2011 record: 5-18
Returning starters: senior forward Matthew Rees (6-4), junior forward Colin Heacock (6-3) and junior guard Mac Pons (5-10).
Breakdown: If it's true that there's no substitute for experience, then Lakers' coach Cliff Rees may be one of the most envied coaches in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland B Conference, considering Boys' Latin returns eight players.
And they will be the ones who will have to play a vital role if the Lakers are to turn things around — or at least show some improvement.
"I think they have been pretty young the last couple of years, which I think hurt them," said Rees, a first-year coach. "We are a year older and a year more mature. Based on that, we are going to do better."
One of the Lakers' best players, Heacock, works in the paint. He doesn't mind banging, but also possesses a nice scoring touch.
The Lakers will have him for a full season after he transferred from Loyola Blakefield late last year. He only played in five games last season.
"He is an extremely athletic player," Cliff Rees said. "He made a huge difference once he starting playing last year. I am expecting huge thing out of him."
Rees' son Matthew could also flourish. He offers additional scoring and rebounding.
"He has to be the big guy for us," Cliff Rees said. "He has to grabbing rebounds, boxing out and taking care of the paint for us."
Junior forward Jamal Perkins (6-4) and sophomore forward Shack Stanwick (6-2) will also help out in the front court.
Pons will run the show for the Lakers and Cliff Rees hopes the athletic junior can energize the offense.
Seniors Rob White (6-1), Geron Brooks (5-8) and Brandon Cherry (5-7) and Rees' other son, Casey (6-1), a junior, will be needed to solidify the backcourt.
Cliff Rees, who be coaching in high school for the first time, won't be easy on the Lakers.
He played college basketball at the Naval Academy with NBA Hall of Famer David Robinson and went to the NCAA tournament three times.
"It's been kind of ruling with an iron fist early on," Rees said. "Setting rules, guidelines and standard of expectations. And making sure the kids are going to live up to those expectations."
2010 record: 15-15
Returning starters: Senior point guard Julian Davis (6-1), senior forward Justin Beck (6-2) and senior forward Denzel Richardson (6-3).
Breakdown: The Cardinals will have to overcome a lack of size to compete in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference and Baltimore Catholic League, although coach John Bauersfeld feels they can do just that.
"Guys have gotten beaten up in the league before, so we know what it's all about," he said. "We have some rebounding questions, but we can compete with the top teams in the league. We can create some matchup problems for other teams."
The size Calvert Hall does have is in the form of 6-5 senior Conor McVan, and the Cardinals add backcourt quickness with junior guard Wesley Blackwell (6-1) and sophomore guard (6-0) Sean Mayberry (6-0).
Richardson will be counted on for much of the scoring, yet he will need help to keep the team moving forward to its final objective.
2010 record: 11-12
Returning starters: Senior Will Darley (6-6) and junior Gavan Scanlan (6-5).
Breakdown: The Lions are still looking for a banner season, even though their top returning player, senior Kyle Williams, who averaged 18 points and eight rebounds per game last winter, transferred to North Carolina a few days before the team roster was set.
"We were banking on a 20 (points)-10 (rebounds) guy this season," coach Ryan Lochte said. "But the cupboard is definitely not bare. We still feel we have an excellent club."
Williams' absence will put more pressure on Darley and Scanlan — when the latter returns to the court after an elbow injury heals in late December or early January — to keep the Lions on track.
The coach said that Darley "can shoot the three and put it on the deck to get to the line."
And that could make his a matchup problem for which some rivals have no answer.
Lochte also has younger players to insert in the lineup, including senior guard Chris Conway (6-1), senior forward Keaton Mock-Myers (6-2), junior guards Zach Hill (6-1) and Jordan Williams (5-11) and sophomore guard Jason Lawson (5-8), a Gilman transfer who will run the point.
"We'll go about seven-deep," Lochte said. "So, we'll have to watch the foul trouble and be smart with our pressure."
2011 record: 8-18
Returning starters: Senior center Warren Mason (6-8) and senior guard/forward Paul Orrson (6-1).
Breakdown: The Quakers will feature more new faces than familiar ones.
And there's no doubt coach Bill Pace will miss forward Jon Schmidt most of all among his nine seniors who departed.
The Quakers are desperate for inside punch after losing Schmidt, who averaged 24 points and 13 rebounds per game last year.
"Last year's team was Jon Schmidt's team," Pace said. "It wasn't my team. When he caught the ball, we all stood around and watched."
In Schmidt's absence, Mason will be a key ingredient to Friends' success.
His soft shooting touch could be invaluable. Mason, who transferred from Gilman after his sophomore year, missed significant time last year with a concussion.
"He is primarily a basketball guy," said Pace, noting Mason is looking into playing college basketball. "He has a nice back-to-the basket game and jump hook. He can shoot it all the way out to the three-point line."
Mason and Orrson are the only returning varsity players. Pace will lean on them to guide the Quakers' glut of younger players.
"Paul and Warner had some starts last year," Pace said. "They each started five or six games."
Some of the burden in the backcourt will fall on junior floor leader Brandon Jones (5-8), a transfer from Carver A&T and freshman combo guard Donavin Tilley (5-11).
"He (Donavin) is one of the most versatile players we have, but he is just young," Pace said.
Four juniors brought up from last year's junior varsity — point guard Dan Warren (5-9), power forward Jamal Gross (6-3), shooting guard Avert Filer (6-1) and guard/forward Kamil Essein (6-3) — are competing for playing time.
"They bring a different type of intensity to the team," said Pace, a second-year coach."Friends has always been at the bottom and we are sick and tired at being at the bottom. But we will try harder to get out of the cellar."
2011 record: 13-18
Returning starters: Senior guard Cyrus Jones (5-11) and senior forward Ryan Ripken (6-5).
Breakdown: After slipping from an 18-4 record to 13-win season, some significant changes are in order for the Greyhounds.
Gilman coach Owen Daly shortened the team's schedule to 25 games afterlosing seven games last year by four or less points.
"I think it will be a good thing," Daly said. "Hopefully, it will bring us together having that added practice time. A lot (of last year's struggles) had to do with continuity. We had a lot of guys that were in and out with obligations for other sports."
The return of Jones and Ripken and the addition of junior guard Ben Grace (5-9), a transfer from Cardinal Gibbons, give the Greyhounds a more positive outlook.
"With Cyrus and Ripken in their fourth year, it could be a special year for us," Daly said.
Ripken, a four-year starter, is a good bet to outscore most opposing big men.
He averaged 17.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game last year and will play baseball for the two-time defending national champion, the University of South Carolina, next year.
"He is a very versatile player and can be like a coach," Daly said. "He can do multiple things on offense and has a high athletic I.Q. He directs things at both ends of the court."
Jones, a shooting guard who averaged 17.8 points, 4.6 assists and 2.8 steals last season, offers excellent ball handling, defense and clutch shooting.
"He is a phenomenal natural athlete and competitor," Owen said. "He has a combinations of strength, burst and hand-eye coordination."
Grace will be a player to watch. He can score from the perimeter and distribute.
"He is the first basketball-first guy we have had in a while," Owen said.
Senior point guard Kareem Montgomery (5-8) will be happy to work with the trio of talented players.
Senior forward Jake Matthai (6-6) offers support to Ripken in the frontcourt. He runs the floor well. His time and production could increase over last year when he averaged 4.5 rebounds.
Junior forwards Riley DeSmit (6-3) and Matt Tilley (6-3) and senior guard Stephen Koteen (5-9) also hope to be significant contributors.
"We think we are a contender," Owen said about the MIAA B Conference championship."And that's the way we have to approach things. I think we have, from top to bottom, as much depth as we have ever had."
2010-1011 record: 13-9
Returning starters: Junior guard Elliot Wiley (6-3), junior forward Nkem Obineme (6-6).
Breakdown: The year before second-year coach Doug Able took over the head coaching position, the Raiders were 5-15.
They won eight more games last season and could be headed for more.
"It's safe to say the program is rebounding," Able said.
Speaking of rebounding, they should be strong on the boards with the return of Obineme and the addition of Annapolis Area Christian School transfer center Daniel Gregory (6-9).
Gregory is the younger brother of Mount St. Joseph standout and former University of Maryland workhorse Dino Gregory.
Senior Devon Burnett (6-3), junior Drew Wagner (6-5) and sophomore Taimar Anderson (6-3) will also help in the paint.
The backcourt boasts the most experience with senior Mark Magtanong (5-11).
"He is a real steadying force on the team," Able said.
Other backcourt candidates include seniors Khirhy Hayes (5-10) and Andrew Howell (6-1), juniors Christopher Simon (6-1), Jordan Johnson (6-1) and Nevin Sugar (6-0) and sophomore Marcus Logan (6-0).
Wiley, Sugar and Magtanong are the most dangerous perimeter threats, but they won't be the only weapons.
"I think we are going to have a very balanced attack," Able said. "We are going to run up and down the floor, control the tempo and transition well."
Able is also looking forward to facing his alma mater, Calvert Hall, on Dec. 22.
"I think we are going to be pretty good this year," he said.
2010 record: 9-17
Returning starters: Senior guards Matt Dunn (6-2) and Dan Vigus (6-1), senior forward Jon Moran (6-5), senior swingman Jordan Floyd (6-2) and junior guard Mitch Cross (6-1).
Breakdown: Coach Josh Davalli has plenty of experience returning to the fold for a team that lost its share of close games last season.
Like last year, the Dons will rely on a patient offense that prefers to launch from the outside or look for backdoor cuts, regardless of how long it takes to find the most opportune scoring moment.
"It doesn't matter if it takes five seconds or 35 seconds," Davalli said. "We need to look for the best shot and value every possession."
The key to the Dons' attack is versatility.
For instance, Dunn and Floyd can both bang the boards and handle the ball for a team that has the potential to use its experience to get out of sticky situations.
"This is a unique opportunity for us, with so many guys returning," Davalli said.
That said, many MIAA and BCL rivals will bring bigger and more talented to the court, although Davalli's bunch should be savvy enough by now to stay at least in the game.
2010 record: 7-11
Returning starters: Senior guard john Nunes (5-9) and senior Jordan Smith (6-0).
Breakdown: Although last year's record reads like the name of a national convenience-store chain, there was nothing easy about the excellent job coach Paul Schildwachter did in making over a one-win team.
That said, the coach will have to work his magic again this season on a new group that doesn't have the experience of last year's squad.
Although his coach said that Nunes can "jump out of the gym," the off-guard still can't be counted on to carry the load, rebounding-wise, considering his height.
That's where Smith and sophomore forward Nathan Scarf (6-2) will be needed most.
"This will be a learning year for us," Schildwachter said. "Because we graduated five of our eight players, we're still trying to figure out who will play where."
The Saints will run a read-and-react offense that the coach hopes will help carry them to a playoff berth in an expanded C Conference that now includes Gerstell Academy, St. John's and Cristo Rey.
"Just to qualify for the playoffs would be icing on the cake," Schildwachter said.
2011 record: 20-8
Returning starters: Junior forward Nick Cabral (6-5) and senior guards Tanner Brooks (6-2) and Miles Davis (6-1).
Senior Breakdown: There's no reason to believe the Crusaders' back-to-back 20 win seasons of the past two years are a thing of the past.
St. Paul's has a realistic shot of doing it again with seven varsity returnees and a promising batch of newcomers.
"A lot of guys are learning new roles so it's definitely a transition," St. Paul's coach Seth Goldberg said. "But it's not a transition where we are bringing in eight new guys."
No player will be more important to the Crusaders' success than Brooks, who averaged 13 points last year and moves from shooting guard to the point.
That move was necessitated after the team lost steady Nigel Sydnor to graduation.
The Crusaders also lost some depth when another point guard, Tony Williams, suffered a severe knee injury.
But Goldberg has plenty of confidence in Brooks.
"He is going to Skidmore (College) next year to play basketball," the coach said. "Tanner spent the whole offseason becoming a better player."
Senior small forward Lamonte Wade (6-1), the team's sixth man last year, is St. Paul's best post scorer. He averaged 13 points and seven rebounds per game last year.
Goldberg knows on most nights either Brooks or Wade will lead the team in scoring.
"Lamonte is a tough kid," Goldberg said. "You know he will be able to get it done. The same thing with Tanner."
The Crusaders have the makings of a standout frontline.
Cabral will be a factor inside as well as freshman forward/center Daniel Wilson (6-5) and junior forwards PJ Hefner (6-5) and Mike Mayer (6-6).
The Crusaders are stocked with guards.
Two returnees, senior Connor Norris (6-2) and junior Tre Hammer (6-2), are determined to have an impact.
Junior Jason Tucker (6-3) and freshmen Marcel Thompson (6-3), Patrick Buttarazzi (6-0) and Jordan Thompson (5-7) give Goldberg backcourt depth.
2011 record: 6-17
Returning starters: senior center/forward Tim Jarosinski (6-3).
Breakdown: The Generals may not win a Baltimore County championship, but they may be among the most improved teams this winter.
"We are in midseason form and light years ahead of where we were at the beginning of last year," Towson second-year coach Tim Gavin said. "We got the kids playing in a summer and fall league. They got to play in a bunch of games."
Jarosinski is a strong forward who has great shooting range, quick feet and is very active around the basket.
He led the Generals in scoring (14 ppg) last year and finished second in rebounding (7.0 rpg).
"He can shoot from anywhere on the floor," Gavin said. "That's what makes it tough for other centers to guard him."
The role forward Larry Ennels (averaged 9.2 rebounds) played was a key to the Generals' inside game last year, but he graduated.
So Gavin expects improving senior power forward Tim Wheeler (6-4) to fill the void and give the frontcourt a boost.
"He really came on at the end of last year," Gavin said.
Junior forward Chance Goldring (6-2), senior forwards Riley O'Brien (6-0) and Gibson St. John (6-2) are options in the frontcourt.
Senior guard Avery Reneaux (5-7) and two guard/forwards, Elias Hilare (6-1), a JV promotion, and senior Jordan Riddick (5-11), can also help out.
Gavin likes his Generals' talent, but he likes their desire to succeed even more.
"They committed to being very successful after last year," the coach said. "Last year was my first year and now they are familiar with my philosophy. We want to double our wins and are willing to make sacrifices. You don't get that everywhere."
2010-1011 record: 9-14
Returning starters: Senior center Deniko Carter (6-feet, 5 inches)
Breakdown: New coach Matt Fannon has been handcuffed by an incomplete roster because of the football team's historic run.
But, once players from the gridiron convert to the court, Fannon will have a team he hopes can challenge the .500 mark.
The Comets graduated seven seniors, but will be bolstered by the return of Carter, who averaged 14 points per game for half a season last year.
Carter is among the nine players on the football team who plan to try out, along with the eight players currently practicing on the hardwood.
Until Fannon gets a look at the football players, he won't know his official roster.
"This is unheard of for Catonsville," said Fannon, who coached the junior varsity the past two seasons before taking over varsity for Brian Barber.
At least he has background information on some players, including Carter and senior Sean Lipscomb (6-4), both of whom were on a junior varsity team that went 18-2 two years ago.
Lipscomb opted to run indoor track last year but plans to return to the hardwood.
Football fullback Julian Singletary also was on the JV hoop squad two years ago, but didn't play last year.
Nonfootball players, junior point guard James Baker (5-6) and junior power forward Jamal Tyson (6-3) were also on the talented JV team.
Savvy junior forward Kevin Sheppard (6-1) and sophomore perimeter threat Daniel Thompson (6-0) should also contribute.
Thompson was one of the top shooters on last year's 14-6 JV squad.
The rest of the Comet lineup is up in the air, because Fannon has never seen some of the football players on the basketball court.
"I cut down to eight players before the (Thanksgiving) break, but told them there are no guarantees until after the football players try out," Fannon said. "At least I did have some sort of idea (because of coaching JV) when I got the job."
Mount St. Joseph
2010-1011 record: 23-10
Returning starters: Senior forward Philip Lawrence (6-7), junior forward Lavon Long (6-6), junior guard Kameron Williams (6-2), sophomore guard Phil Booth (6-3).
Breakdown: With Lawrence being the lone senior, the Gaels appear to be young.
Yet they have varsity experience and are versatile.
"Of our top seven, six of them are interchangeable," said coach Pat Clatchey, who makes room in the rotation for former JV players Charley Jones (6-3), Jaylen Adams (5-8) and Kyle Doran (6-5).
Jones is a junior and Adams and Doran are sophomores.
Adams brings immediate depth to the point guard position, behind Booth while Doran and Jones are swing players.
Williams averaged a team-high 18 points per game and had four games scoring over 30 points and Booth had a pair of 20-point games.
Lawrence has signed to play collegiately at Marist University and Long is also drawing Division I Interest.
Junior Nik Henson (6-3) and sophomore Jordan McNeil (6-3) are multi-faceted players who could contribute along with junior forward Mark Donoghue (6-3) and junior guard Antonio McDuffie (5-9).
"Our strength is our ability to pass the ball and shoot from the perimeter," Clatchey said. "Our biggest concern is how well we defend and rebound."
Clatchey's squad's have won at least 20 games per season for the past 16 years and should be capable of reaching that mark again this season.
2010-1011 record: 13-9
Returning starters: none
Breakdown: Senior guard Calab Smith (6-1) is the only returning player on the varsity, so experience will be lacking for coach Greg Karpers.
He'll employ eight players promoted from the junior varsity, along with three first-time varsity performers.
It's the first time in three seasons he hasn't had a strong nucleus of returnees.
And some of those veterans were talented enough to go to the next level.
Nick LaGuerre, a 2011 graduate, is now averaging 10 points per game at St. Mary's College of Maryland.
Brent Arrington, a 2010 graduate, is playing for Division I Mississippi Valley State and recently scored 33 points in a 101-75 loss to top-ranked North Carolina.
Smith has provided some veteran guidance during preseason.
"He's ready to take on that role as leader," Karpers said.
This year's Vikings should be a squad that develops as the season progresses.
"We'll see who can step up and play," Karpers said. "Spots are open and playing time is up for grabs."
A pair of sophomore forwards, Tyler Jones (6-3) and Edrick Mallard (6-3), should be in the mix.
"The young sophomores have been bright spots," Karpers said.
They are among the promoted JV players that will also include junior frontcourt players Trevor Morris (6-4) and Shawn Brown (6-2), along with junior perimeter players Brad Childress (6-2), Zach Cutright (5-10), Trevor Kelly (6-2) and Tyler March (5-8).
New additions include senior point guards Davon Bailey (5-10), a transfer from Poly, and Hosea Williams (5-8), senior shooting guard David Pugh (5-10) and junior forward Joey Cox (5-10).
Although the Vikings lack bulk inside, Karpers is confident his front line can do the job.
"We've got some guys who play bigger than they are listed," Karpers said.
2010-1011 record: 12-8
Returning starters: Senior forward Andre Jackson (6-6), senior center Keith Crowell (6-5), senior shooting guard James Handy (6-0), senior point guard Cory Tabb (5-9).
Breakdown: Expectations are high with a slew of returning starters and a balanced attack that is bigger than past Wolverine squads.
Senior center Devin Gibson (6-6) will join Crowell and Jackson (6-4) to form an imposing frontline.
"We're pretty large this year," third-year coach Mike Slepesky said. "Western Tech is historically small."
Jackson, athletic and versatile, will be helped by junior forward Coyet Goodman (6-2) and junior shooting guard Tre Beverly (5-9), both of whom should provide an additional spark.
Senior Nelson Jones (6-0) is a backcourt veteran off the bench and juniors Khalil Edwards (6-0), Tyrell Laster (6-0) and Brandon Luster (5-8) should add to the rotation on the perimeter.
Earl Holly (6-0), Daquane Skipwith (6-1) and Donald Imes (6-0) lend depth at the wing positions.
"My expectations are high and theirs are really high," Slepesky said. "They want to win the division, be about 15-3 and advance further in the playoffs."
2011 record: 10-10
Returning starters: Senior guard/forward Mark Roethleitner (6-3) and senior guard Michael Ginsburg (5-8).
Breakdown: The Justin McKnight-era at Park is set to tip off with renewed hope, renewed vigor and a deep playoff run.
The new coach feels this is the season the Bruins will reach their full potential competing in the MIAA C Conference.
"I do expect to do much better than in the past," said McKnight, who replaces longtime coach Josh Wolf after guiding the Park junior varsity to a 20-6 record the past two seasons. "There were a couple of years they didn't get to the playoffs, and one year they got bumped in the first round. We should be able to get to the championship."
McKnight said one reason is his familiarity with the several players on the roster with whom he worked running the program's freshman-sophomore team during the 2008 and 2009 seasons.
"I have coached most of these guys for three or four years," McKnight explained.
Ginsburg has good athleticism and court savvy. His passing skills and desire to win should be a tremendous help to the Bruins as a take-charge type of player.
"He is a real leader, and I like this toughness," McKnight said. "When Michael has the ball in his hands, good things happen. And the offense flows exceptionally well."
Expect Rothleitner to be the Bruins' leading scorer.
"He will be our go-to guy," said McKnight, noting has received interest from University of Buffalo and Wells College. He is fast, athletic and explosive. He really looked good in the St. Paul's summer league."
McKnight feels three other returning players — senior forward Drew Goldfarb (6-0), sophomore forward Idris Mitchell (6-3) and senior guard Jake Abrams (5-11) — will be solid contributors, offensively and defensively.
Four players promoted from last year's JV, senior guard Max Berner (5-9), junior forward Randy Conney (5-11), junior guard Reid Danels (5-8) and senior forward Wayne Cottman (6-0), also should see some quality minutes.