Hempfield Black Knights
Coach: Danny Walck (six seasons)
2014-15 record: 15-8
Returning starters: Connor Moffatt (senior, forward), Bryan Karl (junior forward)
Others to watch: Javon Mitchell (junior, guard), Ryan Moffatt (sophomore, guard), Tyler Hilton (junior, guard)
The skinny: Hempfield returns two starters from a squad that made the District Three Class AAAA playoffs last season. Moffatt and Karl will be called upon to help a group of underclassmen learn quickly in 2015.
“As far as varsity experience, we’re young,” Walck said. “Therefore, it’s going to take us a little while to blend. However, I think we’re going to be a good basketball come January going into February and into districts.”
Walck said he expects Moffatt’s brother, Ryan, to contribute this year, along with a supporting cast, many of which are playing varsity for the first time.
JP McCaskey Red Tornado
Coach: Steve Powell (24 seasons)
2014-15 record: 23-11
Returning starters: Kobe Gantz (senior, guard), Randolph Speller (point guard)
Others to watch: Isaiah Johnson (junior, guard), Ricky Cruz (junior, guard), Izaiah Baretta (junior guard), Skylar Davis (senior guard), Jathan Gonzalez (junior, guard).
The skinny: Fresh off a magical run to the PIAA Class AAAA state semifinals, head coach Steve Powell welcomes back his back court from last season. Gantz, a second-team all-state section that averaged 17.8 points per game, will lead the way for the Red Tornado.
With a few transfers coming in and a few complimentary players to go with Gantz and Speller, Powell and his team will be looking to repeat the success of last season.
Manheim Township Blue Streaks
Coach: Matt Johns (first season)
2014-15 record: 8-14
Returning starters: Michael Sharpe (6-1, senior, guard), John Stutz (6-1, senior, guard), Jordan Phillips (6-2, senior, guard/forward)
Others to watch: David Dimeo (6-3, senior, guard), Tanner Evans (6-4, senior, guard), AJ McCloud (6-3, senior, forward), Nick Vicidomini (6-5, junior, forward), Brian Hines (6-5, junior forward), Tyler Crespo (5-7, freshman, guard)
The skinny: Johns, coming over from Columbia, where he posted a 30-25 record in two seasons, said it’s been a preseason of changes for this Manheim Township program. He said he wants this team to compete immediately after a losing season in 2014.
“We have a lot of learning to do in a short period of time,” Johns said. “Our staff just came on board in October and change is not easy. Concepts are different offensively and defensively. Our vocabulary is not even the same.”
With a senior-laden group, Johns expects the ball to be shared all season long, allowing everyone to have a shot.
Penn Manor Comets
Coach: Larry Bellew (four seasons)
2014-15 record: 5-18
Returning starters: Ryan Atkinson (5-10, guard), Nate Brown (5-10, guard), Nick Lord (6-3 guard), Cameron Lovett (6-4, forward)
Others to watch: Alex Krahulik (6-3, forward), Sean Borden (5-11, guard), Eric Snyder (6-2, forward), Marcus Benning (5-10, guard), Mike Hrebon (5-9, guard), Matt Tulli (6-2, forward)
The skinny: It wasn’t the 2014 season that Bellew had hoped for, but he returns 80 percent of his starting lineup this season. Bellew said he’ll be making an effort to improve the Comets’ defense, which finished last in points allowed last season.
However, sometimes the best defense is an effective offense. With his entire backcourt returning, Bellew said he’s looking for the offense to help ease the load on the defensive side of the court.
“We have to find ways to score easy baskets,” Bellew said. “We are perimeter-oriented, and we have to find ways to get some scores at the basket.”
Coach: Chris Christensen (first season)
2014-15 record: 14-9
Returning starters: None
Others to watch: Kyle Weaver (6-1, senior, SG, SF), Colin Gibble (5-10, senior, SG, SF), Alex Lalovic (6-0, junior, SF), Jeremy Armstrong (6-4 senior PF, C)
The skinny: Chris Christensen takes over the Warwick program after four years as assistant coach at Manheim Township. With a senior-heavy group coming off a 14-9 year, he said he thinks his team will be in every game.
“We believe that if we play with energy and passion we can compete with anyone in our section,” he said. “We have a group of seniors who are focused and have stepped up as the leaders of this team.”
The emphasis will be on defense this year, where Christensen wants his team be tough all season long.