Erie may not be the largest, most extravagant, wealthiest, or most prestigious city; however, Erie is home to a vibrant culture with great attractions. Erieites are familiar with a die-hard Smith’s hot dog attitudes and high school rivalries. Though, there is another attraction they should be more appreciative of. With the end of the calendar year approaching, Erie’s greatest attraction is primed to begin. That’s right, the CYO basketball season is right around the corner.
CYO basketball is widely praised as “the apogee of basketball talent, competition, and entertainment.” If you have ever been to one of these games, you would certainly approve of this evaluation. In CYO basketball, three-pointers from well beyond the arc fall wet from the indoor skies. Crazy ankle breakers take the attention of crowds reaching tens of people in attendance. CYO is home to the most athletic layups and players the Erie area has to offer. In addition, where else in the entire world are you able to find parent-formed cheering sections, ridiculous technical fouls, and in-game shenanigans?
What follows is an evaluation of the seven teams in the league this season complete with predictions and ranking their regular season performance, while evaluating the players which will make this happen.
7. Saint Jude
The “Jude’s Dudes” are set to have another great year. Though losing Hall-of-Fame level talent due to graduation, the Dudes have managed to bounce back in times past, and this year is no different. St. Jude’s CYO has managed to maintain a developed core of veteran players while surrounding themselves with new additions to the team year after year. Their coaching from Matt Squeglia and Andy Klocker is unparalleled, showing through their undefeated local playoffs record. The Dudes have reloaded this year, aiming at another trip to the state playoffs.
The Dudes have a strong core of veteran players. Point Guard David Clark will be necessary in facilitating the offense, able to make the perfect pass and stretch the floor. Connor McEnery and Matt Zimmerman have a quick trigger to snipe threes all around the arc. The Jude’s Dudes have no shortage of size either. Collin Johnson can fit this description too, and is an overall great shot creator and clutch performer. Albert Caldwell is an all around stud on the floor, shooting some of the most creative layups imaginable. Jared Heidt, “the Albino Giannis,” is not only a primary leader for the Dudes, but also the lanky point center for the team, able to play and defend all five positions on the floor.
The new additions to the Saint Jude roster complete the team as a whole. The Darden brothers, Luca and Tyler, both offer the ability to be great teammates, shoot from well beyond the arc, and are definitely going to be dangerous in seasons to come. Another new addition will be able to put away pull up mid-ranges and drive fear into the hearts of his opponents through his lockdown defense, this addition being Ryan Sweny. Watch out for the McDowell core making their first appearances. Matt Manczka, a player as cool as the other side of the pillow, moves past his McDowell basketball in search of a more distinguished and competitive team. He is yet another long player for the Dudes that can get it done, excelling in virtually all parts of the game. The work horses of Garrett Brink and Marty Kaverman are able to shoot the three-ball and put in the grind for the team; however, they are nowhere close to the ability to which Hunter Sorensen can shoot.
The Jude’s Dudes are a dominant force this season. They have the personnel to excel in all areas of basketball. The coaching will also guide the Dudes to a successful season. However, their season is in jeopardy after failing to turn in necessary paperwork, and not being initially scheduled for any games. Senior David Clark describes what makes the Jude’s Dudes unique, “We have a unique team attitude,” he said. “It is part of being a Jude’s Dude. We are always the underdogs. We are going to have fun in games and practices, and we are going to grind out Ws.”
6. Saint James
Saint James has been competitive in the past few years. It is easy to underestimate the type of talent a Saint James roster has. One reason for this is many of their players come from Harborcreek, and do not have full scouting profiles like the rest of the league’s players. This year, they still have a sizable pool of Harborcreek students. In contrast, they are predicted to be last in the league because of their lack of immediate talent, compared to the rest of the league. Watch out for this team to steal some games in the regular season due to their unpredictability and coaching.
John Campbell has the chance to fill the spot left empty by his brother, being a top offensive option and leader. Cayden Lombard offers promising potential through his scrappy play, and expect some odd celebrations from him as well. Carter Clement is an offensively-minded wing threat. The Margosian duo, Matthew and Bailey, have the potential to develop into studs as players. Another talent of the team is Joseph Amann, with the ability to provide inspiring motivational speeches pregame.
Arthur Thompson has the heart and commitment to take this Saint James team to victory. Alongside him, senior Jacob Rose possesses the ability to get the team energized through his hustle and passion for the game. Drew Dalton is most similar to Kelly Oubre, an all around talent. Ryan Dalton will be a great playmaker for the Panthers, and will not only make space for himself, but the rest of the team. Rumors have been circulating which say Joshua Rose may be the best water boy in the entire league and Johnathan Zank very well could be a solid option for the snack captain role.
Cayden Lombard commented on how he sees the strengths of the St James team. “I believe we have a great group of guys who are ready to leave it all on the court. Many players do not know what to expect from us, so that will certainly be something to take advantage of.” Never easily dismiss a team in this league, which includes this Saint James squad.
5. Saint George
Saint George’s placed second last year, and it does not appear as if they will return to the championship game. Despite this, no team in this competitive of a league should easily be written off. Saint George’s has the largest roster in the league, allowing them to experiment with many different players and strategies in order to be victorious. As any other teams, they will look to their best players to lead the team.
Dan O’Brien, returning for his second year, will be one of these leaders for the Lancers. He brings a White Chocolate skill set to the team, able to get out on the fast break and find the open man, whether it be behind the back, off the backboard, through his legs, or even off of his elbow. A top inside threat for the Lancers is “J-Swiss,” or Justin Czerwinski, who can score with his back to the basket, off of offensive rebounds, and from range with a silky jumper. Similarly, Drew Heinlein and Ethan Skarzenski bring this same sharpshooting talent and more basketball IQ. Paul “Fats” Causgrove will be able to do a lot for the Lancers, from lockdown defense to running the offense. On the wing, Justin Corsale is a skilled scorer, whether it be slashing at the rim or knocking down step back shots.
The Lancers will be able to extract value from the numerous other players who will come off of the bench. Jordan Covatto is one of those people who is fearless in the paint. Jared Lichtinger could be arrested for how often he will shoot the ball, usually from at least five feet beyond the arc. Expect Sean Johnson to crack some ankles this year with shifty handles and agility. Gabe Gallagher is one of the most unselfish players in the league, and will do what it takes to win. Luke Misko will drive home some necessary points for the Lancers this year. Nick Cacchione, Tom Carroll, and Brad Dalton are some of the other role players for the team. This team also includes Mike Barbato, Mac Dietrick, Philip Pedano, Jason Hetrick, and Cole Corapi, who are all ready to make an impact every time they step on the floor.
The Saint George Lancers undoubtedly have a large roster, but that is not the only facet of the team which will drive their success this season. Justin Czerwinski explains, “Our electric bench will be able to tear people apart. Do no overlook the long lay-up lines we do in practice, which allow everybody on the team to improve their fundamentals. Also, our large, loyal, and dedicated fan base will make our home games unbearable for the opposing team.”
4. Saint Peter
Saint Peter’s is projected to have quite an improvement compared to last year. Hopefully they will pull out more than one victory, One of the strengths to this team is they have not lost much talent, and their current players spent most of the time on the court for the Dukes. This allows the ability to develop as players, and be able to utilize this growth on the court when it matters.
Saint Peter’s promising season will be led by seniors Dominic MacArthur and Ethan Taraski. MacArthur will be the primary scoring option and the floor general for the Dukes. Ethan will be able to bring physicality to both ends of the floor and have a full beard by halftime. Colin Taraski plays at the low post proficiently, and is a solid rebounder. The defensive go-to is Jimmy Lynch, a athlete capable of making the physically demanding hustle plays. Matt DeMarco is a versatile offense threat with the ability to find the open cutter.
The front court foundation for St. Pete’s is the combination of Tim Klebanski and Matt “Big Body” Berry. These two players are always gritty, grimy, and read to throw elbows if necessary, and especially watch out for Tim’s post fadeaway shot and Matt’s three point accuracy. Elijah Lyons is a player for the Dukes that is a spark plug, a player who can give the team energy coming off of the bench. Daniel Harrington is not afraid to dive after a lose ball and disrupt offenses. Cody Klein is a key factor in creating the team’s strong team chemistry. Johnny Kretzing, Ryan Jubilus, and Zach Henry are able be out on the floor with the rest of the brawlers when the game is getting chippy.
It is going to be interesting to evaluate how the Saint Peter’s team has grown since last year. Since their talent is more developed, they will be able to make a bigger impact in the league. Dominic MacArthur says, “The three most important factors of our team’s success are our team chemistry, retained talent, and our coaching from Ms. Lion and Mr. Schreffler. Also, everybody on the team plays with the pure determination to kill, and those who don’t will be riding the pine.”
3. Blessed Sacrament
Blessed Sacrament is coming off what they believe was a somewhat disappointing season, but they are ready to rumble. Though currently undergoing roster and coaching conflicts, this team promises higher level potential in the league. The Bulldogs will not be back down if things get physical, and are going to be scrappy.
Blessed Sacrament’s starting backcourt will consist of Alex Baldi and Shelby Wiley. Alex Baldi is a player who can handle the ball and force turnovers with high-pressure defense, especially pick-pocketing other players. Shelby Wiley is an all-purpose offensive baller, capable of shooting the three, getting to the rim, and anywhere in between. Point forward Karson Fomich will be able to be a phenomenal two-way wing for the Bulldogs, too. The forwards will be Jarrett Ziacik and Matt Gaeta, who both can provide crucial spacing and a small-ball approach to offense.
Luke MacKenzie is able to shoot like Damian Lillard, further stretching the floor. Jimmy Colvin has the bowling ball ability to get to the rim and also clamp ball handlers, expect some hard fouls from him, too. Ryan Rzepecki will be central in bringing the team together and playing physically. Isaiah Baron will also be able to create his own shots from midrange. Devon Barnett will be able to pull off the craftiest off-ball cuts in the league. Players such as Nick Leone from the Bulldogs will always be giving 110 percent.
The Blessed Sacrament CYO team may not have the greatest size in the league, but certainly can play the scrappiest. “We can really put the other team off of their game with our play style, which will be monumental in giving us the edge against certain matchups,” said Jimmy Colvin.
2. Saint Luke
In spite of losing inspiring and skilled leaders from the class of 2018, the team has managed to rebuild from the ashes with a roster you could not foresee. A large majority of the team will be 12th grade rookies from parishes around Erie, with only two players having CYO experience, or basketball experience in general. The main aspects of this St. Luke’s roster that makes them competitive is how they assembled various pieces to fit into their program. This is why they are the melting pot team.
This variety of players all have their own unique skill sets and backgrounds. Alex Ruler is going to be able to stretch the floor for the Crusaders this year, while also being a great choice to run their offense. The quarter-ton of fun duo Andrew “Sky Bison” Samuels and Logan “Bear” Braendel are able and willing to toss bodies around in the paint. Colin Kelly has been able to hang up his football cleats to lace up his high-tops, switching from splitting the uprights, to attacking defenders off of the dribble and letting shots fly from deep. Rockne Seidel has Prep basketball experience, and the confidence in order to perform in big moments, especially in the highly esteemed CYO scene.
The rest of the team makes the Crusaders solid across the board. To begin, this team does not lack championship experience, largely from former members the CP football team. Saint Luke’s Defense will be bolstered by talents such as Amani Robinson and Evan Selker. Watch out for Liam King and John Paul Stark to make a high impact whenever they step on the court.
Saint Luke’s team is set to have a successful regular season. Their roster makes the team able to adapt to various situations; they have no shortage of athletes of different sizes. Their team is competitive because “of a focused mindset to get things done on the defensive end,” says Alex Ruler. “We are going to follow Anthony Gulick’s example of how to play the game, and I think that will lead us to success in the end.”
1. Our Lady of Peace
Our Lady of Peace is going to have another season in which they reach the playoffs, and are even likely title contenders this season. Many of their players have previous basketball experience, and at least some pre-developed skill. Their mix of certain McDowell and Prep students will make them one of the stronger teams in the league.
First, and certainly not least, Billy DeLuca is one of the most formidable players to ever step onto a parochial basketball court. Andrew Olds is going to replicate his scoring prowess in lacrosse to basketball. Keegan Welka embodies a James Harden play style with the Mamba Mentality. Watch out for the silent assassin Carson “CG30”, who can pick apart defenses with a deadly arsenal of post moves.
Xavier Meola is a mentally tough player for the Crusaders. Justin Jones is a sharpshooter with the Hall of Fame catch and shoot and corner specialist badges. Ryan Mason will look to revive the career he had for OLP grade school basketball. Joey DiSanti has basketball experience to make an impact out on the floor. Dominic Ferraro has the determination to grind out a victory night in and night out for the Crusaders. Parker Ginn has the ability and mindset to make everybody around him a better player and be a top offensive option.
OLP’s roster shows a competitive talent as a whole. Billy DeLuca states, “I like the team as a whole. Everybody on the roster can be out there on the floor and make an impact, it is what makes us dangerous. Every team should be ready for when they eventually face off against us.”