Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
(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.)
The Ches-Mont League has been West Chester East’s the last three seasons, not a single player in the league having experienced anything other than a Vikings triumph at the end of the year, a run started by Andrew Carr (Wake Forest) & Co and continued on post-pandemic, the players who were underclassmen when Carr and Tym Richardson were seniors keeping the momentum going under Tom Durant.
Both East and last year’s runners-up, Downingtown West, bring plenty back from successful seasons, but a number of other programs in the sprawling two-county league have their eyes on at least a semifinal appearance, if not an outright title.
Here’s a quick peek at the Ches-Mont League’s boys side for 2022-23:
Predicted Top 3
1. West Chester East
2. Downingtown West
W.C. East sophomore K.J. Cochran was one of the best freshman in the area a season ago. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
West Chester East has the pieces to make it a four-peat. Four-year starter Jack Kushner is trying to go without losing a single league title game, the 6-3 wing certainly one large part of the Vikings’ plans. The centerpiece is likely sophomore guard K.J. Cochran, one of the area’s best freshmen a year ago, an athletic scoring combo guard with a bright future on the hardwood.
Also back are 6-5 junior Josh Sherlock, 6-2 sharpshooting junior Ryan Price, 5-11 senior point guard Jose Ramos, 6-5 senior Jack Gallagher, 6-7 Stanley Porter, 6-0 senior Korey Puchalla and 6-2 junior Bryce Cox. It’s a lot of experience returning and not much missing from last year’s Vikings, who went 22-8 overall (9-4 Ches-Mont), losing in the opening round of the PIAA Class 6A tournament. They’ll be shooting for the overall top seed in District 1 6A this year.
Downingtown West, last year’s runners-up, bring back only two starters, but they’re a heckuva pair to start with in Dylan Blair and Donovan Fromhartz. Blair, a 5-foot-11 point guard and Army commit, is one of the region’s top lead guards, a scoring point who can create for himself but makes his teammates better, a terrific on-ball defender and outside shooter as well. Fromhartz is next up, a 6-5 sophomore wing guard who had a successful freshman year but has been playing at a whole new confidence level this offseason and into the fall.
What’ll make the difference for the Whippets, who went 18-10 (11-1 Ches-Mont) last year, is how the rest of the rotation holds up after the loss of seven seniors from a year ago and 2023 big man Jaken Warren now at Calvary Christian (Fl.). Seniors Joey Suarez (6-0 SG) and Kelly Bell (6-4 SF) are two who could be double-figure scorers, while a seven-man junior class will fill in a lot of gaps. Up front, 6-8 sophomore Zeke Staz should make an impact if he’s recovered from an offseason hamstring injury.
Coatesville junior guard Dior Kennedy is a nice piece for first-year coach John Allen. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Coatesville is under the direction of first-year head coach John Allen, the former Coatesville and Seton Hall standout back to get his alma mater back in the right direction after going 12-8 (5-7) last season, head coach Marc Turner resigning midway through the year. Allen has some pieces to build around, including 6-2 junior guard Dior Kennedy and 6-7 freshman Larry Brown, who should be a Day One starter, plus 5-11 sophomore Amon Fowlkes, a sharpshooter who transferred in from Collegium Charter. Allen has good length and athleticism up and down the roster, and it’ll be interesting to see how quickly he can get them to gel.
West Chester Henderson is also under new management, as former Downingtown West head coach Jason Ritter takes over at Henderson, which went 16-9 (8-4) last year. The Warriors return a terrific pair of juniors in 6-0 Connor Fleet, a speedy lead guard with a nasty pull-up jumper, and 6-4 Nyle Ralph-Beyer, who’s got scholarship-level upside and a smooth outside stroke, plus positional versatility. Those two, who can both go for 20+ with regularity, are joined by senior guard Kmari Smith, a 6-3 wing and transfer from Collegium Charter.
More Players to Watch
Sun Valley should be right in the mix as well, with quite a bit back from a 15-11 team a year ago. The big name to watch is Chris Kwaidah, a sharpshooting senior guard and regular double-digit scorer, who was a first team all-league selection. Noah Griffin, a second-team selection last year, and honorable mentions Bucky Grayston and Todd Harper are both back, too.
Unionville’s got a deep junior class with 6-3 Ryan Brown and 6-2 James Anderson leading that pack, plus Robbie Logan and Chris Ash pacing the senior group. But the name to know for this group moving forward is 6-6 freshman James Brenner, who projects as a ‘3’ but plays all three frontcourt positions for the Longhorns, and should make an instant impact.
Bishop Shanahan graduated six seniors, but does seem to have an emerging leading scorer in current senior Ben Rodner-Tims, who was a valuable piece a year ago. He and 6-5 junior Kevin Scaggs will be two featured players, as will senior wing guard Charley Federico.
Downingtown East guard Connor Shanahan is one of the more creative guards around, super-crafty with the ball in his hands and a three-level scorer as well as a pesky defender. While he’ll have the ball in his hands quite a bit, forwards Ishaan Jha and Micah Hill, a 6-3 senior and 6-4 junior, respectively, give them a couple inside-out presences who should help greatly on the glass and around the rim.
Avon Grove was senior-laden last year, so the Red Devils will have to have a lot of new faces step up. But one junior who returns with experience is 6-4 forward Adam Ziegler, a solid outside shooter who’s got a chance to be one of the more versatile players in the Ches-Mont.
Great Valley lost its top two players from last year in Connor Gal, now a walk-on at Temple, and sophomore Cameron Wallace, who’s now at Westtown School. They’ll be led this year by senior guard Jaxson Ray and 6-4 junior wing Jack Woodard.
West Chester Rustin finished 11-11 last season and has second team all-league guard Sam Sproull and second team all-league wing Ian Schlesinger back in the mix.
Oxford, who’s now under the direction of former Kennett head coach Jacob Gray, features senior guard Matt Boyle, a strong three-level scorer who’s going to hit for 20+ numerous times this season; also keep an eye on guard Colin Overbeck.
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