Seniors Eric Stahler, Harley Williamson and Greg Robbins (pictured L-R in the historic Down's Gym) will help guide the Aces this season
The 104th season of Aces Basketball begins this week as the 2008-09 squad officially takes the court for the first time. It has been an eventful offseason for the Maroon & White, marked by the program's first Hall of Fame induction ceremony in June, the conclusion of the Main Gym era (the building came down in late July to make way for new school construction), a 9-day road trip to UNC Team Camp and the wilds of West Virginia, several tournaments and countless hours of individual improvement in the gym. With the start of tryouts on Monday and the season's first game less than three weeks away, the excitement is building for the return of Aces Hoops. Here are a few things fans should know about the upcoming season:
The Aces traditionally play one of the most difficult schedules in Pennsylvania; this year things get interesting right from the start. The team opens the preseason with a scrimmage at prep powerhouse Our Savior New American (Long Island, NY) on November 22nd. On Tuesday, December 2nd, the Aces will be part of a showcase tri-scrimmage at Villanova University with Catholic League (and now PIAA) power Neumann-Goretti and Glen Mills, one of this year's AAAA favorites.
The regular season begins December 5th with a road game at Parkland, one of District 11's premier programs and a state contender this season. The non-league schedule also includes a showdown with Philadelphia Public League behemoth Simon Gratz at Widener University (12/26), a two-day trip to the Norristown Triangle Club holiday tournament (12/29-12/30) featuring 2008 state runner-up Norristown and Inter-Ac favorite Germantown Academy, and late season match-ups with ESPN USA Top 50 Penn Wood at Norristown (1/24) and state contender Coatesville at Villanova (1/30).
League play also presents significant and exciting challenges, with a number of much-improved Central League teams and a revised scheduling format that concludes with a first-ever Central League playoff tournament. The top four Central teams will compete in a two-day affair hosted by the team that finishes with the best regular-season league record. The winner of the event will be crowned league champ. Entering the league this year are two new teams - Garnet Valley and intra-district rival, Harriton. The Aces visit the Rams on January 15th.
With the Main Gym gone, the Aces have moved operations to Bala Cynwyd Middle School for the next two seasons. The hardwood home of the BC Knights, aka "The Round Table," is a sparkling, recently-built gymnasium. With the Aces set to play their hand here during home games, the court might be more aptly known as "The Poker Table" and the gym, "The Poker Room," given its intimate seating and great sightlines for players and fans. The Dawg Pound student section will be as close as ever to the action.
Final rosters won't be set until at least the end of this week, but the Aces do return three senior starters from last season's squad, including Greg Robbins, Eric Stahler and Harley Williamson. Robbins recently signed with the University of Richmond, where he will continue his post-high school scholastic and basketball career. A mix of returning upperclassmen and several younger players will be looking to make their mark for the first time this year.
Other News & Notes
- Once again, the Aces will launch the season with "Maroon Madness," a fan-friendly event to be held Saturday, November 29th at 2 PM at Bala Cynwyd. Both the boys and girls teams will be introduced and the afternoon will feature a variety of games and prize giveaways. Sneakerheads will have a chance to check out and win a pair of brand new, limited-edition Nike/Aces Hyperdunks.
- Special events this year include Alumni Night (Saturday, January 17th -- pre-game reception for alumni and on-court ceremony honoring Aces legends) Youth Nights, (PVJSA Night is Tuesday, January 13th and Next Level Night is Wednesday, January 21 - all youth league players who wear their jerseys to the game receive free admission)
- Aces alumni playing college basketball this year include Eric Barefield (Alvernia), Ryan Brooks (Temple), Dan Capkin (Gettysburg), Steve Meehan (Gettysburg) and Garrett Williamson (St. Joseph's). Capkin was named a pre-season D3 All-American.
- The historic Downs Gym will be the site of most 9th grade and some JV games this season.