By Missy Dougherty (@Missyingyou)
(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.)
Expect to hear the name “Bryce” frequently if you attend a Germantown Academy boys basketball game this season.
A fixture at the top of the Inter-Academic League from 2013-17, the Patriots are looking for a return to the upper-echelon of the conference standings this season with junior Bryce Rollerson and sophomore Bryce Presley leading the way.
The similarities between Rollerson and Presley extend beyond just their first name as they talk seemingly in one voice when it comes to their thoughts on the upcoming season.
“The Inter-Ac is wide open,” Rollerson said. “People are doubting us, but we are looking to contend.”
“We were really young last year,” said Presley, the sophomore wing. “Now, we are ready to compete.”
Junior Bryce Rollerson leads a Germantown Academy boys basketball core hoping to make knows in the Inter-Academy League this season. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Head coach Matt Dolan, in his fifth season at the helm of the Patriots, said there have indeed been growing pains with his group, but those shared moments have not passed without a corresponding reward.
“They have grown up together and gone through adversity,” Dolan said. “They’ve gotten their butts kicked — all of it has caused a great chemistry to develop.”
Rollerson said that great chemistry is one of the Patriots’ biggest strengths.
“The team chemistry is strong,” the junior guard said. “We share the ball well. We hang out together, and it shows on the court.”
Presley also said that “strong connection off the court” shows on the court when trying to identify what will differentiate the Patriots this season.
The Patriots, who finished 11-16 overall and 3-7 in the Inter-Ac last year, are looking to show the rest of the league something in the 2023-24 season.
“We are going to show the Inter-Ac what we are all about this year,” Rollerson and Presley said in “Bryce-squared” stereo when asked about their expectations for the upcoming season.
Dolan agreed with the collective take.
“We are looking to take the next step,” he said. “We have a lot of internal expectations, and now we need to go out and prove it.
“The core nucleus has gone through the ups and downs together. They worked hard in summer workouts and camps, and it brought them together. There is great ball movement and communication — they know each other’s strengths and share in the successes that each individual has.”
The Patriots have a junior-laden roster with great depth in the sophomore class. Rollerson, a second-team all-league selection and team captain as a sophomore last season, headlines the returners. Germantown Academy has seen its share of great guards through the years, and Rollerson could be its next.
“Not many guys can get to their spot and score and create like Bryce (Rollerson) can,” Dolan said. “He can score at a high level as well as get people involved.”
Rollerson said he’s working to be a defensive leader. Dolan said Rollerson can be one of the top players in the area who can defend the opponent’s best player and “be very disruptive with ball pressure — create offense from defense.”
But opponents can’t just scheme to shut down the 5-foot-11 Rollerson.
Sophomore Bryce Presley led Germantown Academy in rebounds last season and was second in scoring. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Presley, a 6-5 wing, was the team’s most improved player during a freshman season that saw him top the squad in rebounds, finish second in scoring and shoot 45% from 3-point range.
“Bryce (Presley) wants to be great,” Dolan said. “He plays with a chip on his shoulder and has the mental toughness, length and strength to guard anyone.”
“I’m proud of him, but I expect him to make a big jump this year,” Rollerson said about Presley. “We all need to keep working,”
Presley, in return, looks up to the elder Bryce.
“He’s my guy,” Presley said. “We go to battle together and back each other up.”
Behind them, Germantown Academy has numerous players that look to be contributors this season.
The junior class is deep on talent. Dolan expects Tyler Nolan, Ellis Johnson, Flinn Brooks, Anthony Hall and AJ Towsen to be instrumental to the Patriots’ success.
Nolan, a 6-4 combo guard, started every game as a sophomore and finished in the top three on the team in minutes played in 2022-23.
“Tyler is another coach on the floor,” Dolan said. “He has a high basketball IQ and is a threat from distance.”
“Ellis Johnson is another super-coachable player that has made strides in his game. He’s a great defender that brings versatility and helps our inside-outside game presence.”
And Patriots fans can expect Brooks to once again make an impact from distance this campaign. The 6-foot guard shot 40% from deep last season as the first or second guy off the bench.
“Flinn can really shoot the basketball,” Dolan said. “He helps us space the floor as a threat from distance, and I’m really proud of his development.”
Another player who has worked hard at his game is Hall, who Dolan said will give the Patriots an additional inside-out presence off the bench while Towsen will add depth at the guard spot.
“AJ is a competitor, a winner,” Dolan said.
Dolan mentioned 5-10 sophomore guard Tommy Rush as another player who has a chance to be in the rotation along with a new, versatile piece to the puzzle in Mick McKee, a 6-2 transfer from La Salle College High School who will reclassify as a sophomore. And Max Langsfeld, the lone senior on the roster, provides needed leadership.
“The group overall works extremely hard,” Dolan said. “I’m really lucky to be their coach. They are all high-quality guys that all get along and root for one another.
“There is a strong connectivity with this group, and they are excited to go out and prove it.”
Proving it will be no easy chore in the once-again loaded Inter-Ac.
“The league is going to be terrific,” Dolan said. “There is such a high level of both players and coaching throughout the league. Penn Charter and Malvern Prep definitely deserve top mention as last year’s co-champions, but there are loads of talent on every roster.
“I think there will be lots of parity this year where every game will be competitive.”
But Dolan feels good about the road ahead.
“We are going to have a chance,” he said.