BOYS HOOPS PREVIEW: Middle out to prove itself against tough schedule (with video)
December 13, 2018
GIRLS HOOPS PREVIEW: Crusaders expect to take the next step (with video)
December 13, 2018

BOYS HOOPS PREVIEW: Crusaders striving for repeat of last season’s success (with video)

Junior Jacob Hopping is one of four returning Wildwood Catholic players with significant varsity experience.

Wildwood Catholic coach Dave DeWeese addresses his team at the close of a recent practice. The Crusaders are considered to be among the best teams in South Jersey entering the season.


Mascot: Crusaders

Conference: Cape-Atlantic United

Enrollment group: South Jersey Non-Public B

2017-18 record: 26-3

Head coach: Dave DeWeese (17th season, 270-164)

Assistant coaches: Scott DeWeese, Mark DiRugeris, Brendan Norris

Returning players: Senior – Brendan McGonigal (6-1 G); Juniors – Jacob Hopping (6-3 G/F), Taj Thweatt (6-7 F), Jahlil White (6-6 G/F).

Top newcomers: Juniors – Ben Church (6-2 F), Tommy Bolle (6-0 G); Sophomores – Dom Caraballo (5-9 G), Liam Grimes (5-9 G), Jared Hopping (6-3 F), DaSean Lopez (6-2 F), David Zarfati (5-11 G), C.J. Wareham (5-9 G); Freshmen – Akeel Johnson (6-0 F), Nick Montalbano (6-4 F).

Strengths: Experience, defense, athleticism, winning tradition

Weaknesses: Depth

Outlook: Wildwood Catholic, the defending CAL playoff tournament champion, is considered to be among the best teams in South Jersey. Juniors Taj Thweatt and Jahlil White have already received multiple Division I scholarship offers. Both figure to be double-digit scorers and extremely impactful defensive players. But even though those two grab most of the headlines, there is a lot of other talent in the program as well. Junior Jacob Hopping returns as a starter and is a capable shooter. Brendan McGonigal, the team’s lone senior, is ready to take the reins at point guard after apprenticing under Caleb Fields, now at Division I Bowling Green. Middle Township transfers David Zarfati and DaSean Lopez are expected to make an impact as well, although Lopez must sit out the first 30 days due to the NJSIAA transfer rule. And junior Ben Church and sophomore Jared Hopping also figure to be in the rotation. If there’s one weakness, this year’s team isn’t as deep as last year’s, but that certainly could change as the season moves along as less experienced players develop and fall into defined roles. The Crusaders are favorites to win the CAL United for an eighth straight season, but Pleasantville and St. Joseph can certainly challenge them. South Jersey Non-Public B has been a minefield in recent years, but the Crusaders may have enough to challenge there as well, although Ranney, with its own litany of Division I prospects and signees, is the favorite. The non-league schedule is brutal, with games against Trenton, Marist, Camden, Archbishop Carroll (Pa.), Patrick School, St. Augustine, Cherokee and Bishop Eustace, among others.

Coach’s quote: “This is a new experience for us because we have four kids who got a ton of varsity experience last year. They played meaningful minutes in a lot of big games so that should be a strength for us,” Wildwood Catholic coach Dave DeWeese said. “We thought our schedule was tough last year but right now this year’s schedule looks even tougher. We’ll be going against a lot of high-quality opponents. It worked for us last year and hopefully it works for us this year.

“By the end of the year we hope we can be in a position to win our conference and get to the point where we can compete with anybody. We were able to do that last year and hopefully we can build the same thing this season.”

Season opener: Friday vs. Holy Spirit, 7 pm

Junior Jacob Hopping is one of four returning Wildwood Catholic players with significant varsity experience.