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Prepping for Preps '21-22: SCH Academy (Boys)

10/14/2021, 11:30am EDT
By Jerome Taylor

Jerome Taylor (@ThatGuy_Rome)

(Ed. Note: This story is the latest in CoBL’s “Prepping for Preps” series, which will take a look at many of the top high school programs in the region as part of our 2021-22 season preview coverage. As we publish more, the complete list of schools previewed will be found here.)


Darius Isaac (above, during the 2019-20 season) leads a dangerous SCH Academy squad. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

After retooling a youthful roster, Springside-Chestnut Hill is poised to compete for their first Inter-Academic League title since 2010. Last year’s team had several freshmen contributors, all adjusting to high school life and high school hoops. But with a bolstered core, the Blue Devils want to take a considerable leap in the standings in 2021-2022.

"We're definitely looking to win that Inter-Ac chip," senior point guard Darius Isaac said. "And if we are fortunate enough to have states, we want to make a deep run in states."

The 2020-2021 Blue Devils started three freshmen — Ron Brown, Caleb Alston, and Mitch Karp — and in a highly competitive Inter-Ac, their inexperience was evident as the Blue Devils went 1-5. However, these same players are a year older, and the team added talent from around the area to amplify their projections. 

Last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Inter-Ac mandated that their teams only play league games. The youthful Blue Devils were prepared for their annual round-robin with Episcopal Academy, Haverford School, Germantown Academy, Malvern Prep and Penn Charter, but after COVID cancellations, the Blue Devils completed only six of those games. 

Due to the condensed schedule, the team couldn’t create the chemistry it needed to compete. 

"They were like fresh out of middle school right into the Inter-Ac season,” head coach Julian McFadden said. “So, you know, we struggled… but got a lot of valuable lessons in those six games, in terms of what it takes to be a varsity level player.”

McFadden, who graduated from Springside Chestnut Hill (then Chestnut Hill Academy) in 2006, has been trying to change the culture around his alma mater since he took over as head coach in 2017. McFadden’s turnaround efforts have not led the Blue Devils to their ultimate goal yet, but with a full schedule to build camaraderie, this team has a chance of changing that.

Getting to that point started during the summer: every team emphasizes summer reps, but they are essential to the Blue Devils, who added three new pieces in juniors Jaren Morton and Alassane Amadou and sophomore Camden Burns, all of whom will play major roles from the get-go. 

Amadou and Morton join the team coming from the recently closed Bishop McDevitt, while Burns formerly played at Martin Luther King, though he attended Lankenau High School, which doesn’t have a basketball team. 

Getting this reconstructed roster to fit together is the primary focus at this point for McFadden. 

“I think it's been about just getting them together as much as we can and getting them in any setting that we can to do something together so that they can learn about each other,” he said. “The times we’ve been getting in the gym and working out, the times that we're able to just kind of see each other, they just really like each other. Their games and like them picking up each other’s games that'll come with time.” 

All three new players look like they will be pivotal to the Blue Devils' success. Burns and Morton both stood out in the recent CoBL Interstate shootout; Morton for his impressive range, and Burns — a 6-0 guard — for three-level scoring ability with a mix of playmaking. The Blue Devils were without their most talented player during that weekend, Amadou. 

I mean, it's actually good that we got to play without him so [the other players] can start getting in their mode,” McFadden said. “I think that's always good when one of your better players in the plan and other guys can just step up.”

Though the 6-9 forward was absent that weekend, He will surely make his presence felt throughout the season. Amadou already has generated interest from a multitude of Division I schools, including offers from Maryland, Marquette, Saint Joseph’s and VCU, among others. 

Alassane Amadou (above, in May) brings immediate size and length to the SCH frontcourt. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Though he’s still developing his overall skillset, Amadou’s talents as a shot-blocker and rim-runner who can also step out and knock down shots, with an improving ability to put the ball on the floor, will be a welcomed addition to the Blue Devils frontcourt alongside the 6-5 Alston and 6-6 Karp. 

When that’s paired with the multi-dimensional scoring ability of their backcourt, there’s a reason expectations are so high for this year’s unit. 

According to McFadden, Morton was one of the most impressive players over the summer live period. His skillset has already garnered attention from both current coaches and college coaches alike. The 6-5 guard has already picked up an offer from Siena and is starting to get interest from other programs. 

Morton spent the summer improving as a ball-handler and playmaker to complement his well-polished jumper. He expects to see that work pay off as he steps into a more significant role with the Blue Devils, where he says he’ll be able to play more free. 

Though there is a lot of change coming to the Blue Devils, one constant will be Isaac, the team’s senior point guard and younger brother of former D-II Chestnut Hill College guard Demetrius Isaac. As one of the few veterans on the team, the Blue Devils will need his leadership. Isaac has spent the summer working on becoming a better leader, which he’s been learning to do since he’s been playing under McFadden. 

“I just trust in my coaching staff, honestly,” Issac said about the key to his leadership path. “They always show me the ropes. Even as a freshman, they always believed in me. Just giving me a chance, teaching me and just feeding off of their energy. I became a better point guard, a better leader like that.”

Isaac, who plays baseball over the summer for the Anderson Monarchs and Phillies RBI, says he was impressed with his teammates' growth once he got back in the gym with the team. 

"I'm just seeing better, better basketball players," Isaac said, "I can tell that they've definitely been putting work in over the summer, and that's what you need to do to get better. You can't just put your shoes on, come out, ready to play. You've got to put that preparation in, and seeing them do it is really good."

Considering the changes that have come to the Inter-Ac over the past year: top players like Haverford School’s Jameel Brown (Westtown), Germantown Academy’s Jordan Longino (Villanova), and Malvern Prep’s Rahdir Hicks (Towson) all left the conference. There is now a path to reaching the heights Issac and the other Blue Devils are aiming for, including a run in the Pennsylvania Independent School Athletic Assoc. (PAISAA) state tournament in the spring. 

With the influx of new talent, growth of younger players and veteran leadership at the point guard position, the Blue Devils see an opportunity to ascend the Inter-Ac leaderboards and establish a new program at the top for the foreseeable future.

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