Top Pick Earns the Jackrabbits the Top Spot
MOUNT LAUREL: Preseason Power Rankings
By Kevin Kolodziej | Mount Laurel Media Associate
After taking more than a full calendar year off due to a knee injury, Jake Gurkin is returning to the league with a well-balanced, fully-loaded squad. The Jackrabbits had the first pick in the draft and selected Mustafa El-Amin, who averaged 26.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.3 steals on 74 percent shooting from the floor in his Ultimate Hoops career (3 games). While his track record is short (he signed up during the season that was cut short due to the fire), he’s proven he’s one of the top players in the league. Also helping the Jackrabbits on the boards will be versatile big-man Joe Petrone, who is one of the top rebounders in the league. Mix in the guard-play of Brenton Anderson and Rich Bandoy, and the Jackrabbits are as high-powered and well-balanced as you can get. They’ll compete for a title this season.
2. All Buckets
The reigning champs bring back three core-players from a season ago in captain Matt Emerson, reigning league-MVP Dame Gross and their Swiss Army Knife in Drew Harris. While they’ll certainly be one of the better teams this year, it’ll be telling to see how they play without Tone Bronner, Justin DeJoseph, Hope Phillips and Tommy Egan - all of which were huge parts of the team’s success during the summer. That being said, Gross will still compete for MVP, Emerson knows what it takes to win as a captain and they added some nice pieces in the draft. For one, Andrew Fitzpatrick is arguably the scrappiest player in the league. He gives 100 percent effort on any given night, and unless he fouls out, he’ll be a big-time contributor for All Buckets this season. They also have former-champion Paul Halbkram, point guard Simon Atiya and league-veteran Mark Shae. Gross is really their only true rebounder, which keeps them out of the top spot, but when he’s in the middle, do they really need anyone else grabbing boards?
3. Kobe’s Rebounders
Besides being one of the top overall players in the league, Kobe’s Rebounders captain Mike Kouser has proven to be one of the most loyal captains in the league. For the third-straight season, he’s drafted a nearly identical team that won him the championship in the Winter 2018. He’s got his point guard in Eric Moats, his outside shooting in Hope Phillips and Christian D’Alessandro and he’s got his absolute wildcards in Damian Smith and Jay Sumpter. Kouser strategically drafts his teams to play to his strengths, which is essentially to get him the ball inside and either score or dish out to a shooter on offense, while watching his athletic teammates hustle around him on defense. You can’t forget about the on-court dialogue between Kouser and Sumpter, either, which essentially makes each one of their games a must-watch.
4. South Jersey Dynasty
Formerly captain of the Wet Bandits, Jabree Jackson switched up his team name this season after not winning a championship over the past few seasons. That being said, the Wet Bandits were the most-winningest team in league history, with three total banners hanging in the gym. Jackson also drafted Justin DeJoseph again this season, who won his league-high fifth championship during the summer league, three of which with the Wet Bandits. SJ Dynasty also has a couple big-men on the squad with Jessiah “Milk” Styles and Ruben Edouard, who are two versatile big-men down low. Jackson also added a couple newcomers in Mike Martin and Justin Victoria, so it’ll be fun to see how those two mesh with a mostly-veteran squad.
5. Jesus Disciples
If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past few years, you can never count out a Tim Robinson-led squad. While he really never drafts a true big-man, he still drafts strategically with one thing on his mind: a championship. His first pick, Tory Whiting, is always a top player in the league, while Mike Nelson one of the hardest-working, most versatile players in league history. They’ve got some athleticism in Jesus Delligatti, Jerry Barrett and Eddie Chambers along with some height in Mustafa Kilic and AJ Mieskolainen. They’ll have their work cut out for them this season, but should still be able to compete based on speed and athleticism alone.