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At Chantilly, It's All About the Juniors

Core of junior players expected to help Chargers repeat as Concorde champs.

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Some of the 2008-09 Chantilly Chargers, such as John Manning and Devon Ballam, will be returning for the 2009-10 season and are looking to repeat as Concorde District Champions.

A quick glance at the Chantilly men’s basketball team roster might have you thinking the team is in serious need of a senior presence, but head coach Jim Smith expects the juniors to lead the way this season.

With eight juniors on the 14-man roster, Chantilly fans can rest easy knowing their basketball team is going to be strong for at least two more seasons.

"I've been here 19 years and this class with [the juniors] is the best class we've ever had at Chantilly," Smith said.

The junior class features just about everything a basketball coach could hope for. It has size in 7-foot John Manning, a player Smith called a "once in a lifetime talent," and experience in Devon Ballam, who played on the varsity as a freshman.

Although the big names are Manning and Ballam, Smith said the entire junior class is a talented group of players.

"The other juniors have been here since their sophomore year," Smith said. "It's just a unique class."

Not every junior on this year's squad played on the varsity last season, but Manning said building chemistry hasn't been an issue for the team.

"Over the off-season we've really meshed," Manning said. "We've got a few new players but we're coming together well."

WHILE THE JUNIOR CORE is in the spotlight, the team does feature four seniors and two sophomores. One of the sophomores, Aaron Rodenas is 6 feet 9 inches and likely to be the successor to Manning's center position.

"Hopefully our younger guys can learn from us," Manning said. "We hope we can come back next year and be just as strong when we are seniors."

The Chargers are looking to repeat as the Concorde District champions, but Smith said that mental maturity is one of the roadblocks.

"[The juniors] have well-developed basketball skills," he said. "But we need to make sure they don't overlook opponents. They need to mature and take each game seriously."

Smith's worries aren't unfounded. Concorde District rivals could spoil the Chargers hopes of repeating as champs.

"We have to take every team seriously," Manning said. "We've learned in the past that the teams people say aren't going to be very good, you can lose to them. You don't want that to happen."

Chantilly opens its season at home against Madison on Dec. 2.