Now that the cold weather is arriving, it's time to step inside to watch some high school basketball. Boys' Latin, Friends, Gilman and Park carry high hopes into the 2013-14 boys basketball season. Here is a look at the four North Baltimore teams with last year's records:
2012-2013 record: 22-5
Returning starters: 2
Coach Cliff Rees' quote: "It's a phenomenal record. I told the kids, 'I could coach at Boys' Latin and not have that record again.'"
Breakdown: The Lakers have gone from a floundering program into a flourishing one under third-year coach Cliff Rees.
Rees insists that duplicating that type of success will be difficult this season, with a youthful team competing in the in the B Conference.
"This year, I have only two seniors on the roster and I will be starting two sophomores," the coach explained. "There will be teams in the league with more seasoned rosters."
He'll head into this season with a revamped starting lineup. Gone are three standouts, including Rees' son Casey (averaged 18 points per game), Colin Heacock (14 pts., 8 reb.) and Brendan Fields (10 pts., 9 reb.).
The backcourt of the cousins, senior shooting guard Jordan Brooks (6-2) and junior point guard Blair Brooks (6-1) will be a strength, even without Casey and Heacock.
After averaging 9.8 points per game last year, Jordan Brooks could lead the Lakers in scoring.
Blair Brooks, who played shooting guard a year ago, will be running the offense this time around.
He has legitimate point guard skills and can provide plenty of offensive assistance.
"He is an exceptional athlete who handles the ball well and has very good court vision," Rees said.
The inside game received a boost with the transfer of sophomore Kodye Pugh (6-6) from Archbishop Spalding.
Pugh should have an immediate impact. He's a solid rebounder and defender who should be an effective offensive player.
"He will be a terrific player," Rees said. "He has a ton of upside. There's been a bunch of interest in him from big schools. Maryland, Syracuse and Texas have come to see him work out."
Junior guard Patrick Spencer (6-2) and sophomore guard Logan Wisnauskas (6-3) could help the team strengthen the perimeter attack.
Freshman guard Brandon Bradsher (5-8), junior guard Devin Shewell (6-1) and senior forward Fredrick Bopst (6-3) will work as the top subs off the bench.
Sophomore forward Shawn Stepney (6-1), sophomore guards George Greene (5-11) and Michael Morsberger (6-2) and junior guard Jerel Archer (5-11) will contend for minutes.
2012-2013 record: 13-17
Returning starters: 1
Coach's Albert Holley's quote: "Last year, I inherited a team full of seniors. This year, my team will be very young."
Breakdown: Holley deserves credit for stabilizing a program coming off a 4-20 record.
Now, comes the challenge of keeping Friends from taking a step back because of an overhauled roster.
After all, the Quakers graduated nine seniors, including guards Brandon Jones (Cabrini College) and Avery Filer (St. Mary's College of Maryland), both of whom are playing at the next level.
"We just have to continue to take steps forward," Holley said. "I think there are a lot of variables with this year's team. If we can dictate the tempo and pace, I think we can be pretty good."
Junior Randy Gregory (5-9), a transfer from St. Paul's, takes over at point guard.
Gregory can distribute and score.
"He has a great basketball I.Q." Holley said. "Basketball is his primary sport and he just loves the game. He is quick, runs the team and gets everyone involved."
Donavin Tilley (6-1) could be the Quakers' top perimeter scorer. He averaged 10 points per game last year and might just be the team's most improved player.
"I think his game has taken a big step up," Holley said. "He will be one of our major pieces."
Other guards to watch include freshman Rossano Jones (6-0) and seniors Chandler Walters (6-0) and Matt Caplan (5-8).
"We will be relying heavily on our perimeter players," Holley said. "And more on the three-point shot."
With last year's leader rebounder, power forward Sedrick Charlier, having graduated, returning seniors Ethan Green (6-8) and Sam Shapiro (6-3) will be counted on to anchor the interior.
Sophomore forward John Herzog (6-3), junior guard Chris Shepard (6-3) and junior guard Langston Lee (5-9) provide depth.
2012-13 record: 16-15
Returning starters: 4
Coach Owen Daly's quote: "We feel it's the right time to move up to the A Conference. In the past, we have been able to beat one A Conference team every year."
Breakdown: Daly sees a benefit in having four returning starters from a team that lost in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference final last year to Pallotti.
Daly needs that experienced lineup as the Greyhounds move up to the 10-team A Conference.
His team will be sharply focused on a postseason berth.
"We will be competing for a playoff spot," Daly said. "The demands of the A Conference schedule will tell us if we can make it. Playing tough teams night in and night out will be the biggest change."
With the graduation of shooting guard Ben Grace, who is now playing at UMBC, junior small forward Kai Locksley (6-5) will be the team's go-to guy after averaging 18 points and 8.3 rebounds per game last year.
Locksley, who starts at quarterback on the Greyhounds' football team, will also be Gilman's defensive stopper.
"He is so explosive and a jack of all trades," Daly said of Locksley, who has received football offers from Florida State and Alabama. "He can give you a double-double and defend the other team's best player."
Senior center Cory Watson (6-5, 220 pounds) should be able to push and shove with the big boys in the A Conference.
He led the Greyhounds in rebounding last year, averaging 8.5 per outing.
"He is a real good post defender," Daly said.
Gilman is set in the backcourt with sophomore point guard Everett Winchester (6-3) and senior shooting guard William McBride (6-0).
Junior guard/forward Matt Egan (6-3) and sophomore forward John Fitzgerald (6-3) are competing for the final starting spot.
Daly loves the potential that his three freshmen have shown: guards Douglas Cooper (6-0), Donald Duncan (5-10) and guard/forward Tyler Foster (6-3).
"They give you that youthful energy," the coach said. "Those guys are going to be excellent complements to the veterans. They all can handle the ball well and put it in the basket."
Junior guards Andy Matthews (5-10) and Torben Ginsberg (5-11), senior guard Andrew Glick (6-0), sophomore forward Devery Hamilton (6-6), and junior forward Ben Moore (6-3) round out the squad.
2012-2013 record: 14-7
Returning starters: 2
Coach Derrick Larkins' quote: "I think we have the pieces to win the whole thing."
Breakdown: Larkin is convinced this may be the year the Bruins make a serious run at an MIAA C Conference championship.
Last year, Park held down second place in the league before a late-season slump dropped the team to the fifth seed for the playoffs.
There, Key School ousted the Bruins in a quarterfinal.
Now, the Bruins are primed for a stellar year with leading scorer Francesco Porcarello returning, the addition of two transfers and six players from an undefeated junior varsity team.
"They will come up and contribute a lot to the varsity," Larkin said of the JV players. "They all want starter's minutes. We have guys who are competing for spots. Last year, we could name our starters before the season."
Porcarelli, a 6-foot-1 shooting guard, can flourish inside or outside.
"He is a complete player," Larkins said. "He can really get to the hole and is a pretty good shooter."
Junior shooting guard Jason Gelblum (6-1) and senior Dylan Schultz (6-0) could help boost the Bruins outside shooting.
Larkins is eager to see what junior Justin Holmes (6-0) can do after being promoted from the JV.
Holmes will be spelled by sophomore Max Rottenberg, a transfer from Minnesota.
With power forward Amani Lawson (averaged 14 points, 7 rebounds per game) transferring, senior center Jack Curley (6-4) and junior forward Jair Williams (6-5), a transfer from City, become the focal point inside.