Team Preview: Academy of the New Church (Friends Schools League) –

HC Kevin Givins has had plenty of success in his years at the helm of the ANC Lions and still people wonder what happened to the program. While my schedule will probably prevent me from getting to an open gym their performance in the recent Big 64 event tells me that they may be on the way back not that they've actually gone anywhere in the first place. For whatever reason they have not had the abundance of talent that once was the norm but lest people forget Coach Givins has won championships in the past just not recently. Last season ended with losses in the Friends league playoffs which sent ANC into the PAISAA state tourney with the dreaded play in game. They won that handily only to run into the 2 seed Perkiomen School which handled them easily. For ANC though this young group coming up may change things around for them and we may just see the beginning of a renaissance there to add to the legacy of the program. They last won the Friends league in 2009 but people forget that they've been to the finals three times since the most recent in 2014. They also won the first two PAISAA crowns in 2007-08 so there is history in their building and this new group of youngsters may just rekindle that passion again.

The old man on this squad will be 6'3' '19 Glenn Sabb a combo SG/WF who wears a lot of different hats while on the floor. He has a decent shot that he can knock down from the perimeter and at times he'll drive the lane for floaters but he'll also look to get the ball to his teammates rather than force the issue which was a problem for him as a younger player. He can rebound the ball and is not timid about mixing it up inside despite giving up size to some of his opponents and he can be effective handling the ball vs. pressure and in the open court. Defensively he'll be counted on to set the example for the young guys and his lead will go a long way to getting them to expend energy on that end. One young man I was impressed by at the Big 64 was 6'1' '20 Isaac Marshall who was seemingly everywhere on the court with all out effort on both ends of the floor. He hit off the catch jump shots from the midrange to the arc and showed an ability to create off the bounce on his forays to the basket. He had excellent body control as well as he was finishing thru contact or avoiding it completely. He was not selfish either as he made several deft feeds to cutting teammates on their way to scores. He had a tight handle when in pressure situations and rarely was careless with the ball in his hands. Defensively he had good instincts to force opposing ball handlers to pick up their dribble and he forced a few turnovers with his quickness. Big upside for this youngster moving forward. 5'11' '20 Devin Bryant appeared to be a good complimentary guy as a pass first PG as he used his solid handles to dart around the court and dish the ball to his teammates in scoring positions. But if the defense gave him space he showed he could hit a pull up jumper or penetrate the lane for a quick burst layup. He may be their overlooked glue guy throughout the season. 6'4' '20 Kia Allen was another guy I liked with his hustle and determined pursuit of the basketball. He was a force defensively constantly intercepting errant passes and bodying up opponents making it hard for them to make a play. He was no slouch on the offensive end either as he proved to be a good shooter knocking down a couple treys and showing a good nose for slashing drives and in traffic layups. He was fierce on the glass and will be an integral part of this team. 6'2' '20 Coby Gunz could also give them minutes off the bench as he is a scrappy guard who has a good motor.

6'4' '21 Jordan Dawkins is a wing who can shoot it with some accuracy to the arc but seemed more effective using his athleticism driving it to the basket and finishing with his nice hops. He was an effective rebounder on both ends and was a more than adequate defender in every situation. While he was prone to rushing his offense at times being a sophomore he'll have time to mature and think the game out as he matures. Another intriguing piece for the Lions is 6'8' '21 Elijah Muhammad. He seems a bit timid on the court at times and definitely a little unsure of himself but he did make some plays and did show glimpses of what he could be in a year or two. He had several blocks on defense and absolutely changed half a dozen more attempts and like a lot of young bigs his defense is ahead of his offense. He was able to catch the ball even in traffic but his footwork needs a lot of work and he had a tendency to be careless with the ball but these are all correctable and I'm sure by junior year you'll see a marked improvement in these areas. Finally 6'3' '22 Anthony McFall is a really nice player who exhibits confidence despite being a freshman. He's another hybrid SG/WF type who could make plays in the open floor with spot up jump shots from midrange to the arc and using his solid handle to penetrate the lane for slick dribble drive moves culminating with acrobatic finishes at the rim. He seemed comfortable passing the ball but he did commit a few turnovers with ill advised feeds which I'm sure once practice starts will be ironed out. He was also effective as a rebounder using his strong frame to box out and grab those missed shots and he proved to be an active defender getting a few steals and playing good on ball 'D' on his man.

While this team may still be a year or two away from getting back in the championship hunt at the state level I think if this group can develop the way I think they can then getting to the Friends league semi's would be not only possible but a big step forward in the rebuilding of the program. While Westtown is still the overwhelming favorite in the league they have been known to play less than inspired ball at times and teams like Shipley, Friends Central and even ANC could give them a run for their money. For ANC and Coach Givins it could be baby steps this year as they nurture their young talent into a cohesive unit before making a big jump up in 2019-20. Whatever the case may be I like the young talent on this team and with some additional new talent added in the coming years we could see the Lions back among the Elite HS teams in the Philly region.