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Prepping for Preps '23-24: Philadelphia Catholic League (Boys)

12/05/2023, 1:15pm EST
By Josh Verlin

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

The Catholic League. 

It’s the biggest deal in the area’s high school scene, jam-packed with talent from top to bottom, seemingly more competitive each and every season. It’s almost a given that every year, multiple Catholic League squads will make a run at state championships, with no fewer than 10 or 11 in the 14-team league capable of making it all the way to Hershey.

This year there’s no clear-cut favorite, the parity near the top and in the middle as clogged as you’ll see, though there are a few teams that maybe have an edge on the field heading into the year. We’re expecting a January and February full of close games and upsets, and someone will have some pretty hefty bragging rights all summer.

Here’s our best guess at how the PCL shakes out in 2023-24, with slightly different tiers than other years:

Led by Georgetown commit Thomas Sorber, above, Archbishop Ryan is one of the PCL favorites. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)

These two are the preseason frontrunners, loaded with talent and experience. Nothing’s a given in this league, but they’re the two most well-positioned to make a deep run.

Archbishop Ryan (17-11, 10-3) has been in sight of its Catholic League championship for the last few years under head coach Joe Zeglinski. This year’s Raiders are led by senior Thomas Sorber, a versatile 6-9 forward who’s one of the best defenders in the region and a big-time rebounding and post scoring threat. Senior guards Darren Williams (FGCU) and Rocco Morabito (Gannon) headline a group that will also feature 6-6 senior Jaden Murray, 6-1 senior Ryan Everett, 6-4 junior Brandon Russell, 5-11 sophomore Matt Johnson and more in the rotation.

Archbishop Wood (19-8, 9-4) has arguably the best shooter in the country in Jalil Bethea, the 6-4 Miami (Fl.)-bound sniper who’s expanded his ability to put the ball in the hoop month after month. He leads a Vikings squad that also features 6-1 senior Josh Reed (Drexel), 6-3 junior Milan Dean, 6-2 junior Deuce Maxey and 5-11 junior Mike Green all back from last year’s rotation. A pair of 6-3 sophomore wings, Brady MacAdams and Brian Donahue, should also slot into the rotation as they get their first significant varsity minutes. This group doesn’t have a true post, but that group of guards is electric.

Perennial Contenders
All of these programs are used to playing deep into the spring, and are the three most successful PCL programs over the years. While none might have their most talented team in program history this season, they’re all very real threats to win it all.

Neumann-Goretti (26-3, 12-1) has been a fixture at the Palestra under Carl Arrigale, who’s won more Catholic League titles (12) than anybody in the league’s illustrious history. The Saints made it to the championship game last year, but do have two major pieces to replace in Robert Wright III (Montverde Academy/Baylor) and Sultan Adewale (Iona), plus senior guard Bruce Smith (Peru State, Neb.). They do return a trio of experienced seniors in guards Khaafiq Myers (St. Joe’s) and Matt Guokas plus senior wing Amir Williams (Hofstra), with senior forward Larenzo Jerkins (6-6) now eligible after sitting out last season following a transfer from Chester. Sophomore guard Stephon ‘Munchie’ Ashley-Wright will become a featured part of the backcourt, and transfers Keon Long (6-1 junior) and Torrey Brooks (5-11 sophomore) will help them out as well.

Roman Catholic senior guard Rob Cottrell, above, is one of the few holdovers from last season's PCL title squad. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Roman Catholic (26-3, 11-2) won last year’s Catholic League championship, Chris McNesby’s third championship with the Cahillites and first since his four-year stint away from the sidelines (2016-21). Gone, however, are Anthony Finkley and Xzayvier Brown, both at St. Joe’s, as well as Jermai Stewart-Herring and Erik Oliver-Bush, who represent four of Roman’s top six from a year ago. Junior forward Shareef Jackson (6-7) is back, as is senior guard Rob Cottrell (5-11), while junior Will Felder (6-1), junior Sebastian Edwards (6-3) and sophomore Sammy Jackson (6-5) will all be moving up in the pecking order. There’s also a host of new faces: senior guard Hunter Johnson returns to Philly after a year in Florida, sophomore wing Malik Hughes brings his 6-6 frame over from Cheltenham, 5-7 senior Kabe Goss averaged more than 15 ppg as a junior at Trenton (N.J.). Roman’s got the tradition, and no doubt there’s talent, but this group will have to prove itself. 

St. Joe’s Prep (16-7, 9-4) has been rebuilding the last few years, but the Hawks are ready to challenge at the top again thanks to its terrific group of guards. Juniors Jaron McKie (6-3), Jordan Ellerbee (6-2) and Olin Chamberlain (5-11) have all been significant contributors for a couple years now, while senior guard Matt Gorman (6-3) is an underrated shooter and athlete. They do lose starting center Tristen Guillouette (Fairfield), who they’d hoped would get an extra year of eligibility from the PIAA, but their returning backcourt quartet still keeps them plenty dangerous.

Young Upstarts
All three of these squads are loaded with talented freshmen and sophomores, representing perhaps a few future champions. All three might be a year away from truly being contenders, but they could absolutely surprise and make deep runs if they can overcome the experience and maturity gaps. 

Archbishop Carroll (15-9, 7-6) has no doubt the youngest rotation in the Catholic League: Francis Bowe will play almost exclusively freshmen and sophomores. But it’s a group with a ton of talent: sophomore Luca Foster (6-4) just picked up a Penn State offer, continuing a stock-rising summer into the fall, while his classmates Drew Corrao (6-9), Nasir Ralls (6-0) and Ian Williams (5-9) are all on Division I radars. Then there’s the freshmen: Munir Greig (6-6) is as intriguing a prospect as you’ll see in the region and Darrell Davis (5-11) has high-major offers of his own. 

Father Judge (11-12, 6-7) looks ready for a big jump up the Catholic League pecking order in Chris Roantree’s third year with the Crusaders, as they’re deeper than they’ve been in recent memory (and maybe ever). Seniors LaQuan Byrd and Anthony Lilly are experienced PCL veterans, and junior point guard Kevair Kennedy will start on the ball for the second year in a row. They do have to replace Ernest Shelton (Gannon) and Kyle Jones (Albany State), but look out for the sophomore class: Derrick Morton-Rivera (6-4), Max Moshinski (6-5) and Rocco Westfield (6-1) all have bright futures. Adding 6-9 junior Everett Barnes and 6-1 freshman Nazir Tyler to the rotation doesn’t hurt, either.

West Catholic (18-10, 9-4) lost a lot to graduation in Adam ‘Budd’ Clark (Merrimack), Zion Stanford (Temple), Shemar Wilbanks-Acqui (East Stroudsburg), Amyr Walker (Arcadia) and Marcus Branker, their five leading scorers from last season. Miguel Bocachica still has a good amount of size and athleticism, led by 6-5 senior Tariq Jennings, 6-7 sophomore Kingston Wheatley, 6-5 junior Isaiah Muhammad and 6-3 junior Micah Waters. Keep an eye out on some electric young guards, including freshmen Jayvon Byrd and Xavier Fauntroy

Bonner-Prendergast senior Kevin Rucker Jr., above, is part of an intriguing returning core. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)

Don’t Forget About
These teams won’t be odds-on favorites to make a run at the league championship, but they won’t be easy outs, either; a couple games go right during the regular season, and they could wind up with a top-8 seed and find themselves one win from the Palestra.

Bonner-Prendergast (12-11, 4-9) didn’t fare too well in the first year of Billy Cassidy’s tenure, but he returns the majority of his core. Senior 6-7 wing Deuce Ketner (Albany), senior guards Kyree Womack (5-10), Reggie Selden (6-1) and Kevin Rucker (6-4) and junior guard Devon Nelson (6-2) give them a good veteran core to build around; there are also some exciting freshmen, including 6-2 guard Korey Francis and 6-1 combo guard Kenjai Gaitling, who started at quarterback for the Friars this fall. 

Cardinal O’Hara (18-8, 8-5) got a significant upgrade in the coaching column this offseason, as former longtime Lafayette coach (and new Big 5 Hall of Famer) Fran O’Hanlon agreed to take over after an earlier hiring didn’t work out. He’s got some pieces to work with, including a couple Division I signees in lead guard Aasim ‘Flash’ Burton (Rider) and ‘4’ man Pearse McGuinn (Stonehill). He’ll have to coach up the rest of their supporting cast, including seniors Anthony Hobbs (6-0) and Miles Johnson (6-3), both of whom return from supporting roles a year ago.

Devon Prep (13-13, 3-10) didn’t qualify for the PCL playoffs last year, but as a sign of the depth of the league, made it to the PIAA 3A quarterfinals where it lost to a very good Trinity squad by a point in overtime. The Tide graduated Jacen Holloway (Army) and Lucas Orchard (Perkiomen School/Monmouth), but return a strong group of wings including 6-4 senior Ben Costello, 6-5 junior Zane Conlon, 6-6 junior Reese Craft and 6-3 junior Shane Doyle, who will become the core of this team. They’re joined by a couple transfers, 6-0 junior point guard Mason Thear (Perk Valley) and 6-2 wing Calvin Smith, who should give them a boost as well.

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