WEST ORANGE, NJ — When the West Orange boys basketball team opens its 2019-2020 season Friday night at Irvington, head coach Demond Cowins is hopeful that his team will put up some impressive numbers this season.

But, in one respect, the Mountaineers already have.

Cowins points out that several players on this year's team are exceptional students. Ask the Mountaineers' coach about this year's players, and that might be the first topic he brings up.

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"This season we have five seniors who are excelling academically," said Cowins. "Elijah Millington has a 4.2 GPA and will be attending the U.S. Naval Academy next fall. Gustav Hall has a 4.5 GPA and will be attending Brown University in the fall. Johan Atwell has a 4.0 GPA and has received an early acceptance to the University of Delaware. Ismail Taylor has a 4.0 GPA and has received acceptances to over 15 colleges/universities. Chris Latimer has 3.2 GPA and looking to attend Montclair State University."

From a basketball perspective, this year's team does have a lot of holes to fill following the graduation of five key players from last season. But Cowins likes what he sees.

"We have a very positive outlook for this season," he said. "We have a great group of young men who are willing to work together to achieve team success."

Hall will play point guard with Latimer manning the '2' and Atwell and Millington each operating as wing players. Taylor will play forward after averaging 6.0 points and 3.5 rebounds last season. Taylor and Latimer saw the most varsity minutes of any returning players.

Junior guard Amiyn Hanks, a transfer from North Plainfield who played a big role on the West Orange football team this fall, averaged 8 ppg. as a sophomore at North Plainfield.

Although West Orange still has some tough opponents with which to contend this winter, the Mountaineers might benefit from a schedule that is not quite as backbreaking as last year, when they were faced with a steady diet of many of Essex County's toughest teams.

"We work well as a team, [and we] look forward competing this season," said Cowins.