By Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)
(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 2023-24 season preview coverage. The complete list of schools previewed thus far can be found here.)
The Archbishop Carroll youth movement wasn’t drawn up by design. Patriots head coach Francis Bowe didn’t expect to head into the 2023-24 season without a junior or senior in his rotation.
Those older guys are usually important in high school hoops.
Bowe has a special group of youngsters, however, with a talent ceiling and camaraderie that has their head coach excited for the challenge.
“They really are close-knit,” Bowe said. “It’s really a family and it’s gonna be a fun, fun year.”
Archbishop Carroll sophomore guard Ian Williams is the only returning starter this season. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
The Patriots went 15-9 last season, including a 7-6 mark in the Philadelphia Catholic League. Carroll took down Father Judge in the first round of the league playoffs but a lopsided loss to eventual runner-up Neumann-Goretti kept Bowe’s team from a trip to the Palestra, where the Patriots haven’t advanced since 2018.
Leading scorer Dean Coleman-Newsome (15.1 ppg, 3.8 apg) and talented wing Blake Deegan (8.5 ppg) are both playing at the next level at Chipola College and Lock Haven, respectively, after graduating. Point guard Jake West (13.2 ppg, 3.5 apg) is at Penn Charter and glue guy Su’Meer Alleyne reclassified and transferred to Friends’ Central.
That leaves sophomore guards Ian Williams and Nasir Ralls as the lone members of the rotation back for Bowe this season. Classmates Luca Foster and Drew Corrao, who were both swing players last season, will join them in the rotation this season as well as talented freshmen Darrell Davis and Munir Greig, who both enter their high school careers with quite a bit of buzz.
“It’s gonna be fun,” Williams said. “I’ve been around these guys for a long time, so it ain’t nothing new. We’ve been playing with each other since AAU, so we’ve been building bonds and being together and coming up knowing there’s gonna be struggles during the season because we’re young. We’re looking forward to this year, but we’re looking toward the junior year, senior year, trying to get better. We’re building chemistry as a unit.”
Williams (5-11) averaged 9.7 ppg, 4.6 apg, 4.0 rpg and 1.5 apg as a freshman, starting 23 of the team’s 24 games. The sophomore is the veteran of the inexperienced group. Ralls (6-0) was Carroll’s top player off the bench in 2022-23, averaging 6.9 ppg in 24 games, so his experience will be leaned on too.
They both teamed with Greig for the NJ Scholars this past summer and have known Davis since elementary school, making this group have a tight feel to it.
“I feel like it’s gonna be a fun year playing with the people I’ve been playing with since I was little,” Ralls said. “(The key will be) staying disciplined, doing the little things because we’re still a young team and we’re not the tallest team, so we’ve gotta be the most physical and most disciplined team.”
Archbishop Carroll sophomore guard Nasir Ralls played AAU this summer with teammates Ian Williams and Munir Greig. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Bowe said during his time at Valley Forge Military Academy, where he had players from all over the world, and some of his previous Carroll teams there hasn’t always been that familiarity. He has to chuckle sometimes at practice when Williams, Ralls and others discuss memories of things like a birthday party from way back in the day.
“Having that true family dynamic makes it even more exciting,” Bowe said. “Through ups and through downs, even through these summer workouts and fall stuff, you’re not going to see the, ‘Hey, I’m upset with you,’ or the ‘I don’t know you that well, so I’m going to be angry with you.’ It’s more kind of like, ‘No I’m doing this because I care about you and I care about us.’
“That’s what’s exciting, and then they’re pretty talented and they’ve got some skill. Coaching and so forth is really, really neat. As good as they are and as hard as they can compete, they’re always willing to learn and listen. … They could hate me in December but they’re loving this right now, and I’m loving this right now.”
Corrao was mostly a JV player last season. The lanky 6-foot-8 forward is the only true post player on the Patriots and will likely have to grow up quickly against some of the veteran big men in the PCL.
Foster is an athletic 6-foot-5 wing who recently received an offer from St. Joe’s. He played sparingly in 17 games at Carroll last season as a freshman, but has seen his confidence and his game explode this summer as a terrific athlete who can shoot it and score it.
“Luca, he’s one of the best players in the city, no doubt,” Williams said. “He’s been proving it all spring, summer. He’s been hooping. We’re just trying to stay with him, build his confidence.”
Davis is the younger brother of Providence commit Daquan Davis, who is playing at Overtime Elite. He’s a 5-10 guard who can really get after people on the defensive end.
Greig has the makings of a special talent. The 6-foot-5 wing picked up an offer from Villanova this summer. He’s long and athletic and can make an impact on both ends. Sophomore guard Nate Rusike could be in the rotation as well.
Williams said the group is hoping to embrace their youth.
“It's the realization that nobody’s perfect,” Williams said. “You’re gonna mess up. It’s just how you bounce back from it. I just tell my young guys it’s gonna happen. Don’t worry about it. I had my freshman bumps last year. I messed up a lot. You’re going to go through it. Michael Jordan’s not perfect.”
“I think we can get a lot of wins this year,” Ralls said. “There’s no real losses. If we lose, I think it’s just a lesson.”
Bowe knows there will be challenges throughout the season and the type of headaches that come along with young players taking a step up to the next level. The goal will be to continue to cut down on those types of mental errors throughout the season. Rebounding will also be a key for the guard-oriented group.
That hasn’t changed where Carroll has its sights set this season.
“These guys, they know the Palestra,” Bowe said. “I would do them an injustice to not say Palestra or bust. I don’t care if it’s seniors or freshmen, it’s the Palestra. It’s just something that, I'm not saying we’re going there, but I’m gonna say that is a goal on our board. State championship game. That is a goal on our board.”
He hopes this group gets a couple chances at trying to make those runs together.
“They all have high ceilings and they’re willing to work, and you can’t always say that,” Bowe said. “Sometimes people like the status quo. They don’t want the status quo.”