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Prepping for Preps '22-23: Father Judge (Boys)

11/19/2022, 1:00pm EST
By Jared Leveson

By Jared Leveson (@jared_leveson)

(Ed. Note: This story is part of 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 2022-23 season preview coverage. The complete list of schools previewed thus far can be found here.)


During Bill Fox’s head coaching tenure from 1975 to 2006, the Father Judge program appeared in the Philadelphia Catholic League (PCL) playoffs 26 times, making 12 semifinals and six championship games. Fox brought the PCL title to 3301 Solly Avenue thrice in 1975, 1976, and 1998. 

Things have changed since 1998. The PCL has changed its playoff structure, and recruiting has become more competitive. Schools like Neumann-Goretti, Roman Catholic, West Catholic and Archbishop Wood began recruiting beyond Philadelphia, expanding their talent pool. 

Father Judge has struggled to adapt and maintain a .500 record. They have only made the PCL semifinals once since then, in 1999. 

In that semi-final, Roman Catholic beat Judge, 48-44. 

Current Crusader head coach, Chris Roantree, played under Fox and graduated in 1999. He experienced that consistent success and wants his players to know the same. 

Father Judge senior guard Ernest Shelton is trying to be a leader this season. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Father Judge finished its 2021-2022 campaign with a 9-10 overall record and placed 11th out of 14 teams in the PCL, compiling a 4-9 league mark. 

Now entering his second year as head coach, Roantree is looking for more consistency as he leads a confident, battle-tested, and developing group this season. 

“We haven't won in a long time,” Roantree said. “So, how do we get back to a consistent level of winning?” 

The former Archbishop Wood assistant under John Mosco expected difficulties last year. His hiring in June left him with a short offseason and little acclimation time. After playing at Philly Live, Roantree did not see his team until September. 

Despite their incomplete offseason and poor record, Roantree thought his team competed each night. They lost close contests with Archbishop Ryan, Neuman-Goretti, and Devon Prep. However, in their games against Roman and West Catholic — the top two finishers in the league — the Crusaders were outscored by 64 points. 

“I think getting a full offseason is really beneficial for us,” Roantree continued. “We’re not really working on trying to figure out what offense we are running, how to play defense, and all of that. It’s all about development and competing and stuff like that. We have had a very good offseason.” 

Senior guard Ernest Shelton is already noticing differences from last year’s team and the benefits of an entire offseason. 

“I think last year was us trying to build our team chemistry and figuring out what worked and what didn’t,” he said.

“Our chemistry on the floor has grown a lot practicing almost everyday,” Shelton continued. “Other than practice we spend time with each other in the weight room building chemistry as well.”

The lanky 6-foot-3 guard, who averaged 11 points per game last season, is a deadeye 3-point shooter and has spent the offseason bulking up and developing his inside game. 

The departure of senior leader Jalen Flowers (Immaculata University) left big shoes to fill. And for Shelton, stepping into a leadership role is unfamiliar territory. But with Roantree’s encouragement and confidence, Shelton and the rest of his class have adapted well. 

“He would always tell me that I need to talk more on the court,” the senior said about Roantree. “It changed a lot from last year because at first I was quiet.” 

“I think we adapted pretty fast, holding our teammates accountable, including myself too.” 

Father judge senior Kyle Jones was a third team All-PCL selection last season. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Roantree’s senior class is critical to their success. Senior 6-4 forward Tearran Peete, who came with Shelton from the now-closed Bishop McDevitt, grew into a vocal leader at the end of last year. He can score, rebound, and protect the rim, averaging two blocks per game last season. 

Kyle Jones, a transfer from Georgia last year, averaged 15.3 points, 3.8 assists, and six rebounds per game to earn third team All-PCL honors. His athleticism and intelligence make him a dynamic floor general. With a full year of PCL play under his belt, Roantree is expecting continued success from his transfer star.

A solid mix of juniors and sophomores support Judge’s strong senior class. Junior LaQuan Byrd is a difficult challenge for any defender because of his strength, endless motor and down-hill driving. Junior Anthony Lilly, a 6-6 forward, is a workhorse in the paint who can stretch the floor. Chris Brennan and Kevin Beck will also contribute. 

Freshmen Wini Mato, Max Moshinski, and DJ Rivera Jr. will push for minutes too. 

Roantree is excited about sophomore guard Kevair Kennedy, who he believes is primed for a breakout season. The sophomore guard turned heads this summer with marquee performances on the AAU circuit. One highlight was a game-winning three that helped his Philly Revolution squad top Team Final in the 15U championship game of the Hoop Group Summer Jam Fest in Manheim, Pa.

“He started for us at the end of the year last,” Roantree said. “He was a point guard as a freshman and played some big minutes. He had a really strong offseason.” 

Judge will open its league season against bitter rival Archbishop Ryan. Ryan finished fifth in the PCL with an 8-5 league mark and an overall 19-9 record. In last year’s contest, also the season opener, Judge lost to Ryan, 69-59. 

“I feel like we didn’t finish that game how we wanted,” Shelton said. “That rivalry means a lot and is always fun to play-in because you are playing in-front of a sold out crowd.” 

Roantree cares about the rivalry and knows it’s essential to start PCL play with a win. But for him, it’s about consistently competing in the challenging PCL. The Crusaders must do the little things right and prepare for each game the same way. They are a talented team who believes that they can compete with PCL’s best. 

“I think for us it’s how we prepare and get ready for the Catholic League,” he said. “I wanna make sure we’re prepared to make a run this year and compete.” 

“I don’t think one game is more important than the other. It’s how we prepare for the game no matter who we play.”

The Crusaders are also looking forward to hosting an event for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) this season in honor of Fox. He recently passed away at 70 after a year-plus battle with the disease. 

Roantree and Fox’s connection runs deeper than player and coach. Their families were incredibly close. Fox’s son, Brian, was in Roantree’s wedding. Fox also served as his mentor when Roantree entered the coaching world, helping him navigate the different challenges of the job. 

Returning Judge to their success under Fox is an important goal. Roantree wants to compete with the PCL’s best and reach the league playoffs and 6A state tournament. However, Fox’s legacy and influence on Roantree extends farther than wins and losses, championships and trophies.  

“It’s how you take care of your players, how you treat your players,” Roantree said. “As coaches you are role models for life. So, how you support your guys and even after they are done at Judge, how you continue to mentor them as they become men. I think that’s really important.” 

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