Another year is set to start for the league which many have called the best in the United States. Except this season will be a little different.
Rice has closed due to financial woes and teams have moved up to the ‘AA’ from the ‘A’ to make for more competitive balance. There will be league matchups this year that haven’t been seen in a long time.
Of course, one thing is the same as always: a bevy of talent. Christ the King, St. Raymond and Cardinal Hayes are all loaded with five or more future Division I players and many of those players are veterans. With deep and inexperienced teams below them, like Holy Cross, Xaverian and Archbishop Molloy, it should be a fun ride.
St. Raymond's Nkereuwen Okoro will help lead a deep, talented Ravens squad bent on winning a city title.
Here are the first rankings of the season:
1. Christ the King
A third straight CHSAA Class AA intersectional title is well within reach. Christ the King, nationally ranked by every major outlet, will be led by UConn-bound senior guard Omar Calhoun and a triumvirate of talented juniors: Isaiah Lewis, Jon Severe and Jordan Fuchs. The Royals are fueled by a loss to Mount Vernon in last year’s New York State Federation Class AA final.
2. St. Raymond
People think Daniel Dingle and Kerwin Okoro when they hear St. Ray’s and that’s normal. But coach Oliver Antigua sees the city’s most balanced team. He expects big years out of electric guard Shane Rector, sharpshooter Larry Graves and defensive stopper Myron Hickman as well as rising sophomore Kayvon Williams.
3. Cardinal Hayes
No team benefited more from the untimely demise of Rice than Cardinal Hayes. The Cardinals will go from the Class A championship game to ‘AA’ title contender in the league’s revamped setup. That’s what happens when you add Tyler Wilson, Naasir Williams and Chris Robinson to an already-formidable nucleus.
4. Holy Cross
Experience, versatility and unselfishness are the words that come to mind when you think about Holy Cross coming into the season. Five senior regulars are back from a team that went to the CHSAA Class AA intersectional semis. Led by Will Davis, Marquise Moore and Mairega Clarke, the Knights will be in the mix again.
Perhaps no player in the CHSAA improved himself more in the offseason than Brian Bernardi, who stayed home in July to do skills work – a rarity today. Point guard Dillon Burns is a gritty leader and Shakeel Kemp, an athletic swingman, might be ready to break out. But there’s no doubting this is Bernardi’s team.
6. Archbishop Molloy
The C.J. Davis Era has begun at Molloy. But the exceptional sophomore point guard has some help, too. Fellow 10th-grade guard Gabe Kilpatrick is a player, steady senior point guard George Davis returns and Morrell Haskins and Darden Ostrozubi have done well filling in for talented junior wing Marco Kozul (ankle).
7. Bishop Loughlin
Star seniors Tyliek Kimbrough, Joel Angus and Travis Charles have jumped ship to PSAL teams, but coach Ed Gonzalez is more than happy with what remains: a bunch of talented youngsters. Loughlin will have senior leadership, but sophomores Khadeen Carrington, Elisha Boone and Devin Wilson lead the way.
8. Archbishop Stepinac
Point guard Josh James, with his Division I offers, is primed for a breakout season and guards Tyler Iacuone and Naim Thomas are expected to take on major roles. Conroy might be at Lehigh, but Devino McRae and Austin Taps make up a formidable front line. The transition to ‘AA’ should be seamless for Stepinac.
9. Mount St. Michael
If Mount can shoot the way its capable most nights and defend like coach Tom Fraher hopes, it could be a strong year moving up to the ‘AA’ for last year’s ‘A’ champ. Malik Gill is a great lead guard. Pair him with shooters Anthony Maestre and Andrew Utate and inside beast Omari Manhertz and it’s a tough combo.
10. All Hallows
Jon Brens leads a solid group of seniors and juniors Raz Council and Ethan Hamlet are expected to take that next step in their development. Longtime coach John Carey envisions this small team creating mismatches and scoring off the bounce. He always seems to have All Hallows playing its best basketball in the postseason.
Dropped out: None
On the bubble: St. Peter’s, St. Francis Prep, Fordham Prep and Monsignor Farrell