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Boys Basketball Preview: Smith, experienced Clippers ready for breakout season

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Chester’s voyage to the PIAA Class 5A second round and a one-point loss to eventual state champion Abington Heights was powered by junior point guard Michael Smith, an All-Delco who averaged 15.6 points per game.

He’s back this year to lead a Clippers ship with a number of veterans returning for another season of Del Val League basketball.

Senior Rahmaad DeJarnette lost most of the season to a leg injury but averaged 8.2 points in the 11 games he was healthy to play. Rahmee Gilbert is a valuable backcourt piece, while Karell Watkins turned heads by averaging 8.4 points in 11 games since being called up from JV as a freshman. He, Zahmir Carroll, Javan Graham and Rahnel Sparks provide the foundation of a strong frontcourt rotation.

The other big addition is Akeem Taylor, the leading scorer for Chester Charter School for the Arts last season at 15.4 points per game and the nephew of coach Keith Taylor.

Chichester bid farewell to six seniors who helped the Eagles to a 14-win season and a District 1 Class 5A tournament berth, including DaQuan Granberry (20.7 ppg) and James Hendricks (11.4). Guard Amiri Stewart, who averaged 10 ppg, transferred to Archbishop Carroll.

Senior guard Calvin Church will be the team’s vocal leader, while Josh Hankins, who turned heads as a freshman, will be a primary scorer.

Penn Wood won 13 games a season ago, and several pieces from that squad remain, though with plenty of production to replace. Guard Shad Kyem and forward Desman Johnson were the sixth- and seventh-leading scorers in 2017-18 and will have more of a scoring burden placed on them this year, as will guard Zac-Chae’us Williams. Seniors Antonio Campbell, Davanta Smith and football Player of the Year Kennedy Poles will fill the gaps.

Academy Park returned to the District 1 Class 5A playoff last year and returns three of their top four starters. Leading the way is senior point guard Naseim Harley, who poured in 12.4 ppg last year. Shermik Lofton is an established post presence, while Tahriq Marero hit a team-best 31 3-pointers as a freshman. Jalen Cassidy is a solid starter, as is sophomore guard Derrick Northern.

In his second year in charge, Conrad Kirkaldy is hoping that the utilization of youthful players will pay dividends at Interboro. The Bucs have to replace the top two scorers from last year’s one-win season, but Damon Dukes, Terrance Hall and Jared Dellipriscoli provide experience around the youngsters. Sophomores Connor Hughes and Josh Asadi and freshman Gavin Walls could see minutes this season.

Glen Mills will have an entirely new roster this year under Tony Bacon, the league’s longest-tenured coach. The Bulls battled to seven wins last season.

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