Still strong. Imhotep Charter virtually defined winning in Southeastern Pennsylvania boys' basketball last season.

On their way to a PIAA Class AA state championship, the Panthers (32-1) won the Public League C division, the overall Public League title, and the District 12 crown.

From that group, Imhotep lost Parrish Grant (La Salle), Sam Prescott (Marist), Will Adams (Towson), and Ivory Wells (Kutztown) to college.

But Panthers coach Andre Noble said Imhotep is ready to reload despite the loss of those players, including his top three scorers - Adams, Grant and Prescott.

This season, Imhotep Charter will look to junior David Appolon. He was last season's sixth man and is the top returning scorer at seven points per game. Also back is 6-foot-8 junior Erik Copes, who blocked nine shots in last year's state title game and already has made an oral commitment to George Washington in the Atlantic Ten.

Joining the team are 6-5 transfer junior guard Ameen Tanksley (from Prep Charter) and 6-5 transfer forward Earl Brown (from Freire Charter). Noble said both are receiving Division I interest, and the Panthers are young but big as they seek to defend their Class AA state title.

Championship challenge. To find a Public League team that could dethrone the Central girls, look no further than last season's runner-up. Prep Charter won the Class AAA division and gave Class AAAA Central a scare before falling in the Public League championship game Feb. 20 at the Liacouras Center, 53-42.

Coach Paul Rieser returns four starters. Versatile senior LeShay Banks, who averaged 12 points as a center last season, will move to the three-spot, joining junior guards Tiffany Johnson and Naderra Lee in the starting lineup.

Junior starting point guard Bria Young also is back, but senior Robin Harkum most likely will start in Young's place at least until January. Young injured her knee practicing with her AAU team in May.

Big guy back. The Strawberry Mansion boys return Division I recruit D.J. Newbill, a senior guard named honorable mention on The Inquirer's all-Southeastern Pennsylvania team as a junior.

Stan Laws, who is coaching Mansion this season with Gerald Hendricks, said that Newbill averaged 18 points, five rebounds and four assists for the Knights last season.

Laws said Nebraska, Marquette, Florida State, La Salle, and Drexel have shown interest in Newbill.

Senior team. Frankford, a Class AAAA school, is the only team that beat the Strawberry Mansion boys in the Girard College summer league a few months ago, according to Laws.

This season, the Pioneers return everybody, mostly seniors, from a team that finished second in the Public League Division A, just behind Olney, which lost the city's top scorer in Jesse Morgan (28.4 points per game) to South Kent Prep of Connecticut and Division-I Seton Hall next fall.

The returnees include 6-8 senior center Shaquille Duncan, a thin but imposing transfer from Prep Charter who since has committed to play at Niagara next fall.

Departures. At Southern, coach Greg Anderson said senior guard DeShon Minnis (to Atlantic Christian Academy) and senior forward Jamir Hanner (to a prep school in Newark, N.J.) transferred away in November after being first-team all-Public selections last season. Their departures surprised the Rams' 16-year coach.

Southern will lean on two seniors, point guard Haywood Henderson and forward Shaquille Gaskins.

On the boards, senior Juwan Campbell and junior Rodney Chandler will try to make up for Hanner's departure.

- Pat Leonard