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Best of the Main Line & Western Suburbs 2011: Michael Bradley's Sports Picks



College Athlete (page 2)
College Sports Coach (page 3)
College Sports Team (page 4)
High School Athlete (page 5)
High School Coach (page 6)
High School Sports Team (page 7)
Pro Sports Coach (page 8)
Pro Sports Team (page 9)
Underappreciated Pro Sports Player (page 10)

Michael Bradley—aka El Hombre—is a sports writer and analyst for the NFL Network, Sporting News Radio, 97.5 The Fanatic and other outlets. He lives in Broomall. Visit his blog at elhombreknowssports.blogspot.com.




College Athlete >>> Villanova University’s Matt Szczur
Matt Szczur is so good that scouts from both the NFL and MLB were chasing him. On the gridiron, he caught —and even threw—passes, returned kicks and punts, ran the ball, and basically dominated the competition. He has an even brighter future on the diamond, where the Cubs are betting he can be a future standout centerfielder. Szczur may be in the minors now, but expect to see him at Wrigley Field soon. Villanova.com.

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Photo by Jared Castaldi
College Sports Coach >>> Villanova Men’s Basketball’s Jay Wright

Take away the sharp suits and perfect hair, and you have someone who really knows how to run a program. Even though the Wildcats limped home this past season, it doesn’t dim Wright’s impact. Few have the ability to connect with recruits the way he does, and once he gets the prep stars on campus, he helps them grow into strong players. Villanova.com.

See our cover story on Wright here.

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College Sports Team >>> Villanova Men’s Basketball
The Wildcats lost in the first round of the NCAA tourney, but they still won 21 games. Not bad for a down year. Nova bolted to a 16-1 start and was ranked as high as No. 7, and the guard troika of Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes and Maalik Wayns was formidable all season long. Senior Antonio Pena had a successful year battling inside, while young front-courters Mouphtaou Yarou and Isaiah Armwood provided glimpses of their bright futures. Villanova.com.

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Photo by Jared Castaldi
High School Athlete >>> Amile Jefferson,
Friends’ Central Boys’ Basketball

When you’re the top dog in the mighty Friends School League, you’re definitely something special. That’s how it is for Jefferson, who led the Phoenix to the league title and landed a spot in ESPNU’s “Top 10 for 2012” prospects. The 6-foot-7, 180-pound senior is smooth, can shoot from distance and rebounds ferociously. Best of all, he’s unselfish and doesn’t act like a star. Colleges all over the country are trying to secure his services—for good reason. Friendscentral.org.

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High School Coach >>> Chuck Creighton, Archbishop Carroll Girls’ Basketball
You can’t blame other coaches for ruing the day the Catholic League joined the PIAA—especially now that Carroll is aboard. Over the past three years, the Patriots have won the District 12 title three straight seasons. They took the state championship in 2009, reached the quarterfinals last season and made the finals this past March. Leading the charge was Chuck Creighton, whose understated approach and strategic savvy are the perfect combination. Jcarrol.org.

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High School Sports Team >>> Friends’ Central Boys’ Basketball
Anyone lucky enough to snag a few inches of bleacher at Haverford College last February saw exactly how a championship outfit does it. Facing an Academy of New Church team that had three Big East signees on its front line and at least one other major-college recruit on the roster, FCS was able to hang tough before making all the plays at the end to win the Friends School League title. Last season, coach Jason Polykoff’s team took on a national schedule and faced the best in the area—and they thrived. Friendscentral.org.

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Pro Sports Coach >>> Charlie Manuel, Philadelphia Phillies
The days are over when we laughed at Charlie Manuel’s home-spun stories and creative way with the English language, all while questioning his ability. The guy can manage, he’s a hitting genius, and he has the perfect way with this veteran team. He may meander a bit on the way to his destination, but you can’t argue with the results. Manuel has gone from a question mark to a beloved institution. Success can do that. Phillies.com.

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Pro Sports Team >>> Philadelphia Phillies
You know you’ve reached the top when a trip to the League Championship Series is considered a bummer for fans. The Phillies continue to give the city nightly thrills, and their off-season acquisition of Cliff Lee shows just how serious they are about staying in contention for the long haul. Nights at Citizens Bank Park have become events, and the team has created a bond with its fans no other franchise in town can match. Should the Phillies win another World Series, they might own the town forever. Phillies.com.

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Photo by Miles KennedyUnderappreciated Pro Sports Player >>> Ryan Madson, Philadelphia Phillies
The starters get the big bucks; the closers get the chance to celebrate. And the setup man? Well, he gets some applause and a handshake. Madson is fine with his role as one of Major League Baseball’s elite eighth-inning specialists. He can blow batters away with a 96-mile-an-hour heater but also baffle them with a nasty changeup. He might just be a permanent closer down the road, but right now, he’s the bridge—and a structurally superior one at that. Phillies.com.

See our interview with Madson here.

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