Not to be outdone by a football program that's been very successful since the school opened in 2006, the West Chester Rustin's boys' basketball team has shown that it can be a big winner, too.

In 2008, the football team won the District 1 Class AAA championship. This year, the Golden Knights didn't win the district title but advanced to the playoff quarterfinals. And now the boys' basketball team, after a 23-4 record last season, has set its sights high under Keith Cochrane, who has been the coach since the program started.

"We were 1-23 our first year and 11-13 the second," said Cochrane, who said the fact that the Golden Knights played without seniors that first year may have given the team a boost.

"To be honest, I think that giving some of the younger players a chance to play [varsity] that first year gave them great experience," Cochrane said. "Keeping them on the floor was good for them. They learned the system quickly.

"The kids have embraced the program. They've learned to lose, and they've learned to win. And now they know the difference."

The Golden Knights lost three starters and six of their top eight players from last season and may not be as deep as they were. Still, Cochrane said this season's squad should be in a position to defend its Ches-Mont League American Division crown.

Cochrane hopes the White brothers, Rondell and Rahmier, both seniors and both major contributors to the football team, can carry their leadership over to basketball along with Corey Blake.

Cochrane said the Whites took off a few days after Pottsgrove ousted Rustin from the district football playoffs but were quickly rounding into shape for basketball.

The 6-feet-4 Blake, who averaged nine points and eight rebounds a game last season as a top reserve, said the Golden Knights are capable of a goal that was denied them last season. They lost to Glen Mills in the District 1 playoffs and did not qualify for the PIAA playoffs.

"I certainly think we can surpass last year," Blake said. "We want to go to states. It was a big disappointment when we didn't go last year. I think our experience can now take us to the next level.

Cochrane expects Rustin to get a big test Saturday when it plays Church Farm at West Chester University. The Griffins, 18-9 last season, are a relatively new team to PIAA play.

"They have just about everybody back," Cochrane said. "It should be a good challenge for both teams."

On Tuesday, Rustin visits Downingtown West, which is expected to contend for the National Division championship in the Ches-Mont.

In the American Division, Cochrane said the Golden Knights' stiffest challenges should be coming from Octorara and Oxford.

Another challenge will be the fact that they play their first seven games on the road.

"We don't play out first league game until January when we face Unionville," Cochrane said.

Contact staff writer Don Beideman at 267-815-0733 or dbeideman@phillynews.com.