KeShaun "Champ" Hammonds and Constitution are coming off a runner-up finish in the PIAA 2A classification. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Michael Bullock (@thebullp_n)
(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.)
Since the first two attempts went remarkably well, let’s go for three.
With yet another high school basketball season about to get underway, City of Basketball Love is going to unload a series of 3-point attempts and hopefully cash in as we unveil another set of preseason rankings over the course of this week.
Each of Pennsylvania’s half-dozen classifications will be represented for the second consecutive season, making this a formidable undertaking.
And while we continue today with Class 2A, check back for the remaining classifications as we crescendo toward Dec. 8 and opening night across the Keystone State.
Should be fun.
Once the first full week of games is played, we’ll be back with weekly updates of our rankings, beginning on Dec. 18 and appearing on Mondays the rest of the way.
As for a quick peek at what to expect in Class 2A, our preseason No. 1 is a deep Constitution bunch fueled by an overtime loss to Sewickley Academy (68-63) in last March’s PIAA 2A championship game. Seven of Rob Moore’s players who appeared in that season-ending setback are still on the Generals’ sizable roster.
Sewickley Academy will open the season at No. 3.
Brief glimpses of our preseason top 10 appear below, with PIAA district and last season’s final record displayed in parentheses. Only those schools competing for PIAA state championships are eligible for ranking purposes.
NR — not ranked; OW — others to watch.
CITY OF BASKETBALL LOVE’S PRESEASON STATE-WIDE BOYS’ BASKETBALL RANKINGS — CLASS 2A
1. Constitution (12, 20-10)
Notables: With a brutal schedule and lofty expectations squarely in place, Rob Moore’s determined Constitution Generals are taking dead aim at the Philadelphia school’s fourth state championship in seven years. Could happen, too, since the Generals return experienced players such as 6-2 sophomore Keshaun “Champ” Hammonds, 6-0 senior Hakim Hudson, 5-11 senior Tyree Mitchell, 6-0 senior Jahmir Williams, 6-5 senior Leeron Wills-Worthy, 5-9 junior Abdul Riggins and 6-3 junior Jihad Saunders.
Season-opening games: Dec. 8-9 at Marsha Marsh Classic in Erie.
2. Math, Civics & Sciences (12, 21-10)
Notables: Won’t have a great deal of available size — nor will Dan Jackson’s squad have high-scoring guard Malik Archer any longer — but a guard-heavy lineup hopes to drive the Mighty Elephants deep into March yet again. Return of 6-0 senior Kwahzere Ransom, 6-3 Anthony McFall and 6-4 junior Zahir Jackson is a nice place to start, but the arrival of 6-2 junior Jihad “Squid” Watson from Philly Public League rival King ups the flammability level significantly. A pair of talented sophomores, 6-2 Jabarr Slaughter and 5-11 Tayvine Jones, are likely to get plenty of early minutes.
Season-opening games: Dec. 8-9 at Shamokin Tip-Off.
3. Sewickley Academy (7, 25-4)
Notables: Graduated a trio of starters from a club that outdistanced Constitution 68-63 in overtime in last March’s Class AA title game, but Win Palmer’s Panthers remain quite formidable since 6-6 all-stater Nate Ridgeway is back for his junior season. Dave Groetsch, a 6-1 senior, is the other returning starter for a Sewickley side that also expects to get plenty of mileage out of 6-3 Isiah Warfield and 6-0 Isaiah Smith — a pair of sophomores.
Season-opening game: Dec. 8 vs. West Allegheny at Baldwin Tip-Off.
Jon Bol Ajak (above) is one of only two starters back for Church Farm, but that's enough for them to start off No. 4 in 2A. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
4. Church Farm (1, 18-10)
Notables: Marc Turner’s remarkably successful program took a serious hit with the departures of three starters and three rotational players, but the Griffins still have a big factor plugged in the middle in 6-10 junior John Bol Ajak — a serious Division I prospect with 10-15 scholarship offers from school up and down the Atlantic Seaboard. Abdul Ogunsanya, a 6-3 guard, is the lone senior on Church Farm’s refurbished roster. Juniors Jimmy McAvoy and Max Scott, both of from the JV program, are being counted on to produce early.
Season-opening game: Dec. 9 vs. Penncrest.
5. Holy Cross (2, 19-9)
Notables: Perennial northeastern Pennsylvania small-school power that’s likely to contend for yet another District 2 title before landing in yet another state playoff setting. Returns a number of experienced players — senior Patrick Galvin, junior Tyler Mozeleski, junior Tom Montefour, senior Declan Tokash, sophomore Kieran Burrier and sophomore Caleb Callejas — from a deep group that last March tumbled against Constitution in the second round of states.
Season-opening game: Dec. 8 at Abington Heights.
6. Our Lady of Sacred Heart (7, 20-8)
Notables: Not too many high school squads have 6-6 sophomores directing traffic from the backcourt, but OLSH skipper Mike Rodriguez has a dandy inDonovan Johnson — the younger brother of former Pitt standout and all-state selection Cameron Johnson. Austin Wigley, a 6-0 junior who can finish, is another productive returnee from a Chargers squad that last season wheeled to the state quarterfinals.
Season-opening games: Dec. 8-9 at Keystone Oaks Tip-Off.
7. Ridgway (9, 22-6)
Notables: Tony Allegretto’s squad was one of the final eight Class AA entries standing, but unfortunately for the Elkers they ran into Constitution in the state quarterfinals and that was it. Plenty of upperclassmen available for yet another dandy run, but Allegretto and his staff will lean on 6-1 seniorNeil MacDonald and 6-2 senior Andy Breier to shoulder a good bit of the load. Lead guard Daunte Allegretto, a 5-9 junior, will be heavily involved in the Ridgway game plan, too.
Season-opening game: Dec. 12 at Port Allegany.
8. Coudersport (9, 25-1)
Notables: Steamed into last March’s state quarterfinals with a perfect record, but Brian Furman’s smallish Falcons encountered all sorts of Greensburg Central Catholic size and saw their sparkling 2016-17 campaign come to a close. The remarkably good news for those who live in Coudersport — as the late Eliot Ness did — is Furman’s 2017-18 outfit is bringing back a pair of high-scoring seniors in 6-0 all-state selection Jared Green and 6-0 Owen Chambers. Those two could lead the Falcons to a second straight 9-2A crown.
Season-opening game: Dec. 13 at St. Marys.
9. Bishop Guilfoyle (6, 18-8)
Notables: While Chris Drenning and many of his players may have spent the past few opening weekends in Hershey pulling for the Guilfoyle football team to lock down yet another state championship, that won’t be the case this time around. Totally stocked with available players, Drenning’s Marauders will spend plenty of time putting the basketball in the talented hands of 5-10 junior guard Luke Ruggery — a Saint Francis (Pa.) verbal who last season averaged nearly 15 ppg. A pair of capable 6-2 seniors, Nick Scaramozzino and A.J. Labriola, also will get plenty of finishing opportunities for the Marauders.
Season-opening game: Dec. 13 at Richland.
10. Purchase Line (6, 15-10)
Notables: With a trio of double-digit scorers returning from a squad that finished fourth in the District 6 tournament and advanced to the state playoffs — after beginning the season 6-7 — Steve Woodrow’s experienced Red Dragons may be poised to inflict even more damage this time around. While 6-2 senior Shamar Campbell averaged a double-double (11.5 ppg/11.6 rpg) a year ago, 6-4 junior Dominique Campbell (13.5) and 5-9 senior Melvin Sanchez (14.4) also regularly cracked double figures. Micah Kurka (6.9), a 6-0 senior, also returns for Purchase Line.
Season-opening games: Dec. 8-9 at A-C Valley Tip-Off.
OTHERS TO WATCH: Berlin Brothersvalley (5, 17-10); Cambridge Springs (10, 21-5); Clarion-Limestone (9, 18-8); Halifax (3, 17-11); Homer-Center (6, 12-11); Jeannette (7, 12-13); United (6, 14-13).