Lower Merion fans will have plenty of reasons to follow the 2009-10 college basketball season. Nine Aces alumni are among the NCAA ranks this season, and compelling storylines abound...Here are just a few:
Brooks and Williamson. Williamson and Brooks. It’s hard to believe that almost four years have transpired since the dynamic duo of Ryan Brooks and Garrett Williamson (aka Garrett Williamson and Ryan Brooks) hoisted the state championship trophy in Hershey. Their legacy will be forever linked, and their imprint on Lower Merion basketball is indelible. Both were late bloomers who earned scholarships towards the end of their high school careers. Both stayed local, becoming part of Philadelphia’s storied Big 5 tradition. And now, as seniors, both will be looked upon to lead their teams once again – this time as sole captains of rival schools. Ryan, who adorns a Temple Owls basketball billboard on I-76 and Garrett, the cover model for this year’s Saint Joe’s Hawks media guide, have earned numerous accolades from coaches, teammates and the media during the past three years. Brooks is coming off an All-Big 5 campaign and Williamson was named to the A-10’s All-Defensive team. But senior year will inevitably define their college careers, and Aces fans will no doubt be cheering them on in their final college campaign. The Hawks and Owls play twice during the regular season – 1/6 @ Temple and 2/10 @ The Palestra.
Spiderman. No freshman arrived with more hype and expectation at Lower Merion than Greg Robbins – and that includes Kobe Bryant. Robbins shouldered a huge load from day one, playing a key role in the 2006 state title run and leading the team to the most wins over a four-year stretch in program history. He finished as the Aces’ 2nd all-time leading scorer (behind only Bryant) and just for kicks, balanced his decorated basketball career with four years of All-State level play on the soccer pitch. Now a freshman at Richmond, Robbins is playing basketball full-time for the first time in his life – a scary prospect for the opposition. Robbins is out to prove himself once again, which could make for an exciting first-year campaign as a Spider. Richmond will be in town to play Saint Joe’s on 2/3.
Ellison Covers Harley. Adam Ellison’s on-court basketball career may have officially ended in high school, but this season he will be behind the microphone as play-by-play broadcaster for Kutztown University’s men’s basketball team. Circled on Ellison’s calendar are two match-ups against PSAC league rival West Chester, whose roster features freshman Harley Williamson. Ellison is perhaps best known among Aces fans for his thrilling buzzer beater against Chester in 2007. Now he gets to cover a former teammate who upped the ante in the late game heroics department, nailing three game-winning shots of his own. Williamson saw 23 minutes of action in a preseason exhibition game against Rider and figures to be in the mix for the rams all season. And if the ball is in his hands with the clock winding down on 1/27 and 2/17, it will be Ellison making the call.
Fresh Start. Eric Barefield’s arrival at Lower Merion was a fortuitous one for both player and program; the first person he met when he walked into the Main Gym in 2005 was Kobe, who happened to be in town for a game against the Sixers. Barefield watched the Aces make their Cinderella run to the state title in ’05 and had what proved to be the winning basket in the ’06 title game, a power layup against future NBAer DeJuan Blair. After leading Alvernia in assists last year, Barefield transferred to Immaculata. Now a junior, Barefield will have the reigns as captain and point guard for a young Mighty Macs team. The last Aces alum to play at Immaculata -- Rob Jones – helped lead the team to a first-ever league title.
The Gettysburg Connection. Dan Capkin helped re-write the record books during his stellar four-year career at Gettysburg. The former Aces star finished among the Bullets’ all-time leading scorers and propelled the team to consecutive NCAA tournament appearances for the first time (as well as a league title in his senior season). Capkin’s departure doesn’t spell the end of the Aces’ connections in Gettysburg or the promise of another strong season. Another former Aces sniper, Steve Meehan, enters his sophomore season for a team that has aspirations of a return to the Centennial title game. Meehan, who drilled threes in an LM-record 32 straight games will be looked on to provide scoring punch from the perimeter for the Bullets.
Championship Management. At first it seemed like he was simply riding the wave. Four years later, it’s fair to postulate that he may in fact be the wave. Matt Lachs showed up on the Aces bench for the 2006 state title run, earned a ring and a Central League title, then headed off to Temple where he assumed the role of varsity manager for Fran Dunphy’s Owls. Temple shocked the A-10 in ‘09, capturing a 2nd consecutive championship title and an NCAA berth. The common thread in these championship seasons– Matt Lachs. Look for him at near the basket with the white towel.
A Bronco Unleashed. The dream of Division 1 basketball can be a long and winding road. Carl Johnson knows this better than anyone. The talented guard was one of the most exciting Aces players in recent memory – a highlight-reel finisher and a gritty defender who was called upon time and time again to lockdown LM’s toughest opponents. After graduating, Johnson spent a year prepping in Connecticut, hoping to improve his stock on the recruiting circuit. To say he succeeded is an understatement. Johnson joins a Rider program that is a perennial MAAC title contender; they knocked off #18 Mississippi State in the season opener. Let the doubters beware…Carl Johnson has arrived.