Shipley Gators-Team on The Rise

For better and worse, it’s likely last season will repeat for this basketball powerhouse

(Photo Left) Shipley boy's basketball players from left: Ronan Higgins (11), Tom Sobleman (22), Sam Sessoms (3), Eli Gorrell (1) and Ray Somerville (33). Photo by Sarah J. Glover

There was one team standing between Shipley and its first ever Friends Schools League Championship last year. Unfortunately, it’s the same team that was ranked in the top five of the country in most polls that included fifth year players: Westtown. Nothing will be different this season.

Seth Berger’s Moose return seven Division I players, including, arguably, the best player in the country, 6’8” Duke commit Cameron Reddish. So, if Shipley doesn't win its league, it’s understandable.

Beside the last FSL victory, Westtown has won the Pennsylvania Independent League state title and will start the year as Liberty City Press’ pre-season number one-ranked team in the area.

But Shipley won’t be an easy out for Westtown or any other league or city team on its schedule this year. Coach Phil D’Ambrosio has scheduled Archbishop Carroll, St. Georges (De.), Neumann, Archbishop Wood and others in the most ambitious schedule in school history. Led by its all-time leading scorer Sam Sessoms and blossoming big man Ray Somerville, this is supposed to be Shipley’s best basketball team in its history.

“Last year, was a big year for Shipley boys basketball, winning 20 games and making it to the Friends League championship,” said D’Ambrosio. "We’re excited to get this season underway. We’ve made some great additions to the team and the program is growing stronger with sudden interest from the younger students and administration. We want to continue to build off of what we’ve been able to accomplish the last few seasons. In order to do so, we must have our chemistry in place and have everyone fully invested in playing for one another. Right now, on paper, we look decent but that has to translate to the court. In order for us to manage and continue to strive for more, it’s imperative that our senior group takes the lead.”

Most pundits believe Shipley will be a team to be reckoned with this season. Yet, in all fairness, this looks to be one of the strongest boys basketball seasons in recent memory.

We at LCP feel there are 10 teams in the Catholic League that can compete for league and various state crowns, while the suburbs are loaded with Plymouth Whitemarsh, Abington, Coatesville, Cheltenham, Lower Merion, Pennsbury Downingtown West, Bishop Shanahan, and Neshaminy. There are a minimum of 30 legitimate Division I prospects in the senior class and easily 45 in the junior class. There are excellent teams in the city like Imhotep Charter, Girard College, and Constitution, as well.

“It’s going to be a great season for area high school basketball,” said hoops scout Norm Eavenson. “And this Shipley team is going to make noise. They have the most talent of any team I have ever seen at this school. It all starts with their 6-0 scoring point guard Sam Sessoms [who committed to Binghamton over the summer].” His coach agrees. “Sam [Sessoms] has been excellent throughout his time here. Naturally it was an adjustment for him early on, going from public to private school, but he’s been great in terms of leading by example and working hard each and every day. He’s matured vastly on and off the court. He plays with a ton of passion and fire, and [the] things we discuss with him are learning how to best channel those emotions. It’s going to be key for him to get all of his teammates on board, playing confident and together,” said D’Ambrosio.

Many area scouts are intrigued with Somerville, a 6’9” junior who has already picked up some college offers at the highest level. “Ray [Somerville] had a great off season, spending lots of time in the gym while also competing at a high level on the AAU circuit. His confidence grew significantly once the Division I offers started coming through the door,” his coach said. “He currently has a bunch of Division I offers, along with several other schools, still pursuing. I still believe his best days are ahead, but we are very pleased with the progress he’s made in just a little over a year, since arriving to Shipley. Last year, we were lucky to have a big man to be able to help protect the rim. Although this year will be the same, we will try to utilize him more on the offensive end and get him involved early and often.”

In AAU ball this spring and summer, Somerville worked on post moves and became a double-digit scorer consistently. “Yeah I feel I have gotten better. I am looking forward to all the challenges ahead,” he said. Many in the Shipley community are excited and are also wary about the team’s schedule. But D’Ambrosio says it’s not all about wins and losses. “We put together a tough non-conference schedule in order to best prepare ourselves for what we may see in our league against the likes of Westtown,” he said. “It’s the challenge we are looking for at this point of our program. We feel, with the pieces we have in place, that we can compete. We are not worried about outcomes instead of the opportunities they present for ourselves. The Catholic League is one of the best in the Tri-state area, so by playing [Neuman-Goretti], Wood and Carroll, along with programs such as Coatesville, Phelps and Perkiomen, we have positioned ourselves to face top-notch competition. We also know this is a challenge with our academic workload at a great school like this.” He added: “Our guys know coming in what they’re getting themselves into academically. We are a rigorous school, so therefore it can be challenging to find that balance, however, school comes first and our guys know this. Everyone gets the same amount of hours in a day, time management is a crucial part to their success both on and off the court."




Shipley Gators-Team on The Rise
Jeremy Treatman - Contributor

Jeremy Treatman is the founder and co-director of the Scholastic Play-by-Play Classics and Sports Broadcasting Camps. Over 50 NBA players, including Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and Rajon Rondo played in his events when they were in high school. Jeremy wrote high school sports for the INQUIRER for 10 years, and was the first TV reporter for the HIgh School Sports Show on Channel 29 from 1994-2001. He currently is Comcast's announcer for all high school games.


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