In a perfect world for Friends' Central, De'Andre Hunter would be back on the court this season scoring 20 points a game and helping lead the boys' basketball team to another league-title game.
But because of an injury, the promising sophomore will be reduced to watching from the bench as his team tries to fill the scoring hole left by his absence and the loss of the Phoenix's top two scorers from last season.
Hunter is out for the year after breaking his left tibia in a fall league game in early October, second-year coach Ryan Tozer said. The injury came at an inopportune time for Friends' Central (20-8, 8-1 league), which already had to deal with the losses of Karonn Davis and Billy Cassidy - two of the top five scorers in the league.
Hunter, a 6-foot-5 forward, averaged 11.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.8 assists last season and was named The Inquirer's freshman of the year in Southeastern Pennsylvania.
"I think [Hunter] is one of the best sophomores in the country and one of the better players in the city," Tozer said. "It's a significant loss."
Tozer said the Phoenix will have to rely on 6-foot-1 point guard Jonathan Lawton, their only returning starter. Lawton, a junior, averaged 11.5 points and 3.2 assists last year and was hailed by his coach as "one of the most underrated players in the city."
"As long as we work hard, we can make it to states and possibly win states and the Friends League title," Lawton said.
Standing in the way of Lawton's lofty goals is defending league champion Abington Friends (20-7, 7-2), which beat Friends' Central, 55-52, in the league-title game in February. First-team all-league selection Jordan Greene, a senior guard, returns after averaging 12 points for the Kangaroos last season.
Another sure challenger for the league title is Westtown (15-13, 6-2), with its addition of 7-foot-1 center Georgios Papagiannis, a junior from Greece who some are calling the best high school center in the country. Jared Nickens, a senior wing, averaged 15.9 points last season and has committed to Maryland.
Academy of the New Church (7-14, 4-4) welcomed two transfers in the offseason. Junior Carnell Harley, a 6-6 forward, came over from Imhotep Charter. Samir Phillips, a 6-4 junior, transferred from Mastery Charter. The Lions are seeking their first league title since 2009.
- Joey Cranney