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Prepping for Preps '21-22: Neumann-Goretti (Boys)

11/11/2021, 10:30am EST
By Joseph Santoliquito

Joseph Santoliquito (@JSantoliquito)

(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.)


There was a slight gleam in Carl Arrigale’s eyes during an open informal workout, as he watched his team in late-October. For years, the Catholic League stared Arrigale and his program down.

Arrigale, winner of a record 11 Catholic League championships who will be entering his 24th season as head coach of the Saints, would like to think his program can hide in the weeds for once.

Not so.

Masud Stewart (above) is one of the senior leaders on the Saints' young, promising squad. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Don’t let the Saints’ 4-6 record last year fool you. COVID-19 forced the school into shutting down last season. Five of the Saints’ six losses came by forfeit in which the Saints used an ineligible player, who actually came back to the school after previously playing for the program.

The Saints are not an afterthought, and will battle Roman Catholic, La Salle, Archbishop Wood and rising West Catholic for the league title again in what is almost certainly the toughest basketball league in the state.

“I know what we have and we’ll do what we normally do,” Arrigale said. “We’ll open the floor up and play through our young guards, shoot a lot of threes and try to be very good defensively. If we defend the way we’re asking our guys to defend, and rebound the ball, I think we’re going to be okay offensively.

“We’ll share it and make shots. Once we start practicing and placing our defensive concepts in, we’re going to be okay. We’ll find out right away if we’re good or not.

“But this league can be open to anyone. We’re not there yet, but I don’t know where everyone else is, either. It’s why you play the season.”

Gone from the roster are point guard Hysier Miller (Temple), power forward Zaakir Williamson (Buffalo) and shooting guard Chris Evans (Claflin) plus forwards Blaise Vespe and Solo Bambara, both doing post-graduate years.

The Saints return experience in 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior point guard Masud Stewart, who’s received offers from Wagner, Holy Cross, St. Peter’s and Rider. Stewart will be joined by 6-1 senior combo guard Aamir Hurst and 6-7, 205-pound junior power forward Sultan Adewale, a transfer from Saint Louis, Missouri, by way of England.

Adewale has already attracted the attention of Memphis, DePaul, Georgia Tech, New Orleans and Ole Miss. Combine Adewale’s size and athleticism with 6-9, 235-pound sophomore Luke Bevilacqua and the Saints may have a lethal one-two inside punch.

Bevilacqua is a strong, active post who moves his feet well, and is developing his face-up game.

Arrigale loves the plus-side of Bevilacqua, but if the Saints go anywhere, Arrigale may be leaning right now towards his other big.

“Sultan is a high to mid-major prospect who is going to open some eyes,” Arrigale said. “Luke has grown two inches since he’s been here. He’s every bit of 6-9. Our younger guys are coming along nicely, and the effort is there. These guys understand our standards.

“Sultan is the big wildcard. He came here hurting a little bit. He’s rounding in and getting healthy. He can be very important for us. We’ll play the way we always play, pushing the ball and being aggressive.”

Depth will come from 5-10 junior guard Shawn Battle, a standout football player with major Division I interest, and 6-1 junior wing Bruce Smith.

Khaafiq Myers (above) is one of three sophomores the Saints will lean on heavily this winter. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

But the Saints may depend on the quick development of a trio of sophomores: 5-11 lead guard Rob Wright III, 5-9 guard Khaafiq Myers and 6-5 wing Amir Williams. Wright has already received offers from Wichita State, La Salle and Wake Forest, Williams has offers from Wichita State and Binghamton, and Myers has drawn interest from some of the local schools, with an offer from Temple on the table.

“I think we can be really good this year,” Stewart said. “We have a really young corps, with five upperclassmen. We have a chance to be special. The things we work on in practice translate well in games. Our defense will be one of the main keys to winning this year.

“We won’t worry about other teams. We worry about ourselves and how well we play.”

Wright knows the expectations on him this year. He’s going to be a first-year varsity starter and he feels defense and ball movement will be integral to the Saints’ success.

Robert Wright III (above) has picked up multiple Division I offers this offseason. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

“We don’t think we’re getting the respect that we deserve and we’ll prove everybody wrong this season,” Wright said. “I really can’t wait. We’re going to surprise a lot of people, because we’re hungry and we have the talent to win.”

Myers feels the Saints’ off-the-court bond makes them stronger.

“We can go four guards, we can win with two big men, we can go at a lot of teams in different ways,” Myers said. “I watched last year as a freshman. Now, as a sophomore, I know every night I will have to bring it if I want to keep my spot.”     

Arrigale has no trouble tossing Wright, Williams and Myers into the deep end.

“We trust those guys,” the veteran coach said. “We’ll run through them. Those two are very good and they’re only going to get better. Defending and rebounding are what we need to focus on. Let other teams think we’re lying in the weeds.

“We don’t hide from anyone. We never have. I’m really excited about who we can be.”

Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who began writing for CoBL in 2021 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter here.

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