Southeastern Pennsylvania Top 10
Records as of Jan. 17, 2011
2. Friends' Central (Wynnewoode)
3. Academy of the New Church (Bryn Athyn)
4. Imhotep Charter (Philadelphia)
5. Council Rock North (Newtown)
6. Neshaminy (Langhorne)
7. Archbishop Carroll (Radnor)
8. Neumann Regional Academy (Williamsport)
9. Penn Wood (Lansdowne)
10. La Salle College (Wyndmoor)
The name "Wright" carries a magical connotation in Philadelphia basketball coaching circles. Jay Wright was an area star at old Council Rock High School, went on to coach at Hofstra and then transformed a dormant Villanova program into a national powerhouse. There must be something in the Wright gene pool, because younger brother Derek has something pretty special going on too at Council Rock North (Newtown)
Derek will be the first to tell you he's younger and better looking than older brother Jay, though he's willing to admit he lacks his older brother's sartorial sideline splendor. What Derek and Jay do have in common is exceptional basketball acumen — the ability to see things unfold on a basketball court at a different, higher level and an ability to build programs.
Derek's doing it at Council Rock North.
The Indians are 12-1 overall and 7-0 in the Suburban One League, thanks to a highly impressive 55-43 victory over Neshaminy Tuesday night.
Council Rock North has size in a pair of 6-6 seniors, Charlie Anastasi
and John Raymon
, who's committed to Iowa to play football. The Indians have athleticism in junior point guard Aaron Morgan
and 6-4 junior Arron Goodman
, a pair of stalwart defensive stoppers in junior Matt McCloskey
and senior Jordan Chernin
, and depth off the bench in 6-7 Hunter Stevens
And they have Derek.
Council Rock North, which has been in existence since 2002, nor its predecessor Council Rock, which splintered into Council Rock North and South, has ever won a PIAA District 1 Class AAAA title in basketball. That has been the domain of perennial powers Chester, Penn Wood, Plymouth-Whitemarsh and Norristown.
Council Rock North advanced to one district title game, in 2003, led by Ben Luber, and last year marked the first time since '03 that the Indians reached the state playoffs. Expect that trend to continue over these next few years.
The 2010-11 version of the Indians could be the best team Wright has had in his nine seasons at Council Rock North and potentially the best in school history. The Indians certainly have the fuel to go far in the postseason, after the bitter taste of a 58-55 loss to Hazleton in the 2010 PIAA state qualifying game.
"We knew we had some pretty high expectations about ourselves this year," Wright said. "We thought we could have done better last year, so it's why we had such a tough nonleague schedule to prepare us for a challenging year. No one was going to have higher expectations than we had for ourselves and we worked and planned since the offseason. But being 12-1, and for where we are now, I think it's as good as anyone could have expected."
What Wright has received is great balance. Opposing teams can't cancel out one player without being stung by someone else. Goodman is the Indians' leading scorer, averaging 18 points a game, and when he wasn't scoring the way he normally does against Neshaminy Tuesday night, Anastasi stepped in to score 16 points — eight in the fourth quarter of a tight game — and also grabbed 12 rebounds.
"I think that's what's been the most surprising," Wright said. "When someone hasn't shot well, someone has always stepped up to help us. That's been pleasing. We have a pretty mature, focused group with everyone who understands their roles much better this year."
There have been, Wright said, a few stretches when the Indians haven't shot well and executed to his standards, but this is a team that's done well with subtle adjustments.
The meat of Council Rock North's season is here. The Indians won't be flying under anyone's radar in lower Southeastern Pennsylvania any longer.
But don't be surprised that in early March, Derek's not standing in the same place on the very same court his older brother's team plays on — at the Villanova Pavilion in the PIAA Class AAAA District 1 championship game.SKYLER MORNHINWEG STAYS WITH STANFORD
With the college coaching carousel spinning round and round, and more coaches moving on, it's left some major high school players on a lurch as to honoring their original oral commitments.
One very prominent player who is keeping his oral commitment is St. Joseph's Prep star Skyler Mornhinweg
, who made a verbal commitment to Stanford as a sophomore last summer before beginning his junior year to previous Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh.
With Harbaugh leaving Stanford to coach the San Francisco 49ers up the road, Mornhinweg, the son of Philadelphia Eagles' offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, has opted to stay at Stanford and play for new head coach David Shaw.
Shaw is the former Stanford offensive coordinator and Skyler actually sat and spoke with him last summer at length when Skyler and his family visited Stanford.
Shaw obviously left an impression on the 6-foot-3, 205-pound quarterback, who threw for 1,546 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.
"Things were a little touchy there," Skyler admitted. "We didn't know what was happening after coach Harbaugh left. When the process was happening, and you hear coach Harbaugh's name out there, I tried not to worry too much about it. I'm actually really happy for coach Harbaugh. He's getting a great opportunity. But my family and me wanted to see who got the job, and after Stanford named coach Shaw, that was good for me. It was an in-house hire, coach Shaw knows the program, and I have a great relationship with him. I think he's a great coach.
"I'm pleased everything worked out the way it did. I couldn't have asked for a better situation, considering the circumstances going on around Stanford. I'm honoring my commitment to Stanford and coach Shaw."Joseph Santoliquito can be reached at JSantoliquito@yahoo.com.