Phil Anastasia: Big men to take over on court next season

from Paulsboro's Ron Curry. Bell will return next season. CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer
from Paulsboro's Ron Curry. Bell will return next season. CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer (Eastern's Devon Bell tips the ball away)

It was the year of the guards, but they're graduating.

Posted: March 15, 2012

Wanted: Guards.

Needed: Ballhandlers, floor generals, decision makers to lead teams that will have no shortage of top inside players next season in South Jersey boys' basketball.

In a twist, the big men will lead the way in 2012-13, since many of the best teams will return experienced centers and forwards and will rely on inexperienced guards.

Take defending state champion Atlantic City. The Vikings will return 6-foot-8 junior center Jahleem Montague, who will be one of South Jersey's most highly recruited players, along with 6-4 junior forward Ga-briel Chandler and 6-2 junior guard Dayshawn Reynolds.

But the Group 4 champions will need to replace senior lead guard Martel Johnson as well as senior off-guard Kashawn Dunston. That's typical.

Paulsboro will return several top players from this season's 30-1 team that won the South Jersey Group 1 title. The Red Raiders will have a powerful front line led by 6-5 junior swingman Xavier Lundy and 6-8 junior center Julien Davenport along with 6-3 freshman swingmen Theo Holloway and Saleem Little.

But like Atlantic City, Paulsboro will need to replace veteran senior guards. The Red Raiders must develop successors to two-year starters Juwan Alford and Calvin Johnson.

It's happening all over. Paul VI, the two-time Olympic National champion and this year's Non-Public South A finalist, will return three of its top six but will need to replace senior guards Ron Curry and Kris O'Connor.

Eastern, the Olympic American champion and a season-long fixture in the top six of the rankings, will return three of its top eight. But while junior swingman Devon Bell, junior forward Avery Walker, and sophomore center Matt Klinewski will give the Vikings plenty of experience in the paint, the team must develop replacements for seasoned senior guards Jordan Ifill, Brett Knoblauch, and Mike Wilson.

It looks as if 2012-13 could be the season of the big man.

Of South Jersey's top 10 returning scorers, seven are non-guards: 6-5 junior Kyle Green of Camden Catholic (22.7 points per game), Lundy (22.3), 6-8 junior Dominique Reid of Timber Creek (20.1), 6-3 junior GeShawn Davis of Penns Grove (19.2), 6-3 junior Christian Mortellite of Hammonton (18.8), 6-8 freshman Tim Delaney of Pitman (18.5), and 6-3 junior Cedric Elleby of Delsea (17.7).

That's rare.

Montague, Lundy, Green, Reid, and 6-7 junior Amir Maddred of Camden will draw major recruiting interest this spring and summer. Same goes for Delaney as well as 6-8 sophomore Rashaan Armstead of Schalick (15.9 ppg) and 6-5 sophomore Junior Saintel of Holy Spirit.

There should be some top guards next season, with Shawnee returning two veterans in juniors Josh Borrelli and Ryan Bodnar and St. Augustine following the lead of junior Mike Greenman.

Haddonfield will feature freshman guards Nick and Rob DePersia. Cherry Hill East will rely heavily on freshman guard Jake Silpe. Haddon Heights will be led by junior Brandon Joyner (18.8).

Gloucester will return junior Stefano Okoro (20.5). Cherry Hill West is expecting big things from sophomore Rodney Williams (18.9). Medford Tech might have an emerging star in sophomore Elijah Cain (13.7).

But 2012-13 still looks like a big year, in more ways than one.


Phil Anastasia: Next Season's Projected Top 10

How next season's Top 10 in South Jersey boys' basketball could look, with this season's record.

1. Atlantic City (26-5). The Group 4 state-champion Vikings will return five players from their nine-man rotation, including 6-foot-8 junior center Jahleem Montague, as well as 6-4 junior forward Ga-briel Chandler and 6-2 junior swingman Dayshawn Reynolds. Dennis White, a 6-5 sophomore, could be an impact player. The key could be the development of 6-2 sophomore guard Isaiah Graves, a fearless slasher and scorer who likely will need to become more of a floor general.

2. Paulsboro (30-1). The Red Raiders will be led by 6-5 junior forward Xavier Lundy, a three-year starter who averaged 22.3 points this season and already has more than 1,500 career points. Also returning will be 6-8 junior center Julien Davenport, 6-2 junior guard Derrick Burgess, and 6-3 freshman swingmen Theo Holloway and Saleem Little. The key for the Red Raiders will be developing ballhandling guards to replace seniors Juwan Alford and Calvin Johnson.

3. Shawnee (23-6). The Renegades will return seven of their top nine players from the Olympic Patriot champions. Junior guards Josh Borrelli and Ryan Bodnar and junior swingman Tristan Polnitz will lead the way. Shawnee will be experienced, as junior forwards Frank Destito, Jake Dean, and Austin Lang played major minutes this season.

4. Eastern (24-4). The Olympic American-champion Vikings will bring back three of their top eight, including leading scorer Devon Bell, a 6-2 junior swingman. Junior forward Avery Walker will be a force in the paint along with 6-6 sophomore center Matt Klinewski. The key for the Vikings will be developing perimeter players after losing senior guards Jordan Ifill, Brett Knoblauch, and Mike Wilson.

5. Middle Township (18-11). The Panthers will return five of their top seven from a team that beat St. Augustine twice, reached the Cape-Atlantic League tournament title game (losing to Atlantic City by 40-37) and won at Medford Tech in the South Jersey Group 2 tournament. Leading the way will be junior swingman Tom Feraco, junior guards Tom Catanoso and Darrell Shelton, and junior forward Lamarr Greer.

6. St. Augustine (22-5). The Hermits will return three starters and will be led by junior guards Mike Greenman and David Sullivan and junior forward Blake Rossell. They will miss senior center Austin Johnson's inside presence but could get a lift from emerging 6-4 sophomore Joe Gatto.

7. Lenape (19-9). The Indians will return four of their top eight players, including starters in junior forward Tabu Gaither and junior guard Sawyer Hand. Junior guard Arkemus Baskerville was the team's top player in the overtime loss to eventual state champion Atlantic City in the South Jersey Group 4 quarterfinals. Junior guards Kendall Green and Marquis Perry also played important minutes.

8. Paul VI (26-4). The Eagles will bring back three of their top six, including starters in sophomore forwards Jay Howard and Matt Risse. Sameen Swint, a 6-3 junior swingman, was the team's sixth man. Junior forward Pat Kennedy should move into the regular rotation. The key will be developing guards to replace seniors Ron Curry and Kris O'Connor.

9. Camden Catholic (14-13). The Irish will be led by junior swingman Kyle Green, who led South Jersey with a 22.7-point average this season. A strong sophomore class is led by guard Ivan Robinson, who came on strong in the second half of this season. Freshman Brendan Crawford, a 6-5 forward, could be ready to make a big impact.

10. Haddonfield (22-8). The Bulldogs will return four of their top six, including junior forward Chris Biddle and junior swingman Billy Griffin, the team's top three-point threat. Freshman guards Nick and Rob DePersia made a major impact this season and should continue to develop.

Under consideration (listed alphabetically): Camden (18-13), Delsea (23-5), Medford Tech (20-8), Pitman (19-9), Schalick (21-8).

- Phil Anastasia


Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223, panastasia@phillynews.com, or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter. Read his blog, "Jersey Side Sports," at www.philly.com/jerseysidesports

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