By Scott Springer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Officially, December means dribbles and dunks in the Tristate as high school competition moves from stadiums to the intimate confines of a gym.
Already, one school has caught the eye of the national pundits with last year's Division I state runner-up Moeller being ranked No. 17 in the USA Today Super Preseason Top 25. As Crusaders coach Carl Kremer well knows, a lot can happen from December to March when the winners cut down the nets at Ohio State's Schottenstein Center. League-by-league, division-by-division, it is always a marathon and never a sprint.
Greater Catholic League-South
Moeller appreciates the USA Today notoriety, but Carl Kremer is quick to point out four starters from last year's team won't be on the court this winter. Keegan McDowell, Caleb Canter and Riley Voss are all playing in college and Miles McBride was injured as Moeller's quarterback this fall (a March return would be an absolute best case scenario).
"I don't know what team with one returning starter (point guard Isaiah Payton) gets that kind of expectation," Kremer said. "Maybe the answer is because Jaxson Hayes and Jeremiah Davenport have had great summers."
Hayes grew 4 inches since last season and could top 7-feet before he exits stage left. As a result, he was recruited by many, including Kentucky, Xavier and Butler before eventually signing with Texas. Davenport, who actually played more minutes than Hayes last season, will play at Wright State. Moeller will also be aided by Roger Bacon transfer Alec Pfriem, who averaged 13 points as a sophomore for the Spartans. Another interesting transfer is sophomore Max Land, who was in Mason's program last winter. Land will sit out the first 11 games before he's eligible. He is the son of former Roger Bacon and University of Cincinnati forward Eugene Land.
Prior to last season, Elder and La Salle tied Moeller for the GCL-South title two years in a row. For the first time in 28 seasons, La Salle will have someone other than Dan Fleming barking commands. Fleming stepped aside last spring to follow the playing career of his youngest son, C.J., at Bellarmine, his daughter, Lexi, at McAuley and the coaching career of son Ryan at Oak Hills. Long-time Fleming assistant Patrick Goedde takes over a team that lost just four games last year. Three of those were against Moeller including the regional final. Guard Riley Haubner is the only returning starter for the Lancers, so Goedde will have his hands full in his inaugural year at the top of the bench. A slew of sophomores is next in line: Cole Hildebrand, Jeff Queen, Derek Eddings, Cam Porter, Mike Wergers and Jaylen Lemons.
All-time Elder wins leader Joe Schoenfeld was GCL-South Coach of the Year just two seasons ago and will try to get the Panthers above last year's 12-12 mark. Top returners include second-leading scorer Zach Harp (12.1 ppg) and guards Brett Marsh, Trevor Estep and Jake O'Brien.