Monday, October 13, 2008

Preseason Team to Watch: St. Patrick

We are less than a month away from the start of high school basketball season in some parts of the country. That means in less than a month the first National Prep Basketball Poll of the season will be released.

Over the last several weeks, Basketball Contributor Jeremy Plowman and I have been analyzing top teams and players, and collecting information from high school coaches across the country.

Today, we continue giving readers a sneak peak at the preseason rankings with the first of several "Team to Watch" capsules.

St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.)
Coach: Kevin Boyle (432-125, 20 years at St. Patrick)
2007-08 record: 25-5 (lost in Non-Public Group B North Jersey final), No. 13 in final National Prep Poll
Top players: F Michael Gilchrist (6-6), So.; G Dexter Strickland, Sr. (6-2); F Paris Bennett, Sr. (6-6); G Kyrie Irving, Jr. (6-2); G Kevin Boyle Jr., Jr. (5-9); G Dean Kowalski, Sr. (5-9).
Team strength: Defense, guard play, chemistry
Question mark: Shooting consistency
Outlook: The preseason No. 1 team in New Jersey might be the Celtics, who were one of three teams from the state to finish last season ranked among the Top 15 in the nation. All of St. Patrick's losses in 2007-08 were to teams that spent time in the Top 25, including a 64-52 setback to eventual Prep Poll champion St. Anthony to close the season. This year's team will be guard-heavy, but highly athletic and very tough on defense. Four key contributors are back from last season along with a very talented transfer. Nationally, Gilchrist is a consensus top 5 player in the Class of 2011. He is a long and athletic, and plays aggressively on both ends of the court. Strickland, a North Carolina recruit, can play both guard sports and has a scorer's mentality. Bennett, headed to George Mason, has skills to play both inside and outside. Boyle considers Irving, a transfer from prep school Montclair Kimberly, the best junior in New Jersey. However, he must sit out 30 days to start the season before becoming eligible. As usual, St. Patrick will play a tough schedule that should futher solidify its spot near the top of the national rankings. The Celtics will play in the City of Palms Classic and Beach Ball Classic tournaments along with stand-alone dates versus nationally ranked teams Brooklyn (N.Y.) Lincoln, St. Benedict's (N.J.), and Oak Hill Academy (Va.). 

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