By all appearances, Stephen Dickson looks and acts like your typical team captain. Before a practice Wednesday, the William Penn junior took his normal spot at the front of the team's stretch line. He helped lead his teammates around the court for a few warm-up laps.

He's a pass-first point guard -- the rudder that guides the Bearcats' offense.

His coach called him "the epitome of what you want" in a leader.

And yet, there is at least one thing that sets Dickson apart from his fellow William Penn captains.

Before September, Dickson had never practiced in a Bearcats uniform. He transferred to the school from West York during the summer and began workouts with William Penn after the school year started.

Apparently, it didn't take long to make an impression.

"From Day 1 when he came to our workouts, just the politeness that he has, the team attitude he brings to everything," William Penn coach Troy Sowers said. "Just seeing him have the natural leadership instincts and the way he leads by example."

Dickson will be counted on as one of the leaders of a Bearcats team that has received a facelift following last season's 24-6 campaign. Returning starters Tavon Parker and Derek Wilson will be reinforced by a slew of newcomers -- including sophomore forward Jahaire Wilson (Derek's younger brother) and two transfers, 6-foot-8 Davante Jackson and 6-foot-4 Ohsajid Beard.

Then there's Dickson, who did not play at West York last winter. Now, he'll be the Bearcats' main facilitator as they try for a fifth straight YAIAA Division I title.

"It was sort of surprising at first," Dickson said of being named a captain, "but I just take it as somewhat of a challenge. Being a role model, set good examples."

Sowers said he pegged Dickson as a starter early during the team's fall conditioning. He pointed to the 5-foot-11 guard's combination of aggressive defense and ball-handling skills.

Just as important, the coach said, was Dickson's personality.

"He's really mentally tough," Sowers said. "He's really what you want in a point guard because he's level-headed, steady. He doesn't get too high, too low."

Dickson already has some built-in chemistry with his William Penn teammates. He said he played with some of them on AAU teams in the past.

Sowers also feels the move should free up Parker -- who averaged 12.6 points as the point guard last season -- to shift into more of a scoring role.

Meanwhile, the injection of Jackson and Beard should make for a more versatile lineup than last season, when the Bearcats started five guards. Jackson transferred to William Penn last March, and Sowers has lauded the lanky forward's improvement since then. He and Beard will likely come off the bench to start the season.

And Dickson? He'll be front-and-center when the Bearcats open their season Friday at home against South Philadelphia.

"We have all the pieces," Dickson said. "Hopefully it all comes together."

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Squires' success: A pair of Delone Catholic coaches could reach rather significant milestones this season.

Squirettes girls' coach Gerry Eckenrode needs just four wins to reach 400 for his career. Eckenrode (396-158) is entering his 14th season with the Squirettes. He previously coached at North Clarion and Liberty (Md.).

On the boys' side, Jim Dooley needs 16 more wins to reach 700 for his remarkable career. Dooley, who won his first District 3 title last season, is 684-456 overall.
John Clayton is a prep sports reporter for the Daily Record/Sunday News. Reach him at 771-2045 or jclayton@ydr.com.