Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Get ready for a fun year in the Ches-Mont.
The league of schools out in the western and southwestern suburbs of Philadelphia (and beyond) has had no shortage of talent lately. West Chester East’s Andrew Carr (Wake Forest), Coatesville’s Jig Brickus (La Salle), Sun Valley’s Vinny DeAngelo (Swarthmore) and other recent grads have found success at a high level of college hoops.
There’s a few more Division I prospects sprinkled throughout the league, and quite a few sought-after small-college recruits, with four legitimate threats to win the league. It’s tough to see one of any other than that quartet emerging as champs, but there are a few other competitive programs that are going to do their best to stay in the mix.
Here’s how we see it all breaking down:
Coatesville senior Dior Kennedy leads one of the favorites in the Ches-Mont this season. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Coatesville (20-10, 8-4) finished third in the Ches-Mont National but made it all the way to the PIAA Class 6A quarterfinals, an unexpected run after a tumultuous season the year before that. John Allen has a good bit returning from that group, including senior guards Dior Kennedy (6-3), Zuri Harris (6-0) and Marquis Peoples (6-2), who all can get up and down the court in a hurry. Sophomore forward Larry Brown (6-7) his back in his second year as a starter and playing much more assertively. Football players give them depth and physicality. .
Downingtown West (22-8, 10-2) has a good bit to replace off its reigning league championship squad, including Dylan Blair (Army), Joey Suarez, Kelly Bell and more. But the junior tandem of wing Donovan Fromhartz (6-4) and forward Zeke Staz (6-7) is a really nice pair, and they have a good senior class that’s played a solid amount of minutes over the last couple years, like point guard Antonio Lewis (5-10) and wings Jace Lasher (6-3) and Alex Newhaus (6-3). Sophomore Brady Moore (6-4) will have an impact as well.
The District 1 5A runners-up a year ago, Unionville (22-6, 9-1) returns four starters: guards Ryan Brown (6-2), James Anderson (6-3) and Charlie Kammeier (6-3) plus sophomore wing James Brenner (6-5), who’s improved a good deal from the end of last season. Junior guard Jack Robbins (6-1) should round out a starting lineup that can all dribble, pass and shoot it at a high clip, while 6-5 senior Nick Diehl, a Tulane baseball recruit, gives them productive frontcourt minutes off the bench. This is a confident group who’s been playing at a high level all offseason.
West Chester Henderson (16-12, 8-4) doesn’t have the basketball history of some of the other schools in the Ches-Mont, but they have a chance to achieve new heights this season. Jason Ritter has a starting five as good as any around, including Sacred Heart commit Nyle Ralph-Beyer (6-4) and lead guard Connor Fleet (6-0), the two leaders from last year. Returning to the school after a year at Bonner is Nelson Lamizana (6-8), who will pair with 6-7 court Evan McFadden in the frontcourt, while 6-4 Danny Surowiec rounds out the starting lineup. If they can get Lamizana eligible for the PIAA postseason, they could make district and state runs, too.
West Chester Rustin senior Chaz Davis and the Golden Knights are an under-the-radar squad in the Ches-Mont. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
It seems unlikely that anybody outside the top four wins this league, but West Chester Rustin (13-15, 8-2) has the best shot of cracking the final four. The Golden Knights have a versatile frontcourt piece in 6-7 Chaz Davis, and 6-1 junior guard Vincent Iacone has come over from Malvern Prep to give them an athletic shooter in the backcourt. Ryan Jaross (6-3), Chase Hatton (5-11) and Ben Malley (5-10), a senior and two juniors, are also back from last year’s varsity rotation.
Players to Watch
Senior guards Zuri Harris and Dior Kennedy are the primary playmakers for Coatesville. Harris gets it done as a heady distributor and Kennedy as a slasher and aggressive defender. With his length, sophomore Larry Brown can clean the offensive glass and erase mistakes on the other end. Senior guard Marquis Peoples is a two-way impact player as well. Downingtown West junior Donovan Fromhartz is the do-it-all wing who will drive offense for the Whippets. He's a sharp shooter off-ball, but he can create looks for himself too. His classmate, Zeke Staz can play inside-out. The big man is a load to handle in the paint and he’s good off-the-catch from three. Sophomore wing Brady Moore is their glue-guy who will make the extra pass and get opportunistic buckets. WC Henderson’s senior shooting guard Nyle Ralph-Beyer, a Sacred Heart commit, is a surgical scorer who pops athletically. His shot off the catch is only second to his pull-up game. He's flanked by senior combo guard Connor Fleet. Fleet is a competitor on both ends and can especially score in bunches offensively. Unionville’s trio of senior guards complement one another. Charlie Kammeier excels as a movement shooter. James Anderson balances generating his own shot with creating off-the-dribble. And Ryan Brown makes tough baskets inside and from behind the arc. Senior 6-7 forward Chaz Davis from WC Rustin is a rim runner who has a soft touch around the hoop and can swiftly block shots. Bishop Shanahan junior 6-6 wing/forward Sean Griffin is another versatile player with length. Great Valley’s Jack Woodard is a 6-5 wing who was an honorable mention all-league selection last season. He can really shoot it from beyond the arc and the midrange with good feel as a playmaker as well. Downingtown East senior Micah Hill is a 6-4 wing/forward with lots of bounce.
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