Roman Catholic's Maalik Wayns drives on Neumann-Goretti's Tony Chennault.

Roman Catholic's Maalik Wayns drives on Neumann-Goretti's Tony Chennault. Photo by Ron Cortes

By Keith Pompey
Inquirer Columnist

Admit it.
Take a moment and tell people how you really feel. You’re overjoyed that today is Dec. 5. You’re overjoyed, because this is the first day that PIAA teams can play their openers.

Admit it.

The No. 1 high school sport in Southeastern Pennsylvania is basketball. Now that it’s upon us, other sports often take a backseat.

Come on, you know it’s true.

How else can you explain the sellouts at the Palestra and Villanova during postseason games?

Why else wound a grown man wait 20 minutes outside a locker room just for an up-close glimpse of Roman Catholic senior point guard Maalik Wayns?

Admit it.

Just the thought of basketball season brings a smile to your face. I know it does to mine. And I’ll admit to being a little spoiled.

I attended my first high school basketball game as a fourth-grader growing up in the Frankford section of Philadelphia.

Initially, I didn’t want to go. Something about squeezing into bleachers and sitting next to obnoxious strangers wasn’t exactly a great way to spend an afternoon. Back then, the heck with any sport. A good time for me was watching the Smurfs or Mighty Mouse cartoons.

But my uncle had to drag me to a Frankford game to watch Anthony Chennault play.

These days, Chennault is known for being the father of Neumann-Goretti junior guard Tony Chennault.

But back in 1981, Anthony Chennault and the Pioneers were all that.

I forget who they played against during my introduction to high school hoops. All I remember is that Chennault made the opposing team look silly.

From that day on, I was hooked on Philadelphia-area basketball. And not just hooked on boys’ basketball.

To me, University City girls’ coach Lurline Jones was an impressive as they came. She compiled a 647-202 record and 12 Philadelphia Public League titles in her 33 seasons.

In the late 1980s, I used to go down to North Philly just to watch Dobbins all-American Dawn Staley dominate pick-up games – against the boys.

While in college at the University of Pittsburgh, I would always brag about how dominant Southeastern Pennsylvania teams were. Fourteen years later, I’m still boasting to my Western Pennsylvania friends.

That’s because this area continues to produce the nation’s premier teams and players.

Led by 6-foot-4 Vanderbilt recruit Stephanie Holzer, Cardinal O’Hara has the nation’s sixth-ranked girls’ squad, according to USA Today. The Lions are listed as No. 10, while Archbishop Carroll is 21st, in the ESPN Rise Fab 50 national rankings.

On the boys’ side, the area boasts two McDonald’s All-American candidates in Villanova signee Wayns and Glen Mills’ Aaric Murray.

Wayns, a 6-foot-1 point guard, is the nation’s 22d-ranked prospect in the Class of 2009, according to ESPN Insiders. Murray, a 6-foot-11 senior center who signed with La Salle, is ranked 33d on the same list.

So admit it.

You’re revved up for this basketball season. You can’t wait to see how the Philadelphia Catholic League does in this its first season as active PIAA members.

Admit it.

Now that basketball season is here, everything else takes a backseat.

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Keith Pompey: The Inquirer TOP 10

BOYS’ PRESEASON
Team 2007-08 Record
Last season’s final rankings in parentheses.

1. Neumann-Goretti (NR) 15-10

The Saints are out to prove that last season was a fluke. Expect them to cut down the PIAA Class AAA state championship nets at season’s end.

2. Penn Wood (10) 23-9

Roman Catholic transfer Aaron Brown fits in nicely. The Patriots will build on last season’s success.

3. Roman Catholic (8) 19-6

Senior point guard Maalik Wayns, a Villanova signee, is the area’s best player. High-flying forward Koron Reed, a Freire Charter transfer, will add an inside presence.

4. Pennsbury (4) 30-3

With senior guard and West Virginia signee Dalton Pepper in the lineup, the Falcons can beat most area teams.

5. North Catholic (5) 22-5

Three starters graduated from last season’s Catholic League champions. However, this team is more talented.

6. Imhotep Charter (9) 27-4

This could be the season the guard-heavy Panthers reach the Class AA state championship.

7. Germantown Academy (NR) 18-11

The Patriots boast a dominant one-two combination in shooting guard Cameron Ayers and forward Jeff Holton.

8. Prep Charter (NR) 17-7

Even though last season’s starting guards are at other schools, fear the Huskies. They have the area’s tallest frontcourt.

9. Academy of the New Church (2) 26-2

The Lions boast the area’s best crop of underclassmen in freshman forward Savon Goodman, sophomore center Malcolm Gilbert and sophomore guard Jonathon Rawls.

10. Chester (1) 33-1

The Clippers lost most of their players from last season’s Class AAAA state champions. But as long as the jerseys read C-H-E-S-T-E-R, they’re good.

Under consideration (listed alphabetically): Bartram (21-6), Friends’ Central (13-14), Lower Merion (19-7), Norristown (32-2), Plymouth Whitemarsh (16-9), Southern (23-7).

Source

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