Trib HSSN 2023-24 WPIAL Class 4A boys basketball preseason breakdown

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Monday, November 27, 2023 | 11:34 PM


With apologies to the late voice of NFL Films, John Facenda, there are 24 teams in WPIAL Class 4A boys basketball, then there are the Lincoln Park Leopards.

The Leopards may be better than last year, and all they did in 2022-2023 was go 30-1 and sweep WPIAL and PIAA gold.

However, don’t think 4A is just about the Leopards. There are some very good teams that will be doing battle for success up and down the four sections in the class.

Here is a rundown of players to watch, top 5 teams and other notables in WPIAL 4A boys basketball this season.

Preseason Co-Players of the Year

Brandin Cummings, Lincoln Park

6-4, Sr., guard,

23.1 ppg last season

Meleek Thomas, Lincoln Park

6-4, Jr., guard,

24.9 ppg last season

Players to watch

Rowan Carmichael, Avonworth

5-11, Jr., G, 22.7 ppg

Max Hurray, North Catholic

6-2, Sr., G, 22.0 ppg

Peter Kramer, Hampton

6-5, Sr., G, 20.2 ppg

Bradyn Foster, Highlands

6-8, Sr., F, 20.4 ppg

Notorious Grooms, Uniontown

6-0, Jr., G, 13.3 ppg

Preseason Top 5

1. Lincoln Park (30-1 last season)

This Leopards team is loaded. They return two of the top players in the district in senior guard and Pitt commit Brandin Cummings and highly recruited junior guard Maleek Thomas. Both are 6-4 and averaged over 23 points per game last season. Also back for the defending WPIAL and PIAA champions are seniors Mikey Crawford, Dorian McGhee, junior Rashan Farrow-Russell and junior 6-0 point guard Rhaki Lum from St. Andrew’s in Delaware.

2. Uniontown (23-6)

The Red Raiders were co-champs with Laurel Highlands in Section 3-4A a year ago. They lost to North Catholic in the WPIAL quarterfinals but reached the state semifinals before falling to eventual PIAA champion Lincoln Park. With only three seniors on the team last season, Uniontown returns plenty of key pieces, including junior guards Notorious Grooms (13.3 ppg) and Calvin Winfrey (12.3 ppg). The front court will be led by 6-5 senior center K’Adrian Lee and 6-2 senior forward Jamire Braxton.

3. Highlands (22-6)

The Golden Rams finished in second place in Section 1-4A, two games behind Hampton. Highlands lost twice in the postseason to Lincoln Park, falling to the Leopards in the WPIAL semifinals and in the PIAA second round. The Golden Rams return three first team all-section players led by 6-8 senior forward Bradyn Foster, who averaged 20.4 points per game. Junior guard Jimmy Kunst averaged 18.7 points per game while senior guard Cam Reigard averaged 15.6 points per game.

4. Hampton (24-4)

The Talbots only lost twice in the regular season but were 2-2 in the postseason in non-consolation games. Hampton beat Highlands twice in the regular season, but fell to the Golden Rams in the WPIAL quarterfinals. They return one of the top players in the district in 6-5 senior guard Peter Kramer, who averaged 20.2 points per game. While first team all-section guard Eric Weeks has graduated, the Talbots welcome back 6-9 senior Liam Mignogna for some size in the forecourt.

5. Montour (9-14)

Between a tough Section 4-4A slate and a rigorous nonsection schedule, the Spartans struggled with an overall record of five games under .500. Things are looking up for Montour this season with the return of Ama Tening Sow, a 6-11 junior who averaged 13 points and 10 rebounds per game. The backcourt is led by senior guard Jake Wolfe, a first team all-section player last season after averaging 15 points per game, 6-4 junior Ryan Gamble and Kaleb Platz, who missed last season due to injury.

Notable

• Lincoln Park, a team that might get national recognition before the season is over, is a heavy favorite to repeat as WPIAL Class 4A champion and is preseason No. 1 in 4A in the state. The last two times a district boys basketball team repeated in Class 4A was New Castle and New Castle. The Red Hurricane won three straight 4A crowns from 2017-2019 and back-to-back 4A championships in 2013-2014. Lincoln Park did win back-to-back 3A titles in 2018-2019. The Leopards are also trying to win back-to-back state crowns for the first time in school history. They won PIAA championships in 2014, 2019 and last winter.

• This class is loaded with very good teams thanks in part to some of the top coaches in the district calling Class 4A home. They include championship-winning veteran coaches such at Mike Mastroianni at Quaker Valley, Joe Lafko at Hampton, Mike Bariski at Lincoln Park, Jim Rocco at North Catholic, Joe Salvino at Belle Vernon, Bill Minear at Montour and Brandon Ambrose at Central Valley.

• What a golden run it was, but for the first time this decade, Rodney Gallagher won’t be leading the Laurel Highlands basketball team. The current West Virginia football freshman wide receiver helped the Mustangs win district gold in his freshman season in 2020 and his junior year in 2022. As a senior last winter, Gallagher averaged 22.7 points per game, 5.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. He graduated with 2,034 points for his career.

• Speaking of outstanding football players, it appears Belle Vernon will be without Quinton Martin for most of this season. None of the Leopards football players will be available for a while as they prepare for the PIAA 3A semifinals Friday and a game against Hickory. Martin, a Penn State football recruit, might play a few games for Belle Vernon before he graduates early and heads to Penn State. Zion Moore, a 6-2 junior guard, does return for BVA after averaging over 25 points per game last year.

• Other players and teams to watch in Class 4A include: North Catholic with senior guard Max Hurray, Avonworth with junior guard Rowan Carmichael, Beaver with junior guard Brady Mayo, Quaker Valley with senior guard Joe Coyle, South Allegheny with junior guard Cameron Epps and Knoch with sophomore guards Teegan Finucan and Jackson Bauman.

Alignment

Section 1: Freeport, Greensburg Salem, Hampton, Highlands, Indiana, Knoch

Section 2: Ambridge, Beaver, Blackhawk, Central Valley, Hopewell, Lincoln Park, North Catholic

Section 3: Albert Gallatin, Belle Vernon, Elizabeth Forward, Laurel Highlands, Southmoreland, Uniontown

Section 4: Avonworth, East Allegheny, Montour, Quaker Valley, South Allegheny, West Mifflin

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