Trib HSSN 2022-23 WPIAL Class A boys basketball preseason breakdown

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Thursday, December 1, 2022 | 11:41 PM


One of the most revered records in WPIAL sports in on thin ice on the Class A hardwood this season.

Aquinas Academy scoring machine Vinnie Cugini is back for his senior year, having already racked up 2,078 points in his career.

The WPIAL scoring record has stood since Valley’s Tom Pipkins scored his 2,838th point in 1993.

If Cugini scores at the same pace he did last season (36.2 points per game), he would reach Pipkins’ record in Aquinas Academy’s 21st game of the season.

While Cugini is the massive favorite to lead Class A in scoring this season, Imani Christian is just as favored to take the WPIAL title in March. The Saints have a roster that would make the biggest Class 6A school jealous.

Preseason Player of the Year

Vinnie Cugini, Aquinas Academy

6-2, sr., guard

36.2 points per game last season

Players to watch

Lorenzo Gardner, Monessen

6-3, jr., forward

Dame Givner, Imani Christian

6-0, so., guard

Jaydis Kennedy, Geibel

6-2, sr., guard

Alier Maluk, Imani Christian

6-8, so., forward

Matt Stanley, Union

5-10, sr., guard

Preseason Top 5

1. Imani Christian (17-7 last season)

Alier Maluk, a 6-8 sophomore with scores of Division I scholarship offers, is the headliner, but there’s enough talent on the Imani Christian roster to fill two teams of Class A contenders. Virgil Hill, a 6-9 junior, joins Maluk in the paint, while sophomore point guard Dame Givner could make an impact after transferring from Obama Academy. For the Saints, it’s just a matter of putting all the pieces together.

2. Union (24-4)

If not for the developments at Imani, the Scotties would be clear favorites in Class A. All five starters in last year’s WPIAL championship game loss to Bishop Canevin were juniors. Brothers Matt and Mark Stanley head the list of returning standouts.

3. Geibel (18-7)

The Gators won 18 games and reached the WPIAL semifinals last season, and 24-point scorer Jaydis Kennedy is back for his senior year. With Bishop Canevin out of the way in 2A, Geibel and Monessen look like the favorites in Section 2.

4. Monessen (19-5)

The Greyhounds went undefeated in section play in Class 2A last season before being sent to Class A in PIAA realignment. All-section forward Lorenzo Gardner, a 20-point scorer as a sophomore last season, leads the way.

5. Carlynton (21-4)

The Cougars made it to the Class 2A semifinals last season before an offseason drop in class. Replacing all-section performer Khalil Kerr won’t be easy, but senior point guard Austin Milliner heads up a talented returning cast.

Notable

• Defending champion Bishop Canevin has bumped up to Class 2A, joined by Eden Christian, Leechburg, Nazareth Prep and Propel Montour. Propel Andrew Street, which played in Class A last season, won’t play a WPIAL schedule this year.

Carlynton, Monessen, California and Jefferson-Morgan drop into Class A from Class 2A. Summit Academy is back after sitting out last season due to covid restrictions. Hillel Academy is a WPIAL newcomer.

• Union comes into basketball season as defending WPIAL champs in football and baseball, looking to hold the district crown in the three highest-profile boys sports at the same time.

Mapletown senior Landan Stevenson, who set a WPIAL scoring record during the football season, is back after averaging 22.2 points per game on the court last year.

• While Vinnie Cugini is the undisputed Class A scoring king, St. Joseph’s Jimmy Giannetta isn’t all that far behind. He averaged 25.3 points per game last season.

• Looking for a sleeper in Class A? How about Neighborhood Academy? All-section performer Courtney Wallace averaged 20 points per game as a freshman last season and Nathan Hargrove is a top senior point guard.

Alignment

Section 1: Avella, Carlynton, Cornell, Rochester, Union, Western Beaver

Section 2: California, Geibel, Jefferson-Morgan, Mapletown, Monessen, West Greene

Section 3: Aquinas Academy, Hillel Academy, Imani Christian, Neighborhood Academy, St. Joseph, Summit Academy

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review Assistant Sports Editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at jbombulie@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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