An in-depth look at Northeast Philadelphia basketball teams.
Last year was a good one for local boys basketball schools.
We had a finalist in the Public League 6A championship, a semifinalist in the 5A state tournament and teams in both the Catholic and Public leagues playoffs.
The bad news is a lot of good players graduated. The good news is there are plenty of stars remaining. Couple that with newcomers who are ready to fill in voids, and this winter could be just as exciting as last year.
Here is a look at the local teams competing in basketball.
The Raiders have built a winning tradition. They’ve made the Catholic League semifinals in each of the past two seasons and last season came one game away from marking the 5A state championship game.
Ryan did lose a lot of talent, including franchise guard Izaiah Brockington, but there is still talent, and coach Joe Zeglinski is happy with what he has to work with.
The Raiders will use a lot of players, including guards Amin Bryant, Jaquill Stone and Colin Reed. Other starters are Devon Vargas and freshman Taleeq Robbins. Coming off the bench, but seeing a lot of time, will be Anthony Woodard, Brendan Scanlon, Glenn Smith, Kevin Lezin, Mekhi Lang, Jerry Weiss and Kyier Smith.
The Raiders will use their depth and speed as assets, which could mean fun games full of up-and-down play.
“I’m happy how the kids have bought into what we’re doing,” Zeglinski said. “We play hard, we’re young so we’re going to make mistakes, but we’re going to force turnovers and get better. The good thing is they’re very unselfish and you never know who is going to have big games. Every game, it’s a different guy.”
The Crusaders made the playoffs a season ago, but their three top players graduated.
Still, this year’s senior class, which includes swingman Tom Quarry, forwards Drew Riley and Conor McKee and guard Conor McHugh, should be ready to take over as team leaders. Nick Conway, also a senior, will miss the year with a shoulder injury.
Other players expecting to contribute are junior guards Alphonso Chie and Shane Dooley, junior center Joe Varhula, sophomore guards Nick Minich and Tareef Howell and freshman guard Nasheer Johnson.
Coach Sean Tait hopes the team can improve upon last year’s 16–7 record.
“We have good senior leadership, we compete every day in practice, and we play real hard,” Tait said. “We are very unselfish, always looking to share the ball, at the end of the day if we can make shots and defend, we will be fine.
“Like every year, we want to be a playoff team in the PCL, whether it’s a home or road quarterfinal game or a first-round home or road game, you can’t get to the Palestra without qualifying for the playoffs, and making the playoffs in one of the best leagues in the country is no easy feat.”
The Railsplitters were one of the surprise teams of last year, finishing the season 23–6 and making it to the second round of the state tournament.
While the team did lose some pieces to graduation, the bulk of last year’s squad is back and looking for more.
The leader of the team will be small forward Jahi Randall. He’ll work with fellow seniors Khalif Mears, Shikier Morrison, Sahnei Dya, Carl Jefferson, Paul Lewis and Patt Obogo.
Guards Emeuel Charleston and Travis Coleman will also see key minutes.
Last year’s run gave the Railsplitters a taste of what they’re capable of. This year, they want more.
“We’re stressing leadership on the floor, we’re playing for each other and the key to our season will be unselfishness,” Lincoln coach Al Brown said. “On paper, we have a very good team, but if we don’t play to our potential, we won’t win. They know that and they’re working very hard to play together and play for each other.”
The Pioneers were one game away from making the state tournament, but fell to Ryan in a play-in game. This year, they hope to go farther and improve upon their 13–13 record.
Frankford will be led by Jaquan Williams, Shafe Cosby, Taleek Anderson, Jose Campo, Kureese Rogers and Seydou Ndiaye.
Coach Jamie Ross hopes the Pioneers stay in the mix in Public League play and make noise in February.
“This year, our strength is our quickness,” Ross said. “If we can play together as a cohesive group and understand roles, we should have a solid year.”
Franklin Towne Charter
The Coyotes enjoyed a 14-win season last year, including an 11–2 record in Public League play. The goal is to keep that momentum going forward.
Leading the way will be a pair of seniors in Josh Gilborges and Ethan Lugo. Also seeing key minutes for Franklin Towne will be Nick Castle.
The Coyotes have some experience, but they’ll likely be better as the season goes on.
”We will have speed from our guards and a pretty versatile sophomore power forward,” Franklin Towne coach Chris Lauber said. “We are looking to finish with eight or nine wins in our conference and make the playoffs for the second consecutive year.”
The Eagles struggled during the regular season last year, but came on strong in the playoffs and advanced to the semifinals of the Public League 6A tournament.
The team will be led by senior guards Riccardo Whitfield and Greg Smith, as well as sixth man Nick Diaz. Also contributing will be juniors Christian Brown and Nyreese Moore, and sophomores Mike Butler and Levon Brown.
Coach Jeremy Beatrice believes last year’s playoff run could lead to good things this year.
“We have a great, versatile group of guards that can score the ball both off the bounce and they can shoot,” Beatrice said. “We should make the playoffs again and hope to compete with Frankford and Lincoln for a 6A state playoff berth.”
The Vikings struggled a season ago, finishing 4–17, but a solid offseason and a year of taking their lumps may have the team ready to compete for a title.
The team will consist of David King, Andrew Garvey, Juleton Jean-Louis, Jesse Madu, Deandre Scarborough, Aaron Moore, Matt Williams, Agustin Ortiz, Cornel Clinkscale, Andrew Serowsky, Walter Dempsey, Deshawn McCarthy, Antonio Johnson, Shaquil Bender and Ormond Isom.
If things go right, the Vikings could be in the mix in the Public League.
“We have great height and depth this year,” Northeast coach Steven Novosel said. “We have a strong senior class and should be stronger on defense and rebounding this year.
”We are looking to show significant improvement from last year. We were young and inexperienced and we feel more prepared going into the season. We expect to show great strides in building our program. We are looking to raise our intensity on the defensive end.”
Last year, the Panthers came a possession away from knocking off Martin Luther King, which went on to play in the Public League championship. Many of those players graduated, but coach Mark Heimerdinger is pleased with the players he has at his disposal.
Leading the way is point guard D’Angelo Montalvo. He’ll work with fellow guards Anthony Nazario and Chris Brown. The big starters will be Tymir Spreul and Dajuan McBride.
The Panthers have a good starting five, and their substitutes could be just as good as the five on the floor at tip-off.
Providing depth and sometimes more will be Lance Wilson, Sincere Palimore-Shepard, Keyshaun Nelson, Marlon Spruell and Tylay Gaddy.
The Panthers are ready to work, and Heimerdinger, who has more than 500 career victories, always has his teams playing better as the season goes on.
“We’re going to have to successfully play as a unit, and our success will depend on how we play as a cohesive unit,” Heimerdinger said. “We are good at some things, and our ability to play to our strengths will determine if we’re successful or not.”
The Lions finished above .500 last year, but that was with a senior-led squad. This year, the team doesn’t have as much experience, but the goal is improvement.
The key players will be sophomores Zaire Ramos, Amari Shareef and Aaron Wroten, as well as seniors Khalif Hollidaay and Yasir Thomas.
Effort and defense will be what determines the Lions’ success.
“We should be very capable, defensively, we have a mix group of some older and younger players looking to move up, so at this point our team in practice is very competitive. We hope, as the coaching staff, that this fire continues to burn all season,” coach Sean Riley said.
The Knights lost eight seniors to graduation, so this year will be a work in progress.
The team will be led by seniors Jake Frei and Jamal Washington, as well as juniors Jernado Tislin and Daniell Ortega.
It could take a few weeks for the team to get up to speed, but the hope is the Knights will get better every game.
“After graduating eight seniors last year, more than half of our team is new and young,” Rush coach William McKant said. “We have a consistent group working hard every day in practice, improving on their strengths and weaknesses.” ••