The 2022-23 boys scholastic basketball season is here and the big story on Chester County hardwoods is the new faces in new places on the boys basketball benches.
There are five new head coaches for the upcoming season who are all hoping to improve their teams fortunes.
The biggest hire was Coatesville legend John Allen, who will take over a Red Raiders squad that did not qualify for the District 1 playoffs last year for the first time in decades. Ryan Dunbar is the new head man at Kennett, as former Kennett head coach Jason Gray returns to lead Oxford, where he starred as a player.
Sean Forcine, a longtime assistant to Mike Troy at Conestoga, takes over for Troy, who resigned last spring. Jason Ritter takes over the reins at West Chester Henderson, replacing Rob Frattura, who led the Warriors to the district playoffs last season. Ritter won a Ches-Mont League championship at Downingtown West in 2016.
The Ches-Mont League will see everyone trying to dethrone three-time league champion West Chester East, while Devon Prep hopes to repeat as PIAA 4A champions. Malvern Prep tries to defend its Inter-Academic League title while Westtown remains one of the top teams in the country.
Here is a look at all of the area boys’ basketball teams:
Avon Grove: The Red Devils have made steady progress under fourth year head coach Ikeem Mays. This season Mays hopes to make the district playoffs, and the Red Devils head coach is leaning on two seniors, Adam Ziegler and Mike Britton, as well as sharp shooting junior Josh Cox to lead Avon Grove to at least a .500 record. Ziegler and Britton can both score inside and both saw considerable time last season.
Bishop Shanahan: The Eagles went to the District 1 5A semifinals last season and head coach John Dougherty is counting on three key seniors to lead the Eagles back to the playoffs and possibly the Ches-Mont Final Four. Charlie Federico, Logan Kapcynski and Ben Rodner-Tims are all good shooters and have plenty of varsity experience. The Eagles always play very hard for Dougherty and should return to the district playoffs.
Coatesville: New Red Raiders head coach John Allen is counting on flashy junior point guard Dior Kennedy to bring Coatesville back to prominence. Kennedy is very good at driving to the basket and is also a threat in transition.
Jeremiah Marshall and Amin Fowkles can also score inside and the Red Raiders have decent height to man the backboards. Coatesville will be in the mix for the Ches-Mont League crown and a return trip to the district playoffs.
Downingtown East: Cougars head coach Brian Grashof hopes to make Downingtown East a district playoff team and the Cougars boss will be leaning on senior point guard Connor Shanahan and junior Micah Hill to lead his team.
Shanahan led the Ches-Mont League in scoring last winter at 28 points per game and might be the best three-point shooter in the league. Lee is very quick and can score from anywhere on the floor.
Downingtown West: The Whippets will be led by senior point guard and Army commit Dylan Blair. Blair averaged 21 points per game last season and is a force driving to the hoop or pulling up for an open jump shot.
Blair is joined by sharp shooting Joe Suarez and impressive big man Kelly Bell. The Whippets are a definite threat to West Chester East in the Ches-Mont League race and a district playoff team again. The Whippets advanced to the PIAA first round last season.
West Chester East: The Vikings advanced to the first round of the PIAA playoffs last season and won their third straight Ches-Mont League title. Super sophomore KJ Cochran might be the best player in the league.
Cochran does it all on the floor and he will be joined by 6-foot-4 senior jumping bean Jack Kushner, who is a force on both the offensive and defensive glass. Senior Jose Ramos is a playmaker and he also can shoot the three-ball effectively. The road to the Ches-Mont League title goes through the Vikings again.
West Chester Henderson: The Warriors feature a great guard combination in juniors Connor Fleet and Kyle Ralph-Beyar. Fleet is very good at penetrating to the basket while Ralph-Bayer runs the floor well and can shoot the three-ball very well. Collegium Charter transfer Kmari Smith will add even more scoring for the Warriors, who are in the mix for a district playoff berth and a Ches-Mont League title.
Great Valley: The Patriots lost their top three scorers from last season but wily Patriots head coach CJ Savage will keep Great Valley in the running for a district playoff berth and a possible Ches-Mont American Division title.
Big 6-foot-5 Jaxson Ray will be a force inside and on the glass and seniors Pranav Hegde and Will Otterbien will also be counted on to score and play the usual suffocating Great Valley defense. No one prepares a team better than Savage, so expect another successful season for the Patriots.
Kennett: New Kennett head coach Ryan Dunbar, a former Coatesville and Church Farm assistant, will try to rebuild a Blue Demons program that hit hard times last season. Dunbar will be counting on Reagan Peletier, who is the only senior back for the Blue Demons. Dunbar also likes Bo Freeberry and sophomore Braeden Smith, who is a very fast guard. The Blue Demons will play hard and tough full court defense under Dunbar.
Oxford: Former Kennett head coach Jason Gray returns to lead a Hornets squad that won only two games last season. Senior Matt Boyle should lead the scoring parade. Boyle is a very good three-point shooter and can also score in tight.
Colin Overbeck, a combo guard, is very fast and will be a force while Jason Morales and Justin Tyre also will be counted on to lead Oxford to a winning season.
Unionville: The Longhorns are coming off a rare poor season under head coach Chris Cowles. Junior Charlie Kammeier is a very good scorer and JT Anderson and senior Robbie Logan both will be counted on to help with the scoring. Cowles’ teams always play good defense and this edition will be no different. Expect some low-scoring games for the Longhorns to be involved in this season.
West Chester Rustin: Second year head coach Vince Mostardi welcomes returning starters Ian Schlesinger and Sam Sproul back for a team that is my favorite to win the Ches-Mont American Division title.
Sproul is a very good outside shooter and Schlesinger can score in transition. Sophomore Chase Hatton and senior Matt Nochumson also will be counted on to help score for the Golden Knights, who are the most experienced squad in the Ches-Mont American Division.
Church Farm: The Griffins are the defending District 1 2A champions and they advanced to the second round of the PIAA playoffs last season. Griffins head coach Jonathan Guarante will be counting on senior Cooper Shivers, who averaged 23 points per game last season, to lead the scoring for the Griffins. Gavriel Henriquez and Mohammad Sow, both seniors, also saw considerable time last season and are solid players.
Church Farm should once again challenge for the Bicentennial League title and the District 1 2A championship. A return trip to the PIAA tournament is likely for the Griffins squad.
Collegium Charter: Collegium head coach Markel Jones led his Cougars to the District 1 4A championship last season and a PIAA first round appearance, and the cupboard is stacked with talent again.
Senior point guard Dinero Washington averaged 20 points per game last season and is the best player on the floor in most of the Cougars games. Inside scoring and rebounding will come from talented 6-foot-7 senior Duce Jackson and Trevon Mack. Jackson is very skilled and is an intimidating presence inside for Collegium Charter. The Cougars should return to the PIAA playoffs and win another district crown.
Conestoga: Long-time Pioneers assistant Sean Forcine takes over for Mike Troy and inherits a team that lost nine seniors to graduation and advanced to the second round of the district playoffs last season. Conestoga has Peter Costigan, who is the quarterback on the Conestoga football team, back for his senior season and Forcine hopes to keep Conestoga in the hunt in a very competitive Central League that is led by Lower Merion again.
Devon Prep: The Tide are the defending PIAA 4A state champions and they have three starters from the state championship back this season. Senior forward Lucas Orchard, who averaged 17 points per game last season, is one of the best scorers in the area.
Army commit Jacen Holloway can shoot the three-ball and he will also provide an inside presence for Jason Fisher’s squad. At 6-foot-4, Holloway is both an inside and outside threat. Senior point guard Ty Mishok is back as the Tide floor general and will be counted on to set up Orchard and Holloway for good open looks. The Tide are looking to make the Philadelphia Catholic League playoffs, which is a giant accomplishment and they are in the mix for another PIAA 4A title.
Malvern Prep: Second year Friars head coach Paul Romanczuk welcomes two senior all league players back for Malvern Prep this season. Andrew Phillips, who averaged 16 points per game last season, and senior guard Ryan Williams will be counted on to win another Inter-Academic League title in a league that is always very tough. Tague Davis will provide an inside presence for the Friars.
Westtown: The defending PAISSA champion Moose once again have one of the best collections of talent on the East Coast. Great Valley transfer Cash Wallace joins the Moose and Wallace is a complete player already as a sophomore. Big 6-foot-9 Matt Mayock, a Conestoga transfer, and Mike Gilhool will lead the Moose to another likely private school state title.