Thanksgiving is time to be thankful for many things. For some, that includes the start of the high school basketball season. Here is a look at 10 Towson-area boys basketball teams heading into the 2013-14 season.
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 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 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."
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: 12-15
Returning starters: 4
Coach John Bauersfeld's quote: "We don't have a ton of size, but we still should do a pretty good job of rebounding."
Breakdown: After suffering some growing pains last winter, the Cardinals should be maturing with a more experienced roster this season.
And that could help to turn some of last year's close losses in to victories.
Speaking of growth, Bauersfeld does have a big man, 6-foot-8 junior Evan Phoenix, to mix with the rest of a lineup that doesn't boast another starter close to that size.
What he does have is quick and unselfish performers, such as senior wings Sean Mayberry (6-2) and Chris Wallace (6-3) and junior counterpart Nico Clareth (6-3), to keep rivals on their toes.
Junior Reggie Rouse (5-8) will run the point while classmate Drew Edwards (6-3) is one of the top returning players in the area and a serious threat at shooting guard.
"It's a pretty unselfish group," Bauersfeld said. "But in this league, it's a grind every night. Our wings should really help with the rebounding because we'll need everyone to contribute."
2012-2013 record: 21-3
Returning starters: 1
Coach Matt Lochte's quote: "We've got some lofty goals this year. Our goal is to finish No. 1 in our region."
Breakdown: Although point guard Jason Lawson is the only returning starter, Lochte has several key returning veterans that are chomping at the bit for playing time.
Junior guard/forward Isiah Lamb (6-4) is the most eager of the bunch after missing last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee. Lamb played at Franklin as a freshman and shows high potential.
"He probably has about a dozen Division I colleges interested in him," Lochte said.
Another Lion drawing tons of Division I college interest is junior wing Scott Harrelson (6-4).
Senior guard Stewart German is a three-year starter in the backcourt along with Lawson.
Junior center Ben Stevens (6-6) provides stability and toughness on the boards.
"He is a perfect fit for our team," Lochte said.
The bench brigade is led by the junior backcourt trio of Jimmy Bonner (5-11), Gary Bernardez (6-2) and Raynard McCamie (5-8).
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."
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.
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.
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."
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.
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 of freshmen guards Douglas Cooper (6-0), Donald Duncan (5-10) and guard/forward Tyler Foster (6-3).
Junior guard Andy Matthews (5-10), sophomore forward Devery Hamilton (6-6), junior guard Torben Ginsberg (5-11) and junior forward Ben Moore (6-3) round out the squad.
2012-2013 record: 17-6
Returning starters: 1
Coach Bill Toole's quote: "It will be hard to duplicate what we did last year. The guys we had last year were pretty experienced."
Breakdown: The Raiders might be in a position to start over, considering a sizable hole in the backcourt.
Gone are the three leading scorers from last year, including guards Greg Franklin (averaged 17 points per game.), Elliott Wiley (15 pts.) and Jordan Johnson (14 pts.).
There will be an opportunity for junior point guard Marqus Logan (5-9) to shine. He's the lone returning starter and coming off a solid season in which he averaged 10 points and five assists per outing.
"He is a good leader, a great ballhandler and he can shoot, too," Toole said. "He was more of a passer last year. This year, he will have to do more scoring."
Senior guards Vasili Sidou (5-10) and Jayvee Jonas (5-8), senior center Ed Dett (5-11), senior forwards Taimar Anderson (6-0) and Billy Toole (5-11) junior guard Jacob DeCientio (5-11) will all see plenty of minutes as well.
"If we want to win, they have to step up in the roles of their predecessors and score," said Toole, a second-year coach whose team lost to Owings Mills Class in a 2A quarterfinal last year.
Toole has been especially impressed with DeCientio, a transfer from Calvert Hall.
"He is a really good shooter," the coach said. "We need him to be that outside threat like Greg Franklin was last year."
2012-2013 record: 5-20
Returning starters: 2
Coach Josh Davalli's quote: "This might be one of the smallest teams we've had."
Breakdown: Size matters when you don't have a player taller that 6-2. Just ask Davalli, a former Towson University standout who may be the biggest Don on the court when Loyola is playing.
And on the defensive end, a height differential can be too much to overcome.
That said, the Dons could have a significant advantage with the ball, considering they will run a five-guard offense most of the time.
"We'll have five guys on the floor who can handle the ball," he said. "That can really help."
The starting five includes 6-2 seniors Billy Plunkett, Ryan Fields and Phil Heinrich and 6-0 juniors Ryan Floyd and Ryan Conrad.
"We have to rebound and play good defense," said Davalli, who hopes his team will be more deliberate on offense while attempting to wear down opposing defenses.
2012-2013 record: 0-20
Returning starters: 5
Coach Paul Schildwachter's quote: "Anything that could have gone wrong last year, went wrong."
Breakdown: Saints' fans can be assured of one thing this season: It can't be possibly be worse than last year when Lutheran was woefully lacking in experience.
"When you start two sophomores and a freshmen and you are going up against a lot of seniors, that's tough," Schildwachter said.
But this year's Lutheran squad has more experience and promising talent to work with at guard and in the frontcourt.
The returning starting lineup includes senior guard Tyler Woolsey (5-11), junior forward Justin Torres (6-2), sophomore forward Craig Kutchey (6-1) and Schildwachter's sons Jonathan (6-1), a senior guard/forward, and Joseph (5-10), a sophomore shooting guard.
"We will have a guard and post presence," said Schildwachter, a fourth-year coach. "We haven't had that the last couple of years."
The Saints won't just rely on Woolsey and Jonathan Schildwachter to produce points like last year.
More players will be involved offensively.
"I expect our scoring to be a little more consistent," Schildwachter said.
What's also exciting for coach Schildwachter is the addition junior forward Darrius Morgan (6-6), a transfer from Mount Carmel.
"He can really help us with rebounding, which has been a problem the last couple of years," Schildwachter said. "He will definitely be a presence in the post and he shoots well."
2012-2013 record: 12-14
Returning starters: 2
Coach Seth Goldberg's quote: "Because of injuries, we're having a slow start. But by the end of the year, we're going to be pretty good."
Breakdown: After garnering a second consecutive football crown and making a run to the soccer title game, expectations for success on the hardwood could also spur the Crusaders to the top this season.
Having a 6-foot-9 transfer from Senegal, as Goldberg says about senior center Iba Camara, "fall in our lap," should be another reason for optimism around the Brooklandville campus.
Welcoming back senior guard Tre Hamer (6-0), who did not play last season, adds to the excitement level.
Juniors Dan Wilson (6-6) and football standout Alan Koikoi (6-1) will join Camara on the frontline, giving St. Paul's some heft under the glass.
Junior Alexander Matsinye (6-2) figures to be the top wing player with 6-2 classmates Ryan Lee and William Jews and senior Matt Buhl (5-11) also logging key minutes.
Goldberg relishes the idea of having four point guards — juniors Juwan Peterson (5-8) and Blake Brown (5-10) and sophomores Nick Tate (5-11) and Zach Bare (6-0) — on the roster with junior Ben Bagli (5-10) a complement to off-guard Hamer.
"This is a really competitive group that has a lot of stuff you just can't teach," Goldberg said. "And the juniors have been playing together for awhile. Now, we just need to get healthy."
2012-2013 record: 7-13
Returning starters: None
Coach Tim Gavin's quote: "We are losing a lot of experience and scoring, but in some ways it's fun because we are going to have a bunch of new guys."
Breakdown: The Generals graduated 85 percent of their scoring from last season, including leading scorer Chance Goldring, so replacing those will be the most difficult task.
The only returning players are low post seniors Kenny Hill (6-3) and Charlie O'Melia (6-2) and senior guards Colby Hogan (5-9) and Nykown Carter (5-11).
Senior Joe Jackson (6-4), a transfer from Pennsylvania, bolsters the frontline along with juniors Kevin Spencer (6-5) and Cameron Layman (6-5) as the Generals hope to improve on the boards after they were out-rebounded in every game last season.
Junior guard Ryan Crusoe (5-9) was the leading scorer on the junior varsity last season. He will add backcourt depth along with juniors Grant Oliver (5-10), Talbot Wienholt (5-7) and Ronje Wright (6-3) while junior forward Will Huckenpoehler (5-11) and sophomore Drake Muse (6-3) help in the frontcourt.
"We relied a lot on Chase last year," Gavin said. "This year everyone is trying to learn the plays."