The Main Line high school boys' basketball scene should be strong once again in 2014. Last season, many of the Main Line's private high school enjoyed successful campaigns, notably Archbishop Carroll in the Catholic League and Episcopal Academy and Haverford School in the Inter-Ac. This winter, the Patriots and Fords feature some high-caliber talent, including Haverford School's Levan "Shawn' Alston, a Temple University commit, and Archbishop Carroll's Derrick Jones, who will be heading to University of Nevada-Las Vegas to play basketball.
On the public high school level, a number of Central League teams from the Main Line are coming off successful seasons, including Conestoga, Harriton, Radnor and Lower Merion. The Pioneers have a good returning core, while the Red Raiders lost most of their winning core from last year due to graduation, and Lower Merion lost a couple of stars (Justin McFadden and Jaquan Johnson), but it's a rare season when the Aces aren't basketball aces.
Here's a look (in alphabetical order) at how the Main Line high school boys' basketball teams shape up for the 2014-15 season:
Head coach: Paul Romanczuk, 12th year.
Last year's record: 23-5 overall, 11-2 Catholic League.
Key returnees: 6-9 senior forward/center Ernest Aflakpui, 6-7 senior forward Derrick Jones, 6-0 senior guard Samir Taylor.
Others to watch: 5-10 junior point guard Josh Sharkey, 6-3 sophomore guard Dave Beatty, 6-4 junior guard/forward Ryan Daly.
Key players lost to graduation: Point guard Austin Tilghman (playing for Monmouth), guard Joe Mostardi (playing for Widener), forward Armand Sorrentino.
Outlook: Romanczuk sees the Patriots' biggest strengths as size, athleticism, rebounding, defense and experience; and their biggest challenges in the areas of depth and outside shooting.
"Our keys to a successful season are our chemistry and staying healthy,' said Romanczuk. "Our goals for the season are to improve daily and to be the last ones standing in the Catholic League and the [PIAA] state [tournament].'
Barrack Hebrew Academy
Head coach: Robert Kushner, second year.
Last year's record: 10-7, advanced to Tri-County League championship finals.
Key returnees: 6-1 senior small forward Cory Barnet, 6-2 junior point guard Elliot Bernstein.
Others to watch: 5-10 senior shooting guard Mike Zlotnick, 6-1 senior power forward Avi Soloman, 6-3 senior power forward/center Or Ayash, 5-7 junior point guard Sammy Turk-Tolub.
Lost to graduation: point guard Ari Yosef (averaged 19.1 ppg last season), center Marc Meltzer (averaged eight rpg last season), power forward Shawn Martin.
Outlook: Kushner, a Lower Merion High School grad, is being assisted by former Strawberry Mansion High School standout Maureece Rice, the Public League's all-time leading scorer who broke Wilt Chamberlain's Public League career scoring mark.
Kushner said, "Our biggest strength is that we are a strong cohesive unit that has played together for a number of years. The key to our season being successful will be determined by our hard work and work ethic. We practice very hard, and play even harder. We must make sure we out hustle our opponents and keep turnovers to a minimum. Our pre-season goal would be to return to the Tri-County League Championship, and bring the Championship trophy home to Barrack.
Head coach: Mike Troy, ninth year (17th overall, including his tenure at Devon Prep).
Last year's record: 24-6.
Key returnees: 6-5 senior guard Andrew Diehl, 6-5 senior forward Dan Vila, 6-4 senior forward Martin Dorsey, 5-11 senior guard James Vandeventer, 5-10 senior guard Daryl Caldwell.
Others to watch: 6-1 junior guard MJ Lezanic, 6-1 junior guard Andrew Larkin, 6-5 senior center Jack Lambert.
Lost to graduation: guard Zack Yonda (playing for Swarthmore).
Outlook: Troy sees the Pioneers' biggest strengths as experience, unselfishness, ability to play team basketball and ability to find the open man, and their biggest need "making sure we win the battle of the boards.'
Troy said, "We will go as far as our defense takes us. Offensively finding the open man and making our free throws [are the keys]. Our goals for the season are competing for the Central League title and making a run in the [PIAA] state playoffs.'
Head coach: Jason Fisher, second year.
Last year's record: 6-15.
Key returnees: 5-9 senior guard Andrew Shannon, 6-3 senior forward Jack Hegarty.
Others to watch: 5-8 sophomore guard Daniel Shannon, 6-4 senior forward Andrew Walheim, 6-4 junior forward Danny Brace.
Lost to graduation: Mike McKenna, Matt McSurdy, CJ Kohlbrenner.
Outlook: Fisher said, "The team hopes to be competitive in all of our games this year and continue to build on the foundation that was starting to be laid last year.'
Head coach: Craig Conlin, fifth year.
Last year's record: 16-8 overall, 6-3 Inter-Ac.
Key returnees: 5-11 senior guard and co-captain Michael Jolaoso (14.5 ppg last season, first team all Inter-Ac), 6-2 senior guard and co-captain Michael Hinckley (committed to Dickinson), 6-7 sophomore forward Nick Alikakos (second team All Inter-Ac as a freshman), 6-1 junior shooting guard Matt Woods, 6-3 senior forward Cameron Pott (solid rebounder).
Lost to graduation: Chris McNeal (playing sixth man for Dickinson College), Conner Martin (Boston College).
Others to watch: 6-0 sophomore guard Conner Delaney, 6-0 junior guard Kyle Sacchetta.
Outlook: Conlin, who sees the Churchmens' major strengths as leadership, teamwork and guard play, said, "We have no expectations [regarding who will be the favorite to win the Inter-Ac]. The score will take care of itself. Our goal is get better every day.'
Head coach: Ryan Tozer, third year.
Last year's record: 8-20 overall, 5-4 Friends Schools League.
Key returnees: 6-2 senior guard Jonathan Lawton (23.7 ppg last season, 68 3-pointers, first-team All-Friends Schools League, drawing DI interest); 6-7 junior guard/forward De'Andre Hunter (missed entire sophomore season with a broken left tibia, was first team all-league as a freshman, drawing DI interest); 6-2 senior forward Dan Yosipovitch, 6-2 junior guard Steven Folwell, 5-10 sophomore guard Antone Walker.
Others to watch: 6-2 junior guard Chuck Champion (transfer from LaSalle High School, averaged 6.0 ppg for team that was PIAA state runner-up).
Lost to graduation: forward Jerome Allen, guard Max Ginsberg.
Outlook: Tozer said, "Our biggest strengths will be our three college-level players, De'Andre Hunter, Jonathan Lawton and Chuck Champion. Our staff is thrilled to have three student athletes of this caliber leading our team this season. Our needs are for senior center Dan Yosipovitch to defend and rebound at the level we know he is capable of and for returnees Steven Folwell and Antone Walker to give us additional ball handling and to hit open shots.
"I'm not sure what our biggest needs are at this point. We need newcomers like freshman Toure Mosley-Banks and junior Mark Charamella to work hard and step up when needed. After our first six players, we are young and inexperienced, so the newcomers have to learn our system and develop quickly.
"Our keys for a successful season revolve primarily around the play of Hunter, Lawton and Champion. As they go, so will FCS go. We need Walker, Folwell and Yosipovitch to play error-free basketball and to do the little things that don't show up in box scores but make teams winners.
"Our goals are to compete for the league championship and to make some noise in the [PAISAA] state playoffs. We can reach those goals if our players' individual goals are to practice hard and to get better every day.'
Head coach: Jesse Rappaport, eighth year.
Last year's record: 15-10.
Key returnees: 6-4 senior center/forward Sam Schliting, 6-1 senior point guard Jordan Wright, 6-3 senior center/forward Ethan Anderson.
Others to watch: 6-3 junior forward Montgomery Brown, 6-1 senior guard Jake Firestone, 6-2 senior guard Austin Schwartz, 6-2 sophomore guard Rashad Andersen, 5-10 sophomore guard Will Esposito.
Lost to graduation: point guard Detasla Dixon (playing for Washington College), guard Alex Shippen (playing for Alvernia University), guard Drake Friend (playing for Hood College), guard Jake Rosenberg (playing baseball for Alvernia), guard Spencer Dickler.
Outlook: Rappaport said, "After losing a transformational class to graduation, we face a tremendous challenge, yet it also brings opportunity for lots of players. The keys are for our young players to start to mature, and our returning players to show their off-season improvement on the court.'
Head coach: Henry Fairfax, third year.
Last year's record: 16-8 overall, 7-3 Inter-Ac.
Key returnees: 6-3 senior shooting guard Levan "Shawn' Alston (committed to Temple), 6-6 senior guard/forward Derek Mountain, 6-7 junior guard/forward Lamar Stevens, 6-6 freshman point guard Cameron Reddish, 5-9 junior guard Micah Sims, 6-6 junior forward Jack Marshall, 6-2 senior guard Logan Atkins.
Others to watch: 6-0 freshman guard Kharon Randolph, 6-0 sophomore guard Josh Ridenhour, 5-6 freshman guard Joe Dignazio.
Lost to graduation: 6-7 guard/forward Eric Anderson (playing for Yale).
Outlook: Fairfax said, "We are long and dynamic on both sides of the basketball. Our goal is to win the next rep, win the next rep!'
Head coach: Gregg Downer, 25th year.
Last year's record: 23-8 overall, 14-2 Central League (league champions).
Key returnees: 6-0 senior guard Corey Sherman, 6-2 senior guard Steve Pendleton, 6-6 senior wing Jule Brown.
Others to watch: 6-4 senior wing Asher Barry, 6-0 junior guard Kyle Helton.
Lost to graduation: Justin McFadden (playing for Binghamton), Jaquan Johnson (prep school).
Outlook: Downer said, "Our biggest strength is that we have three very experienced seniors who are battle-tested. Our biggest need is for our [relatively] inexperienced players to produce coming off the bench. Our goal is win the Central League title and to obtain a [PIAA] state tournament bid.'
Head coach: John Harmatuk, second year. (15 years as high school head coach).
Last year's record: 12-16 overall, 3-7 Inter-Ac.
Key returnees: 6-0 senior guard Chris Anderson, 6-4 senior guard Joey Fitzpatrick, 6-0 junior guard Will Powers, 6-3 senior guard Jack Doherty, 6-5 junior post Mike Hollingsworth.
Others to watch: 5-11 sophomore guard Tommy Wolfe, 6-2 sophomore guard Ray Baran, 6-5 senior post Ryan O'Neill.
Outlook: The Friars look to take advantage of their strong shooting and depth this season.
Head coach: Chris Monahan, fourth year.
Last year's record: 14-9 overall, 9-7 Central League.
Key returnees: None.
Others to watch: 6-0 junior guard Billy Donahue, 6-1 junior forward Hyram Hill, 5-11 junior guard Alex Hino, 5-11 junior guard Vinnie Kelly, 5-8 junior guard Michael Li, 6-4 sophomore forward Thomas Mogan, 6-3 sophomore guard Mason Ressler, 6-0 senior guard Jake Schug.
Key players lost to graduation: Nelson Blickman, Sam Feldman, Nick Kelly (playing guard for Mercersburg Academy), Andrew Lundstrom (playing forward for The Hill School), Terrance Quinn (playing guard for Penn State Brandywine), Rashawn Reed (playing guard for Penn State Wilkes-Barre), Bryce Sydnor
Outlook: Monahan said, "We have a hard working group of players. Our success hinges on our buy-in and commitment to the daily process of improvement.'
Head coach: Phil D'Ambrosio, third year.
Last year's record: 6-16.
Key returnees: 5-11 senior point guard John Parker, 6-1 senior shooting guard Quamier Johnson, 6-2 senior wing Sebastian Pepper, 6-3 senior forward Kevin Zwolak, 6-0 senior forward Josh Gorrell, 6-4 junior wing Arvelle Jones.
Others to watch: 5-7 sophomore point guard Kiyon Hardy, 5-10 freshman point guard Sam Sessoms, 6-5 junior center Amir Fluellen.
Lost to graduation: forward Shawn Harvey (playing for Rosemont), forward Matt Rodden.
Outlook: D'Ambrosio said, "We are a guard-oriented program, which allows us to get out and run playing an up-tempo offense. Defensively we will pressure the ball using our speed and quickness to our advantage. We will have to team rebound since we don't have a ton of size on the interior. We'll rely heavily on attacking the basket and getting out in transition; using our defense to create offense.
"In order for us to be successful we will have to establish and understand roles for our players and play scrappy hard-nosed defense. We will strive to get better each and every day in practice and try to put ourselves in the best position possible to compete for a championship.'