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SJ Basketball Preview: Floor Generals

The South Jersey basketball scene features some of the region's best point guards. We took a look at some of them before the season tips off.

The South Jersey basketball scene features some of the region's best point guards. We took a look at some of them before the season tips off.

Jake Silpe, senior, Cherry Hill East

Silpe led Cherry Hill East to another level last season.

He plans to keep the Cougars there.

"Last year was awesome," said Silpe, who powered Cherry Hill East to the first South Jersey Group 4 title in program history. "It was one of the greatest experiences I've ever had.

"This year, we want to set the bar high. We don't want to drop below where we were last year."

The 6-foot-1 Silpe averaged 16.1 points last season and played some of his best games in the state tournament. He scored 23 with seven assists in a 52-41 victory over Cherokee in the sectional title game.

Silpe, a Penn recruit, is a classic point guard with a knack for getting his teammates involved in the game.

"The point guard sets the tone for the team," Silpe said. "I like to get my teammates involved, getting them going, before I worry about scoring my own points.

"You have to control the tempo of the game. As a point guard, that's your role, to control the game and make sure all your teammates are involved."

Adam Perry, junior, Rancocas Valley

Perry said he's been a point guard since he started playing organized basketball at age 7.

"I guess because of my height and I always could dribble good, the coach always put me there," Perry said.

A slick and quick lefthander, Perry was a starter as a sophomore and Rancocas Valley went 20-8.

He is likely to assume an even more prominent role this season.

"Adam is very fast with the ball, a great penetrator and a one-man press breaker," Rancocas Valley coach Jay Flanagan said.

Perry said he takes pride in getting his teammates involved in the game.

"I like running the show," Perry said. "You try to control the tempo and try to get everybody involved in the offense. As a point guard, if your teammates are doing good, you're doing good."

Mike Cohen, junior, Bishop Eustace

Cohen knows he's a bit of a marked man as a Auburn University recruit.

"It's a little pressure but I don't mind," said the 5-foot-10 Cohen, who committed to the Southeastern Conference program in the fall. "I just have to play my game."

Cohen was more of a shooting guard for the Crusaders as a freshman and sophomore, as since-graduated Flo DaSilva was the team's primary ballhander.

But Cohen, who lives in Voorhees, will run the point this season for a Bishop Eustace team that should be among the top squads in South Jersey.

"I like it because you get to control the game," Cohen said. "There's a lot of leadership involved. I have to step up to that."

Cohen averaged 10 points as a sophomore. He's a top three-point shooter and deadly from the foul line.

He said he will work this season to become more of a distributor.

"The big thing to get everybody involved," Cohen said. "We have a chance to have a really good team. I want to try to make sure we share the ball and play a team game."

Rob DePersia, senior, Haddonfield

A four-year varsity player and three-year starter, DePersia is one of the most experienced point guards in South Jersey.

He teams with his twin brother Nick to form one of the area's top backcourts.

But while Nick DePersia usually plays off the ball, Rob DePersia usually operates as a classic, pass-first point guard who can control the game with his defense and ballhandling.

"Coach [Paul Wiedeman] always says I have to be an extension of him out on the floor," DePersia said. "I have to be the quarterback out there."

DePersia averaged 14.1 points, five assists and 2.5 steals last season as Haddonfield went 28-1.

This season Haddonfield again projects as one of the top teams in South Jersey.

DePersia said he gets as much satisfaction from an assist or a steal as he does from making a basket.

"There's nothing better than to make a big pass or get a big steal late in a big game," DePersia said.

Although DePersia and his brother are known for their high-energy play, he said he works to control the tempo of the game.

"I like to be in attack mode but I want to make sure things are happening within the flow of the game," DePersia said. "Some players will make up their mind ahead of time. I try to get a feel for the game and control things as they go along."

Sa'eed Nelson, junior, St. Augustine Prep

Nelson made a dazzling debut two seasons ago, dominating a stretch of the second quarter against top-ranked Atlantic City as a 5-foot-5 freshman.

He was even better as a sophomore, averaging 12 points and four assists in leading St. Augustine Prep to a 23-5 record.

Now a junior, Nelson knows he needs to take his game to another level.

"I know this is a big year for me as far as college," Nelson said after a recent scrimmage at Camden. "I have to play better than ever."

Now around 5-foot-10, Nelson no longer is the diminutive athlete who wowed crowds as a freshman and sophomore with his ballhandling and acrobatic drives to the basket.

He regards himself an the "orchestrator" of St. Augustine's offense.

"I have my teammates' backs and they have my back," Nelson said. "When we get going, it just flows."

Along with highly touted sophomore forward Justyn Mutts, Nelson flourishes in the open floor. He thinks the Hermits will excel in transition this season.

"I think we're going to be tough to stop when we get out on the break," said Nelson, who lives in Pleasantville.

Nelson said he worked hard to improve his jump shot in the offseason. He said he will look to score more this season, but notes that his first priority as a point guard is to get the basketball to his teammates.

"They look to me and it's my job to find them," Nelson said.