Duke commit Cameron Reddish (above) leads a Westtown squad in search of its third-straight PAISAA title. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Tyler Sandora (@tyler_sandora)
(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 2017-18 season preview coverage. The complete list of schools previewed so far can be found here.)
Wherever the Westtown School’s basketball team goes, fans tend to follow.
At last year’s Pennsylvania Independent School (PAISAA) state tournament semifinals and finals, at Malvern Prep, security guards were turning spectators away well before the Moose took the floor. Although the gyms in the Friends’ League are some of the smallest in the area, whenever Westtown plays, they’re almost always packed to the max.
Why are their games so tough to get into?
“We give the fans what they want,” senior Cameron Reddish said. “A show.”
It’s an electrifying display of high-level basketball the Moose put on night after night. Rim rattling dunks, flashy passes, and plays you’d expect to see in the NBA are why the Westtown School fills gym’s up and down the east coast.
So who are these kids that people can’t resist to watch?
Last year’s team finished 32-2, and won the Friends League and state championship. The team featured a starting five with the smallest member being 6-5 Brandon Randolph, now a freshman at the University of Arizona. Mohamed Bamba, a 5-star center and projected NBA lottery pick, is a freshman at Texas. Anthony Ochefu was the third senior in the starting lineup; the 6-9 forward is now at Stony Brook.
Reddish and Jake Forrester both started as juniors, and they are back and ready to make more noise in their senior year. The duo are two of three seniors on the roster, and with a team full of young guys and transfers, Reddish and Forrester are ready to take on a role they didn’t have last year.
“I think Cam and Jake will take on big leadership roles,” head coach Seth Berger said. “We’re a talented team and we have enough veterans to be able to teach our younger kids how to play.”
Reddish will play one of the guard positions, and at 6-foot-8, can cause some significant matchup problems. This past summer, Reddish, who is ranked the third-best high school prospect in the nation according to ESPN, played point guard for the USA’s U19 team in Cairo, Egypt. He’ll be a Duke Blue Devil next fall.
“If you come in this gym every morning at 6 o’clock, 4-to-5 mornings a week, Cam Reddish will be here, oftentimes by himself,” Berger said. “If you take shot blocking and rebounding out, Cam Reddish is the best player I’ve ever had at Westtown in every aspect of the game. What kids can learn from Cam is, his success is the result of his effort.”
“Seth is pushing us to the limit,” Reddish said. “I’m going to go out there and play my game and try to have fun with it.”
Joining Reddish in the backcourt is junior Jalen Gaffney, a high-flying 6-3 guard with Division I offers of his own, in his first year at Westtown after transferring from Lawrenceville Prep (N.J.). Expect Gaffney to start alongside Reddish in the backcourt.
One of the potential breakout stars for the Moose this year is 6-7 sophomore Noah Collier. A long, bouncy, left-handed wing Collier shows great signs of potential.
Another guard who has a good chance of cracking the starting lineup is 5-10 sophomore Seyon Kpaan. Kpaan played good minutes as a freshman off the bench, and the quick, scrappy, guard should have a great second season for the Moose.
The third senior on the roster, Harrison Eichelberger, stands 6-7 and should be the first guy off the bench; he’s been heavily recruited by high-academic D-III types. T.J. Berger (6-2), a sophomore and son of the coach, and John Camden (6-6), a freshman wing, will also contribute off the bench.
Westtown's Seth Berger (above) is heading into his 11th season as the Moose's head coach. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
It’s certainly going to be a different-look Westtown team compared to years past, as the Moose don’t have a true center to defend the rim. Forrester, a bouncy 6-9 Indiana commit, is more of a face-up combo forward, though he’ll play a lot of ‘5’ this year; he and Reddish represent the most size on the roster.
For about the last 10 years, the Moose have had a 7-foot future pro in the paint. From Daniel Ochefu (Washington Wizards) to Georgios Papagiannis (Sacramento Kings) and Mohamed Bamba (University of Texas), the Moose haven’t had a problem protecting the rim.
“If this group wants to win at the highest level, we’re going to need to defend at a higher level,” Berger said. “This team doesn’t have a 7-footer, so this team is going to need to defend in ways that we haven’t in the past. I’m going to need to coach more into a defense because I haven’t had to in forever.”
A year before Berger took over the Westtown program, the Moose were 3-15. In Berger’s first year as coach, they finished 13-10. Now entering his 11th year as head coach, Berger has guided Westtown to five of the last six league titles, and the last two PAISAA state titles.
What led to such a big turnaround?
“Players want to play with good players,” Berger said. “We have great academics, great facilities, beautiful campus, great student body, they want to be a part of that and they want to play against great players in practice.”
The Moose will be traveling down to West Virginia for the loaded Chick-Fil-A classic in December. For the second straight year, Westtown will be featured on ESPN at the Hoophall Classic on January 22nd, this year taking on IMG Academy.
This year, the Moose are the favorites to take home their seventh straight Friends League title and will be in the running for a PAISSA three-peat.
“I think we can win everything,” Reddish said.