point guard Carson Puriefoy, 6-3 Dexter Harris, and 6-3 Sho DaSilva (12 ppg.). Puriefoy, who is moving from shooting guard to the point, and DaSilva were second-team all-conference selections.
Three key letter-winners are 6-2 Greg Sobocinski, the only senior on the team; 6-1 junior Scott Highland and 6-4 junior Will Lennon.
Two additional perimeter threats are junior Trevor Norton, a transfer from Clearview, and Tom Falconiero, a 6-2 sophomore and son of coach Bob Falconiero.
Camden Catholic was The Inquirer's No. 1-ranked team last season, winning the Non-Public A state title and advancing to the Tournament of Champions final before losing to Trenton Catholic.
Now veteran coach Jim Crawford faces one of his biggest rebuilding jobs, with no returning starters.
That doesn't mean the Irish won't be competitive.
Junior point guard Matt McElhatton saw extensive varsity time, while 6-5 Kyle Green could be among the better sophomores in South Jersey. A pair of 6-4 seniors, Amir Armstrong and Garrett Kashmer, are expected to be key contributors.
Woodrow Wilson hopes to take the next step after a 10-11 season. Six players who started at one time or another, led by 6-4 senior Xavier Robinson, who averaged 14 points, return. Other experienced veterans are 6-0 junior Jerome Walters, 5-9 juniors William Alvin and Kiente Scott, 6-1 junior Joseph Taylor, and 6-3 senior Scott Parker.
Camden will field a competitive team but won't own the favorite's role. Thomas Harper, a 6-4 junior, is among the key players to watch along with 6-1 junior Trey Wilson and 5-11 junior Malik Clark.
Seniors Hubert Simmons and Takwail Bailey, who played their first two years at Camden, then transferred last year to Pennsauken, are both back at Camden. At this point their eligibility isn't known, but the earliest either could return is Feb. 1.
One of the leaders for Seneca is 6-1 senior Charlie Owl, who averaged 8.6 points per game last season. Owl, the football quarterback, will be leading a young team that welcomes back just one other starter, 6-2 senior forward Roger Hoffmann.
Even though Hoffmann averaged just 3.5 points, his true value comes on defense. Last season, he took 22 charges.
American Division. Cherry Hill East is expected to make a run at the division title and be a contender in Group 4. While 6-5 senior Chris Santo (27.9 ppg.) is a prolific scorer, a key will be the play of 5-10 junior marksman Marc Schlessel, who is returning from a broken left (non-shooting) hand.
Two other starters back are 5-11 senior Ido Zaken and 6-6 junior Jake Gurkin. Senior Sam Rose takes over the point-guard duties for veteran coach John Valore.
After a 7-16 season, Eastern has been drawing raves from opposing coaches for its improvement. This is still a young team with 6-2 sophomore Devon Bell and 6-4 junior Jared Ford the returning starters.
Junior guards Mike Wilson and Steve Schneider key the perimeter game and two newcomers to watch are 6-5 sophomore Avery Walker and 6-3 freshman Matt Klinewski.
Lenape has an inexperienced team with no returning starters. Yet coach Chuck Guittar's team will likely play defense as well as any in South Jersey, which will keep the Indians in contention for the American Division title.
First-year coach Matt Kiser doesn't welcome back any returning starters at Washington Township, so the success of the Minutemen will come from five returning letter winners. Those players are senior guards Jason Melfi and Mike Murawski, senior swingmen Ben Maffet and Mark Jankowski, and 6-7 junior forward Shawn Smith.
Among the teams hardest hit by graduation was Cherokee, the defending state Group 4 champion, which returns no starters and just one letter winner, senior guard Bryan Cooper. Sophomore guard Tim Patton and senior small forward Sean Clifton are players up from junior varsity.