OUTLOOK: This team’s fortunes took a hit when Troy Williams decided to play his senior year at Oak Hill, but there’s still some talent on Ireland Street. Daniel III is among the PD’s best pure shooters and his overall game, particularly creating his own shot, has gotten steadily better. Fletcher is a good spot-up shooter and should be capable of adding at least five more points to his average. But after that, the Phantoms will need more scorers to step up. Marshall could be an emerging star. A big addition is 6-5 Josh Davis, who averaged 13.2 ppg last season at Heritage. Three Phoebus football players are also on the roster.

THE COACH SAYS: “Our strength is defense. Our weakness is maturity. We have to gain confidence and remain positive.”

No. 5 Heritage Hurricanes

COACH: Michael Gardner

LAST YEAR: 5-17, 4-14 (8th).

TOP RETURNEES: 6-3 So. F Romello Anderson (12.3 ppg), 6-0 Sr. G Marquis Johnson (7.3 ppg), 6-4 Jr. F/C Troy Gibson (5.0 ppg), 5-9 Sr. G Shomari Wright (3.3 ppg), 5-10 Sr. G Daniel Gamble (4.4 ppg).

OUTLOOK: After an 0-18 season in 2010-11, the Hurricanes won five games last season and lost another four by seven points or less. It was a nice turnaround, and Heritage could take a bigger step this season. Anderson was one of the top freshmen in the district last season, and Johnson is a steady presence in the backcourt. Gibson (6-4) and White (6-5) provide some good size inside. The only bad news is that two valuable players transferred: 6-5 Josh Davis, the leading scorer at 13.2 ppg, is now at Phoebus; G Devon Mayo (6.8 ppg) has relocated to Denbigh. Still, no less a source than Menchville coach Dennis Koutoufas predicts Heritage to be this year’s surprise team.

THE COACH SAYS: “I expect improvement from last season.  Our strength is our athleticism and depth.  Our weakness is our lack of size and depth in front court. We must play hard every night, limit turnovers, rebound defensively and improve free throw shooting in order to be successful.”

No. 6 Woodside Wolverines

COACH: Erick Mays.

LAST YEAR: 13-10, 11-7 (6th)

TOP RETURNEES: 6-3 Sr. G Trevor Lyons (15.0 ppg), 5-9 Sr. G Jazz Johnson (2.7 ppg).

OUTLOOK: For Mays, the bad news is that five of his top six scorers from last season are gone. The good news is the lone returner out of that group, Lyons, is back. He’s been one of the district’s top (though underrated) players over the last three seasons. There’s a lot of talk about Woodside’s freshman class, which includes 6-5 Chris Orlina and 5-10 PG Devonte Carter. It’s hard to say how far this team can go, but at the very least the Wolverines should get better as the season progresses and be fun to watch.

THE COACH SAYS: “(We) should  be competitive but young.  (We’ve) got to rebound and play smart and we must get team contributions.”

No. 7 Menchville Monarchs

COACH: Dennis Koutoufas

LAST YEAR: 19-7, 12-6 (T-3rd), lost in Eastern Region quarterfinals.

TOP RETURNEE: 5-10 Sr. G Josh Knight (4.2 ppg).

OUTLOOK: Koutoufas is not one for hyperbole, so when he calls this the youngest team he’s had in 27 years as a head coach, that says something. There are four players who were on last year’s roster, and they scored a combined 97 points (Knight had 79 of them) the entire season. So Coach K will be relying big-time on newcomers. The most intriguing is 6-7 DaQuan Lake, brother of former Menchville baseball pitcher Deshorn Lake. He’s long, lean (185 pounds) and raw. Koutoufas also likes G Stephon McLean-Burrell, a military kid who transferred from Germany.

THE COACH SAYS: “We’re totally inexperienced. Not one guy on this team has started a varsity game. Our scrimmages went fairly well. We did some good things, but we’re inexperienced, and sometimes our inexperience showed up. … I’m OK with this team. Sometimes you have groups that get no better from day one until the end of preseason, but these kids have gotten demonstratively better.”