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Giving it a shot

Will the South Philadelphia Rams finally be able to make it to the Public League championship game? Can the St. John Neumann Pirates win their third Catholic League title in four seasons? Will the Prep Charter Huskies compile their first winning season in the program’s three-year history? How will the Furness Falcons fare after their top two scorers transferred to other schools?

There are enough cliffhangers this basketball season to generate a soap opera, and local athletes promise plenty of drama on the court. Here is the Review‘s breakdown of the local teams. All games start at 3:15 p.m.

Team: Audenried Warriors

Coach: Hilderbrand Pelzer

2003 record: 1-12 (Public League Division D)

Home court: Palumbo Rec Center, 10th and Fitzwater streets

The Warriors enter the season with a new attitude. By 6 every morning, 15 players show up for practice, often before the coach. When Pelzer took over the program five years ago, he wasn’t just concerned about the win-loss record; he wanted to help develop the athletes into well-rounded young men. The coach couldn’t be happier that his squad opened the preseason 2-1.

"This is the best team I’ve had since I’ve been here," he said. "They are all eligible and come to school every day."

Key players:

F Barry Henry 6’1" SR
F Stanley Harris 6’2" SR
C Warren Spuriel 6’4" JR
G Joseph Jardine 5’7" SR
F Anthony Hill 6’3" JR
G Tyree Harrison 5’8"
F/C Andrew Hardy 6’5" JR

Coach’s outlook: "I expect us to be in the playoffs. If my kids play up to my expectations, then we should be in the playoffs."


Dec. 18 FLC Home
Dec. 23 Ben Franklin Away
Jan. 6 Fels Home
Jan. 8 E&S; Home
Jan. 13 Bodine Away
Jan. 15 Swenson Home
Jan. 20 Furness Home
Jan. 22 Lamberton Away
Jan. 27 Prep Charter Home
Jan. 29 Southern Away
Feb. 3 Bok Away
Feb. 5 GAMP Away
Feb. 10 Parkway Home
Feb. 12 Roxborough Away

Team: Bok Wildcats

Coach: Lloyd Jenkins

2003 record: 8-5 (Public League Division D)

Home court: Eighth and Mifflin streets

The Wildcats enter the season well aware of coming up a little short, as their tallest player is 6-foot-3. Six-and-a-half-footer Chris Seaborn opted to play his senior season with defending Public League champ John Bartram High. The upside is five of Bok’s top six players are seniors, including James Pope, who led the Wildcats’ offense with 12.6 points per game last season. The Wildcats, who missed the playoffs by one game last year, will vie for one of two Division D postseason spots with Southern, Parkway and Roxborough.

Key players:

G James Pope 6’3" SR
G Jamal West 6’2" SR
G Allen Major 5’8" SR
F Stephen Dunn 6’2" SR
F Stephen Young 6’2" SR
G Marques Salley 5’9" JR

Coach’s outlook: "I believe we can do the same or possibly better than last season. We miss height, but we compensate a lot with quickness."


Dec. 18 Kensington Home
Dec. 23 FLC Away
Jan. 6 Ben Franklin Home
Jan. 8 Fels Away
Jan. 13 E&S; Home
Jan. 15 Southern Away
Jan. 20 Swenson Away
Jan. 22 GAMP Away
Jan. 27 Parkway Home
Jan. 29 Roxborough Away
Feb. 3 Audenried Home
Feb. 5 Furness Away
Feb. 10 Lamberton Home
Feb. 12 Prep Charter Away

Team: Furness Falcons

Coach: Dave Connolly

2003 record: 8-5 (Public League Division D)

Home court: Murphy Rec Center, Fourth and Shunk streets

The Falcons have a completely different look from last season. The team lost its top offensive weapon, Tywain McKee, to Bartram High. Forward Malik Perry, 6-foot-4, transferred to Roman Catholic for his senior year.

The double loss hits hard: The Falcons now have to replace more than 41 points per game, and have just two returning players with varsity experience.

The squad likely will lean heavily on senior forward Raheem Hargust, who averaged 11.8 points per game last season. Connolly is simply stressing the basics with his roster of mostly newcomers.

"We are going over everything from the beginning," the coach said. "It’s a slow process.

"The effort is there in practice and they are willing to do whatever it takes."

Key players:

F Raheem Hargust 5’11" SR
F Jaleel Cole 6’3" SR
C Shyron McCoy 6’3" SR
G Jamal Joyner 5’9" JR
G Dwayne Wilson 5’7" SO
F William Pendleton 6′ SR

G Marcus King 5’9" JR

Coach’s outlook: "I’d be happy if we finished .500, and that’s a long shot."


Dec. 18 Mastbaum Away
Dec. 23 Kensington Home
Jan. 6 FLC Home
Jan. 8 Ben Franklin Away
Jan. 13 Fels Home
Jan. 15 Roxborough Away
Jan. 20 Audenried Away
Jan. 22 Swenson Home
Jan. 27 Lamberton Home
Jan. 29 Prep Charter Away
Feb. 3 Southern Home
Feb. 5 Bok Home
Feb. 10 GAMP Away
Feb. 12 Parkway Away

Team: GAMP Pioneers

Coach: Art Kratchman

2003 record: 4-9 (Public League Division D)

Home court: Guerin Rec Center, 16th and Jackson streets

When a basketball team loses the second-leading scorer in school history, the following season likely would be considered a rebuilding year. While Kratchman doesn’t relish the challenge of replacing Chris Feggans’ 20.4 points per game, he hopes to offset the loss with his varsity veterans.

Leading the way is senior guard-forward Michael Brino, who could very well boost his 700 career points to 1,000 by season’s end.

"He is one of those kids who makes everybody better," Kratchman said. "I am expecting him to score 15-20 points per game."

Brino averaged 12.4 points per game as a junior, which ranked second best on the team. The coach is equally optimistic about the rest of his squad: "This is the best group I’ve had since I’ve been here."

Key players:

G/F Michael Brino 5’11" SR
F Kyle Torriero 6′ SR
F Greg Pecca 6′ SR
G Gabe Natale 5’10" JR
F Joe Conner 6’1" FR
F/C Paul Vanderzee 6’2" JR

Coach’s outlook: "I would like to make a run at a playoff spot. I think we know how to play — we just lack size."


Dec. 18 Masterman Home
Dec. 23 Mastbaum Away
Jan. 6 Kensington Away
Jan. 8 FLC Home
Jan. 13 Ben Franklin Home
Jan. 15 Prep Charter Away
Jan. 20 Southern Away
Jan. 22 Bok Home
Jan. 27 Swenson Home
Jan. 29 Parkway Away
Feb. 3 Roxborough Home
Feb. 5 Audenried Home
Feb. 10 Furness Home
Feb. 12 Lamberton Away

Team: Prep Charter Huskies

Coach: Jonathan Groom

2003 record: 1-12 (Public League Division D)

Home court: Guerin Rec Center, 16th and Jackson streets

Entering its third year of Public League competition, the Prep Charter program is still in pursuit of a winning season. The school’s baseball and girls’ basketball teams both made the playoffs their first year, and a winning season by the Huskies would complete the postseason trifecta.

But Groom isn’t counting on a playoff run just yet.

"We are still young and still improving," the coach said. "The juniors and sophomores are going to get the most meaningful minutes. We had a few guys that got to play some AAU ball this summer and experienced what a big-time high-school program is like."

The team was set to get more practice in a preseason tournament in Bristol, but it was postponed due to last weekend’s snowstorm. As a result, the Huskies have a couple of open dates they are looking to fill with non-league games.

Key players:

G/F Rodney Green 6’4" SO
F Paris Griffin 6′ SO
F Jason Dogan 6’4" JR
G Cordell Powell 5’10" JR
G Jarvae Reed 5’9" JR
G Bilal Rogers 5’10" JR
G/F Haven Wroten 6’4" JR
F Cullen Askew 6’6" SO

Coach’s outlook: "We just want to have a winning season before we make the playoffs. We want to take it one game and one quarter at a time."


Dec. 18 E&S; Away
Dec. 23 Bodine Home
Jan. 6 Strawberry Mansion Home
Jan. 8 Masterman Away
Jan. 13 Mastbaum Away
Jan. 15 GAMP Home
Jan. 20 Parkway Home
Jan. 22 Roxborough Away
Jan. 27 Audenried Away
Jan. 29 Furness Home
Feb. 2 Lamberton Away
Feb. 5 Swenson Away
Feb. 10 Southern Away
Feb. 12 Bok Home

Team: Southern Rams

Coach: George Anderson

2003 record: 1-12 (Public League Division D)

Home court: South Philadelphia High, Broad Street and Snyder Avenue

A Public League championship would certainly help the Southern Rams forget about the horrible finish to their 2003 season. Just when they had the division title all wrapped up, Anderson discovered he had an ineligible player on the roster. The coach was forced to forfeit all but one of the 11 victories for his once-playoff-bound team, and close the season on a sad note.

This year, the Rams again are considered to be an early favorite in the championship mix.

"Talent-wise, we have to be considered one of the top dogs," Anderson said. "If they work hard and stay focused, we could have a good shot."

The Rams are playing an extremely tough non-league schedule to prepare for a potential championship run. One of the highlights will be next Saturday’s meeting against neighborhood rival Neumann at the Palestra. Today, the local squad will host Bartram at 3:15 p.m. Add a holiday trip to the Black Knights Tournament in Lancaster over winter vacation, and the Rams should be well prepared for their regular-season slate.

Key players:

G/F Shawn Saab 6’5" SR
F/C Steven Rudd 6’5" SR
F Ryan Williams 6’3" SR
G Antoine Brown 6’3" SR
G Keith Grimes 6’2" SR
G/F Kashif Carr 6’4" JR

College prospects: Brown, who averaged 11.8 points per game as a junior, is being recruited by Miami, Georgia and several Division I junior colleges. Saab, the team’s top returning scorer (18.1 points per game), is getting looks from Division I Fordham, George Mason and several junior colleges.

Coach’s outlook: "I am trying to get the guys focused on winning one game at a time. Our goal is not to lose any games."


Dec. 18 Ben Franklin Home
Dec. 23 Fels Away
Jan. 6 E&S; Home
Jan. 8 Bodine Away
Jan. 13 Strawberry Mansion Home
Jan. 15 Bok Home
Jan. 20 GAMP Home
Jan. 22 Parkway Away
Jan. 27 Roxborough Home
Jan. 29 Audenried Home
Feb. 3 Furness Away
Feb. 5 Lamberton Away
Feb. 10 Prep Charter Home
Feb. 12 Swenson Home

Catholic League

Team: St. John Neumann Pirates

Coach: Carl Arrigale

2003 record: 12-2 (second in the Southern Division)

Home court: 26th and Moore streets

Richard "Tabby" Cunningham will have the chance to win his third Catholic League title in four seasons this year. This isn’t just any season for the La Salle-bound point guard; this is the final chapter of Neumann basketball history as everybody knows it. Next season, the team will have a new uniform to go along with a new name to reflect the school’s consolidation with St. Maria Goretti.

But this season, the Pirates are once again strong contenders to win it all. Last year’s championship run came to an abrupt halt in a semifinal loss to Cardinal Dougherty.

Neumann’s jam-packed preseason schedule includes facing Bartram Saturday at Saint Joseph’s University and Southern at the Palestra on Dec. 20. The team also will play in a preseason tournament in Charleston, S.C.

So far, Arrigale likes what he sees from his fairly young squad, who entered the week 2-0 in non-league action.

"The team has a lot of potential," the coach said. "We are young and inexperienced in some areas and very experienced in others. We are going to get better as the season goes on."

Key players:

F Adon El 6’5" SR
F David Burton 6’5" JR
C Phil Love 6’5" JR
G Earl Pettis 6’5" SO
G Richard Cunningham 5’8" SR
G Derek Rivera 6’1" SO
G Antonio Jardine 6’1" FR

Coach’s outlook: "We are moving in the right direction. We hope they understand what it takes to win a championship."


Jan. 4 St. Joe’s Prep Home 2:30 p.m.
Jan. 11 O’Hara Away 2:15 p.m.
Jan. 16 Bonner Home 8 p.m.
Jan. 23 Kennedy-Kenrick Home 8 p.m.
Jan. 26 West Catholic Away 6 p.m.
Jan. 30 St. Joe’s Prep Away 3:30 p.m.
Feb. 2 Carroll Away 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 6 Roman Catholic Home 7:45 p.m.
Feb. 8 O’Hara Home 2:30 p.m.
Feb. 13 Bonner Away 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 16 Carroll Home 4 p.m.
Feb. 20 Kennedy-Kenrick Away 8 p.m.
Feb. 22 West Catholic Home 2:30 p.m.

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