With new faces comes new expectations.
As for the St. Joseph Academy boys basketball team, the primary expectation remains the same.
The Wildcats will look to challenge themselves with a competitive schedule and ascend into championship contention this upcoming winter. St. Joseph finished with a 12-2 record last season and was ranked seventh in the final South Jersey Sports Zone Top 30. The Wildcats only two losses were to St. Augustine and Egg Harbor Township.
However, St. Joseph defeated St. Augustine for the first time since 2007 with a 57-51 victory on February 3, 2021. It was a defining moment for the program as it marked the first time Wildcats coach Paul Rodio, Jr. defeated his father, Paul Rodio, in a head-to-head matchup.
Rodio, Jr. and the Wildcats have won 128 games since 2014. They will look to continue that trend of success and “try to win a championship as the next hurdle,” as Rodio, Jr. put it.
Their biggest hurdle this year will be alleviating the losses of Marcus Pierce, Jordan Stafford and Dom Thomas to graduation. The task has become attainable with the return of multiple starters and key contributors, in addition to a plethora of notable transfers making their way to Vine Street.
Ja’son Prevard (6.4 points per game) and 6-foot-9 forward Darryl McGraw (4.7 points per game) are St. Joseph’s only two returning starters. Arnaldo Rodriguez is a returning letterman that averaged 6.9 points per game and was a threat from beyond-the-arc off the bench. Senior Majid Abdur-Rahim is another returning letterman (3.1 points per game).
Senior Ian Harvey-Williams arrives in Hammonton after averaging 13.2 points per game last season at Highland. Harvey-Williams helped the Tartans win 10 games in a shortened campaign and led the team in assists and steals. Joining Harvey-Williams is junior Devon Theophile. Theophile averaged 14.7 points per game last season at Winslow. Last but not least, Williamstown transfer Qiani Bowens joins the Wildcats after averaging 16.4 points per game in 2020-21.
St. Joseph’s roster is bolstered by three more transfers in junior Jared Demara (St. Augustine), senior Jahmeer Cartagena (Atlantic City) and sophomore Darrell Newton (Oakcrest). Demara appeared in 13 games for the Hermits last season and tallied a career-high nine points in a 91-58 win over Millville.
Senior Erik Rose is a returning letterman. Senior Kyle Patton and sophomore Jason Umosella are two newcomers.
South Jersey Sports Zone (SJSZ) was co-founded by Kevin Emmons in 2017. The brand covers high school sports and promotes South Jersey pride. If you’d like to keep up with SJSZ, find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.