South River will be hard-pressed to match last year's record.
Behind All-County selections Al Lee and Edmund Hicks, South River put together its finest season, finishing 19-4 before bowing in the Class 3A, Region IV semifinals to state runner-up Potomac.
With the departure of Lee and Hicks went 36.1 points per game, but what was left behind has South River coach Ken Dunn excited about this team's chances.
"We won't be as deep as last year, or as fast, but we have kids with a lot of experience," said Dunn. "I'm hoping that experience will hold up until we get the younger kids to step up and contribute."
The Seahawks' backcourt is young, but sound, with sophomore guards Corey Davis and Russell Tongue returning to run the offense.
Both have proven they can make teams pay on the perimeter, but their main responsibility will be getting the ball down low to center Darren Hall and senior forwards Jason Fullmer, Robert Randall and Clayton Wilson (6-3).
"We'd like to run the ball up and down the court, but right now it's like we're dragging an anchor when we try to push it up the court. So, we may have to go to more of a half-court game," said Dunn. "We don't have the overall team speed that we had last year, but we're bigger."
Hall, a 6-7 senior, was pushed out of the spotlight last season by Hicks and Lee but still produced 13.2 points, 9.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists a game after averaging 20.0 points as a sophomore.
Fullmer hopes to improve on his numbers from last year, which included 2.4 points and 2.1 rebounds. The 6-6 senior will be joined in the paint by 6-5 Randall, who averaged 2.3 points as a junior.
If the Seahawks are to be successful, Dunn says his "second-line" people -- juniors Brain Ulrich and Andy Moore, sophomores Tommy Terry and Rusty Digirolomo and freshmen Jared Cameron and Robert Patterson -- must help get it done.
"Every kid on this team will contribute and they all can put the ball in the hole," said Dunn. "Davis has been driving well and doing some nice things and our four seniors have looked good in scrimmage, but we just need to get something out of the second line of people."
@ The pressure is off at Northeast.
Ten of the 12 players on last year's team have departed -- eight to graduation, one to transfer and one who elected not to come back. The greatest loss was Gene Pleyo, who left as the school's all-time leader in career points (1,038), assists (341), three-pointers (118) and games (82).
"Everyone realizes this is a rebuilding year," coach John Barbour said. "They don't expect us to do much. There are no high expections."
There isn't much experience, either. The only two returning players are seniors Paul Thompson, a 6-foot-3 center, and Rich Heffner, a 6-1 guard. Thompson averaged 3.2 points and 4.6 rebounds last season. Heffner appeared in the last four games after mending a broken ankle.
"Everybody we lost last year was a scorer," Barbour said.
The "only plus," he said, was the addition of 5-foot-10 guard Ed Nalley from Glen Burnie.
"We could over-achieve and surprise some people, which is what we'll have to do to win," Barbour said.
For the Eagles to come close to last year's 7-15 record, let alone improve on it, they will need newcomers such as 5-10 junior guard Mike Eaton, a member of the junior varsity last season, 5-11 senior forward Qian Rucks and 5-9 sophomore guard Jeff Dolch to contribute.
Northeast's tallest player is 6-5 junior center Eric Knapp, a
transfer from Virginia who hasn't played organized basketball.
"It's a challenge when you have a young team," Barbour said. "You just keep working hard and see what happens."
Roch Eric Kubatko
When coach Tom Albright took over the Bulldogs' program in 1965, he refused to roam the school's hallways looking for tall players.
Height helped, but it didn't equal a winning season.
Twenty-seven seasons later, Albright maintains that philosophy and the "win with what we have" attitude that has made him the winningest coach in the county with 399 victories.
"I don't sit around waiting for tall guys to come out," said Albright, who saw his team go 14-10 last year before coming up short against Rockville in the Class 2A, Region III semifinal. "If I did that, we'd never have a winning season.
"We don't have a lot of height this year, either, but they can jump and they can run. If they can hustle and they work hard on defense they'll be all right."
Albright's team might not have any glaring height, but what he does have is a multiple-threat in junior Chatney Howard.
The 6-2 swingman averaged 18.7 points as a sophomore and was the only non-senior named to the Anne Arundel County Sun's All-County first team.
Howard will be joined by a cast of experienced players, including seniors Kevin Mason (6-1), Kenny Joyce (6-3), Terrell Jones (6-0), Troy Dennis (6-1), Eddie Patty (6-4), Corey Conte and Fred McGee.
"We have a lot of people back and if they are willing to work, we should be better than last year," said Albright. "We lost a lot of close games last year and they are the ones we're going to have
to win this year if we want to be successful."