As Main Line high school boys' basketball teams open their 2013-14 campaign, one of the most-watched squads on the Main Line is PIAA Class AAAA state champion Lower Merion, who tips off Dec. 7 against Imhotep, the defending Class AAA state champions, at the Bryant Gymnasium at 7 p.m.
Another team that should be in the running this winter is Archbishop Carroll, which advanced to the PIAA Class AAA state finals last March. Some of the Patriots' key returning players were big factors in Carroll's success last winter.
Friends' Central and Haverford each are coming off a strong 2012-13 campaign.
What follows is a look at how the Main Line high school boys' basketball teams, listed in alphabetical order, shape up for the 2013-14 campaign:
Head coach: Paul Romanczuk, 11th year.
Last year's record: 23-7 overall, 10-3 Catholic League, lost in PIAA Class AAA state final to Imhotep Charter.
Key returnees: 6-6 junior forward Derrick Jones, 6-9 junior center Ernest Aflakpui, 6-1 senior guard Joe Mostardi, 6-5 senior forward Armand Sorrentino.
Others to watch: 6-1 senior guard Austin Tilghman, 5-11 junior guard Samir Taylor, 6-2 freshman guard David Beatty, 6-9 sophomore center Nysier Brooks, 6-2 sophomore guard Ryan Daly.
Lost to graduation: guard Yosef Yacob (playing basketball for Binghamton University).
Outlook: Romanczuk said, "Our team's strengths start with our depth, both inside and out on the perimeter. We have a number of players who could get double figures for us. Keys for us are team chemistry and being a united team that does not care who gets the credit.'
Barrack Hebrew Academy
Head coach: Rob Kushner and Jose Sanchez (co-caoches), first year.
Last year's record: 10-11 overall, 7-6 Tri-County League.
Key returnees: 5-11 senior point guard Ari Yosef, 6-1 sophomore guard Elliot Bernstein, 6-5 senior center Marc Meltzer, 6-2 senior forward Shawn Martin, 5-11 senior guard Jacob Reich.
Others to watch: 5-6 sophomore point guard Sammy Turk-Tolub, 6-0 sophomore guard Jake Gordon.
Lost to graduation: forward Eliyahu Korn (playing basketball in Israel), forward Daniel Saltz.
Outlook: Kushner said, "We have a great core of returning players this season. We are a young, but experienced, team with a lot of talent that practices and plays hard. Our work ethic and hustle will determine the success of our team.'
Head coach: Mike Troy, eighth year at Conestoga (was head coach at Devon Prep for nine years)
Last year's record: 11-11 overall, 7-9 Central League.
Key returnees: 6-2 senior guard Zack Yonda, 6-5 junior guard Andrew Diehl, 6-3 junior forward Martin Dorsey, 6-5 junior forward Dan Vila, 6-0 junior guard James Vandeventer, 5-10 sophomore guard Daryl Caldwell.
Others to watch: 6-4 senior center Tyler Knight, 6-4 senior forward Andrew Utter, 6-1 sophomore guard Andrew Larkin, 6-1 sophomore guard MJ Lezanic.
Lost to graduation: Joe Viviano (playing football at Harvard), Nick Portonova, Cooper Turley.
Outlook: Troy lists three strengths of this year's team: 1) experience (played five sophomores and freshmen in the rotation last year), 2) high basketball IQ and 3) excellent shooting team and very unselfish. He said the two biggest keys to the Pioneers' success will be 1) defending the ball well and 2) winning the rebounding battle each night.
Head coach: Jason Fisher, first year.
Last year's record: 6-14.
Key returnees: 6-0 senior forward Matt McSurdy, 6-0 senior forward CJ Kohlbrenner, 6-0 senior forward Matt Mckenna, 5-10 senior guard Chris Bauers.
Others to watch: 6-0 senior guard Grant Latran, 5-10 junior guard Andrew Shannon, 6-2 junior forward Jack Hegarty.
Lost to graduation: John Kane, Michael Giampietro, Ian McConnell
Outlook: Fisher said, "The team has been working very hard so far, if we are to have a successful season that hard work has to continue.'
Head coach: Craig Conlin, fourth year.
Last year's record: 16-9 overall, 5-5 Inter-Ac.
Key returnees: 6-2 senior wing guard and co-captain Chris McNeal (averaged 17 ppg as second-leading scorer in InterAc last season, and was first team All-Inter-Ac), 6-2 senior forward and co-captain Conner Martin, 5-9 junior point guard Michael Jolaoso, 6-4 junior forward Kyleel Cosby.
Others to watch: 6-1 junior guard Michael Hinckley, 6-3 junior forward Cameron Pott, 6-4 freshman forward/center Nick Alikakos.
Lost to graduation: center Kevin Gayhardt (playing lacrosse for Penn), forward Adam Strouss (playing football for Penn), guard Matt Angelos (playing basketball for Stevens Institute of Technology), forward Markuan Stutts.
Outlook: Conlin said, "We must be able to get stops on defense, rebound the ball, and shoot well in order to have a successful season.'
Head coach: Ryan Tozer, second year.
Last year's record: 20-8 overall, 8-1 Friends' Schools League.
Key returnees: 6-1 junior guard Jonathan Lawton, 6-6 sophomore forward De'Andre Hunter (injured, will be sidelined this season), 6-3 senuior center Jerome Allen.
Others to watch: 5-8 senior guard Max Ginsberg, 6-0 sophomore guard Steven Folwell, 6-3 junior forward Ardon Fryer, 6-1 freshman guard/forward Tre Grier, 5-9 freshman guard Antone Walker, 6-2 junior forward Dan Yosipovitch, 6-2 senior forward Troy Carter.
Lost to graduation: guard Karonn Davis (playing basketball for Niagara University), guard Billy Cassidy (playing basketball for Chestnut Hill College).
Outlook: The Phoenix will rely heavily on the play of junior guard Jonathan Lawton and the senior leadership of guard Max Ginsberg and forwards Jerome Allen and Troy Carter to overcome the loss of four starters, including the season-ending injury to talented sophomore De'Andre Hunter.
Tozer said, "Our young guys will have the opportunity to play and I am looking forward to see how they respond to the challenge. We stress team rebounding, being strong with the basketball, and being patient on offense every day. If we can do these things on a nightly basis we will be able to compete with the teams on our schedule. Mental toughness will be the key to our season.'
Head coach: Jesse Rappaport, seventh year.
Last year's record: 15-10 overall, 9-7 Central League.
Key returnees: 5-10 senior guard Detasla Dixon, 6-0 senior guard Alex Shippen, 5-11 senior guard Spencer Dickler, 6-0 senior guard Jake Rosenberg.
Others to watch: 6-1 senior guard Drake Friend, 6-4 junior center Sam Schliting, 6-3 junior center Ethan Andersen, 6-1 junior guard Jordan Wright.
Lost to graduation: guard Matt Sherman (playing for Haverford College), guard Brandon Winston (playing for Mercer Junior College).
Outlook: Rappaport lists the Rams' strengths as defense, team speed and chemistry, and said Harriton's keys to success this winter will be rebounding and shooting.
Head coach: Keith Heinerichs, third year.
Last year's record: 8-14 overall, 6-12 Central League.
Key returnees: 6-3 senior forward Tom Leibig, 5-11 senior guard Mike O'Halloran, 6-2 senior forward Chris Lyons, 5-11 senior guard Ben Parker, 6-0 senior guard Ryan Clancy.
Lost to graduation: guards Gabe Armando, Matt Donnelly and Ed Durkin; forward Matt Morrella.
Outlook: Heinirichs said, "We will have to outwork teams to be successful. We have some players returning, but will need to gel after the football season ends on Thanksgiving. Our strength will be our team play and unselfishness.'
Head coach: Henry Fairfax, third year.
Last year's record: 17-9 overall, 6-4 InterAc.
Key returnees: 6-3 junior point guard Levan "Shawn' Alston (was Inter-Ac co-MVP last season, averaged 16 ppg, 5 apg, 4 rpg); 6-7 senior wing guard/forward Eric Anderson (Yale commit, averaged 8.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg last season), 6-5 junior Derek Mountain.
Others to watch: 6-7 sophomore wing guard/forward Lamar Stevens, 6-6 sophomore wing guard/forward Lukas Rosenbohm.
Lost to graduation: Gerrard Hoetzel, Reilly Hupfeldt, Semaj Reed, Chris Morgan, James Tarte
Outlook: According to Fairfax, the Fords' biggest strengths are in length and athleticism at key positions.
Head coach: Gregg Downer, 24th year.
Last year's record: 30-3, PIAA Class AAAA state champion.
Key returnees: 5-10 senior point guard JaQuan Johnson, 6-4 senior guard/forward Justin McFadden, 6-0 junior guard Corey Sherman.
Others to watch: 6-5 junior forward Jule Brown, 5-11 junior guard Nick Jones.
Lost to graduation: B.J. Johnson (playing basketball for Syracuse), Yohanny Dalembert (playing basketball for James Madison), Raheem Hall (playing basketball for Phelps Academy), Bryan Shapiro (playing basketball for Washington College), Rasool Smith (playing lacrosse for Rosemont), Greg Levy (playing lacrosse for Millersville), Matt Wasson (playing baseball for Washington & Lee), Baird Howland (UNC), Doug Cotler (Penn), Emery Shiffraw (Miami),
Outlook: Downer said, "It will be difficult to replace 10 seniors, including four who are playing at the next level. Our strengths are team speed and guard depth. We will need to rebound and defend with consistency to be successful.'
Head coach: John Harmatuk, first year.
Last year's record: 9-20 overall, 2-10 InterAc.
Key returnees: 6-0 junior guard Chris Anderson, 6-1 junior guard Joey Fitzpatrick, 5-10 sophomore guard Will Powers, 6-4 senior guard Andy Pancoast.
Outlook: Harmatuk said, "We shoot the ball well, and we have a high basketball IQ (our players were well-coached). We are young but [our players] have some varsity experience.'
Head coach: Chris Monahan, third year.
Last year's record: 6-16 overall, 2-10 Central League.
Key returnees: 5-10 senior guard Nelson Blickman, 6-2 senior forward Chris Galloway, 6-1 senior guard Nick Kelly, 6-5 senior forward Andrew Lundstrom, 5-11 senior guard Terrance Quinn.
Others to watch: 6-2 senior forward Colin Castro, 5-10 senior guard Sam Feldman, 6-1 senior guard Rashawn Reed, 6-1 junior guard Jake Schug.
Lost to graduation: Jimmy Madden.
Outlook: Monahan said, "We have a senior-led group that is working very hard in practice every day to become the best team we can be.'
Head coach: Phil D'Ambrosio, second year.
Last year's record: 8-15 overall, 3-4 Friends' Schools League.
Key returnees: 6-7 senior forward and co-captain Matt Rodden, 6-0 junior guard and co-captain Quamier Johnson, 6-3 senior forward Shawn Harvey.
Others to watch: 6-1 junior guard Sebastian Pepper, 5-11 junior guard John Parker, 6-4 sophomore guard/forward Arvelle Jones.
Lost to graduation: guard James Piltch, forward Ron Ridgway, forward Zac Tillman (starting center at Monmouth University).
Outlook: D'Ambrosio said, "We have a smaller team than we've had in previous years but we are deeper at the guard position, which will allow us to play more in transition. We want to get out and run and use athleticism and quickness to our advantage. We will have to make smarter decisions with the basketball and keep everyone involved and working hard.'