Three-time defending Catholic League titlist Neumann-Goretti returns six of its top seven players.
The Saints, also looking to repeat as PIAA Class AAA state champions, are paced by 6-foot-5 senior forward Derrick Stewart, 6-2 sophomore wing guard Ja'Quan Newton, and 6-4 junior forward Johnny Davis.
Neumann-Goretti has a trio of experienced guards: seniors Billy Shank and La'Quan Coaxum, and junior Hanif Sutton. Two other guards, sophomore Troy Harper and senior Shane Thomas, provide depth.
As if that wasn't enough, Lamar "Fresh" Kimble, a highly touted freshman point guard, came to South Philly after attending Life Center Academy in Burlington, N.J.
St. Joseph's Prep won't hand the crown to Neumann-Goretti. Steve Vasturia, a 6-4, 185-pound junior guard who recently committed to Notre Dame; 6-3 senior swingman Gene Williams, and junior guard Miles Overton form a rock-solid nucleus.
Roman Catholic is young, but quick and talented. Combination guard Shep Garner, 6-4 wing Shafeek Taylor, and point guard Rip Engel are high-caliber sophomores.
The Cahillites also are counting on junior guards Britton Lee and Raquan Brown-Johnson. Trevaughn Wilkerson, a 6-5 forward, is an up-and-coming freshman.
Behind junior point guard Yosef Yacob and senior wing Alec Stavetski, Archbishop Carroll hopes to remain near the top of the standings.
Father Judge's bid to be in the title hunt will be led by speedy guard Steve Griffin. He gets help from fellow junior Joe Robinson, a 6-4 forward and transfer from Franklin Learning Center.
La Salle, which graduated six starters, is ignited by two juniors: 6-1 guard Amar Stukes and 6-7 wing Steve Smith. Also in the mix are 6-4 senior Matt Murphy and 6-6 junior Matt Rodden, a transfer from Neumann-Goretti.
Bishop McDevitt brings back three starters: senior forwards Brahieme Jackson and Markeise Chandler, and junior guard Kenyatta Young.
Conwell-Egan centers its attack around Jamal Nwaniemeka, a 6-2 senior wing guard; junior point guard Ryan Pepito; and senior wing Dylan Pease.
- Rick O'Brien
When Imhotep Charter won its third consecutive Public League title last year, becoming the first program to win three in a row since West Philadelphia's five straight from 1974 to '78, it became the city's latest dynasty.
But the Panthers' road to a fourth title will be their most difficult. In a realigned league, the five divisions are based on recent results rather than enrollment size. Imhotep joins Bartram; Boys' Latin; Communications Tech; Constitution; Frankford; Simon Gratz; Math, Civics & Sciences; Philadelphia Electrical; Prep Charter; Southern; and Vaux in the Public League's top group.
And though it is the reigning PIAA Class AA state champ, Imhotep (31-3 last year) lost its top three players to graduation: Erik Copes (George Mason), Ameen Tanksley (Niagara), and David Appolon (Robert Morris). Realignment will make for tighter games across the board, and Imhotep has the depth and program pedigree to remain a contender.
Still, as Panthers coach Andre Noble concedes, it appears another reigning state champion is the front-runner to win the Public League in 2011-12.
Math, Civics & Sciences (26-5), which has lost in the league semifinals three years running and won the Class A state title last season, is "loaded," Noble said.
The Mighty Elephants return just one starter, 6-foot-6 junior swingman Jeremiah Worthem, who averaged 15 points and about seven rebounds as a sophomore. Their depth and size in the frontcourt make them a force. See: 6-6 Quentin Davis and 6-7 Quadir Welton.
MC&S will face a challenging nonleague schedule that includes nationally ranked opponents in Chester and Friends' Central.
Constitution, last season's Public League runner-up, remains formidable. Simon Gratz provides for a perennial big-school player, as well.
Imhotep, which graduated nine seniors, will go as 6-2 Khyree Wooten and 6-6 Brandon Austin, a returning starter, go.
"There's no such thing as a rebuilding year for us," Noble said.
- Evan Burgos
Malvern Prep's bid to defend its Inter-Ac championship will be led by senior wing guard Brendan Kilpatrick, a Vermont recruit who averaged 16 points and drilled 43 three-pointers last season.
Also back for the Friars, who went 24-7 overall and 8-2 in the league, are point guard Steve Perpiglia and 6-foot-4 forward Tom Pitt, both seniors.
Malvern also will seek contributions from 6-4 junior guard Jimmy Gordon and 6-5 sophomore forward Jeff Hagan.
Chestnut Hill Academy (11-14, 5-5) is powered by three seniors: 6-5 guard Billy Dooley, 6-5 forward Malik Garner, and 6-2 guard Luke Mulvaney.
Dooley (11 ppg., 42 treys) and Garner (12.5 ppg., 7 rpg.) are headed for American and Maryland-Baltimore County, respectively. Mulvaney averaged 11.5 points and canned 33 treys.
CHA juniors Bobby Keyes (broken thumb) and Mike Hayes (concussion) are hoping to bounce back from injuries suffered in football.
Germantown Academy (14-14, 5-5) has to fill the void left by the departure of Jimmy Hammer (19.7 ppg., 77 threes).
The Patriots are fueled by five juniors: point guard Nick Lindner, 6-9 forward Julian Moore, 6-2 forward Earl Edwards, 6-5 forward Greg Dotson, and 6-2 guard James Drury.
The buzz at Haverford School (12-13, 5-5) surrounds the recent arrival of Tao Xu, a 7-foot, 260-pound junior center and member of China's 19-and-under national team.
The Fords, guided by new coach Henry Fairfax, also have senior guard Zach Thomas, 6-5 sophomore swingman Eric Anderson, and 6-6 junior forward Semaj Reed.
Lynard Stewart, who played at Simon Gratz and Temple, is now in charge at Penn Charter (9-17, 2-8).
The Quakers' catalysts are senior point guard John Moderski, and 6-8, 275-pound junior Mike McGlinchey. Sophomore Sean O'Brien and senior Nick Lamb, both guards, and 6-6 junior forward Dave Huber are part of the rotation.
Episcopal Academy (13-12, 5-5) brings back 6-4 senior swingmen Brian Metzler and Billy McAvoy, junior forward Adam Strouss, junior guard Matt Angelos, and 6-6 senior center Jack Schiel.
- Rick O'Brien
Suburban One League
With three returning starters, including savvy point guard Aaron Morgan, Council Rock North is the odds-on favorite to repeat as Suburban One League National Conference champion.
The 5-10 Morgan, ticketed for Maryland-Baltimore County, is joined by fellow seniors Arron Goodman, a 6-4 swingman, and Matt McCloskey, a 6-1 wing guard.
Morgan averaged 14.5 points and 3.1 assists last season while helping lead the Indians to the PIAA District 1 Class AAAA final and the state quarterfinals.
While waiting for star guard Ryan Arcidiacono to return from a back injury, Neshaminy is relying on three senior guards: Tyler Katz, Richie Schafer, and Bobby Marterella. Ryan Jamison, a 6-4 sophomore, handles the inside duties.
Souderton, under second-year coach Dennis Stanton, is a good bet to finish first in the Continental Conference.
Back for the Indians are three experienced seniors: swingman Mark Wonderling (13 ppg., 6 rpg.), forward Ryan Connolly (9.3 ppg., 8 rpg.), and point guard Luke Moyer (7 ppg., 3.2 apg.).
North Penn, with senior Wes Brooks as the floor general, is busy learning new coach John Conrad's system. Conrad came over from Lower Moreland.
Three other seniors are in the mix for the Knights: guard Javi Alvarino, and swingmen Larry Roane and Chris Dawson.
Central Bucks West will rely on four seniors: 6-4 guard Derek Dyer; point guard Jack Rogers; wing guard Shane Kellar; and 6-3 forward Tyler Schecter, the Bucks' leading rebounder last season.
For Pennridge, 6-4 senior combo guard Tim Abruzzo, a second-team all-Continental pick in each of the last two seasons, is the catalyst.
In the American Conference, defending champ Plymouth Whitemarsh brings back just one starter: 6-4 forward Brandon Johnson.
Johnson gets help from three fellow seniors: 6-6 forward Jake Silvers, wing guard Kenny Williams, and 6-2 forward Morgan Jackson. Junior point guard Anthony McKie transferred in from Wissahickon.
Without McKie, Wissahickon is banking on production from 6-4 guard Jordan Reed, who averaged 14.5 points last season; 6-7 center Tanoh Kpassagnon; and 6-3 swingman Kyle Garrett. All are seniors.
- Rick O'Brien
Friends Schools League
With the return of Amile Jefferson, a 6-8 senior and blue-chip recruit, Friends' Central is favored to claim its third consecutive Friends Schools League championship.
Jefferson, The Inquirer's Southeastern Pennsylvania boys' player of the year in 2010-11, is joined by junior combo guard Karonn Davis and sophomore point guard Conrad Chambers.
The 6-1 Chambers, a pure scorer and terrific ball handler, has scholarship offers from Seton Hall, Iowa State, and Rutgers.
Billy Cassidy, a junior wing guard, transferred to Friends' Central from Monsignor Bonner. Also in the mix for the Phoenix are three seniors: 6-4 forward Franz Hueber, 6-5 forward-center Shea Norcini, and guard Pedro Rangel.
Westtown's bid for the FSL title is headed by 6-10, 240-pound senior forward Daniel Ochefu. The Villanova recruit, a quality rebounder and shot-blocker, averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds last season.
Westtown also brings back 6-7, 230-pound junior Yilret Yiljep and 6-0 sophomore point guard Floyd Preito. Jeremy Schulkin, a 6-4 senior wing guard, and 6-1 sophomore guard Marcus Howell transferred in from Solebury School and Phoenixville, respectively.
With Division I recruit Savon Goodman now playing at Constitution, of the Public League, Academy of the New Church revolves around 6-5 senior swingman and Fairfield recruit Marcus Gilbert.
ANC, runner-up to Friends' Central the last two seasons, also is boosted by senior guards Daniel Pittman and Dinjiyl Walker.
Shipley has a formidable lineup anchored by three seniors: 6-4 guard Chima Nwakpuda, 6-7 forward Isaiah Baker (Holy Cross recruit), and sharpshooting guard Stephen Gentry.
Abington Friends is rebuilding. The Kangaroos are led by three junior transfers: guard Montana Mayfield, formerly of Roman Catholic; 6-7 center Jerimyjah Batts (Communications Tech); and guard Jared Wright (Souderton).
"We're not that big," longtime AFS coach Steve Chadwin said. "We're going to have to rebound well and play good team defense."
- Rick O'Brien
Lower Merion lost nine seniors to graduation, but has the talent and quickness needed to capture the Central League title.
The Aces are led by ever-improving junior Raheem Hall, a 6-foot-2 point guard who averaged 8.2 points and earned second-team all-league honors last season.
Lower Merion coach Gregg Downer also has back 6-2 senior wing guard Mike Robbins (7.2 ppg.), 6-6 senior forward Darryl Reynolds (5.2 ppg.), and 6-5 junior wing guard B.J. Johnson (7.4 ppg.).
Upper Darby, the defending Central champ, lost most of its scoring to graduation. Yusef Ross, a 6-0 junior guard, is the lone returning starter.
Also in the Royals' rotation are junior guard Zafir Copeland, senior guards Da'Quan Timmons and Brendan Brown, 6-3 senior forward Sam Choudhary, and 6-5 senior center Mahamane Toure.
Ridley, guided by new coach Mike Snyder, is banking on continued production from Shawn Church. The 6-2 senior forward averaged 17 points and was a first-team all-league pick last season. Church is joined by fellow seniors Dan Steiber, a 5-11 point guard, and Matt Zang, a 6-0 forward. Junior Jon McGill is a 6-3 forward.
After spending 11 seasons at Ridley, Keith Heinerichs is now at Haverford High. The Fords center their attack around 6-4 senior forwards Pat Morgan and Kevin Gladstone. Haverford also has junior guards Gabe Armando and Ed Durkin, and senior forwards Mike Gentile and Miles Mansell.
Marple Newtown has four returning starters, all seniors: 6-5 forward Ryan Furst, 6-8 center Andrew Brandt, 6-3 forward Pat McGee, and 6-0 senior guard Joe Kelly. Mike McDevitt, a junior point guard, is the floor leader.
Garnet Valley returns six players with varsity experience, but lacks overall height.
Two seniors, 6-3 forward John Guest and 5-8 guard Jules Raucci, join the Jaguars after helping the football squad reach the District 1 Class AAAA playoff semifinals.
Joe Rapczynski, Garnet Valley's second-year boss, is also expecting contributions from juniors Jonathan Vandenberg and Zach Jones, and senior Ryan Kelly.
Chris Monahan, previously at Thomas FitzSimons in the Public League, is the new coach at Radnor.
- Rick O'Brien
Defending champion West Chester Rustin is a different team, but still probably the league's best.
The Golden Knights graduated five seniors - including leader Cory Blake, an all-league selection who averaged 16.9 points - from a team that went a school-best 25-5. But Rustin still has a first-teamer up its sleeve, and he's likely the best player in either conference.
In Anthony Nash, Keith Cochran's squad has a 6-4 big man capable of posting up, but Nash will facilitate the offense on the perimeter now as the team's primary guy. He averaged a double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds) as a junior.
Rustin, which went 12-0 in league play to win the American Conference and overall Ches-Mont title, hands point-guard duties to diminutive sophomore Ethan Ridgeway (listed at 5-5, 112 pounds as a freshman). He was the team's sixth man last season.
Small forward Danny Myers also will move into the starting lineup, and senior Cordairo Taylor will see an increased role.
"We're basically a new team," Cochran said. "My motto is we may not be the team to beat, but we'll be tough to beat."
Coatesville figured again to be a contender, but recently received devastating news. The team's best player, 6-0 guard Kris Miller, will miss his senior season because of a medical condition.
The Red Raiders still return three other starters: guard Tymeir Miller, forward Leroy Hoggard, and senior point guard Dameon Nixon.
"If you were to call me in the summertime, I'd say we were looking pretty darn good here," Coatesville coach Rick Nelms said. ". . . We can still compete, but we would have been an upper-echelon team in the district. Now, we'll have to overachieve."
Nelms is taking a one-year leave from the team because of a family medical issue. Former Coatesville coach Scoogie Smith, who retired in 2003, will serve as interim coach.
Kennett, under first-year coach Mike Fergus (recently of Upper Perkiomen and North Penn), could surprise many. Freshman Vaughn Jenkins (6-2) is a burgeoning young player.
Center Brock Sheets, point guard Kenshi Kobayashi (honorable-mention all-league last year), and Spencer Hyland captain the Blue Demons. Junior Maalik Rochester, a second-team all-league pick, is back as well.
Octorara and Great Valley are in the mix, too.
- Evan Burgos
With a 132-24 record over the last five seasons, with a seventh large-schools PIAA state championship added to its robust trophy case last year, with a No. 17 national ranking by ESPNHS, and with seven key rotation players returning, Chester is where all roads lead.
Larry Yarbray, entering his fourth year as coach with a 71-17 record, has a team that can go 13 players deep, including three returning starters in swingman Rondae Jefferson (6-5, Jr.) and forwards Erikk Wright (6-3, Sr.) - who led the team with 22 points in the state final - and Richard Granbury (6-5, Jr.).
Tymier Butler (6-4, Sr.) is also back and will be a key contributor for a Clippers team that enters with a 26-game win streak and hasn't lost since Dec. 30, 2010.
Lamon Church and DeQuann Walker graduated from a team that went 31-1 last season, but Chester will continue to play aggressive, pressure basketball. The Clippers will use their boundless athleticism to frazzle teams in the full court.
"I call it 94 feet of chaos," Yarbray said.
Elsewhere, a Penn Wood program that reached the state semifinals or better in each of the last three seasons (including a title in 2009) appears depleted. Gone are standouts Shawn Oakman, now a defensive end at Penn State, and Aaron Brown, who averaged 20.5 points and 7.2 boards last year and is at West Virginia.
The Patriots will be guard-oriented. Senior guard Malcolm Richardson will be the team's leader. Junior guards Jerry Price and Tyree Bynum also will start. Penn Wood will need contributions from senior Corey Foster, as well.
"A lot of people don't expect us to have a good season, but we do. And that's a good thing," Patriots coach Clyde Jones said.
Glen Mills is a bit of a sleeper. Chester is anything but.
"We don't want to end up like the [Philadelphia] Eagles," Yarbray said. "Saying you have a Dream Team and then you end up out of it."
- Evan Burgos
It appears to be a wide-open race for top honors in the Pioneer Athletic Conference's two divisions.
In the Liberty Division, Spring-Ford has depth, athleticism, and several players coming over from the gridiron.
Senior forwards Andrew Scanlan and Darryl Branch were speedy receivers for a football squad that went undefeated in the PAC-10.
Also back for the Rams are 6-5 junior center Zameer McDowell (9.7 ppg., 9 rpg., 3 blocked shots per game.), senior guards Josh Dishman (7.8 ppg., 34 threes) and Ryan O'Hara (16 treys), and senior forward Ryan Keefe.
Methacton must replace six seniors, including second-team all-league performer Evan Galloway.
Back for the Warriors are 6-2 junior forward Brendan Casper (8.5 ppg.) and three seniors: wing guard Brian Miller, swingman Ryan McKee, and point guard Pat Dinan.
Pottstown returns 6-4 senior swingman Elijah Jackson, who averaged 17 points and was a first-team all-league selection last season. Support comes from 6-6 junior Antonio Moore and junior guard Miles Elliott.
Terrance Thinna, a 6-2 senior forward, and junior swingman Brett Davis are the leaders for Perkiomen Valley. Marcus Williams, a 6-8 senior center, and senior guard Erik Ragusa also are in the mix.
Boyertown is sparked by Scott Dennin, a 6-7 senior center who averaged 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 blocks in 2010-11. The guard play is headed by senior Kale Wrigley and junior Mike Mansur.
In the Frontier Division, Phoenixville's attack is ignited by three seniors: guards Rasheed Lawson (8.9 ppg.) and Jim Riggins, and 6-3 forward Jordan Kelly.
Upper Perkiomen's bid to bounce back from a disappointing year is led by 6-5 senior center J.D. Ricapito. He averaged 16 points and was a first-team all-league choice last season. The supporting cast for the Indians includes 6-2 forward Chad Force and 6-5 forward-center Dan Winters, both seniors.
Chris Talley, a 1,000-point career scorer at Alvernia, is new in charge at Owen J. Roberts. The Wildcats are spurred by 6-6 senior center Tyler McGrath, junior point guard Ryan Kent, and rising sophomore guard Matt Crider.
- Rick O'Brien
Holy Ghost Prep lacks experience and inside height, but the Firebirds still are expected to vie for top honors in the Bicentennial Athletic League Independence Division.
With the departure of go-to scorer Tyler Juchno, Holy Ghost will count on senior guard Tim Lazorko, junior guard Jack Kalmes, senior forwards Jeff Ainsley and Chris Morano, and 6-foot-4 senior center Tom Heston.
Longtime Firebirds coach Tony Chapman is 708-247 in 33 seasons.
Devon Prep returns four senior starters: 6-3 forward Kyle Koehler (11.7 ppg.), 6-1 forward Stephen Kohlbrenner (11.1 ppg.), guard Matthew Burke (4.1 steals per game), and 6-2 forward Nick Weis.
Phil-Mont Christian is out to defend its Bicen Constitution Division championship. The Falcons are sparked by senior guard Mike Hutson (16 ppg.), 6-0 senior forward Clayton Cooper, and sophomore guards Zach Dalton and Micah Baldez.
Plumstead Christian was hit hard by graduation. Max Drake, a junior guard who averaged 16 points last season, and 6-4 senior forward Dan Coach lead the young Panthers.
The Bicen has three new coaches: Frank Sciolla, Bristol; Wes Emme, Jenkintown; and Seth Baron, Lower Moreland. Girard College is no longer part of the league.
In the Tri-County League, Phelps School looks to defend its crown. The Lions, under new coach C.J. Hunt, are led by senior guard Zach Hagan (5.6 ppg., 3.1 apg.), junior swingmen Ryan Alfred and Shakiel Humphrey, and 6-1 junior forward Will Watts.
Phil Thompson, a 6-0 junior guard, also is expected to pitch in for Phelps.
- Rick O'Brien