BY: DONALD HUNT
PHILADELPHIA - This could be an exciting basketball season for the city’s six Division I basketball teams – Villanova, Temple, Saint Joseph’s, La Salle, Penn and Drexel. Two of the schools have new coaches. Kyle Neptune takes over the Villanova basketball program with the retirement of Hall of Fame coach Jay Wright. Fran Dunphy is the head coach at La Salle. Dunphy, a La Salle product, has coached at two other Big 5 schools, Temple and Penn.
There are a host of great players in the city such has Caleb Daniels (Villanova), Damian Dunn (Temple), Jhamir Brickus (La Salle), Erik Reynolds (Saint Joseph’s), Jordan Dingle (Penn) and Amari Williams (Drexel). In addition to watching some outstanding players, the local city games should be a big attraction as well. Temple entertains Villanova on Nov. 11. Drexel hosts Penn on Nov. 15. There will also be a Big 5 doubleheader on Nov. 30 at the Palestra with La Salle vs. Temple and Saint Joseph’s vs. Penn.
Philadelphia is a unique college basketball town. The fans will have a chance to see all six teams play in some great local matchups right away.
Villanova made a strong run to the NCAA Final Four last season. The Wildcats will miss the all-around play of point guard Collin Gillespie and forward Jermaine Samuels. Gillespie was a good ballhandler and shooter.
Samuels was a key rebounder and scorer. Justin Moore, a terrific guard, is still nursing an Achilles injury. At this point, it’s been reported there is no timetable for his return.
Nevertheless, Villanova head coach Kyle Neptune has a great returning cast with 6-4 senior Caleb Daniels, 6-8 sophomore forward Eric Dixon and 6-7 senior forward Brandon Slater. A key player to watch is 6-7 freshman forward Cam Whitmore who has a bundle of talent. Whitmore was selected as the preseason Big East Freshman of the Year. He is currently recovering from surgery due to a thumb injury on his right shooting hand.
Villanova should be one of the best teams in the Big East along with Creighton and Xavier. The Wildcats should make another trip to the NCAA tournament in Neptune’s first season as head coach.
This could be a big year for the Temple Owls. Aaron McKie, Temple's head coach, seems to be making some great strides with the Owls’ basketball program.
The team features two outstanding guards with Damian Dunn and Khalif Battle. Dunn and Battle have received preseason American Athletic Conference honors. Dunn earned first team recognition. Battle was chosen to the second team. A year ago, Battle was averaging 21.4 points a game before sustaining a season ending foot injury. He’s back and could be a major player this season. Dunn is a big shot maker. Battle and Dunn are redshirt sophomores.
Former Neumann-Goretti star Hysier Miller gives the Owls some depth in the backcourt. Miller, a sophomore guard, has the ability to penetrate and hit the open man. Sophomore guard Jahlil White is a great player in the open court and can take the ball to the basket. Up front, Temple will rely on sophomore forwards Nick Jourdain and Zach Hicks for steady play in the frontcourt. Hicks is a brilliant three-point shooter. He shot 10-of-16 from three-point territory against Delaware State shattering a Temple basketball record for three-pointers made in a game.
Temple University R-Sophomore, Damian Dunn #1 - PSD Photo by Mike Nance
Temple University sophomore guard, Hysier Miller #4 - Photo by Zamani Feelings
Temple will face some tough competition in the AAC. Houston is picked to win the conference. The Cougars are ranked No. 3 in the preseason Associated Press poll. Memphis and Tulane are highly touted, too. However, the Owls should have the talent to make some noise in the conference.
Saint Joseph’s head coach Billy Lange would like to see the Hawks make some head way in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
After three consecutive losing seasons, Lange is gradually developing the Hawks’ basketball program.
Saint Joseph’s has an up-and-coming star with Erik Reynolds II, the Hawks’ sophomore guard, who was named to the Atlantic 10 preseason all-conference third team. Reynolds made the All-Rookie team. He joins senior guard Cameron Brown in the backcourt.
Former Roman Catholic and sophomore guard Lynn Greer III transferred from Dayton to Saint Joseph’s. Greer can handle the ball and create his own shot.
Former Roman Catholic guard Lynn Greer III, is a key impact transfer for the Hawks - PSD Photo by Zamani Feelings
In the frontcourt, Saint Joseph’s senior forward/center Ejike Obinna should give them a presence around the basket. He could be one of the best big men in the A-10.
Saint Joseph’s isn’t expected to have a big impact in the conference. However, they could surprise a few teams this season.
La Salle head coach Fran Dunphy has been successful at every school he’s coached in his career. Dunphy will be coaching at his third Big 5 school. He’s coached at Penn and Temple respectively.
Dunphy will lean on his junior point guard Jhamir Brickus for ballhandling and leadership. Brickus is one of the top lead guards in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
The strength of the Explorers is in the backcourt with Brickus, sophomore guard Khalil Brantley and junior guard Anwar Gill. Brantley and Gill are capable of scoring from the wing.
Fran Dunphy returns to his alma mater to command the La Salle Explorers - PSD Photo by Geanine Jamison
La Salle will have its work cut out for them in the A-10. The conference has some strong teams such as Dayton, Saint Louis and VCU.
If Dunphy can get some great play from his backcourt, La Salle should be able to climb the ladder in the A-10.
There should be a lot of excitement around Penn’s basketball team this season. The Quakers are the preseason favorites to win the Ivy League championship.
Penn head coach Steve Donahue has a good nucleus returning. The Quakers are led by junior guard Jordan Dingle who can really score. Dingle is capable of making the big shot. He led the Ivy League in scoring (20.9 ppg) last season.
The Quakers other key players are junior guard Clark Slajchert and junior forward Jonah Charles. The experience should serve them well.
Penn junior guard, Jordan Dingle #3 - PSD Photo by Mike Nance
In addition to Penn, the league has some great teams such as Princeton, Yale and Harvard. Penn has a good non-conference schedule that should prepare them for the league competition. Penn’s first game will be against Iona on the road on Nov. 7.
It’s always nice to have a good inside player. Drexel has one with 6-10 junior forward Amari Williams who can score, rebound, and defend. Williams was named to the preseason second-team All-Colonial Athletic Association.
A year ago, he was selected as the CAA Defensive Player of the Year and chosen third-team all-conference.
Zach Spiker, Drexel head coach, will look to get the ball in his hands. Spiker has one of the league’s best frontcourt players with Williams.
Towson is picked to win the CAA championship. Hofstra and Delaware are the other teams to watch in the conference. Drexel will try to keep pace with the CAA’s top teams.