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