Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
(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.)
The Suburban One League is in for a change next offseason, with a few teams moving divisions within the 22-team alignment: Abington will leave the National and join archrival Cheltenham in the American; William Tennent goes from the Continental to the National, which adds Quakertown from the American to maintain the current balance of teams.
So while this preview will look quite different next year, that leaves one more go-around for several meaningful conference battles, including the always-entertaining Abington/Pennsbury rivalry at the top of the National.
Here’s how we see the SOL breaking out in 2017-18:
Jack Clark (above) and Cheltenham are chasing Plymouth-Whitemarsh once again. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Predicted Top 3
With a 7-footer in the middle in Naheem McLeod, there’s no denying that Plymouth-Whitemarsh head coach Jim Donofrio has an asset at his disposal that no other team in the SOL-American can match. Indeed, the lanky junior big man is a defensive presence and a dunking machine, and that’s enough to make the Colonials a real problem to deal with. Then throw in five seniors -- twins Ahmin Williams and Ahmad Williams, point guard Danny Cooper, scoring guard Ish Horn and versatile forward Alan Glover -- and it’s yet another dangerous group for Donofrio. Last year, they went 25-6 last year (14-0 SOL-American), losing to Abington in the league title game. Beating them this year will require finding a way to manage a staunch press -- and somehow avoiding the man in the middle.
The runner-ups to P-W a year ago in the American division, Cheltenham has plenty back from a 19-8 (11-3) squad last season. Leading the way is senior shooting guard Jack Clark, a lanky 6-7 scorer who’s committed to La Salle after blowing up (literally) about six inches over the span of his junior season; point guard Ahmad Bickley, who just picked up his first offer from D-II Chestnut Hill, makes their offense go, and 6-5 junior Kyin Healey is a lanky post with great defensive instincts and good offensive upside. John Timms’ Panthers have been knocking on the door for a few years now, making a state tourney appearance a year ago, and this might be his best team yet, as long as they can replace the toughness and athleticism of Trevonn Pitts Rodney Carson.
Players to Watch
P-W’s McLeod is perhaps the most improved prospect in the area over the last year. Standing around 7-foot-2, the junior high-majors monitoring him closely and looks ready to emerge as a dominant two-way presence… Flanking McLeod like they do on the AAU circuit with PYO are hard-nosed twins Ahmad and Ahmin Williams, senior guards who both like to get downhill and guard the length of the floor, and uber-athletic classmate Ish Horn… Cheltenham has some star power of its own thanks to La Salle signee Jack Clark. A 6-foot-6 wing who stood about 6-1 this time last year, Clark is still adjusting to his new frame but is developing into a dangerous three-level scorer… Cheltenham will feature a two-point-guard look with senior Ahmad Bickley, an elite dribble-drive threat who just got his first offer from D-II Chestnut Hill, teaming with sophomore Zahree Harrison, a transfer from Archbishop Wood who’s a strong outside shooter and facilitator… Ryan Coyle (Upper Moreland)
Collin MacAdams (above) and CB West look primed to step into the Continental driver's seat. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Predicted Top 3
1. Central Bucks West
2. Central Bucks East
3. North Penn
After finishing in second a year ago with a 15-8 record (9-3 SOL), Central Bucks West looks primed to take over from a North Penn squad that graduated almost its entire rotation. The Bucks’ typically well-balanced rotation has a star element this year in Collin MacAdams, a do-everything wing who’s already committed to play at D-II California (Pa.) in the western division of the PSAC. While MacAdams might be their go-to guy, head coach Adam Sherman also has a reliable second option in senior guard Shane McCusker and a promising junior point guard in Jack Mulhearn, plus some toughness up front in 6-3 senior forward Jake Reichwein, a standout on the gridiron.
Just across the Central Bucks School district is West’s biggest rival and its most potent competition this year. Erik Henrysen did graduate six seniors off last year’s Patriots squad, including leading scorer Matt Pattyson, off a 13-12 (6-6) team, but he’s got five seniors and three juniors to work with this year. Senior guards Kyle Cassidy and Jesse Rivera will see a lot of the ball in their hands and a good percentage of the shots, but their ceiling might be determined by the play of junior big man Nick Roggio.
Players to Watch
CB West's do-everything senior Collin MacAdams is as high-level a Division-II prospect as you’ll find. Look for the 6-foot-5 California (Pa.) commit to play the ‘1’ through ‘4’ on a regular basis and oftentimes guard the opposing center… Pennridge guard Sean Yoder emerged as a potential D-I prospect this summer, earning an offer from High Point playing with the East Coast Power. The 6-2 junior excels in the drive-and-kick game and has really developed as a perimeter shooter… North Penn junior guard A.J. Mitchell is a flashy ball-handler with a good scoring instinct, but he’s not afraid to dish the rock either. Should be in for a big rise in production this year. …Central Bucks East guard Kyle Cassidy is a terrific shooter off the catch or bounce, and he plays the game at the right tempo. Junior big man Nick Roggio is a rugged 6-6 and one of the more physical players in the league.
Robbie Heath (above) returns for his fourth year in the Abington starting lineup. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Predicted Top 3
The Suburban One League and District 1 6A champions a year ago, Abington returns quite a bit under head coach Charles Grasty, who’s been plenty successful in his tenure at the Ghosts’ helm. It all starts with junior forward Eric Dixon, a 6-7 left-handed forward who can score inside and out, but his classmate Lucas Monroe is a 6-5 wing and Division I prospect in his own right; senior point guard Robbie Heath completes the trio of what should be Abington’s leading scorers. They do lose a bit from last year in big man Joseph O’Brien (Kutztown) and guard Rob Young (Penn College), so they’ll need senior twins Bryan and Brandon Coffman and several others to step up. Ultimately, the Ghosts will gallop as far as their big three can take them.
Under Bill Coleman, Pennsbury has continued its strong legacy of basketball, and this year looks to be no different. Senior forward Chad Weldon and guards Raylil Winton and Josh Arruda give the Falcons some experience, as does versatile 6-4 junior wing Chad Francis. They’ve also got an up-and-coming point guard in sophomore Collin Connor; that being sid, it’s a group that could have some rough goings early on as they get used to playing with each other when the games count. Weldon, at 6-8, has good length inside but might struggle with Dixon’s physicality.
Players to Watch
Abington forward Eric Dixon is perhaps the most dominant force in the area, and the 6-foot-7, 275-pound junior has taken his game up a notch after amassing nearly 1,000 points in two seasons. Expect him to challenge for the area scoring title… Joining Dixon are a pair of high-level perimeter pieces in senior Robbie Heath and junior Lucas Monroe. Heath is a 6-foot combo guard with a sweet outside stroke and multiple Division II offers, while Monroe is a versatile 6-foot-5 wing who will also spend a lot of time on the ball… Neshaminy guard Chris Arcidiacono has established himself as a Division I guard in his own right, and not just “Ryan’s little brother”. He’ll be tasked with a heavy scoring load, but looks up to the challenge thanks to his impressive perimeter shot-making abilities… Pennsbury has a solid 1-2 punch in junior wing Gary Francis and senior big man Chad Weldon. Francis should emerge as a go-to scorer this year, while Weldon is a developing 6-foot-8 rim-runner. Both are at least strong Division III prospects entering the season… Bensalem has an electrifying scorer of its own in guard Ward Roberts, a high-level athlete with a strong motor who also has a dangerous pull-up jumper. They added an impact big man in Conwell-Egan transfer James Leible, a muscular 6-7 senior who gives them some real presence inside. …Council Rock North senior Brady Haggerty is a versatile 6-4 wing who can score from all three levels and he’s an above-average athlete as well.
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