When T-John Casiello graduated in the spring, the Wildwood Catholic High School basketball team lost its point guard, its top scorer and its leader.
Several players this season will try to fill the void left by Casiello, a first-team Press All-Star who helped Wildwood Catholic go 18-9 last season.
"Losing T-John was huge," Crusaders coach Dave DeWeese said. "T-John had the ball in his hands 90 percent of the time for four years straight. It's been an adjustment to have him out of the lineup."
George Cook will take over as the starting point guard. Sophomore Kevin McWade, who played some varsity minutes last season as a freshman, also will help with ball-handling duties.
"It's a little bit hard because he was the leader," Cook said. "And it took me a while, it's taking me a while, to get used to (taking over for him)."
Cook said he played a lot of club basketball over the summer and improved his game.
"I'm smarter on the court," Cook said. "I have a better IQ."
Casiello wasn't just a playmaker, though. In addition to leading the Cape-Atlantic League in assists and steals last season, he scored 1,100 points in his high school career, including 13.7 per game last season.
Junior Eddie McWade, Kevin's brother, has started since the first game of his freshman year and will be looked to as a primary scoring option. The Crusaders also add Clinton Freeman, a 6-foot-4 transfer from Cape May Tech.
"I feel like we're all equal," Cook said, "and we'll be just as good as last year or even better."
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Coach: Dave DeWeese (142-125, 10 seasons)
2011-12 record: 18-9
2012-13 prediction: Rebuilding - The Crusaders could end up a contender but have question marks right now.
Key players: Eddie McWade, Jr., F, 6-4; Jordan Robertson, Jr., 6-3; George Cook, Jr., 5-8; Harry McNally, Sr., F, 5-11; Keenan Osborne, Sr., 6-3; Kevin McWade, So., 5-9.
Top newcomers: Clinton Freeman, Jr., C., 6-4; Malcolm Darby, Jr., F., 6-2; Tyler Norris, So., G., 5-10; Garrett Moretti, Jr., G., 5-11; Patrick McGann, So., G., 5-9; Czarek Czworkowski, Fr., F., 6-1; DJ Smith, Fr., G., 5-11.
Games to watch:
5:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 17 at Cape May Tech
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22 vs. Wildwood at Wildwoods Convention Center
2:15 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 29 vs. Central Bucks East (Pa.) at Wildwoods Convention Center
Saturday, Jan. 26 vs. Bishop Eustace (time TBA).
Dec. 14: at Sacred Heart, 7 p.m.
Dec. 15: vs. Rancocas Valley Regional at Ocean City, 3:30 p.m.
Dec. 17: at Cape May Tech, 5:30 p.m.
Dec. 22: vs. Wildwood at Wildwoods Convention Center, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 29: vs. Central Bucks East (Pa.) at Wildwoods Convention Center, 2:15 p.m.
Dec. 30: vs. TBD at Wildwoods Convention Center, time TBA
Jan. 3: vs. Pleasantville, 7 p.m.
Jan. 5: vs. St. Joseph, 3 p.m.
Jan. 7: at Atlantic County Institute of Technology, 7 p.m.
Jan. 10: vs. Cedar Creek, 7 p.m.
Jan. 14: vs. Buena Regional, 7 p.m.
Jan. 19: vs. Lower Cape May Regional, 2 p.m.
Jan. 22: vs. Sacred Heart, 7 p.m.
Jan. 24: vs. Cape May Tech, 7 p.m.
Jan. 26: vs. Bishop Eustace at Rancocas Valley Regional, 2:30 p.m.
Jan. 29: at Hammonton, 7 p.m.
Jan. 31: at Pleasantville, 7 p.m.
Feb. 2: vs. Absegami at Atlantic City, 12:30 p.m.
Feb. 4: vs. Atlantic County Institute of Technology, 7 p.m.
Feb. 7: at Cedar Creek, 7 p.m.
Feb. 10: vs. TBA (Olympic Cape Challenge), time TBA
Feb. 11: at Buena Regional, 6 p.m.