Few players in Pennsylvania can match up with Great Valley's four-star forward Mikal Bridges, the 6-foot-7, Villanova-bound, Ches-Mont National MVP who averaged 20 points and eight rebounds as a junior last season.
But with Division I tight-end prospect Ryan Buchholz and 6-5 transfer Blake McGlond also suiting up for the Patriots, Great Valley will present matchup problems all over the floor. Add in talented third-year varsity guard Cyree Ames to set up the offense, and the Patriots look primed to repeat in the National.
Great Valley lost last year's Ches-Mont title to American champion Coatesville, which turns the coaching reins over to Chuck Moore, who starred at Plymouth Whitemarsh in the 1990s. Moore inherits a Coatesville team that graduated three all-league players but returns athletic forwards Jaquan Hollingshead and Tyler Burke.
"They're not as experienced, but they're always athletic," Great Valley coach Jim Nolan said. "Coatesville is always a team to be reckoned with."
A big threat to Coatesville, at least in terms of size, in the National could be Downingtown East, which is coming off its best season. Division I wide-receiver prospect Cary Angeline (16 points per game as a freshman) carries the offensive load. He'll be joined by his brother Ryley, who has committed to play running back at Delaware, and Brandon Feamster, a defensive back playing basketball for the first time.
But it will be a lacrosse player, Kyle Tucker, bound for Division III power Salisbury, running the show at point guard.
Sean Loerzel transferred in to Downingtown West last year and instantly became one of the league's top players. Now, the cerebral point guard finds himself the leader on a team that hopes to reach the playoffs with three starting sophomores (Ryan Betley, Josh Warren, and Dom Guerrera).
Colin Costello is the only returning starter from West Chester Henderson's Ches-Mont final-four team, but Mark DiMatteo and Jensen Goldfine likely will keep the Warriors in the mix.
After struggling through a rebuilding season, West Chester East should improve, thanks to added experience from leading scorer Evan Anderson and leading rebounder Kyle Smith.
Looking to challenge Great Valley in the American will be Oxford, which returns all five starters from a team that won eight of its final nine games. Second-team all-league players Jordan Logan, Ryan Hubley, and Musty Mahmud each averaged 10-plus points last year.
With Ethan Ridgeway and Andrew Chobany, West Chester Rustin likely will be in the hunt again. As will Kennett, where new coach Brian Urig has all-league point guard Yohsuke Kobayashi to set up Jackson Hyland, Vaughn Jenkins, and Jordan Jones.
- Mark Macyk