High Expectations for Wildwood Catholic Boys’ Basketball

High Expectations for Wildwood Catholic Boys’ Basketball

Wildwood Catholic usually fields a strong boys’ basketball program but this season the Crusaders may take that next step. At least that is what the pollsters think.

There has been considerable preseason hype with the Crusaders and with good reason. Wildwood Catholic began as the No. 1 South Jersey team in The Philadelphia Inquirer’s preseason Top 25. The Crusaders were also ranked No. 16 in the state in NJ.com’s preseason poll.

Of course, postseason success will be difficult simply because the Crusaders compete in South Jersey Non-Public B, where defending sectional champion Ranney was ranked No. 1 in NJ.com’s preseason state poll. Also in South Jersey Non-Public B is Trenton Catholic, which was ranked 15th in the NJ.com preseason poll.

Yet the postseason is a long way from now. What Wildwood Catholic looks to do is compete favorably against a tough regular season schedule.

Among the top games are against the Patrick School (ranked No. 4 in the NJ.com preseason state poll), Camden (ranked 13th in the pre-season state-wide by NJ.com), and four other preseason South Jersey top 10 teams, St. Augustine, Pleasantville, St. Joseph and Bishop Eustace.

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That is a loaded schedule, but the Crusaders need that type of competition to prepare for difficult South Jersey Non-Public B field.

Last year Wildwood Catholic went 25-3 and won the prestigious Cape Atlantic League tournament. The Crusaders will be favored to defend their title, but with teams like St. Augustine, Pleasantville, St. Joseph, not to mention Atlantic City, there will be no shortage of top-flight competition.

The season ended with a 65-58 loss to Trenton Catholic in the South Jersey Non-Public B semifinals.

A main reason for the optimism is the presence of two juniors, 6-7 Taj Thweatt and 6-6 Jahlil White. Thweatt averaged more than 13 points and seven rebounds last season while White averaged nearly eight points.

The Crusaders got off to a good start this season by beating Holy Spirit 88-68 and Trenton, 70-51. In the win over Trenton, Thweatt had 23 points and 11 rebounds. White had 10 points and three rebounds.

Another player primed for a big season, 6-3 junior Jacob Hopping, added 19 points and three assists. Hopping gives the Crusaders a major outside shooting threat, so teams can’t just concentrate on the big men. In the win over Trenton, he was 4 of 6 from three-point range after scoring 24 points, with five three-pointers in the win over Holy Spirit.

This year’s schedule is so difficult that Wildwood Catholic may be hard-pressed to match last year’s 25-3 record, but by the time the tournament comes, the Crusaders will be well-tested.

To begin No. 1 in South Jersey is impressive but the Crusaders have the ability to end there as well.

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Author: Marc Narducci

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