The most wonderful time of the year

’Tis the sea­son for winter bas­ket­ball, and with it comes The North­east Times’ an­nu­al bas­ket­ball pre­view.

Un­der a minute to play Chris Lewis #33 goes hard to the bas­ket.

Times, they are a chan­gin’.

Es­pe­cially on the high school bas­ket­ball courts throughout North­east Phil­adelphia. 

There are a lot of new faces on teams in the Phil­adelphia Pub­lic and Cath­ol­ic leagues this winter. Al­though a few teams like Arch­bish­op Ry­an and Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln have a wealth of re­turn­ing play­ers, most squads are work­ing with youth and in­ex­per­i­ence.  

The North­east teams com­pet­ing in the Pub­lic League also will be fa­cing new foes this sea­son now that all di­vi­sions have been re­or­gan­ized based on team re­cords, not school pop­u­la­tion. Frank­ford High has been moved to the A Di­vi­sion, while Lin­coln, George Wash­ing­ton and Samuel Fels will com­pete in the B Di­vi­sion. North­east is the only loc­al school with­in the C Di­vi­sion. 

It should make this sea­son an en­ter­tain­ing ride.

Here’s a look at the Raid­ers, Cru­saders, Pi­on­eers, Railsplit­ters, Eagles, Pan­thers and Vik­ings. 

Cath­ol­ic League

Arch­bish­op Ry­an

Last sea­son: 4-9 league, 11-13 over­all

The Arch­bish­op Ry­an High School bas­ket­ball team is stacked for suc­cess this year. 

The Raid­ers boast en­thu­si­asm, ex­per­i­ence and the raw tal­ent needed to be­come con­tenders with­in the highly com­pet­it­ive Cath­ol­ic League. 

“So far, we look pretty good,” said Ry­an boss Bernie Ro­gers. “We have bal­anced scor­ing and a lot of depth off the bench.”

Seni­or for­wards Chris­ti­an Rivera and Nick Aughen­baugh will join seni­or guard Kyle Slaw­ter in the spot­light this sea­son. The trio of re­turn­ing starters made a big im­pact on last year’s play­off run and are ex­pec­ted to play pivotal roles once again this sea­son. 

Fel­low seni­ors in­clude cen­ter Chris Mc­Monagle, Tim Raucheis­en and guards Shane Kel­ley and Ter­rance Scan­lon. 

The Raid­ers also have a strong ju­ni­or class that in­cludes Bri­an Okolo, Tyler Reed, Shawn Miller, Gage Ga­le­one and Sam Du­mond. Sopho­more Brandon Hor­an will round out Arch­bish­op Ry­an’s lineup. 

“We’re hop­ing to re­turn to the play­offs and then we’ll take it from there,” said Ro­gers. 

Fath­er Judge

Last sea­son: 9-4 league, 16-6 over­all

After gradu­at­ing sev­en seni­ors from last year’s squad, the Fath­er Judge High School bas­ket­ball team has some big shoes to fill on the hard­wood.

Luck­ily for the Cru­saders, al­though they lack ex­per­i­ence, they’re flour­ish­ing with tal­ent. 

“We’re very ath­let­ic,” said head coach Sean Tait. “We won’t have any prob­lems scor­ing, it’s just a mat­ter of be­ing con­sist­ent.”

Steve Griffin Jr., a guard and All-Cath­ol­ic play­er, is ex­pec­ted to fill the va­cant lead­er­ship role this sea­son. 

Seni­or guards Bri­an Hen­nes­sey and Con­nor Dono­hoe — the only seni­ors on this year’s roster — will round out the Cru­saders short but skilled list of starters. 

“We have a couple of trans­fer stu­dents and some oth­er play­ers who I think will step up,” said Tait. “We’ll be com­pet­it­ive.”

Pub­lic League A Di­vi­sion


Last sea­son: 11-2 league, 20-6 over­all

It could be a re­build­ing year for the Frank­ford High School bas­ket­ball team, which is re­turn­ing only two play­ers who saw sub­stan­tial time on the hard­wood last year. 

Ac­cord­ing to head coach Dave Huzzard, however, his youth­ful squad is up for the chal­lenge. 

“We’ll def­in­itely be fine with size and strength,” said Huzzard, who guided his squad to a Pub­lic League Class AAAA cham­pi­on­ship and city title last sea­son. “I’m still look­ing for someone to take on that lead­er­ship role, but every day is get­ting bet­ter.”

The Pi­on­eers will have one fa­mil­i­ar face on the courts this sea­son — Imire Taylor, a seni­or three-year starter who will be a shoot­ing guard.

Seni­or Chris Lewis and ju­ni­or Don­ald Robin­son — both for­wards with lim­ited varsity ex­per­i­ence last year — are also ex­pec­ted to make a big im­pact on the sea­son. 

Frank­ford’s core lineup will be roun­ded out by new­comer Sha­quil Rone, a 6-foot-4 for­ward. 

“He is a raw play­er. This is his first time play­ing or­gan­ized bas­ket­ball,” ex­plained Huzzard. “But he has worked his tail off and he really has a lot of tal­ent.

“We have a lot of strength this year,” he ad­ded. “We’re look­ing to im­prove every day.”

B Di­vi­sion

Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln

Last sea­son: 8-5 league, 9-8 over­all

The Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln High School bas­ket­ball team is equipped with ex­per­i­ence and tal­ent this sea­son; the Railsplit­ters are re­turn­ing nine play­ers from last year’s roster. 

“We’re look­ing okay,” said head coach Al Brown. “We have a lot of speed and quick­ness and we’re a very strong de­fens­ive team.”

Seni­or Mi­chael Bowl­ers — who scored more than 10 points per game last winter — will work as a power for­ward this sea­son. He’ll be joined in the spot­light by seni­or point guard Is­mail Wilson. 

Oth­er guards in­clude seni­or Jarmel Ken­an, ju­ni­or An­thony Cur­uso, Adal Andina and Mark May­field. Ant­on Fletch­er and Ado­nia Ros­ar­io will con­trib­ute as for­wards. 

“We plan on im­prov­ing game by game,” said Brown. “I ex­pect to see a lot of ef­fort.”

George Wash­ing­ton

Last sea­son: 12-1 league, 18-6 over­all

Al­though the George Wash­ing­ton High School bas­ket­ball squad lost a few key play­ers from last year’s dom­in­at­ing sea­son, the Eagles are shap­ing up just fine on the hard­wood. 

Ju­ni­ors Kend­ale Tru­itt and Na­fece Ed­wards — both guards/for­wards who av­er­aged a com­bined 16.8 points per game last sea­son — are ex­pec­ted to con­trib­ute greatly this winter. 

Seni­or Rashid Jack­son, a 6-foot point guard, and ju­ni­or Wan­ya Fer­guson will join new­comers Wil­li­am Dav­is, Justin Moody and Ado­nia Foun­tain on this year’s roster. 

“We have a lot of ath­leti­cism — guys that can jump, run, shoot the ball,” said Wash­ing­ton boss Calv­in Jones. “We’re quick. I ex­pect us to be com­pet­it­ive.”

Samuel Fels

Last sea­son: 6-7 league, 11-10 overall

Things are not look­ing too great on the Samuel Fels High School bas­ket­ball court. 

But it’s still early. 

And there’s plenty of time for im­prove­ment. 

“This might change drastic­ally in the next few weeks, but right now I’m dis­gus­ted with their prac­ti­cing, their work eth­ic, their at­ti­tude,” said Samuel Fels head coach Mark Heimerdinger. 

Cur­rently, it looks like seni­ors TJ Scott and Ro­man Black will handle both guard and for­ward du­ties. 

Seni­ors Ca­sey Bell and Devon Wilson will work as guards, with for­wards Ni­jay Kelly and Kyree West­brooks round­ing out the core lineup. 

“It’s just not a good situ­ation,” said Heimerdinger. “I’m dis­ap­poin­ted in my­self be­cause I thought that we would have the pro­gram in a bet­ter place.”

C Di­vi­sion


Last sea­son: 2-11 league, 5-15 over­all

North­east High School is still re­cov­er­ing from the death of be­loved bas­ket­ball coach Bob Di­Florio, who drowned in Septem­ber. 

“I have five guys who played for him,” ex­plained Den­nis En­gle­man, the Vik­ings’ as­sist­ant and ju­ni­or varsity coach who was re­cently named head coach of the varsity team. “Every­body was broken up at first. The team is strong. They’re hand­ling it well.”

The Vik­ings are now back on the hard­wood and shap­ing up to be very com­pet­it­ive with­in the Pub­lic League C Di­vi­sion. 

Seni­ors Walt Arch­er and Wil­li­am Ram­pas­ard will handle dual roles as guards and for­wards. 

Guard Ji­had Simpson and for­wards Yusef Sav­age and Tit­us Duncan, all seni­ors, will round out the Vik­ings’ core lineup of re­turn­ing play­ers. 

For­wards Daryl Bag­well and Daquan White, guard Daquan Bo­han­nan and cen­ter Keith Fletch­er will see ample play­ing time this year as well. Also con­trib­ut­ing are guards Os­walt Charles, Don­ell Fysse, Tony Nay­an and Kyree Sim­pon. 

“We’re anxious to get star­ted. We have a good mix of play­ers who are work­ing hard,” said En­gle­man. “I wasn’t ex­pect­ing this but I’m ex­cited to get the sea­son star­ted and see what we can do.” ••

Ed­it­or Melissa Yerkov can be reached at my­

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