Context matters so much when openly discussing the game of basketball. It provides insight to what might not necessarily meet the eye at first glance. Whether overlooking prospects, projecting towards the future, or making blanket statements from a highlight reel, these are all common examples of when context matters. Think about a program like Cardinal Newman and how things have unfolded under Philip Deter throughout the seven seasons he's been at the helm. During that span, he's had six winning seasons and won two state championships while putting numerous players into the college ranks. Although guys like Chico Carter and Josh Beadle played together and found real success, one could argue that this is the Cardinals' best roster across Deter's tenure.
While this group does have a lot of young talent, their group of seniors in Evan Carter, Russ Smith, and Josiah Peeples should each still burden a heavy load. Starting with Carter, he's someone that has always found ways to produce'regardless of setting or structure. He's a tough, scrappy, high-motor wing/forward with the ability to make hustle plays, fill in the gaps, and consistently play bigger than his listed height. Carter is a useful scorer, but also finds a lot of opportunities through his energy and presence on the glass. Meanwhile, Smith is as versatile as anyone on the roster. His combination of feel, motor, and adaptability allows him to do a lot of different things on the court. Smith can initiate the offense, defend multiple positions, and create for himself and others. He's a great rebounder, especially for his size, and is capable of overwhelming opponents on both ends of the floor. Rounding out the trio, Peeples is their top returning scorer. He provides a steady presence as a lead guard, able to get others involved and apply scoring pressure from all levels. Each of these three should be obvious targets for college coaches.
That being said, their young guys, Elton Smith and Desmond Harrington, should make a considerable amount of noise this season. Smith is arguably the most intriguing prospect within the program. He's a long, athletic big man with strength and a physically overwhelming presence on both ends of the floor. Smith typically controls the paint as a defender and rebounder while also capitalizing on finishing opportunities and spacing the floor as needed. The big man is already quite useful, but he's only going to get better over the coming years. Meanwhile, Harrington is someone who is just truly beginning to scratch the surface of his long-term identity. At 6-foot-7 with terrific length, fluidity, and athleticism, he's already capable of impacting a game on both ends of the floor. He plays hard, crashes the glass, and understands how to make his presence felt defensively. Harrington is clearly still developing, so it'll be interesting to see how he progresses going forward.
In turn, this group should be a problem for opponents. They currently have the perform storm of seasoned, battle-tested veterans and highly appealing young prospects, so it feels like this could be the year for Deter and company to collect their third state championship title. Add in a few role players, and the Cardinals should be a very successful, entertaining team.