Paul VI senior wing and Villanova commit Brandon Slater looks to lead the Panthers back to the top of the WCAC
Reigning WCAC champions look to repeat in 2017-18 season without Lykes
Head coach Steve Turner leads his Gonzaga Eagles into another season as they look to defend their WCAC crown without their best player Chris Lykes who will be taking his talents down south to play for the University of Miami.
The 5-foot-8 guard was a terror for opposing defenses and was named All-Met Player of the Year, an honor that hasn’t graced the school since 2013 when Kris Jenkins won it. Jenkins is now known for hitting “The Shot” to win the 2016 National Championship for Villanova University.
Now, Lykes’ will look to make a name for himself at the next level, which his coach has full confidence, given his production and leadership for the Eagles.
“He understood the things I expect,” Turner lauded as he reflected on Lykes’ tenure at Gonzaga. “He pushed his teammates and motivated them to be their best.”
Senior guard Prentiss Hubb (Notre Dame commit) is among the guys that Lykes mentored. Turner says Hubb had a successful summer and played at a “high level” during AAU tournaments. The 6-foot-2 guard has become known for his ability to play both ends and doesn’t mind competing on defense if he doesn’t score as much as Lykes did.
Gonzaga senior guard Prentiss Hubb
Turner stressed the importance defense will be this season without the scoring prowess of Lykes.
“We got to defend and we got to rebound, said Turner.” “We have to use our defense to fuel our offense.”
As Hubb takes control of the wheel this season, he will be guiding the likes of fellow senior Myles Dread (Penn State commit) who is offensively versatile.
In frontcourt, sophomore forward Terrance Williams is a stretch-four who can shoot from deep and Allin Blunt, a 6-6 forward, will be expected to be one of the team’s best rebounders.
Turner is excited about his team, but says the WCAC is the “best conference in the country” and knows competition will be thick yet again. He mentioned DeMatha, Bishop McNamara and St. Johns as teams that will pose the biggest threat to repeat aspirations.
Slater looks to lead Paul VI back to WCAC championship game
-Paul VI- Paul VI finished second in the WCAC after losing to Gonzaga 68-55 in an underwhelming championship game.
They lose two players from that team in Aaron Thompson and Keyshawn Johnson. Thompson, a senior, was the team’s floor general will now look to be a key factor as a freshman for Butler this winter. Johnson still has eligibility, but transferred to Wise High School over the summer.
But Panthers fans should expect another great season as this year’s team that features a pair of highly-regarded returning players, led by forward Brandon Slater. Slater played a huge role last year and in fact, led the team in scoring and rebounding. He posted a season-high 34 points against Gonzaga in January.
Guard Anthony Harris (also considering Wake Forest) replaces Johnson as the lead guard and was the second-leading scorer on the team last season. He, too, scored a season-high against Gonzaga, dropping 25 points in a Valentine’s Day loss.
The Panthers will rely heavily on Slater and Harris as they look to get back to championship form this season.
Jones looks to steer young DeMatha back on winning track
The DeMatha Stags (25-9, 15-5) finished fourth in the WCAC conference last season. Winning nearly 75 percent of your scheduled games would be considered a successful year for most high school programs in the nation. But, DeMatha Catholic--winners of the 2015-16 WCAC Championship and former home to 2017 No. 1 overall NBA draft pick Markelle Fultz--isn’t your typical prep school.
Led by head coach Mike Jones, who also serves as the assistant coach to Team USA’s U16 & U17 teams, the Stags have an incredibly high standard when approaching each season.
At DeMatha, we measure ourselves with championships and titles and because we did not win a championship last year we felt as though we fell a little short,” Jones said.
This season the team will have to rely on youth as three seniors graduated, including the No. 1 ranked player in Maryland for the class of 2017, D.J. Harvey, who’s playing for the Notre Dame this winter.
When asked if expectations should be tempered a bit for this season because he’ll have to rely on mostly sophomores and juniors, Jones was defiant in his response.
“Never,” Jones quickly replied. “Our goal is to be the best team we can be and at DeMatha, the best team we can be should be a team that can compete for a championship. I don’t want to coach if that’s not the case.”
Jones doesn’t see the youth as a problem because he says they have experience playing last year and had a chance to develop with each other over the summer in the DeMatha Summer League in Hyattsville, Maryland.
One of these developmental players is Hunter Dickerson, 7-foot sophomore who he describes as a “versatile post man” who can play with his back to the basket, pass well and hit shots from deep. The offense will run through Dickerson this season, so Jones does expect the team’s tempo to slow down a bit. But he made it clear that they will still be pressuring the ball and looking to push and score in transition.
DeMatha seven foot center Hunter Dickinson (#24) will be the focus of attention from the opposition this season
Supplementing Dickerson and assisting with the pressure-and-push play will be transfer Earl Timberlake (Rock Creek Christian), an athletic 6-foot-5 combo guard who has already caught scouts’ eyes with his above-the-rim style and defensive determination. Jones is also excited for the return of junior guard Justin Moore, who was second on the team in scoring last season before tearing his ACL in January.
Mitchell twins transfer and leave Bishop McNamara with holes to fill
Bishop McNamara didn’t have the greatest season last year, finishing more than ten games under .500 and going 5-14 in the tough WCAC, but assistant coach Brian Inge says the season wasn’t a complete wash because of the growth of his young players.
“Last season was challenging, but it gave our young guys an opportunity to grow, which we believe can help us in the upcoming season,” Inge said.
Twin forwards Makhi and Makhel Mitchell were the standouts of the young bunch, but won’t be joining the team this upcoming season as the University of Maryland commits will transfer to Montverde Academy.
Makhi Mitchell is the No.38th ranked player in the junior class. He averaged 10 points 9.5 rebounds and 3.3 blocks as a sophomore.
With the Mitchell twins, McNamara excelled defensively, (averaged seven blocks per game) but now have a pair of glaring gaps to fill down low.
Inge admitted as much.
“We will miss their defensive presence and their intensity, but their departure gives an opportunity to the next man up,” he said.
Junior forward Brandon Joyner is expected to step up and be the team’s “Mr. Versatility.” He’ll need to improve his numbers--averaging 2.9ppg and 1.5 apg--if the Mustangs want to “re-establish a winning culture.”
St. Johns loses leading scorers, returns three players
-ST. Johns- St. John’s finished third in the WCAC last year. Senior guards Reese Mona and Emmanuel Hylton led the team in scoring and have graduated. That leaves this year’s group vulnerable offensively.
They do have the luxury of returning key contributors, led by a strong senior class. Senior point Tre Wood is capable of scoring in bunches, as seen by a season-high 22 points against Bishop O’Connell on Feb. 17. Senior forwards Qwanzi Samuels and Richard Njoku will be important complementary pieces and will have to increase their production to assist the 5-11 Wood in carrying the team.
The return of junior Casey Morsell will also help in these efforts. Morsell led the team in 3-pointers made and knocked down four 3’s on three different occasions. The addition of sophomore center Treyvon Todd from Bishop O’Connell should provide length to the team.
St. John’s fans can anticipate a balanced attack to make up for the losses of Mona and Hylton.
Hines leads the way for a tender Bishop Ireton team
Head coach Neil Berkman described last season as a “really good year” for his Bishop Ireton team, finishing 13-18 and sweeping three teams in a tough WCAC conference.
Senior point guard Darius Hines is expected to be a top player in the conference after showcasing his scoring ability in his junior year. Last season he hit five 3-pointers in five different games including a contest against Bishop O’Connell where he dropped a season-high 28 points.
His coach knows how important his leadership will be to Ireton’s young team this season.
“We go as [Darius] goes,” Berkman said.
Hines has a heavy load to carry and among his list of responsibilities are: scoring, rebounding, passing, playing the most minutes, guarding the best player on the other team and being a captain.
This season, the team will be loaded with freshman and sophomores, which Berkman knows will present some challenges and patience.
“It depends on how quickly the young guys mature,” he said about his team’s expectations for the upcoming season. “A lot of it depends on toughness because we’ll be pretty small and quicker than we’ve been.”
Overall, Berkman’s goal for this season is making sure his team adjusts to his definition of playing hard and “getting their feet wet” in the conference.
Tabbs looks to carry St. Mary’s Ryken
-St. Mary’s Ryken- The Knights look to improve on an up-and-down 2016-17 season in which they finished in the middle of the WCAC, going 9-9 in the conference.
Senior point guard Wynston Tabbs (Boston College commit ) will have to carry the team much like he did in his junior campaign. That means more 34-point efforts like the one he posted on Feb. 18 in a win against DeMatha.
Tabbs will be without the services of forward Mekhi Long who transferred to Massanutten Academy this summer. At 6-foot-6, Long was an important sidekick last season and provided scoring from the wing position. He had scored 15 or more points in five games, including a season-high 20 against DeMatha on Jan. 17.
Transfer Michael Sumner Jr. will look to help Tabbs this season as they look to improve on a 16-13 record.
Kissal looks for more consistency in second year as head coach
-Good Counsel- Head coach GJ Kissal didn’t have much to celebrate in a tough first year at Good Counsel. His team won seven games and went 2-16 in the WCAC.
This year, he’ll have to overcome the challenge of losing four seniors. The good news is, his top three scorers last year were juniors and now provide a solid senior core led by forward Tyler Baylor.
At 6-foot-5, Baylor was the only player to average double digits in scoring and topped 20 points twice, including 21 points in a loss to Bishop O’Connell in January.
Falcons senior floor general Cameron Carter and head coach GJ Kissal have a conversation during play stoppage
Senior guard Cameron Carter was second in scoring and will look to set up the offense while increasing his production. Senior forward Deson Flood helps on the offensive end and can score double digits, a feat he accomplished nine times last year.
Kissal and his Falcons will be searching for more consistency in the upcoming season to move up the conference ranks.
Carroll looks to get back in win column this season
-Archbishop Carroll- The Lions struggled through yet another grueling season as they failed to record a win, losing all 22 of their games last year.
They’ll be without three seniors including Derrick Dixon, who was the team’s captain and one of the few consistent scorers.
Junior guard Jamal Muhammed was the only other reliable scorer, tallying 13 games with over 10 points that includes a season-high 22 points earlier in the season.
Muhammed will have to put the team on his back this year as the Lions hope to get back into the win column.
O’Connell looks to withstand key departures
Bishop O’Connell- Forward Nate Watson had another great season for O’Connell (20-10, 12-9), averaging double-digit figures in scoring and leading the team in rebounding. Watson is heading to Providence this winter, leaving O’Connell with a huge hole to fill down low.
Head coach Joe Wootten will also have to endure a few transfers, including promising guard D’marco Baucum who transfers to Riverdale Baptist this season. Baucum is among a group of four transfers this year.
Xavier Johnson and Quentin Millora-Brown will lead those returning from last season. Johnson scored 10 points per game and will look to improve that output as the team goes into 2018 without their top two scorers. Brown finished second in rebounding and will undoubtedly be expected to lead this year’s team on the boards.
Wooten will have their leading three-point shooter in senior guard Matt Becht.
16-17 WCAC Championship
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