Monday, May 5, 2008

In 08-09, Who Will Be New Jersey's Best?

The logical choice for the best team in New Jersey next season would seem to be the St. Anthony's Friars, the consensus national champions this year. Yet, when you looker closely at Bob Hurley Sr.'s squad for next year, the selection is not that simple. The Friars will lose the core of their team to graduation: Rutgers-bound McDonald's All-American 6'3 guard Michael Rosario, Pitt-signee 6'0 guard Travon Woodall, soon-to-be Kansas Jayhawk 6'4 guard Tyshawn Taylor, Fordham-bound 5'10 guard Jio Fontan and 6'4 guard Alberto Eastwick, and St. Joseph's-commit 6'6 power forward AJ Rogers. The squad will also lose three other seniors to graduation, meaning that only seven of the 16 varsity players will return. The Friars do have two transfers coming in next year, as reported, in 6'8 Ashton Pankey and 6'7 Devon Collier. Their height will be a huge boost, but it won't be enough to keep St. Anthony's atop the Jersey standings. Seniors-to-be 6'6 guard Dominic Cheek and 6'6 power forward will have to pick up a lot of the slack left by the departures of this year's seniors. Cheek is one of America's best players, but he can only do so much. Meanwhile, St. Benedict's, which is coached by Danny Hurely, Bob's son, is primed for another big year. The Gray Bees had just one loss last year, and were ranked number two in America by most polls. Although the team will lose McDonald's All-American 6'9 power forward Samardo Samuels to graduation, he is one of just three departing seniors. Senior-to-be 6'9 center Greg Echenique, a Rutgers-commit, has the talent to fill the void left by Samuels. The squad has a strong class of 2011 in 5'8 guard Tavon Sledge, 6'0 guard Myck Kabongo, and 6'0 guard Myles Davis, all of whom have the talent to contribute quite a bit next year. UAB-pledge 6'2 guard Tamir "Pop" Jackson, a member of the class of 2009, and 6'8 forward, Tristan Thompson, a Texas-bound 2010 hotshot will play prominent roles on the team as well. The Gray Bees will not suffer much of a drop-off. The St. Patrick's Celtics had a down year by their standards, but Head Coach Kevin Boyle won't let that happen again next year. Jermel Jenkins, a 5'9 guard, and Kansas-signee 6'8 forward Quintrell 6'0 Thomas are the team's only main losses to graduation. Jamin Shumate, a 6'7 forward, and Marcus Charles, a 5'10 guard, will also be lost to graduation, along with three others, but none of these five had particularly major roles on the team. Chase Plummer, a 6'5 junior-to-be forward, and fellow class of 2010 members, 6'9 forward Markus Kennedy and 5'9 guard Kevin Boyle, Jr. will all be major contributors next season. Class of 2011 superstar Michael Gilchrist, a 6'5 forward, and Kennedy will be able to replace Thomas. Shaq Stokes, a 5'10 guard, and Derrick Gordon, a 6'1 guard, are two freshman who will help to cover up the hole left by Jenkins and Charles. Class of 2009 members 6'6 swingman Paris Bennett and North Carolina-commit 6'3 guard Dexter Strickland will be key to the Celtics, as will 5'8 junior guard Dean Kowalski. St. Patrick's will be near the top of the national rankings again next year. The major question mark in New Jersey will be the Paterson Catholic Cougars. Head Coach Damon Wright has a fantastic squad on his hands, led by some of the best players in the class of 2010 in America: 6'6 swingman Shaquille Thomas, 6'2 swingman Jermaine Peart, 6'5 swingman Fuquan Edwin, 6'5 swingman Jayon James, and 6'8 power forward TJ Clemmings. Along with these five are sophomores-to-be 5'8 guards Myles Mack and Jhamir White, and the lone class of 2009 member 6'3 swingman Lance Brown. In addition, the team will bring in a highly touted player from the class of 2012, in 6'5 swingman Kyle Anderson. The team will be losing Seton Hall-bound 6'0 guard Jordan Theodore, 7'0 center Ian Chiles, 5'9 guard Wayne Mack, and two others to graduation. Next year's Cougars should be even better than this year's, and that's saying something, as the team throttled ultra-talented Montrose Christian (MD) at the Prime Time Shootout. Now, to my rankings. It's clear to me that these are "Fab Four" teams in the Garden State, yet all three are so good, that it's hard to rank them. One thing that I can conclude quickly is that defending national champion St. Anthony's, will come in at number four on my list due to the mass exodus of seniors. From there, it gets quite tricky. Paterson Catholic has the potential to be number one, but until they start knocking off the other New Jersey powerhouses, it will be hard to put them at number one. I'll put the Cougars at number three on my list. The decision between St. Patrick's and St. Benedict's for number one is tough to make. This year at the Prime Time Shootout, the Celtics lost a close one to the Gray Bees, and I think the game next season will be extremely close as well. I have to go with St. Patrick's at number one and St. Benedict's at number two. A lot may depend on the play of Markus Kennedy and Kevin Boyle, Jr. for the Celtics as they step into bigger role. Much of the pressure for St. Benedict's may be on Greg Echenique--who will to take on many more double teams down low--and Myck Kabongo, who may well end up running the point for the Gray Bees. I'm picking St. Pat's due to its fantastic depth, but either one of these teams has a shot at number one, both in New Jersey and in America.

Northstar Basketball's "Fab Four" in 08-09:
1. St. Patrick's
2. St. Benedict's
3. Paterson Catholic
4. St. Anthony's

Note- photo in the middle on the left is of Kyle Anderson, and is from

Note- photo on the top right is of Michael Gilchrist, the photo on the bottom right is of Tristan Thompson, and the photo on the top left is of Devon Collier, all of which are from

Note- photo


Anonymous said...

Echenique is not eligible to play on St. Benedict's high school team next year.

North Star Basketball said...

Oh, is that the case? I had only the possibility of him heading straight to RU. Thus, it's good to know that this is the case. Thanks!