Open Gym: Monsignor Bonner-Archbishop Prendergast Catholic HS (Philly Catholic League) –

For Bonner-Prendie last year ended with some heartbreaking losses starting with the Catholic league final where they suffered the worst kind of defeat in losing on a buzzer beater 51-49 to Roman Catholic as the Cahillites held the ball for the final minute before getting a backdoor layup to seal the victory. The Friars put that behind them however and set out to make some noise in the PIAA Class 5A tourney. They advanced to the semi-finals but lost a close one to eventual 5A champs Abington Heights in OT. The crazy thing about this is that they didn't play well for most of the contest yet at the end of regulation the Abington Heights fans threw Hershey Kisses on the floor with 1 second left in the game and the officials called a technical foul ooops! Many teams fans will throw the chocolate confections on the floor when their team wins signifying their impending trip to Hershey, PA for the state finals but most always wait until the final buzzer. Mike Perretta stepped to the line and sent the game to an extra frame but Bonner-Prendie despite the brief reprieve fell to end their season. Shortly thereafter HC Jack Concannon resigned no doubt satisfied that the program was back on solid footing. Assistant coach Kevin Funston was given the reigns and with a veteran team returning this club shouldn't miss a beat.

The Backcourt:

This team is strong in the backcourt with several guys who will give them minutes in the frontcourt to help out but a lot will revolve around recent Miami commit 6'3' '19 Isaiah Wong. He can play on the ball or off but will have the ball in his hands a lot. He has a feathery jump shot that is often times money from the midrange to the arc and is adept at finding seams to the basket to get layups with almost contortion like body control. His passing game is sometimes overlooked which is a mistake as he can deliver lasers to open teammates in scoring positions. He has a tight handle and is very effective versus pressure and he is a very good defender with quick hands to pilfer the ball from opposing guards or unsuspecting bigs. 6'3' '20 Tyreese Watson will be a great compliment to Wong as he is a tremendous passer with solid court vision and instincts to spread the ball around to open shooters. His own shot is quite good as well and he can knock down three balls and pullups either off the catch or off the bounce. He's not a super athletic kid like his older brother Maurice, who is playing overseas at the moment, but he is a smart and clever driver who picks his spots and is astute enough to know when to catch his opponents sleeping and strike for the score. 6'2' '19 Mike Perretta is the so called driveway shooter as my friend and fellow evaluator Allen Rubin of the Hoop Scoop says as he can light it up from downtown with a quick release and lethal accuracy. But as he has matured as a player he has expanded his game to include some drives to the basket with the ability to pullup and hit the midrange jumper if he's cut off. He is a decent passer and ball handler and his weakness is not being an elite athlete on defense where he does struggle versus faster players but compensates with good positional play. 6'1' '20 Donovan Rodriguez is a jet quick combo who is efficient at getting to the hole for quick burst baskets. His quickness and solid handle come in handy when facing pressure defenses as he can dart by opposing defenders. He struggles with his shooting from distance and sometimes plays to fast to be an effective passer but his effort is never in question plus he's a very good defender with upside to his game. 6'2' '19 Chris Haynes is another backcourt piece who has impressed this fall with his smooth perimeter stroke in knocking down treys to his heady play in creating opportunities for not only himself but for his teammates as well. He has bided his time and his faith in his game should be rewarded with increased playing time this season as he can clearly help this squad with his versatility.

The Frontcourt:

A big loss in the frontcourt was the graduation of Ajiri Johnson and his athleticism will be hard to replace but they still have 6'9' '19 Tariq Ingraham to man the paint. While I've always maintained that he needs to embrace the weight room and get in better shape he is still quite effective in certain aspects of the game. Defensively he uses his bulk to control opponents in the paint and he is adept at blocking shots despite not getting much lift when he jumps. His secret is timing and he does a good job of anticipating the shooters release to get the swat. He is a very good rebounder especially on the defensive end where he won't hesitate to outlet the ball to start their transition game and he's proven to be quite skilled in getting offensive boards by picking his spots and going hard to secure them. He can play with his back to the basket and his footwork has improved immensely in the last year and his shot when facing up is quite good in the 10-12 foot range. When he's inside he can power up to the rim and drop in shots thru contact and he's starting to show that he can move fluidly when sealing his man on the block to score with solid one step moves while going to the basket. He will definitely be there interior anchor this year and Coach Funston will have to find guys to assist him on the front line. One such player may be 6'3' '21 James Welde who probably is a guard but may be able to contribute as a wing with the ability to drive it to the glass but also will be able to step out and pop some perimeter jump shots. He has shown me in the early going that he can rebound a bit and if he can tighten up his defense he could be a huge help. Bonner-Prendie has a couple more guys that look promising but Coach Funston wants to hold it close to the vest until he can further evaluate their potential role to this years squad.

Newcomers:

Two freshmen have tweaked my interest so far and I've been impressed with their potential. How much they will impact this years team is still up in the air but 6'3' '22 Aleem Lee looks to be someone who could help in the frontcourt with his bruising style and rebounding skills. His offensive game is not there yet but the signs are there that he may be a really good player down the road. 6'3' '22 Shawn Simmons is a slender wing shooter that has a silky smooth release on his perimeter jumper and appears to be a solid ball handler who can slash to the basket to create his own offense. He needs to gain some upper body strength to bolster his defensive abilities but like Lee they both have high upsides.

Outlook:

The disappointment of last season is in the past and Coach Funston will no doubt impress that to his charges as the preseason gives way to meaningful games in December. The focus for this team will be winning the Catholic League title they came so close to winning last year and then worrying about the district and state playoffs later. Any way you slice it though this Bonner-Prendie team is talented despite it's seemingly shortage of interior players. A few kids look promising to me and if their development accelerates during the course of this season this team may be balanced enough to capture the coveted Catholic league crown. They should qualify for districts without a problem and their state hopes may rest on which side of the bracket their placed in. I still think this team is good enough to win a state title so it will come down to the players willingness to slog ahead in the event they come up short in their bid for the Catholic League chip. Of course should they win the title it could make the state run a little easier to manage.

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