A Look at this Season’s Basketball Players

December 20, 2017

Dienye Peterside (‘18)

Dienye Peterside (‘18) has loved the sport of basketball since he was in third grade. Growing up in a family that did not necessarily care about the sport, Peterside developed his love for the game on his own. The 6’3” power forward/center hopes to help his team this upcoming season with his wide skillset.

“I would say I am a pretty versatile player. I can shoot it from the outside, I can drive, and I’m decently athletic,” said Peterside.

Peterside credited his defence and ability to rebound as his greatest assets. He also mentioned he has a reliable three point shot if he is left open. He wants to continue to get stronger in order to help his post game and his rebounding.

Peterside said, “I want to be able to average a double-double with points and rebound and help the team win.”

Making the playoffs is Peterside’s goal for the season. He stated that the teams good shooting will help them succeed this season. He also mentioned that although they are a small team, their height makes them one of the faster teams, allowing them to get down the court quickly. He wants the team to work on communicating on defense, which starts with leadership on the court.

“Leadership is very important. Without leadership your team can go in all different directions. The leaders help the the team stay together,” said Peterside.

Another big part of the game is the ability to have chemistry. The boys have bonded over hours upon hours of practice, team dinners, and team hangouts on the weekends. Peterside spoke about how they are all great friends, which gives them an advantage over some teams. Peterside will use his senior presence this season to help lead his team to a great season.

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Carl Gibson (‘19)

Height: 6’2”
Position: PG,SG (Preferred PG)

One of the few returning faces to the Varsity Boys Basketball team, Carl Gibson (‘19) is looking to become a leader this season. After mostly being a shooter on last year’s team, Gibson will now be handed the leadership role as well as the main ball handler and offensive playmaker.

“Last year I was more of a catch-and-shoot guy. This year I’m the main guy on the team” said Gibson on his expanding role for the Cougars.

Although a more difficult task being the first option, the role goes hand-and-hand with Gibson’s strengths on the floor.

“[My strengths] are shooting, my court vision, and my overall all-around scoring,”said Gibson.

Although Gibson has an array of offensive prowess that will stretch the floor helping a shorter Cougar’s team, he is still looking to improve his defensive game, more specifically his off-ball defense.

Gibson believes the team, mostly looked at as one of the weaker teams in past years, is going to shock people once the season starts.

“I’m seeing [the team] as like a shocker, like a sleeper… a team that no one expects,” said Gibson.

Gibson has high expectations for the season, and has the strength to carry his team to a winning season.

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Sam Serata (‘19)

Starting around sixth grade, Sam Serata (‘19) began to take basketball very seriously. He looked around to his peers, and realized he can be as good as any of them. Years later, he is a crucial player for the Cherry Hill East boys basketball team. Being able to stretch the floor with his shooting as well as his size for his position, Serata will play a major role in the Cougar’s offense.

“Last year I played around 22 minutes a game and me and Carl were the only two sophomores on the team. Our role was just to be shooters,” said Serata about his role on last year’s team.

Due to a majority of the team graduating, Serata will be looked at as a leader.
“I have to become a leader on and off the court,”said Serata.

He will use his varsity experience to mentor the other players on how to play with a large crowd and with added pressure.

Similar to Gibson, Serata believes most people are doubting the team but he, too, believes they will exceed expectations.

“I think we could compete with any team in the Olympic Conference,” said Serata.

He believes that competing with other teams at such a high level will give everyone valuable experience for the future.

Serata is looking forward to being a leader of the team and having an expanding role in the offensive scheme.

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Ryan Greene (‘20)

Ryan Greene (‘20) has loved the game of basketball since he was six. The 5’9” point guard has been influenced by his dad to play. His dad has coached him since he was very little, helping him develop the skills that assist him today. He has modeled his game after Golden State Warriors point guard Steph Curry.

“Steph Curry is my favorite player because he’s not very athletic, wasn’t recruited highly, and can shoot very well,” said Greene.

Greene knows his skill level on the court. Being a smaller player, he has increased his knowledge of the game of basketball. This knowledge has helped him become a good passer and shooter.

   Greene said, “I’m a smart player. I’m not very athletic, so I make up for that with my intelligence on the court.”

Greene wants to work on defense and rebounding this season to help win games for his team. He wants to lead his team on the court to help them win as many games as possible. He stated that the team has great hustle and a good mentality, but they still need to work on their defense.

“We are a pretty underrated team, but I think we can surprise some people. We want to win as many games as possible, and upset some teams,” said Greene.

With a constant building of team chemistry and hours of practice soon to come, Greene hopes to help lead his team to a successful season.

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Jake Bernstein (‘18)

Starting in seventh grade, Jake Bernstein (‘18) got a late start to basketball. The 6’0” small forward has worked hard for three years, and has finally made it to the varsity level. Bernstein hopes to be a reliable option on the court this season, using his intelligence to help benefit his team.

“At this point in my career, I am a role player. You can count on me to make the open jump shot or run the plays right,” said Bernstein.

Bernstein prides himself on his high basketball IQ. Not being the strongest or tallest on the court has never stopped Bernstein. The fierce competitor never backs down from competition, and does not plan on starting this season. During practice he hopes to work on his jumpshot. When talking about his personal goals for the season, he kept his answer straight to the point.

He said, “I don’t have any personal goals because it is all about the team. As long as we win as a team, I’m happy.”

After losing four starting players from last year, many people are not expecting much from the young cougars. Bernstein hopes to prove those people wrong.

“I want to exceed expectations since we lost four starters. I don’t think people think we’re that good, but we’ll prove them wrong,” said Bernstein.

In order to prove the doubters wrong, Bernstein stated that it all starts in practice. He thinks that as long as the teams can learn and run their play properly, they will be well on their way to having a successful season. Bernstein being a first year varsity player knows how important leadership will be on such a young team. He wants each person to step up and play their role in order to win games and flourish this season.

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Colin Prendergast (‘19)

This season, Colin Prendergast (‘19) will be trading in his navy and maroon Eastern High School Basketball Jersey for the crisp red and white Cherry Hill East jersey. Prendergast, the 6’ 5’’ power forward and center, will add height and a high basketball IQ to the Cougars. He has been playing basketball ever since his dad influenced him to play in fifth grade. Prendergast hopes to use his ability to work with others on the team to help the Cougars win.

“I hope to have a good record and… beat most teams in the conference,” said Prendergast.

Also, Prendergast’s competitive nature will set him apart from the rest of the competition. He is always looking to win, and will do no matter what it takes to secure a victory for his team.

“I can help the team in more ways than one,” said Prendergast.

Prendergast moved in with his grandparents in Cherry Hill, which lead him to enroll at East. The Cougars are excited to have Prendergast on their team, instead of facing him this season. Prendergast and the rest of the Cougars are looking to have a winning season this winter.


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Erica Brunson (‘19)

Forward Erica Brunson (‘19) has been playing basketball for her entire life. The 5’7.5” Cherry Hill native has been influenced by her father, former NBA, player Rick Brunson. Her brother Jalen is also a star on the Villanova basketball team. Growing up around basketball, Brunson knows she possesses a high basketball IQ, which helps her ability to pass the ball around the court.

“I would describe myself as selfless. I’m always looking to pass to my teammates. I have great vision up the court and find my open teammates,” said Brunson.

Brunson’s personal goals for the season is to work on her speed. As for the team, she wants to beat Cherokee this season. In order to do that, Brunson knows that the team must gain chemistry.

Brunson said, “I really want to focus on team bonding this year. In order to have chemistry on the court, we must have it off the court.”

Brunson also noted that the team has some work to do with their patience. In order to win games, she hopes to slow things down on the court to look for the best possible shot.

“We have to work on patience. We are a very fast moving team, and I think in order to win games we have to slow it down and be more patient,” said Brunson.

All in all, Brunson has been pleased so far with the way the team has bonded. She stated that the team’s chemistry helps them all together and finish games with a good outcome. Brunson hopes for a successful season personally, and as a team.

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Kiara Bell (‘18)

Ever since her stepdad influenced her to take the court in seventh grade, Kiara Bell (‘18) found a love for basketball. She discovered a passion for being an aggressive rebounder, a quality that not many spectators would expect from the somewhat quiet Bell, a 6’ 1” power forward and center.

“It is kind of deceiving because people think of me [as] being so quiet and so timid that you don’t expect for me to go after the ball and push you down,” said Bell.

On the court, Bell will most likely be found by the basket, doing everything in her power to snag an offensive or defensive rebound. Last season Bell averaged 12 rebounds a game.

Along with rebounding, Bell is also a dynamic scorer and most importantly a leader of the Cougars. In her senior season, she hopes to make sure that all of the younger players feel involved with everything that goes on within the team.

“I want everyone to feel welcome and not down on themselves because they might not get that much playing time or they feel like they are not doing very well,” said Bell.

In addition to wanting to win and having a stand out senior season, Bell hopes to achieve “complete unity” this season. Last season, the Cougars were a relatively new team and this year she hopes that having that one year of experience will help the Cougars in the long run.

“We all know each other and we all know how we play, and together we are going to be able to beat teams that we lost to last year… hopefully,” said Bell.

Bell and the rest of the Cougars look forward to stepping onto the court for what they hope to be a winning season.

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Yanelli Villegas (‘20)

Coming from a family in which her father and two older sisters play basketball, it was inevitable for Yanelli Villegas (‘20) to be a natural when it comes to sinking shots. The 5’ 5” point guard has been playing ever since she could walk. Her father has been by her side since day one, coaching and training Villegas, as well as trying to perfect her shot.

“My biggest strengths on the court are shooting and working together as a team,” said Villegas.

Last season was a little bit tough for Villegas, as she played Varsity as a freshman. The girls did not appreciate the fact that she was on Varsity. Despite the adversity, however, Villegas hopes to achieve new heights this season.

“Now that I am a sophomore, it’s a new year. We have a new coach so this year I am willing to put in 110%… and not give up,” said Villegas.

This year, Villegas and the rest of the Cougars want to focus their attention on trying to get past the first round of the playoffs. Villegas believes that with the addition of new head coach Christopher Corey and the team unity that the Cougars display, the team can make a serious playoff run.

“It was a tough freshman year for me. This year I hope that our team… at least make[s] it… further than we did last year,” said Villegas

Villegas hopes to make her father and two older sisters proud as she enters her second season playing Varsity for the Cougars.

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Maya Drayton (‘19)

Height: 5’4”

Position: PG, SG

This season, guard Maya Drayton (‘19) is looking to become a leader. Surrounded by a basketball family from a young age, Drayton chose to follow her brother’s path of basketball. She has been playing basketball ever since elementary school and has worked hard to get to her certain position. Last year as a sophomore, Drayton had a different role but as there is only one senior on the team, she is ready for a larger part on the team.

“My biggest strengths [on the court] are driving, but I can work on my shooting” said Drayton.

      Drayton, throughout the season, is looking forward to working with a new coach. The intensity of Coach Corey excites her, and she believes they will win more games due to him pushing them.

“I’m excited for Coach Corey, he brings more intensity. I think we are going to win more games because of it,” said Drayton.

Drayton is crucial to the girls Varsity team, and she is ready for the challenge.

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Olivia Pincus (‘19)

Height: 5’5”

Position: PG, SG

         Through her dad’s motivation, Olivia Pincus (‘19) has worked to improve her game ever since she started playing in sixth grade. Pincus’ strength is getting her teammates involved using her court vision and is willing do anything to achieve team success.

   “I think we are going to be good this year, we are going to work well together. It’s a closer group,” said Pincus.

      Pincus started playing basketball in middle school after continuously watching games with her dad. Her dad’s motivation led to eventually trying out the game, something she excelled at from the start.

      The guard position fits her strengths perfectly as her willingness to pass is great for the team’s chemistry. Throughout the season she will continue to work on shooting and getting to the basket.  

       Pincus will also receive more playing time with the starters, giving her game experience. Her goal is to work well with her teammates and get them the ball, all a benefit for the team as a whole.


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Maggie Balderstone (‘20)

In high school, it is often perceived that only the athletes that are the best of the best stand out. This is especially true for Maggie Balderstone (‘20). Balderstone played varsity basketball as a freshman and will play varsity again this year as a sophomore. Her love for the game started when she was six or seven years old during her church’s recreational league. Her mom, who played basketball in high school and college, influenced her to play. The 5’ 4” shooting guard likes to focus on making the team around her the best they can be, as well as being aggressive.

“I am more of a hustle and grit type of player. I don’t really like to be very flashy,” said Balderstone.

In addition, Balderstone communicates well to her teammates on the floor to ensure that everything goes as planned on each possession for the Cougars. She focuses on “the little things” such as rebounding and getting the ball up the floor, which will be a valuable asset for the Cougars this season.

“This season, as a team, I think that we have a good chance at going farther in the playoffs,” said Balderstone.

With all of the hard work that Balderstone and the rest of the Cougars put in, it should be an exciting season for the team.

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