COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Central Catholic League enters the 2023-24 season one member lighter, as back-to-back defending champion Bishop Ready bolted for the newly-formed Central Buckeye League. This leaves a micro conference of four teams, with longtime CCL rivals Bishop Hartley, Bishop Watterson, DeSales and St. Charles remaining on board.
Every team in the division had a record of .500 or greater last season, with Bishop Watterson having the most impressive season, finishing 17-10 with a second district title in three years. The Eagles find themselves in a familiar position as St. Charles, with both teams graduating a great deal of senior production, but none bigger than the monsters in the middle. St. Charles' Chase Walker and Bishop Watterson's Cole Rhett were two of the best big men to come through the CCL in recent memory, always making for an entertaining battle when these teams matched up.
With Walker and Rhett both off to the Division I level to play basketball and football, respectively, Watterson and St. Charles will enter this season with a relatively brand new roster filled with inexperience.
Bishop Watterson has a few returning varsity players led by senior guard Henry Monnin and junior forward Dominic Theado. Monnin was a shot making guard that produced consistently last year, while Theado is a talented forward that has been a figure off the bench since his freshman season and should take a big step up this year.
For St. Charles, Walker and fellow senior Zach Auletta powered the Cardinals offense, which means they have a lot to replace in 2024. Juniors Isaac Willey and Logan Tharp, along with senior Connor Cole are the top returners this season and will be relied upon heavily to keep this team competitive. The plus side for St. Charles is they get to debut the area's most spectacular high school basketball venue - the Frank Murphy '54 Convocation Center. This new arena will certainly increase interest in basketball at St. Charles and could lead to another golden era of Cardinal hoops.
These programs are well coached and play a signature slower paced style, so look for Watterson and St. Charles both to remain competitive and challenge themselves in the non-conference slate.
On the other end of the spectrum, Bishop Hartley and DeSales return the bulk of their production from last season, with nobody returning more talent than Hartley. The young Hawks soared at times last season, ultimately finishing 12-10 with a 3-5 record in league play that was tied with Watterson.
Hartley heads into year two under head coach Andreas James and has the luxury of the best backcourt in the CCL. The Calloway brothers, junior Jaden and sophomore Jakhi, are two talented playmaking guards that set the table for this team. Junior forward/wing Pharez Nicholas is an athletic force and pairs nicely with the Calloway duo. Much like other CCL programs, Hartley will have to wait until football season is over to see what type of roster they'll have this winter.
DeSales won 14 games last season, but struggled in CCL play, going just 2-6. The Stallions have a terrific backcourt themselves, with junior 6-foot-4 guard PJ Noles receiving the bulk of the headlines. Noles is joined in the junior class by Carter Ward, who was solid off the bench for the Stallions last season. DeSales has the most experienced player in the league this season in senior guard Michael Walker, who was a starter as a freshman on the Stallions' state runner up squad in 2021.
The departure of Ready puts CCL teams in an interesting situation, with only six league games on their schedule. The bulk of their season, even more than before, will be played outside of the league and will prepare these teams for tournament time.
Head coach: Andreas James
'22-23 record: 12-10 (3-5)
Last CCL title: 2018
Storyline for the season: Can this team take the next step after flashes of promise last year?
Head coach: Vince Lombardo
'22-23 record: 17-10 (3-5), ended with Division II district championship
Last CCL title: 2019
Storyline for the season: With the graduation of an accomplished 2023 class that won two district titles in three years, does Bishop Watterson have enough left in the cupboard to continue to contend in Division II?
Head coach: Pat Murphy
'22-23 record: 14-9 (2-6)
Last CCL title: 2019
Storyline for the season: Can Noles, Walker and Ward push this team back to the top of the CCL?
Head coach: Mike Ryan
'22-23 record: 12-12 (4-4)
Last CCL title: 2021 (won back-to-back from 2020-2021, with another title in 2017)
Storyline for the season: With a new area and new roster, who will lead the charge in the new era of St. Charles basketball?