Marshall #3
Exciting guard Jason Penn is back for the Marshall Statesmen, who are again the favorites in the Liberty District.

Liberty District Boys Preview: Marshall, Marshall, Marshall

2022-2023 Liberty Regular Season Champion: Marshall
2022-2023 Liberty District Tournament Champion: Marshall
2023-2024 Presumptive Favorite: Marshall

What’s New In 2023-2024: Former Falls Church coach Joe Keimig takes over at Yorktown: two possible impact transfers (Carlton Young, Miles Hancock) land at Wakefield

The Marshall Statesmen are rolling under Coach Jerry Lin. Lin’s squad loses Liberty Player of the Year Matthew Lenert and several impact seniors from last year’s 22-win squad, but the outlook for this season is nevertheless bright.

“I’m not saying [we’ll be] 22-4, but we”ll be okay,” Lin says. “We have a sum that’s bigger than the whole. I’m excited about the kids coming back.”

And well he should be. There’s a great nucleus returning in the backcourt with Jason Penn, Omar Phillips, and Jose Fudd. Penn is a dynamic point guard who will slide off-ball a good amount so the Statesmen can better utilize his offensive talents. Phillips is an athletic guard who made an impact last season, but still has a ton of upside as he continues to improve. Fudd, who transferred from Wakefield last season, is a scorer whose energy on the court Lin terms “infectious.”

Most importantly, all those guys can play some intense defense. The Statesmen last year only allowed about 41 points per game, and defense figures to again be their calling card. They’re smaller than last year, but the team’s versatile and interchangeable parts still allow Lin to apply a lot of pressure and switch on defense if necessary.

That versatility is key on offense as well. How far the Statesmen go depends on how many guys step up behind Penn, Phillips, and Fudd. Ethan Christopher Santos and Andrew Tanaka are senior holdover guards that have had good off-seasons, while junior Anderson Krisko’s play will be key as well. He’s bigger this season and will have to be a factor down low for Marshall to hold its own on the boards.

Lin has his program running at high efficiency and his kids have bought in to his system. There’s some nice underclassman talent on hand as well, so don’t be shocked if other kids step up for the Liberty favorites.

The Wakefield Warriors missed regionals for the first time in 10 years last season. They lost relentless lane warrior Seth Langford to graduation and guard Kobe Davis to transfer–their leading scorers from last year. And yet…we’re pretty high on Tony Bentley’s program this season.

Why? Well, start with two guys the Warriors have returning in the backcourt. Sophomore point guard Jeremiah Poole radically improved as a freshman last year, becoming a starter as the year wore on. Bentley says he’s never had a freshman start for him in his high school coaching career, and that Poole will have the green light to score and create more this year. Alongside him is returning senior BJ Willis, who is a defensive wizard Bentley says aspires to be Liberty Defensive Player of the Year this season. His experience and leadership will be invaluable.

Senior BJ Willis is primed for a big season and brings leadership and continuity to Tony Bentley’s new roster.

There’s two other key returnees in solid junior forward Gabe Henneman and senior shooter Derrick Bailey. But, the wildcards that could propel the Warriors to postseason success are newcomers, all with significant height and talent. Carlton Young is a 6’4″ big kid who can play inside and out. The transfer from Florida has turned some heads in Fall League. 6’5″ Miles Hancock is on hand after transferring from Bishop McNamara–he’ll make his mark as well. More height arrives as 6’7″ Cooper Adair is up from the JV, and Bentley says he’s improved and can make an impact.

If shooting guard Ricardo Snyder can make it back this season from knee surgery, that will just add frosting to the Wake cake. The ingredients for the cake are there but there’s a lot of new pieces to integrate. So expect some bumps, especially during a challenging non-district schedule.

One team that could contend because of continuity and experience alone are the Langley Saxons. Seven seniors return from last year’s team, to include Liberty Player of the Year candidate Ryan Bradshaw. Bradshaw is a 6’2″ guard who can flat out score on the drive and from deep. This year he’ll play more point guard, which will only make him even more attractive to coaches at the next level.

While we wondered if moving Bradshaw to point guard might diminish his scoring ability, that doesn’t seem to be the case based on games this summer and fall. Plus, there’s a lot of shooting and ball-handling on hand to give second-year coach Dave Conrow options. Guard Arman Macchiavello is back and he’s comfortable off ball. Guard Aman Khera, who can also play point guard, returns from injury. 6’5″ Evan Krawczyk is back as well. Krawczyk has a pretty jump shot, plays the wing, and can defend down low.

Ryan Bradshaw can pour in points and is a strong candidate for Liberty Player of the Year this season.

If there’s a weakness for the Saxons, it may be inside. Conrow will depend on his underclassmen, most notably his sophomores, to step up to provide minutes and rebounding inside. They’re talented and so might very well rise to the challenge.

Even if inside play remains a weakness, there’s a lot for Conrow to be positive about. Continuity, for one.

“We have a veteran team,” he says. “It’s now my second year and we had to kind of learn my system as we went last year…we didn’t have much of an offseason. But we’ll be able to hit the ground running faster this season.”

The Herndon Hornets haven’t won too many games recently. Coach Kevin Quinlan simply hasn’t had the depth necessary to climb out of the cellar in the Liberty. We like his nucleus this year, however, as several key young players return from last year’s squad.

First and possibly foremost is senior wing Luke McDermott. McDermott is an all-Liberty defender, a tenacious rebounder, and is capable of making clutch shots. He had some very nice games last year, but will be expected to produce even more consistently and provide leadership this season.

Luke McDermott’s excellent defense helped spark the Hornets last year, and will do so again in 2023-2024.

He’ll be helped out by a solid cast of juniors who gained valuable experience last season on the court. Guards John Callow and Brayden Humpherys are solid athletes who also play football. Wing Tobin Haire had a strong AAU season, while Cash Xeller will be key battling some of the bigger Liberty teams down low.

Herndon isn’t big, so Quinlan will need some of his bigger guards especially to help on the boards. The key is finding enough depth to consistently compete. A solid sophomore class that includes the athletic AJ Johnson and forward Charlie Morgan could help with that problem, and a possible immediate contributor could be talented freshman guard Ryan Buenaventura.

The Hornets should continue to improve this season, as they did last under the strong leadership of Quinlan.

The McLean Highlanders have also consistently improved as of late and now are mentioned by some as a dark horse to challenge Marshall this season. The Highlanders went 14-10 last season, tying Wakefield for third in the district despite losing the talented Jeremy Fuchs to a season-ending injury.

Fuchs, who led the team in scoring his sophomore year before tearing his knee in a scrimmage, is back as a senior. It may take him a little bit to round back into shape, but there’s no reason to think the guard won’t resume his prolific scoring pace eventually.

Junior Rece Bowser is one of McLean’s unsung returnees who have a chance to expand their role this season.

He’ll be supplemented by two very good players in athletic senior forward Isaac Bell and senior swingman Caffrey Eaton. Bell can be extremely tough in the paint, while Eaton provided a lot of everything last year off the bench for O’Brien’s team. He’s already a versatile, talented piece who has a chance to grab some district plaudits this season.

Depth will come in the form of varsity returnee juniors Rece Bowser, a frontcourt player who gained experience last year, and the athletic Maxwell Mullen. If others can step up to provide depth behind the five players mentioned above, McLean could be tough to stop.

“We’re all pretty balanced,” said O’Brien when talking about his returnees. “We should be fairly competitive.”

The Washington-Liberty Generals¬†can’t be that competitive, can they? After all, they lost stars James McIntyre, Brian Weiser and Elijah Hughes plus four other seniors. Don’t write them off yet, however. The team’s JV went 15-3 last year and like the varsity the past few years, has grown accustomed to winning. Long-time coach Bobby Dobson, who shows no signs of slowing down, is excited for the season.

“I’m don’t really know what we’ll look like yet,” said Dobson. “I know we’ll play hard and play together.”

Senior Max Hickey gets handed the keys to the W-L bus this season.

There are a number of significant returnees, now seniors. Max Hickey has shown the ability to score, but he’ll step into a pure point guard role this year and increased minutes. Dobson calls Leonardo Fall a defensive whiz, and tall Darin Ballard is a very good outside shooter. Five others return, to include solid forward Matt Bristol.

So, with those guys there is some stability and experience. What might really make Washington-Liberty dangerous is a talented, deep sophomore class that should have a number of players on varsity. Names like Gabe Smith and Sod-Od Tuvshinsaikhan are names opposing coaches might have to learn sooner than later.

Plus, almost nobody can match the coaching experience of Dobson, who shows no signs of slowing down.

“I’m still having fun, I’m still loving it,” he says. “I’m gonna keep coaching until I don’t, or my wife tells me different.”

Joe Keimig returns to varsity coaching as the Yorktown Patriots‘ new head honcho, replacing Joe Reed. Keimig, who teaches in Arlington, says the job is the only one he would have returned to high school coaching for. “There’s an element of familiarity here,” he says. “I know most of the kids from Williamsburg [middle school] and now they’re here.”

Keimig has a squad that will be powered by a very strong junior class. The 6’4″ Brennan Pilot returns, as does Andrew Maria, a tall wing who is capable of scoring prolifically and finishing emphatically. Those two alone are a very good nucleus for the future. Big guy Jack Rubin will give Keimig added height and strength inside.

The Patriots have showed in the offseason they’re going to beat teams. Whether they hit their playoff stride this year or next may depend on the other guys. Nick Senkus will step into a lot of point guard minutes and his ex-JV teammate, 6’3″ Austin Barbieri, will also likely play a big role. And while First Team All-Liberty Ben Coulam has graduated, his little brother, sophomore Jake Coulam, is on hand after transferring in.

The Patriots have a lot of work to do to learn Keimig’s style but there’s a lot of potential here. They have to develop of go-to guy in the clutch–very likely Pilot or Maria–but until then, Keimig thinks his depth can be an advantage.

“Other teams won’t be able to focus on just one person,” he says.

–Chris Jollay