The West Chester summer league isn’t taking place on WCU’s campus this year, but about 20 minutes north at the Montgomery School in Chester Springs (Pa.). Twenty area teams are participating in the league, which runs through the end of the month, but only four or five play on any given night.
Here is a notebook on two District 1 6A teams from Tuesday night’s action:
Nick Colucci (above) and Haverford were the No. 13 seed in District 1 6A last year. (Photo: Ryan Coyle/CoBL)
Haverford High focusing on experiential gain
There has been a common word most coaches have used when asked about offseason goals for their team throughout their spring/summer leagues and what they hope to accomplish.
After COVID ruined pretty much every area’s program last year and robbed teams of valuable playing experience throughout the offseason months, teams are aiming to play catchup and get their guys ready to play come December with a heavy volume of games over the next few months.
Haverford High is right in that boat, as they have been an active team the past few months as they aim to gain some valuable live action as they lead up to the season.
“(The offseason) has been really good,” said Haverford assistant coach Connor Walsh, who was serving as head coach on Tuesday night in place of Keith Heinerichs. “Especially not having an offseason last year, we have just been trying to get these guys in as many games as they can to get them more experience.”
The Fords went 8-5 in the regular season, good enough to gain them the 13th seed in the PIAA District 1 6A playoffs. But they were upset by No. 20 Upper Dublin in the first round, 48-46. In the upcoming ‘21-22 season, the program has a tall task on their hands as they aim to replace John Seidman, a Franklin & Marshall commit, as well as the program’s third all-time leading scorer with 1,080 points.
Waiting in the wings to help replace some of the scoring load left by Seidman and lead the team this upcoming season are returning varsity contributors such as Seidman’s younger brother, rising junior guard Googie Seidman, as well as rising senior guard J.R. Newman and rising senior guard Nick Colucci.
“It is tough to replace a guy like John Seidman, a 1,000 point scorer,” Walsh said. “But when you got guys like Nick, J.R., and Googie it makes it a little easier. We have a lot of talent on this roster coming back. We have a lot of guys that have the ability to score the ball.”
Colucci, a 6-foot-2 guard with the ability to play on and off the ball, impressed on Tuesday night in Haverford’s 53-41 victory over Chester scoring 16 points, showing an ability to score from all three levels and get his teammates involved. The rising senior appears ready to take over a leadership role both with his play and his voice this upcoming season.
“I think it is important to be a leader, both by example and vocally,” Colucci said. “I know it is going to be one of my jobs to make sure that I am getting everyone on the same page and make sure everyone is focused on winning.”
Newman and Googie Seidman were also contributors on last years’ district playoff team and they should be in line for a larger role this season as Haverford aims to get back to the district playoff again. Sediman had eight points on Tuesday including a few tough mid-range jump shots and Newman showed a strong ability to get the rim, finishing with 13 points on the night.
The Fords also lose Will Higson, the team’s starting forward the last two years, who’ll be playing football at Franklin & Marshall; as well as Hunter Kraiza, a three-year varsity team member who’ll be playing hoops and baseball at Cabrini. Colucci knows that experience he gained last year will be key going into the season and these offseason leagues will be big for him and the rest of his teammates to gain some momentum before the regular season tips off.
“I feel great coming off last season, into the offseason with the guys. Having the experience from last season, knowing what is to come and what to expect is extremely important. Especially for some younger guys that might not have had that same experience. It is really important for all of us to be getting this experience to prepare for the season.”
The Fords don’t boast the tallest team and could struggle on the glass against certain teams, including Central League foes Lower Merion with 6-9 center Demetrius Lilley and Conestoga with 6-10 Michael Walz, but the Fords share the ball well and should be able to run an efficient offense this season due to the ability to beat teams off the dribble and knock down outside shots.
“With the guys we have on this team we have the ability to space it out on offense and play fast. The guys have been buying in and doing awesome this summer.” Walsh said. — Ryan Coyle
Rising sophomore Kyree Womack (above) is part of a youthful Chester squad with only two seniors. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
New wave of Chester players working to make their mark
The Chester Clippers are used to winning. The storied program has won a total of 23 District 1 championships in its history as well as making 49 appearances in the PIAA state playoffs. The Clippers weren’t a team that had their performance last season affected by COVID.
After going 9-1 in the regular season, Chester entered the 5A district playoffs as the No. 2 seed. They ended up winning their first district championship since 2014, defeating West Chester Rustin in the title game 62-46. Their season came to an end in the state semi final against Archbishop Ryan, losing 85-63.
This year is a completely different story. Chester has seen a complete overhaul of their roster, after three seniors who were crucial to their success last year graduated. With Fareed and Jamil Burton, along with two time Del-Val player of the year Karell Watkins gone, head coach Keith Taylor is left with the difficult job building the roster back up
Taylor has an extremely young and inexperienced team on his hands for his fifth season at the helm for the Clippers,
“We lost some of our key guys that were really the core of our team last year,” Taylor said. “This year we’re going to be a young team, and we’re just trying to get them to play our way. We have a ton of rising 10th graders that will be our core for going forward. I’m going to do a lot of teaching this year.”
With Qadir Lowry and Isiah Freeman being the only two seniors on the roster next year, Taylor knows it won’t be easy.
“They’re going to make mistakes so those are things I have to deal with,” he said, “but also try to correct at the same time. It’s all going to be a learning process.”
Rising sophomores Larenzo Jerkins, Kyrie Walmack, and Kevin Rucker will all have to step up into more influential roles. Each player has their own skill set, with Walmack leading things from the point, Rucker slashing down the lane and Jerkins dominating inside.
Jerkins is the most physically imposing player on Chester’s roster, standing at 6-5 with broad shoulders. The big man impressed in Chester’s 69-39 victory over West Chester Henderson on Tuesday night, scoring 29 points. Jerkins dominated the paint, not shying away from contact while punishing smaller defenders and going up strong to the basket. Coming off limited playing time as a freshman, Jerkins is ready to make the next step.
“I’ve been working hard every single day, playing with a chip on my shoulder,” he said, “trying to set an example for my teammates and let them know that I’m there for them”
Lowry knows his senior leadership will be an important factor for his team heading forward. Despite their youth, Lowry has confidence in his teammates abilities.
“We’ve been working out three days a week, trying to get better as a team,”he said. “Even though we’ve got a lot of young guys, everybody knows how to play well. As long as we play hard every game, we should be able to compete with anybody.”
This youthful Clipper team has a tough task on their hands, as they look to defend their District 1 5A crown. It might be a tough task for such an inexperienced team, but expectations are high when you play for Chester. — Zak Wolf