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Prepping for Preps ’21-22: Archbishop Wood (Boys)

11/17/2021, 11:15am EST
By Ty Daubert

Ty Daubert (@TyDaubert)

(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.)

Justin Moor dribbles a basketball

Justin Moore (above) transferred to Archbishop Wood this year and will be the primary ball handler. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

A season after claiming the second Philadelphia Catholic League title in school history and making a run to the PIAA Class 6A state championship game, a largely fresh group of names will be taking the floor for Archbishop Wood boys basketball after graduating an exceptional senior class this past year.

“Every year is a different feeling, especially this year losing nine seniors -- a great senior class -- that moved on,” Vikings head coach John Mosco said. “We have a lot of faces that didn’t play a lot of minutes.”

Among the nine, four players from last season’s Wood squad have moved on to play Division I basketball in guards Rahsool Diggins (UConn), Jaylen Stinson (James Madison), Daeshon Shepherd (La Salle) and Marcus Randolph (Richmond), while forward Muneer Newton is playing for William Penn at the NAIA level.

The 2021 senior class had a 74-25 record in its four years at Wood, including a 19-1 campaign last season in which it went undefeated in Catholic League play as it defeated Roman Catholic for the PCL championship, but lost to Reading in the state final. 

Losing such a talented core will certainly be a challenge for the Vikings, but they still believe they have the selection of players necessary to remain a threat. The most important factor will be coming together to mesh as a team without such a large portion of last year’s roster.

“We’ll be mixed,” Mosco said, “with at least three seniors, two juniors, two sophomores and maybe even a freshman playing. It’ll be a learning experience for them and for me.”

The three seniors leading that mix enter the season from different perspectives, but all aim to fill in for the class above them -- both in terms of on-court contributions and leadership. Point guard Justin Moore, a Drexel commit, is a newcomer to the program. He transferred to Wood this year, as his former school Bishop McDevitt closed at the end of this past school year. 

Moore averaged 12.1 points, 4.4 assists and 1.9 steals for McDevitt last season, and he will handle the ball for the Vikings this season as “one of the best players in the area” in the words of Mosco.

“I had to leave McDevitt, but they welcomed me with open arms,” Moore said of his new team. “Coach Mosco is really good at helping find my rhythm with the team and just getting along, getting to know everybody. It’s been a really good fit.”

Mike Knause holds a basketball

Mike Knause (above) has emerged as a team leader after the Vikings graduated their entire starting lineup from last season. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Guard Tyson Allen and forward Mike Knause are the other seniors set to take on big roles. The two have been around for four years as they waited for the opportunity for more playing time. Now that it’s here, Allen and Knause have emerged as team leaders and have helped Moore get adjusted to the team and into a position to do the same.

“It’s my time to step up as a leader and show the way for some of the younger guys in the program,” Knause said.

Surrounding them throughout the season will be 6-8 junior forward Carson Howard, who brings some size and length alongside the 6-4 Knause, as well as sophomore guards Jalil Bathea and Josh Reed. Freshman Milan Dean and junior Basil Laster are two wings with bright futures -- Laster has an offer from Saint Peter's -- who should also see action in the Vikings rotation.

This squad, deep with a collection of high-end talent and experience around the program, intends to be a PCL contender once again. And while Wood may not be the favorite to repeat with the likes of Roman Catholic, West Catholic and La Salle ready to go, the Vikings still feel that they’ve been counted out by some.

“I think we got a really good team,” Knause said. “A lot of people are doubting us this year and kind of overlooking us because of all the guys we lost. But I think we’re going to shock a lot of people this year.” 

Added Mosco: “They’ve been waiting their time and it’s their chance, and everybody’s not picking us. They have a chance to move on and get to where we want to be.”

Where Wood wants to be, of course, is in the top two and back in the Catholic League title game set to be hosted at the Palestra again this season. Last year, the pandemic moved the PCL postseason away from Penn’s home floor, and the Vikings hoisted the trophy at Cardinal O’Hara High School after beating Roman 68-59.

Playing deep into state playoffs is a goal for Wood as well, but the real motivator lies within the league. After losing so many contributors, another shot at PCL glory — this time back at the Cathedral of College Basketball — is what drives the new-look Vikings.

“That’s what we play for,” Mosco said. “You know, we want to win the state. We want to get there. But if you play in the Catholic League, you want to be at the Palestra on that last Monday.”

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