By PAUL GOTHAM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — For the second straight season, the East Eagles and McQuaid Jesuit Knights claimed top spots in the RCAC (Rochester City Athletic Conference) pre-season boys’ basketball poll.
East was the unanimous pick to take the RCAC Lower Division title, while McQuaid received 10 of the 11 first-place votes for the Upper Division.
The Eagles are led by returning inside player Zechariah Harris-Scott who finished with 16 double-doubles last season. Damani Barley (11.3 ppg) and Kaori Barley (7.3 ppg) provide outside production for the squad under their father’s, (Darrell) direction. The elder Barley will be going for career win No. 300 this season.
Kobe Long and Jermaine Taggart combined to score more than 44 points per game last season leading McQuaid to its second straight sectional title. If a third championship is in the making, the Knights will need to replace the production left behind by seniors Connor Zamiara and Harry Bruu.
Under first-year head coach William Broome, Leadership Academy earned one first-place for the RCAC Upper Division. Former Leadership head coach Reggie Simmons moves over to the Edison Tech spot after Jacob Scott became principal at the Lexington Avenue school.
McQuaid opens the season with a non-league matchup at St. Joe’s (VI), Monday night. Three league tilts highlight Tuesday’s schedule with Leadership traveling for a non-league meeting with Honeoye Falls-Lima the same night. Here are your team-by-team capsules:
RCAC Upper Division
EDISON TECH INVENTORS
Last season: Finished 2-19 and fell in the Class AA quarterfinals.
Coach: Reggie Simmons (first season at Edison, went 92-41 over six years at Leadership Academy.
Top returners: Torrean Lewis (Sr. G 7.0 ppg), Javonte McKnight (Sr. G 7.9 ppg), Nahjhime Kirton (Sr. F 4.7 ppg) and Edgar Bass (Sr. G 5.8 ppg).
Top newcomers: Shaheem Ellis Jr. PG, Andy Larancuent So. G,Mike Morgan So. G and Chaheim Fowlkes Jr. G
First game: Wednesday, December 4 against Franklin.
Outlook: Coach Simmons will bring his uptempo style offense to the Inventors this season. The Inventors will apply defensive pressure to force turnovers which lead to easy transition points.
Last season: Finished 9-11 and lost to Brighton in the Class A1 quarterfinals.
Coach: Eddie Lee (131-164/15th season)
Top returners: Tahjir King (6-foot Sr. F 10.7 ppg), Kentonio Kelly (5-foot-10 Sr. F 5.8 ppg).
Top newcomers: Dayvion Scott 5-foot-5 So. G, Shamere Freeman 5-foot-5 Fr. G
First game: Wednesday, December 4 at Edison Tech.
Outlook: With the return of players from last year in addition to our new players, we are hoping to improve our record. Our biggest challenge to overcome this season will be…to overcome our lack of height and lack of JV program.
LEADERSHIP ACADEMY LIONS
Last season: Finished 10-10 and lost to East in the Class A2 quarterfinals.
Coach: William Broome (first season)
Top returners: Maurice McKinney (Jr. G 15.0 ppg), Kennyh Hardeman (Sr. F 16.0 ppg), Shamir McCullough (Sr. G 13.0 ppg) and Calvin Washington (Sr. G 8.0 ppg).
Top newcomers: Ja’mez Aiken (Sr. G), Rayshawn Boyd (Jr. F) and Reese Westbrook (Sr. G).
First game: Tuesday, December 3 at Honeoye Falls-Lima.
Outlook: With four starters including three seniors returning to the lineup, Leadership will have plenty of depth. McKinney and Hardeman are a talented duo that will pressure opposing teams. As any other varsity program the ultimate goal is to compete for a sectional title.
McQUAID JESUIT KNIGHTS
Last season: Finished 18-5, won Class AA before falling Far Western Regional final.
Coach: Jack Leasure (84-50/ sixth season)
Top returners: Kobe Long (Sr. G 22.3 ppg), Rueben Daniel (Sr. F 6.8 ppg) and Jermaine Taggart (Sr. G/F 22.2 ppg).
Top newcomers: Keith Warren (Jr. G).
First game: Monday, December 2 at St. Joseph’s (VI).
Outlook: McQuaid will need younger, less-experienced players to step into key roles if they are to win three straight sectional titles. A challenging regular season schedule which also includes a tournament at Elmira will have the Jesuit Knights prepared for the postseason.
WILSON MAGNET WILDCATS
Last season: Finished 9-14 lost in the Class A2 semi-finals.
Coach: Brendan O’Toole (74-91/ ninth season)
Top returners: Brennan Clark (Sr. F 15.2 ppg, 13.5 rpg) andChristian Harmon (So. F, 5.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg).
Top newcomers: Damel Turner (So. G) and Zavarius Henry (So. G).
First game: Wednesday, December 4 at McQuaid.
Outlook: Robert Davis (4 years varsity), Desi Floyd (3 years), and Malikk Johnson (3years) have all graduated. Projected starting point guard Tory Bradley, who was entering his third year of varsity, has moved out of state. That is a lot of experience and production to replace. Wilson will rely heavily on Brennan Clark and Christian Harmon to take on increased roles. Brennan has averaged a double-double in both of his first two years of varsity and Christian started six games as a freshman last year. Sophomores Damel Turner and Zavarius Henry, both JV players last year, as well as several reserves from last season will be counted on to be ready to face a challenging schedule.
RCAC Lower Division
EARLY COLLEGE COBRAS
Last season: Finished 5-16 and lost in Class B2 first round.
Coach: John Geglia (77-82/seventh season)
Top returners: Sam Jackson (Jr. G/F 8.9 ppg) and Jaequon Nesmith (Jr. F 12.1 ppg).
Top newcomers: Jahan Richetts (5-foot-9 So. G)
First game: Tuesday, December 3 against NE Douglass.
Outlook: Early College returns several players from last year’s squad. As the smallest school in the RCAC, the regular season schedule will be a challenge. There are several players on this team ready to take the next step in their development. Last year provided opportunities to gain varsity experience and learn from the challenges we faced. If those challenges and lessons translate into growth this season, the Cobras should be a much improved team.
EAST HIGH EAGLES
Last season: Finished 22-2 and lost to Pittsford Sutherland in the Class A2 finals.
Coach: Darrell Barley (291-105 including 12 City-Catholic championships and six sectional titles/17th season)
Top returners: Kaori Barley (Sr. G 7.3 ppg), Damani Barley (So. G 11.3 ppg), Kai Mccollough (So. F 5.2 ppg), Zechariah Harris-Scott (Sr. F 19.3 ppg) and Trequan Coney (Jr. G 7.3 ppg).
Top newcomers: Justus Ross-Simmons (So. F) and Clanique Jackson (Jr).
First game: Wednesday, December 3 at World of Inquiry.
Outlook: East plays a challenging schedule which includes matchups against Henninger (III) and a pair of games at the Brooklyn Invitational. Brothers Kaori and Damani Barley can fill it up from long range. McQuaid transfer Justus Ross-Simmons will combine with Zechariah Harris-Scott to give the Eagles a formidable front court.
MONROE HIGH REDJACKETS
Last season: Finished 14-7 and lost in Class A2 quarter-finals.
Coach: Matt McCormick (16th season)
Top returners: Jahmir Bloom (6-foot-2 Sr. G 4.6 ppg) and Jamar Williams (6-foot-1 Sr. F 7.8 ppg).
Top newcomers: Jabez Thompson (6-foot-3 Sr. F), Axel Mejias (5-foot-10 Sr. G), Chauncey Joyner 6-foot-1 Sr. F), Amaryion Johnson (6-foot Jr. F), Ezekiel Williams (5-foot-2 Jr. G) and JaH’meir Speed (5-foot-10 Jr. G).
First game: Wednesday, December 3 against School of the Arts (SOTA).
Outlook: With the graduation of four starters from last year’s squad including Tyquil Glasgow, DeVante Mateo and Jo-Nathan Jones, the RedJackets will have to replace the majority of minutes played and points scored. Vertus transfer Jabez Thompson averaged double-digit points last season.
NE DOUGLASS PANTHERS
Last season: Finished 16-5 and lost to Pittsford Sutherland in Class A2 quarter-finals.
Coach: Kyle Crandall (82-47/seventh season).
Top returners: Adonis Flagler (Sr. G/F 15.2 ppg, 8.8 rebounds, 1.8 steals), Nicolas Jeanty (Sr. G/F 4.5 ppg, 3.6 rebounds) and Lamar Lovelace (Sr. G 19.8 ppg, 6.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists).
Top newcomers: Trynzeir Parker (Jr. F).
Outlook: NE Douglass graduated some key players from last year’s team but has several key players returning. The addition of Trynzeir Parker will provide a spark to the Panthers. His energy compliments the senior leadership of Adonis Flagler, Lamar Lovelace and Nicolas Jeanty. Jayden Berry and strong bench play will also be a vital part of the Panthers success. A strong A2 sectional bracket faces the Panthers desire to earn their first sectional title in school history.
SCHOOL OF THE ARTS (SOTA) SILVERHAWKS
Last season: Finished 13-8 and lost to Wilson Magnet in the Class A2 opening round.
Coach: Al Nash (148-116/15th season – fourth year coaching SOTA).
Top returners: Ke’vion Mitchell (Jr. G 11.8 ppg), Logan Hayes (Sr. G 15.4 ppg), Ethain Clarke DeSouza (Jr. G/F 18.7 ppg), Reggie Smith (Jr. G 9.5 ppg) and Keshaun Chatman (So. G/F 7.3 ppg).
Top newcomers: Raajon Moss (Sr. G/F) and Loral Dillard (Jr. G)
Outlook: SOTA returns its entire starting lineup and is looking to improve on last season’s record to be one of the top teams in the league. If the Silverhawks compete on the defensive side of the ball and each player accepts his role, SOTA could make a run in sectionals.
WORLD OF INQUIRY (WOI) GRIFFINS
Last season: Finished 8-13 and lost in the Class B2 second round
Coach: Jeff Curtis (second season with WOI, 150-92 over 12 years including five sectional titles with Charlotte High School.
Top returners: Jeshua Shaw (Jr. SF 8.9 ppg), Romel Brown (Jr. SG) and Jahlil Bell (Sr. PG 8.7 ppg).
Top newcomers: Mike Maxwell (Jr. F), Kevonne Fountain (Jr. F), Levi Wright (Jr. F) and Dorian Smith (Jr.).
Outlook: WOI will utilize its speed and be very defensive-minded. Most points will be coming from turnovers and transition by utilizing full-court pressure. Brown and Shaw will need to provide perimeter shooting. Leadership will be the responsibility of Bell, the only senior returning starter. Team goal is to get better every day and compete for the Class B2 title.