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Plymouth Whitemarsh looks for ‘reality check’ with tough schedule

Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Naheem McLeod is averaging 21.5 points per game this season. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media File)

The Plymouth Whitemarsh boys basketball team expects to play a lot of meaningful games in February and March.

Last year the Colonials won the Suburban One League American Conference, reached the District 1-6A semifinals and the PIAA Class 6A quarterfinals.

Just about everyone from that team is back this year

Ahmad Williams, the 2017 Times Herald Player of the Year, is back along with his twin brother Ahmin, who missed last year’s playoff run with a foot injury. Ish Horn led the team in scoring during the postseason and Naheem McLeod continues to get stronger and grow into his 7-foot frame. Alan Glover, Danny Cooper and Jason Paul also played big minutes and are back for another go.

Head coach Jim Donofrio thinks the team might need a “reality check” before the District 1 and State playoffs come around.

The Colonials (2-0) will find out where they stand over the next 15 days with four games against top Philadelphia Catholic League competition. Saturday they face Archbishop Carroll at 2:15 p.m. at Archbishop Wood. Next Saturday, they face Wood, the defending Catholic League, District 12 and state champions. Before the calendar year ends, they face up-and-coming Bonner andPrendergast and Neumann-Goretti, a school that’s finished second in the PCL the last three years after winning it six straight times.

“I really needed to challenge the main guys,” Donofrio, a recent inductee into the Montgomery County Coaches Hall of Fame, said. “It’s a little risky, without a doubt, but I wouldn’t book the games if I didn’t think we could compete in them. Obviously there’s risk that you could compete greatly in them and be .500 after December.

“The only shot we have of doing anything great in March — and this is really the truest of this, my gut instinct told me — these guys are going to have to see what reality is early, even if it hurts us. I’ve never thought that way in 26 years. This year, with an Ish Horn, with an Ahmin and Ahmad Williams, with a Naheem McLeod, with an experience senior Danny Cooper, Jason Paul — we are physically the one of the strongest teams I’ve ever had. We are an experienced bunch in a lot of ways, so anything that would’ve been along the lines of a lesser schedule might just give them a false sense of reality. I don’t know if you want to wake up late and say, ‘Oh, this is what really high level pace is.’ Let’s take a look at it right out of the gate. It’s not like we have to develop.

“In order to keep them humble and focused, this is the month to have a very early reality check. If we do well in it, at least we know we can do well in it.”

The coach knows he has two of the most physical guards in the state in the Williams brothers and one of the most explosive in Horn. A couple months ago, however, it was Cooper who Donofrio thought made the most strides during the offseason.

“Coop brings so many great fundamentals,” he said of Cooper, who scored 16 points against Bishop Shanahan earlier this week. “He’s improved his fundamentals so much and his hunger to prove that he belongs as a top player — he’s so hungry for success that it’s a great fuel for him. He was terrific (against Shanahan). He’s one of those seniors that learns how to score with the lights on. Wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up being one of our major minutes guys before this is all over.”

Those four guards — along with Glover, Paul and McLeod, who could’ve had a 40-point night if he made his free throws in the season-opener — have PW thinking about March before the calendar turns.

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