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Open Gym: Archbishop Carroll HS Radnor, PA (Philly Catholic League) –

For Archbishop Carroll getting to the Palestra for the Catholic League semi’s seems to be a right of passage and last season was no different as they made it back as a #4 seed. In a well played game the Patriots came up short to Bonner-Prendie 48-45 and then knocked off Mastery Charter North to secure the District 12 5A third seed in the PIAA state tourney. They got past District 1 #3 seed Wissahickon HS in their opener then in round two they slipped past District 3 #6 seed Lampeter-Strasberg HS in OT as they had a furious 4th quarter rally just to force the extra session. In the state quarterfinals however they came up against a hot Milton Hershey School bunch and their season came to a close 73-65 as the District 3 #1 seed proved to be too much with their frenetic paced game for Carroll to overcome. Shortly after the end of the season star Soph PG AJ Hoggard announced that he was leaving the school and heading to Huntington Prep in West Virginia. I had heard this rumor back in December so the news didn’t really shock me but the sudden resignation of HC Paul Romanczuk did as he packed it in after 14 years at his alma mater winning a state title but coming up short in his bid for a Catholic League chip. After interviewing several candidates for the coveted job Francis Bowe formerly of Valley Forge Military Academy took over and the quest will continue with a new steward at the helm.

The Backcourt:

Losing Hoggard and his skillset will be hard to replicate and lest people forget they also have to replace the graduated Justin Anderson as well. This backcourt though is not exactly void of talent and guys who were contributors a year ago will be asked to step in and produce a bit more. While they may not match the departed stat lines the coaches are counting on them to come close as they institute a new system. 6’1” ’19 Shawn Johnson was a part time starter a year ago so he’s no stranger to pressure situations when running the point. He was absent from the open gym as he plays football but he brings a level of physicality to the backcourt that helps on the boards and on the defensive end. He has a good handle and with his strength it’s hard for opponents to separate him from the ball. He can hit jump shots from the perimeter but excels penetrating the lane for quick burst layups or slick dishes to open teammates. 6’4” ’20 Ny’Mire Little is a big SG who needs very little room to get off his smooth jumper with improving range to the arc but he also excels when he can dribble drive to the basket and use his athleticism to go over people and score at the rim. He is a competent defender who uses his lanky frame to cover the passing lanes for steals or forced turnovers and is a very good rebounder from the guard position. 6’1” ’19 Kiyl Mack and 6’2” ’20 Amiri Stewart can both fill in as valuable backups as both are tough defenders. Mack has a solid handle and may provide minutes at the point in the event of foul trouble and Stewart will likely be a two off the bench who provides a spark to get the offense going. A big addition was 6’1” ’20 Zaiair Jenkins-Johnson a transfer from Mt. Pleasant HS in Wilmington, DE who is a combo with good quickness who is effective driving the ball and either scoring it or feeding cutters or open shooters for scoring opportunities. He has a slick handle which is welcome vs. pressure defenses and if he can resist the urge to force plays and take what the defense gives him he will be a tremendous addition to the Patriot backcourt. He also will be a huge help on the defensive end where his quickness and instincts will allow him to create additional havoc in the open floor.

The Frontcourt:

Carroll will have some firepower returning in the form of 6’5” ’19 SF Luke House a starter a year ago who will be counted on to up his scoring a bit this year while contributing in other areas to bolster the team’s attack. He has excellent form on his perimeter jump shot with range beyond the arc and his ability to get to the basket and finish even thru contact is getting better forcing defenses to pay closer attention to him. He’s a better athlete than people give him credit for and HC RC Kehoe from local D-II Holy Family University has definitely noticed as he was in attendance at the open gym. Another underrated aspect of his game is his passing ability as he finds open teammates with deft feeds to put them in good positions to make positive plays. 6’6” ’20 Tairi Ketner will provide a wide body presence in the paint as he can defend and rebound on the block with verve and toughness. His low post footwork is improving and as he has gotten stronger he has started to make a difference when catching entry passes around the basket. You can tell that he’s becoming more comfortable on the floor and is moving better as well which bodes well for Carroll as the season approaches. A young man I’m really high on is 6’7” ’21 Anquan Hill and while he is still a bit thin for the post his body has started to show signs of added muscle compared to last year when if he turned sideways you might not see him. He has excellent hops and was quite active in the paint in the open gym. He was scoring it with solid body control forays to the basket plus he showed nice form with some pull up 10-12 foot jumpers that hit nothing but the bottom of the net. He was a force rebounding the ball hanging in when guys started to get a little physical with him and he ran the floor very well getting way up on a few put back slam bam jams to steal a Dickie V line. He has good timing to block shots and good court vision and instincts to step into the passing lanes to pilfer lazy passes. This young man has lots of upside and at this point he’s just starting to scratch the surface. 6’4” ’19 Cole Burkitt may be a dark horse candidate to earn some minutes this year but I have to say Coach Bowe would be wise to at least give this kid a chance. In the scrimmage portion of the open gym he hit 10-11 from the field at one point including a couple treys. He doesn’t always look pretty going to the hole or even pulling up for a jumper for that matter but according to an assistant he thinks if he took basketball seriously all the time he might be able to play beyond HS which is food for thought. He is gritty with an excellent motor who gives effort on every play and that kind of hustle can be infectious for a team looking to set a tone in a tight ball game especially on defense.

Outlook:

Looking at the Catholic league right now Bonner-Prendie and Roman might be your early favorites but in this conglomerate teams like Carroll, Neumann-Goretti, Ryan, LaSalle College HS, Wood and St. Joseph Prep can never be discounted. Every team deals with graduation losses and this year a few teams saw talented underclassman transfer out so the league may be more balanced than we know. Coach Bowe will be trying to adjust to the rigors of the league but at least he’ll do so with a talented roster that may be experienced enough to get back to the Palestra. A state berth should also be attainable for the Patriots but with a new system mixed with some new faces know that nothing is guaranteed. If I had to pick today I’d say that they miss the Palestra but recover to make the states and that’s a good place to start a new era of Archbishop Carroll basketball.