If you're looking for a title for the 2012-13 Bay Rivers District basketball season, call it "The Year of the Shooting Stars." We're not referring to flashes in the pan, here, but instead to a group of returning players who've long contributed for their teams – particularly with their long-distance strokes.
Poquoson's Royce Bowden struggled with injuries last year, and a concussion sustained in a game during the summer, but appears to be in peak form with 44 points, and 11 3-pointers, in the Islanders first two games. York's Brandon Harvell has been lighting it up for two seasons, and looks to improve on his 17.3 points average of last year.
Lafayette's John Fitchett, who, at 6-4, is as comfortable inside as behind the arc, returns after averaging 16.5 points last year and made a big statement with 30 points in the Rams' district-opening win over New Kent. And Warhill's Devonte Dedmon, a 17-points per game scorer last year, can drill it outside or operate in transition like nobody's business.
Thing is, each of those guys will need lots of help to carry his team into district title contention, and some of them will get it. But the guess here is that Bruton's Marcus Carter and Grafton's Elijah Moore already have said complementary pieces around them, so we're picking their teams as the favorites.
Carter, a 6-2 junior, showed a nice stroke in averaging 11.7 points and 5.5 rebounds for a balanced Bruton team that pushed Grafton for the 2011-12 district crown. Moore, a 6-7 senior coveted by some Division I mid-majors, averaged 18 points and 10.1 rebounds in leading the Clippers to the Group AA Division 4 state championship game a year ago.
The favorite? We'll go with Grafton again, but it won't be easy in a league balanced competitively from 1-to-10.
LAST SEASON: 25-4, 17-1 (1st)
COACH: Jeremy Jordan
THE BUZZ: The Clippers possess the best point guard in the district in Tyler McMillan and the best man-to-man defender in Jesse Santiago, an excellent rebounder to boot. If guard Joey Miller can be consistently aggressive and effective offensively, Moore will perhaps have enough partners to lead another state tourney run.
LAST SEASON: 19-6, 14-4 (T-2nd)
COACH: Joe Dillard
THE BUZZ: Though only 6-3, Chad Simmons (9.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg) is a presence inside, just as Carter can also be. But, as usual, Bruton will depend on speed, athleticism and their pressing trap to force the issue on the perimeter and in transition. First-year head coach Joe Dillard has the bodies to make that work.
LAST SEASON: 17-8, 14-4 (T-2nd)
COACH: Patrick Brown
THE BUZZ: Jaquan Hayes is showing signs, 17 points in each of the past two games, of giving the Rams a second scorer to go with Fitchett. Post players Mark Rivera, 6-4, and Garry Banks, 6-7, have tremendous potential for first year coach Brown, but ball-handling is a concern.
LAST SEASON: 7-15, 7-11 (T-2nd)
COACH: Justin Hayes
THE BUZZ: This is the best Warhill team since the 2008-09 group that reached the district tournament championship game. Center Elden Tyler had several games of 20 points or better last year. Shooter Jacary Crew transfers back to Warhill after playing at Bruton last year.
LAST SEASON: 9-14, 5-13 (8th)
COACH: Todd Bowden
THE BUZZ: Guard Daniel Fisher (11 ppg) gives the Islanders a second scoring threat to go with Royce Bowden. Sterling Fortune, who, like Johnny Forrest, is a good defender, could also emerge as a scorer for a team whose patient style is always a headache for opponents.
LAST SEASON: 17-11, 12-6 (4th)
COACH: Doug Baggett
THE BUZZ: The Tigers reached a district record fourth consecutive state tournament last year, and return guard Caleb Mitchell (10.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 4.0 apg) and 6-4 forward Dan Schiele (9.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg). The remaining cast will help make the Tigers a tough out as always.
LAST SEASON: 4-16, 3-15 (9th)
COACH: Bobby Pearce
THE BUZZ: Pearce is keeping a freshman and four sophomores he expects to shine in the future. The common denominator among the older players – Harvell, Johnny Cruz, Staffon Smith, Austin Norman, Malcolm Reynolds and Josh Smith – is athleticism.
LAST SEASON: 13-10, 9-9 (5th)
COACH: Ronnie Cox
THE BUZZ: Cox replaces Eddie Allen, the Trojans' coach the past 34 seasons. He inherits some talent in 6-3 forward Travis Claytor (13 ppg) and 6-0 guard Blake Kelley (8 ppg), but not likely near enough to finish in the district's first division.
LAST SEASON: 3-17, 2-16 (10th)
COACH: Lee Underwood
THE BUZZ: The Eagles have a solid building block in forward Kenny Fields, one of the district's top talents. Guards Xavier Green, George Williams and Anthony Redcross all have plenty of varsity experience, so a finish two or three places higher than this prediction would be no surprise.
LAST SEASON: 9-13, 7-11 (T-6th)
COACH: Richard Pullen
THE BUZZ: Forward Jermaal Wells and guards Jeffrey Jordan, Alonzo Evans and KiJona Henley are the only returners from a team that reached the regionals. None averaged as much as 3.0 points so team chemistry will be crucial for the Packers to be competitive.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun