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Pennsbury's Dalton Pepper is being counted on to lead the Falcons this season.  Photo by Ron Cortes.

Pennsbury's Dalton Pepper is being counted on to lead the Falcons this season. Photo by Ron Cortes.

Surprising Pennsbury. What’s up with these Falcons? Don’t they understand that they’re not supposed to be this good?

Pennsbury doesn’t have a player taller than 6-foot-6. And of the players the Falcons do have, none honed their skills on the blacktops of Philadelphia or Chester.

But the road to the PIAA Class AAAA state might still go through Pennsbury.

The Falcons return four starters from a team that made its first Class AAAA state semifinal appearance in school history.

A lot of Pennsbury’s success will depend on West Virginia signee Dalton Pepper. The 6-5 senior guard is one of the nation’s top 150 players in the Class of 2009, according to

A four-year starter, Pepper is 20 points shy of breaking the Pennsbury boys’ career scoring record of 1,552 set by Jason Vegotksy in 2005.

He is 225 points shy of breaking the overall school record 1,757 set by former girls’ standout Dana Mitchell in 2006.

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Looking up. Venture inside Harrison Gymnasium and you’ll see why there’s optimism at Glen Mills.

Familiar faces are on the Bulls’ basketball team.

Aaric Murray, a McDonald’s all-American nominee, and senior forward Darnell Plummer are the returning starters from a 16-10 campaign.

Murray, a 6-foot-11 senior center, averaged 19 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocked shots last season. The 6-3 Plummer averaged 11 points.

Senior point guard Reggie Miles, senior forward Tyrik Gass and junior forward Anthony Hall (6-6) also are back.

“Just the fact that we have multiple returners always excites us and gives us a lot of optimism for the long-term success,” coach Craig Mellinger said.

Glen Mills is a residential school in Delaware County for court-adjudicated young men. Players often arrive at the school with no or very little organized basketball experience. That leaves the Bulls’ coaching staff with the task of teaching Basketball 101.

“The real successful seasons are set up when the core of the guys from the previous return,” Mellinger said.

Welcome back. Academy Park also welcomes back two starters.

Senior shooting guard Devon Cain is the only returning full-time starter. Senior center Devin Hunter (6-6) was a part-time starter.

Senior forward Kenny Green will join the two in the starting lineup. As of last week, two starting positions still were being contested.

Sophomore Jordan Tucker and junior Taylor Boulware were battling the point-guard spot. Junior Brandon Jackson and Jordan McClendon were battling for the last starting guard position. Once the starting lineup is set, Academy Park will look to improve on last season’s 13-12.
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Big shoes. John Roe has some big shoes to fill as Downingtown West’s new coach. Roe succeeds Damien Blair, who left to take over the men’s program at West Chester University, where he is the school’s second all-time leading scorer.

Under Blair, the Whippets won the Ches-Mont League National Division championship last season and finished with a 22-6 mark. Blair spent 10 years at West.

Roe came to West from a stint as an assistant coach at Cabrini College. He’s also served as a coach at Archbishop Carroll, Central Bucks West and Lehigh University.

“I’m very excited about taking over for Damien,” Roe said. “I hope we can continue the success.”
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Welcome newcomer. A college recruiting Web site note on former American Christian player George Harper says he’s a “long athletic forward whose massive hands engulf the ball and make for soft shots.”

Any coach would like to have an impact player like that in his gym. And that’s what happened to Phoenixville coach Bill Detwiler. With American Christian in Aston closing, Harper’s family looked to move out of Philadelphia.

“They had a friend in Phoenixville and moved here,’ said a grateful Detwiler.

In addition to having those massive hands, the rest of Harper goes 6-foot-7. He’s just what Detwiler needed to battle defending champion Pottstown in the Pioneer Athletic Conference. Both teams are in the Frontier Division.

The Phantoms will have a couple of pillars inside with Harper and 6-6 Greg Peters. Other key players are Yusef Brown and Corey Gordon.

-Don Beideman

Pioneers follow Cohen. Whether he’s 6-foot-8, 6-9 or 6-10, as he’s been listed, Conestoga senior Jake Cohen is bound to make his presence felt in the Central League race.

As expected, the Pioneers are among the favorites this season as the league – with the addition of Garnet Valley and Harriton – goes to a two-division format.

The Davidson-bound Cohen helped lead Conestoga to a 20-5 record last season and a share of the league title with Ridley. Both teams finished 15-3 in league play. Cohen averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Coach Mike Troy has an abundance of seniors with which to surround Cohen. Guard Mike O’Hara gave the Pioneers 14 points and four assists per game last season, while guard Mike DeAngelo added 12 points and five assists. A trio of 6-4 players, Rob Scott, Doug Jakiela and Paul Mita, give Troy some added height. Read the rest of this entry »

Dynasty? Girard College’s John Johnson is only a sophomore but already college recruiters have him on the big-time radar.

He and junior Torrel Candelaria, another top prospect, have the Cavaliers looking like a dynasty in the Constitution Division of the Bicentennial League.

Last season, Girard won the division crown with a 17-1 record and finished the season with a 25-3 overall mark.

The Cavaliers won their second straight Distict 1 Class A championship. Johnson was named to the small schools state championship team after averaging more than 20 points a game. If he should continue to make the all-state team through his career, he would be only the second area player to do it all four years.

“He’s certainly an exceptional player,” said Girard coach Tyrone Morris.

Johnson is the Cavaliers’ point guard; Candelaria is the shooting guard.
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Looking to return. The Prep Charter boys’ basketball team could have received keys to City Hall 12 months ago.

Today, the Huskies will be hard-pressed to get even a handshake. Once the crown jewel of the city, Prep Charter is trying to shake the label of underachiever.

It wasn’t too long ago when the Huskies celebrated back-to-back PIAA Class AA state titles in 2006 and 2007. Back then, they were praised for winning the Public League’s and District 12’s first, second and only state titles.

But then came last season.

The whispers started after Prep Charter failed to reach the state playoffs. The whispers turned to screams after standout guards Parrish Grant (now at Imhotep Charter) and Jesse Morgan (Olney) left the school.

When the duo left, so did the bandwagon.

That’s why the Huskies have chips on their shoulders.

“The year the enthusiasm will be the difference,” said Prep Charter coach Dan Brinkley, whose squad is ranked eighth in The Inquirer’s Southeastern Pennsylvania preseason rankings.

The Huskies are out to prove that they are still one of the state’s premier Class AA programs.

One glimpse at Prep Charter’s frontcourt may make you a believer.

Junior center Shaquille Duncan stands 6-foot-9. Senior power forward Tyree “Chuck” Harris is 6-8, while senior swingman Ferg Myrick is 6-6.

“We have the biggest front line in the city,” Brinkley said.

Those are not the only positions at which the Huskies could cause matchup problem.

Sophomore point guard Ameen Tanksley is 6-5. Freshman Akir Frazier, Tanksley’s backup, stands 6-3.

“We collectively as group fell short of our goal,” Brinkley said of not reaching the state championship last season.

This season, they are determined to make it back. And who know? Folks just might get back on the Huskies bandwagon.

Worth the price of admission. That’s what being said about Bartram point guard Tyrone Garland. The junior averaged 17.8 points last season while driving past opponents.

Unfortunately for his Public League opponents, the Division I prospect is said to be even better this season.

Two to keep an eye on. Garland won’t be the only guard fans should keep an eye on.

Franklin Learning Center’s Denzel Yard and Fels’ Shannon Givens are two other headliners.

Givens, who signed with Drexel, transferred to Fels from the Academy of the New Church last month. The senior combo guard was an all-Friends Schools League selection last season. He was also a major reason the Lions finished the year with a 26-2 record and ranked 22d nationally by USA Today.

Despite being undersize, Yard is often the best player on the court. The 6-foot, 170-pounder averaged 15.8 points last season. The senior will play at Siena next season.

Pioneers have talent. After losing all-Pub swingman Malik Tinsley to graduation, some assumed Frankford would struggle this season.

Pioneer coach Ben Dubin is not one of them.

“I think we have some talent,” said Dubin, whose squad was last season’s Public League runner-up.

The coach points to Frankford’s three key returning contributors: junior guards Harold Hicks and Jerline Harris and junior forward Dehaven Brown.

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