Camden to face challenging hoops schedule
Besides tough competition from Olympic Conference foes, the Panthers will face powerful programs such as St. Augustine Prep, Gill St. Bernard's, Patrick School, Westtown (Pa.) and Imhotep Charter.
Corey Greer likes the look of Camden's daunting schedule in boys' basketball.
"This is the way it should be," Greer said.
Myles Thompson believes the Panthers will be battle-tested by March, when the team begins its pursuit of an elusive 12th state title.
"We'll be ready after playing this schedule," Thompson said.
Greer and Thompson are senior leaders of a Camden team that will play one of the most challenging and unusual schedules in program history this season.
For one thing, Camden doesn't have a "home" court since Clarence Turner Gymnasium is scheduled to be demolished along with the rest of the high school to make way for a new facility at Park Boulevard and Baird Boulevard in the Parkside section of the city.
Camden will play four of five "home" games at Rutgers-Camden, according to athletic director Mark Phillips.
The rest of the Panthers' games will be on the road or at neutral sites.
"We wanted to play a good schedule," Camden coach John Valore said the other day, after a workout in the small gymnasium at Creative Arts High School in the city's Morgan Village section. "We really don't have a home court."
Camden will play most of the projected Top 10 teams in South Jersey this season, with two Olympic Conference National Division games against rivals Bishop Eustace, Camden Catholic, and Paul VI as well as cross-over games with Shawnee, Cherokee, Lenape, and Eastern.
Camden will not play conference opponents Cherry Hill East, Cherry Hill West, and Seneca this season.
Instead, the Panthers will participate in a series of showcase events and nonleague games against top-level opponents.
Included on the schedule are games against perennial state non-public powers Trenton Catholic (Dec. 30), Gill St. Bernard's (Jan. 1 at the Nike New Year's Jump off showcase), St. Augustine Prep (Feb. 10 at the Paul VI Invitational), and Patrick School (Feb. 11 at the Prime Time Shootout).
In addition, Camden will play Martin Luther King of Philadelphia (Jan. 6 at the Seagull Classic), Westtown of Chester County (Jan. 20 at the Kobe Bryant Classic), and Imhotep Charter of Philadelphia (Feb. 3 at Bishop Eustace).
Westtown features one of the country's top players in Duke recruit Cam Reddish.
Camden projects as a strong contender for the South Jersey and state Group 2 crowns.
The Panthers return Thompson, a 6-foot-5 forward who recently signed with St. Francis University as well as Greer, a 6-foot-1 lead guard and another potential Division 1 player who missed most of last season with a knee injury.
Thompson averaged 16.7 points and 10.7 rebounds last season as Camden went 24-7 and won its sixth straight South Jersey title.
Greer averaged 11.8 points and 4.8 assists as a sophomore for a Camden team that went 26-6 during the 2015-16 season.
Ethan Tarte, a 6-foot-1 junior guard, is another returning starter for Camden. Tarte averaged 11.3 points last season with 123 assists.
Camden also should get a big boost from two transfers, including 6-foot-8 sophomore Lance Ware, who played last season at Life Center Academy in Burlington Township.
Ware, a smooth lefthander who projects as one of the top players in South Jersey, will sit out the first 30 days of the season under NJSIAA eligibility rules.
Another potential impact player is 6-foot-10 junior Osato Iduwe, a Nigerian native who played last season for Cornerstone Christian in Willoughby Hills, Ohio.
Iduwe's eligibility status is unclear.
Mike Zapicchi, an assistant director at the NJSIAA who handles matters related to international students, said in an email that "Camden is working through the process to apply for [Iduwe's] eligibility. We will make a ruling when the application is complete."
Camden has lost in the state final five years in a row and eight times since winning the program's South Jersey-best 11th championship in 2000.
"That's what this schedule is all about," Thompson said. "This will get us prepared."
Here are players expected to make an impact with new basketball teams in South Jersey this season:
— Lance Ware, Camden: He's a 6-8 sophomore who played last season at Life Center Academy in Burlington Township. Ware is a smooth lefthander who can run the floor. He created a stir during the fall league at Paul VI when he took down a rim in the Eagles gymnasium with a dunk. He will sit out the season's first 30 days.
— Osato Iduwe, Camden: He's a 6-10 junior who played last season at Cornerstone Christian In Willoughby Hills, Ohio. He's a Nigerian native who can run the floor, rebound and defend but still is a bit raw at the offensive end. His eligibility status is unclear.
— Matthue Cotton, Eastern: He's a 6-5 wing who played last season at St. Benedict's Prep in Newark. He also attended Academy of the New Church in Bryn Athyn, Pa., earlier in his career. Cotton can hit the three-pointer and get to the rim. He has committed to Yale after narrowing his choices to Yale and Penn, according to Eastern coach Kevin Crawford. Cotton will sit out the first 30 days of the season.
— Mattia Morini, Bishop Eustace: He's a 6-6 junior who is an exchange student from Italy. He has three-point range and a good feel for the game, projecting as a potential Division 1 college player. He is eligible right away.
— Zion Teague, Atlantic City: He's a 6-9 junior who played last season at Vineland. He's the brother of former St. Augustine Prep standout Gene Teague. He will sit out the first 30 days of the season.
— Jacob Hopping, Wildwood Catholic: He's a 6-1 sophomore who played last season at Holy Spirit. He is a top three-point shooter who scored 30 in a game against Ocean City last season. He will sit out the first 30 days.