The most remarkable thing about the impact freshmen in South Jersey boys basketball is the strength of their teams.
These guys aren't making a difference for struggling squads in classic rebuilding mode.
They are propelling top teams with their sights on division titles and post-season tournament success.
Freshmen twin guards Nick DePersia and Rob DePersia have helped Haddonfield to a 9-1 record and first place in the Colonial Conference's Liberty Division.
Freshman guard Jake Silpe has sparked Cherry Hill East to a 10-1 mark and second place in the Olympic American.
Freshman center Tim Delaney has powered Pitman to a 7-2 record and first place in the Tri-County Classic.
"Timmy is at a small school and he fits in well," Pitman coach Kevin Crawford said of the Group 1 program. "But I believe he would be starting for any team in South Jersey."
Shawnee guard Alec Warren and Gloucester Catholic guard Fran Kinsey are other freshmen who have made an impact. Warren scored nine the other night against No. 1 Paul VI and eight against Camden. Kinsey scored a career-best 18 against GCIT.
The 6-foot-8 Delaney, whose mom is the former Washington Township and St. Joseph's University standout who played as Jeanine Reynolds, is among South Jersey's leading scorers with a 20.1 average. He's scored in double figures in every game and went for a career-high 32 in a victory over Audubon on Friday night.
Crawford said Delaney wears size 18 sneakers.
"If he grows a couple more inches . . . " Crawford said.
Delaney already has attracted interest from colleges such as Villanova, La Salle and Rutgers, according to Crawford.
Delaney lives in Mullica Hill and played at St. Margaret's School in Woodbury Heights (as did Kinsey). Delaney is a tuition student at Pitman.
The DePersia's, who live in Cherry Hill, are tuition students at Haddonfield. They are speedy, skilled, 5-foot-8 athletes whose presence has persauded Haddonfield coach Paul Wiedeman to play a more aggressive, trapping defensive scheme.
"We've changed our defense this year," Wiedeman said. "They (the DePersia's) are so disruptive at the defensive end. They put so much pressure on the other team."
Wiedeman said the DePersia's defensive play is "very contagious" to the rest of the team.
Through Friday, Nick DePersia was averaging 7.3 points and Rob DePersia was averaging 6.1 points. The twins combined for 16 points on Tuesday in a victory over previously undefeated Haddon Heights.
The 5-11 Silpe was averaging 7.9 points through Friday. He scored nine in a victory over then-No. 1 Bishop Eustace, 13 in a double-overtime victory over Camden and 11 in a victory over previously undefeated Lenape.
"That's impressive to be doing that as a freshman at Cherry Hill East," said Crawford, noting the strength of the Group 4 Cougars' schedule.
Silpe, the nephew of former Woodrow Wilson coach Jeff Silpe, missed two Cherry Hill East games last week with a sprained ankle. One of them was the Cougars' first loss.
"Jake Silpe is one of the best basketball players I've ever coached and I've only coached him for nine games," Cherry Hill East coach Dave Allen said. "His talent level supercedes his grade level. He plays with the maturity of a senior and the mentality of the best player on the floor."
-- Phil Anastasia