The 109th season of Lower Merion Basketball is set to get underway on Saturday night as the Aces take on Imhotep at 7 PM at home in the FamJuice Classic. It is a unique time of opportunity and transition for the Aces, who captured the program’s 7th state championship in 2013. With only four returning players who saw meaningful minutes last season, a young group of Aces will look to make their mark. Returnees like seniors Justin McFadden and JaQuan Johnson and juniors Corey Sherman and Jule Brown will be asked to take on more significant roles in an effort to get LM back to the postseason.
Here are a few things fans should know about the 2013-14 season:
Year in and year out, the Aces play one of the most challenging schedules in Pennsylvania. The 2013-14 campaign is no different. The Aces will play six showcase games against non-league opponents with serious state title aspirations and test their mettle in a Central League that’s as deep and competitive as it has been in years.
First up is a showdown at home on Saturday night at 7 PM with defending AAA state champion, Imhotep, ranked as the state’s top team in several polls. The Panthers defeated LM 64-61 at the Burger King Classic in Erie last January and return a talented, veteran roster. On December 21, the Aces will visit Catholic League power St. Joe’s Prep. Led by legendary coach Speedy Morris, the Hawks are expected once again to contend for a 4A title. Over the holiday break, LM will host another squad ranked atop the state polls, Archbishop Carroll, as part of the Jameer Nelson/Pete Nelson Play By Play Classic and then take on Delaware’s top team, the Sanford School, a prep powerhouse loaded with Division 1 talent on December 29 at Widener University. On January 18, the Aces will host New Castle in an intriguing re-match of last year’s state semi-final game at the Kobe Bryant Classic. The Red Hurricanes are expected to make another run at the state title in 2014 and start the season ranked #1 in Western PA. LM rounds out its non-league campaign with a visit to perennial District 11 and state playoff contender Parkland on February 1.
The Aces open league play on December 10 at Haverford and host their first league game on December 23 against Upper Darby. LM is on the road for six of its first eight games.
The Aces graduated ten seniors in 2013, but return two starters in McFadden and Johnson and reserves Sherman and Brown. With the exception of newcomer Nick Jones ’15 and several players who were deep reserves last season, every other player on the roster moves up from the JV, 9th and 8th grade ranks.
Other News & Notes
Three former Aces are playing Division I basketball this season, including Yohanny Dalembert ’13 (James Madison), BJ Johnson ’13 (Syracuse) and Darryl Reynolds ’12 (Villanova). Aces at the Division III level include Oliver Cohen ’10 (senior captain at Tufts), Luke Chambers ’11 (Johns Hopkins) and Bryan Shapiro ’13 (Washington). Greg Robbins ’09 is coaching at Division 1 Campbell University.
In the pro ranks, Kobe Bryant ’96 is in his 18th year with the Los Angeles Lakers. Ryan Brooks ’06 continues his career in Germany’s top league for Telekom Baskets Bonn. Garrett Williamson ’06 is playing for the London Lightning of the National Basketball League of Canada.
Gregg Downer enters his 24th season in 2013-14. His record stands at 456-192 (.704). His 456 wins are the most among all active District 1 coaches...Lower Merion Basketball was named the "Best Boys Basketball Program" in the region and Downer was named “Best Coach” by Main Line Today magazine in 2013.