By Craig Clary, firstname.lastname@example.org
11:29 AM EST, November 29, 2012
Depth will keep the competitive juices flowing at practices on the local hardwood as the season unfolds.
Coaches at Lansdowne and Catonsville hope that competition can mean more victories while the Western Tech coach feels strength in numbers will offset the star power lost from last year's regional finalist.
Read on to see who will be battling for playing time when the season gets underway.
Record last year: 7-13
Returning starters: Seniors forward Shawn Brown (6-1), senior center Trevor Morris (6-50 and junior forwards Tyler Jones (6-4) and Edrick Mallard (6-2).
Breakdown: The Vikings took their lumps last season with an inexperienced squad, but held together and should be improved with more depth and some fresh talent.
Senior guard Dallas Rowe (6-4), who played as a freshman and sophomore, returns to the backcourt after taking last year off.
"We've knocked some of the rust off and he's looking pretty good," coach Greg Karpers said.
Joining the backcourt is senior John Johnson (6-1), a transfer from Forest Park.
Sophomore Mark-Jared Kelly (6-3) figures to make an impact and Karpers hopes he can get contributions from senior Quentin Muhammad (5-10) and juniors Anthony Abram (6-1), Alfred Allen (5-10), Damon DeShields (5-10) and Ryan Woods (6-2) in the backcourt.
Seniors Ronald Stewart (6-5) Joey Cox (6-0) and Martin McCoy (5-10) will man the paint.
"This is the biggest team (depth wise) we've had," Karpers said. "We've got nine or 10 guys who are really going to contribute on game days, which has made our practices really competitive."
From what the coach has seen in the early practices, the Vikings should have balanced scoring and be pests with their size on defense.
"We are extremely long and athletic and we will pose some matchup problems," Karpers said.
2011-2012 record: 3-17
Returning starters: Senior forwards Jamal Tyson (6-foot-3), Kevin Sheppard (6-0) and Jack Rasmussen (6-3 ) and senior guard James Baker (5-6).
Breakdown: Second-year coach Matt Fannin has seven returning varsity players ready to create a winning vibe around the program.
Seniors Justin Sneed (5-10, G/F) and Brendan McTaggert (6-0, F) and junior Daniel Thompson (6-1, F) also have varsity experience.
"This year, the guys that are coming back are hungry," Fannin said. "It's been a while since Catonsville has been relevant in basketball and they have a chance to do something special."
Last year's squad was unsettled at the start of practice because several prospective players were still playing football on a 12-1 squad that reached a state semifinal.
This year's gridders were eliminated in the first round of the regional playoffs and junior football players Teddy Crayton (6-1, G/F) and Joey Getzendanner (5-10, G) are ready to go.
Juniors Christian Boxley (5-9) and Daniel Carver (5-8) will help in the backcourt and junior newcomer Nathan Hines (6-6) brings size to the paint.
Fannin coached the Comet junior varsity from 2008 through 2010 and has been with some of his seniors for four seasons.
"James, Jamal and Jack, you can see by the way they are practicing, they want to make it happen," Fannin said.
Record last year: 13-5
Returning starters: Senior guard Tre Beverly (5-8)
Breakdown: The Wolverines graduated the dynamic inside duo of Andre Jackson and Keith Crowell and with them went 33 points and 22 rebounds-per-game averages, which makes coach Mike Slepesky aware that he will have to call on his entire 15-player roster to replace those numbers.
"They gave me a very good reason to keep 15," Slepesky said. "I think the teams is deeper than last year, we just don't have the star power."
Beverly is the only returning starter, but the Wolverines do have veterans in senior guards Brandon Luster (5-7) and Khalil Edwards (6-1) and senior forwards Tyrell Laster (6-1), Coyet Goodman (6-2) and Devin Collins (6-2).
Junior Chaz Lassiter (5-11) could shared point guard duties with Luster and junior Josh Miles (6-4) brings a physical presence to the interior.
"We are very good across the board," Slepesky said. "We will probably rotate 10 or 12 guys."
Seniors Daquane Skipwith (6-0), Earl Holly (6-0) and Lamar Briscoe Wortham (6-0) hope to work into the mix with juniors Donald Imes (6-0), Mike Haysbert (6-4), John Williams (5-11) and John Morant (5-11).
"This year we are going to have to rely on our fastbreaks, pressure and our outside shooting ability," Slepesky said.