Four months after picking up the biggest off-season transfer on this side of Jordan Tucker, Kennedy Catholic is teeming with confidence and bolstered by a collective determination to vault the program back into relevance.
Beacon transfer Elijah Hughes, a bouncy 6-foot-5 junior with playmaking capabilities at both guard spots, will provide immediate punch.
Vowing to become more of a vocal leader, Hughes will have the ball in his hands early and often.
Hughes will create for a beefed up front court and simultaneously call his own number more.
He'll also shoulder the burden of end game, taking the high-pressure shots when crunch time sets in.
The Gaels' dose of Division-I material doesn't stop there.
They feature a big bodied 6-foot-7 forward in Hastings native Dom Christiano and another sky-riser in 6-foot-4 guard and Ivy League target Sean Delaney.
Both players authored All-League seasons last year and will inherit the leadership reins.
Containing Christiano proved to be a handful last season.
The big fella erupted for multiple 30+ point games.
Christiano possesses the mobility and wide receiver hands. He's developed a knack for jetting ahead of the pack and finishing with authority in the open court.
Playing for New Heights on the AAU circuit, Christiano has shaped himself into a more reliable defender.
He's morphed into the necessary rim protecting presence the Gaels need him to be.
He'll have help from 6-foot-7 Kevin Buron, who has the essential ingredients to evolve as a sturdy double digit rebounder.
Delaney, an All-State honorable mention, collected several double-doubles last season, including a 16-point, 10-rebound performance in a 71-47 thrashing of St. John's prep.
He showed promise as a supplementary scorer to Christiano, including a 21-point performance against Pelham.
If scrimmages against Iona Prep and vaunted Christ The King are any preseason yardstick, Kennedy is looking to restore the firepower of program OGs Donnie McGrath, Dan Gumb, Peter Courtney, Dan O'Connell, the late and legendary Tyrell Thompson and more recently sharpshooter Frankie Kelly.
The Christ The King scrimmage featured an intriguing plot as Hughes matched up with the city's most highly-regarded recruit in man-child Rawle Atkins.
An explosive 6-foot-4 slasher who elicits more and more Lance Stephenson comparisons each day, Atkins now has high-major interest across the country.
Kansas, Arizona, Florida, and Louisville are all expressing considerable interest in the nation's 16th-ranked junior prospect. Going eyeball to eyeball with Atkins revved the engine of Hughes, who dropped 26 points in four quarters.
Hughes' true affinity for quarterbacking an offense surfaced last season at Beacon. At the same time, his nose for they rim grew.
The then-sophomore kicked feast-or-famine tendencies, gaining a new focus after he shredded RCK to the tune of 31 points on 12-for-21 shooting.
After attending Syracuse camp, where he played before the likes of Jim Boeheim and Gerry McNamara, Hughes picked up his first Division-I offer from Fairfield last week.
"The thing that makes him so special is that can score the ball when he wants to but I think his passing is what separates him," said Delaney of Hughes.
"That's what makes him a Division-I prospect."
Playing above the rim, Hughes will form a radiant aerial game with the aforementioned Delaney and Christiano.
All three can lean on a dependable 16-18 footer, with Hughes expanding his game beyond the arc.
The luxury of this trio is they can constantly convert turnovers into transition leak outs and routine fast break dunks.
Kennedy will press often and apply pressure across the court, helping spur a speedball attack.
The Gaels will look to employ an inside-outside look with Hughes and Christiano.
In the half-court set, Kennedy will lean on an offense jarringly similar to the 2012-13 NY Knicks, when Jason Kidd and Rasheed Wallace imparted a calming veteran influence.
Angle-to-angle ball movement, plenty of picks and extra emphasis on kicking in the extra pass for the best look possible will consume the clock.
Brandon Parker, the team's most reliable on-the-rock defender, is flushed into a prominent role.
Though he flirted with the idea of returning to Beacon and entertaining County Center aspirations, Hughes bolted for JFK.
He willsavor the freedom to pilot a well-oiled offense and emerge into a focal point with an arsenal of offensive weapons.
The move also reunited Hughes with Delaney, a childhood friend. The two registered a rapport while entrenched in AAU battles.
"He has the freedom to space out, get a screen and go to work," said Delaney.
"We can play off our talent. In the full court, fast breaks is where mainly our baskets are going to come from. Knowing where each other is on the fast break and knowing where to find each other allows us to run pretty easily."