There will be a new look for Aberdeen's boys basketball team this season, as only two players are back from last year's county champions and regional finalists (21-3).
Senior Thomas Williams, at 6 feet 3 the squad's tallest player, is a holdover starter who averaged 10.8 points and 7.3 rebounds.
But gone are three other double-figure scorers who helped give the team balance and speed and guided it to three straight regional finals.
Paul Smith, a junior guard, is the other returning player.
"The other three spots are not solidified yet," fifth-year coach Ron Petrey said, "and will probably change several times during the month of December. We're still working with various combinations."
Five players have stepped up from last year's fine junior varsity team, and five others are new to the program.
Moving up are Calvin McMullen, Hosea Edwards, Steven James, Mike Cromwell and Adric Turner. The newcomers are seniors Ray Primas, Clifton Bright and Damien Carter, along with junior Chris Parker and sophomore Larry Johnson.
"This will be the most inexperienced team I've had, and we are small, too," Petrey said.
While most of the county programs have at least one returning starter around whom to build, Bel Air has none, but it does have seven senior holdovers with some playing experience.
Coach Bill Georg plans to use point guard Mason McGlothan as his key building block, as McGlothan came off the bench to play a good bit a year ago. Also in this category is Jeff Tracey, who was the regular sixth man and a spot starter at forward.
David Grimm, the team's tallest player at 6-2 1/2 , was the backup center last year and likely will move into a starting role.
Of the remaining four, two are guards (Steve Meyers and Mark DeFabio) and two are forwards (Stephen Kagay and Dennis Sulkowski). Meyers is 5-10, the other three are in the 6-0 to 6-2 range.
Completing the squad are three juniors from the JV, leading scorer Tony Mogabero, Victor Smith, and Jason Huczek, plus sophomore forwards Ryan Kagay and Bryan Grimm, giving the unit two sets of brothers.
"The last several years, we've had no speed, but in the past we had more size than this time," Georg said. "We'll be back with our slow-paced game and matchup zone defenses. We hope to create some confusion."
C. Milton Wright
At C. Milton Wright, senior Greg Stephen is the lone returning starter from last year's Class 3A, Region II semifinalist (18-6). A 6-4 forward, he averaged 7.0 points and 5.0 rebounds.
There are five others -- all guards -- who saw varying lengths of playing time, including juniors Eric McEvoy and Chad Bowman, expected to share time at point guard.
The others are Tony Corea, Jason Grzyb and Charles Harris, with Grzyb the tallest of the group at 6-0.
Shawn Crouch (a 6-4 junior), Brian King (a 6-2 junior) and Chris Rueckert (a 6-7 sophomore) are forwards who played on junior varsity last season and have done well in early practices.
Coach George Constantine, starting his eighth season, believes this team has more depth than any of his previous ones, a situation that made trimming the squad more difficult than usual.
"Our balance has slowed down this process, but we expect to be able to go 9-10 deep," he said.
"We're looking to improve dramatically as the season goes along."
Kenton Worthington is the chief holdover among three veterans of last year's Class 1A regional finalist Edgewood (14-10).
The 6-2 junior forward averaged 11.0 points and 5.1 rebounds with a cast that included his brother, Lawrence, the team's leading scorer and rebounder.
Six-foot seniors Jamie Coons and James Mitchell had limited playing time for the Rams, who placed third in the county league behind Aberdeen and C. Milton Wright and eventually lost a regional final to Stephen Decatur.
At 6-3, senior Maurice Edison and juniors Julius Christy and Dwayne Winder are the tallest among a group of nine newcomers.
"We have athletes with good skills, but will be hampered by a lack of size and experience at the varsity level," coach Bob Slagle said.
"Our season's record will depend on how quickly the new players learn the system and how quickly we become a cohesive unit.
"We will have to overcome our lack of size by using our quickness to score."
Another junior who is expected to play a key role is 6-2 Alfred McAllister, who, along with Edison, is new to the school this year.
Size and experience will be key factors, as Fallston seeks a turnaround from last year. Five holdovers, including two starters from that 11-13 team, are front-line players, headed by 6-6 senior Rob Myers.
This will be in sharp contrast with a year ago, when senior point guard Steven Chaires, an All-County selection, averaged 17.4 points in a guard-oriented situation.
Now, Myers will be backed by three other returning players who are 6-4, making the Cougars the county's tallest team. Myers, second on the team in scoring and first in rebounding with averages of 10.8 and 7.6, respectively, will be joined by Dave Adams, Kernan Kelly and Ephraim Dorsey.
All saw considerable playing time a year ago, with starter Adams averaging 9.8 points and 6.3 rebounds. The other veteran is 6-3 ** forward Nick Johnson.
Although experienced, this is still a young team and it may be a year away. Aside from Myers, newcomer Mark Torba, a 6-1 guard, is the only other senior on the roster.
Other first-year varsity players are junior guards Mike Archer, Joe Foley, Dave McKinney, Brad Thomas and Ben Tubbs, and forward Rick Shearer, another 6-4 forward.
McKinney and Thomas are the leading candidates for Chaires' position and probably will share the playing time.
"We will have a big void in in the backcourt with the absence of Chaires, not only because of his scoring but also his leadership in running the offense," said coach Robin Hood.
"As a result, we expect to have a completely different look this year."
Harford Vo-Tech has the smallest team in the county, by numbers as well as physical size.
Coach Jules Bernstein has just seven varsity players with none taller than 6-0. This does not present a bright outlook for the school's return to the county league, where it will play a modified schedule, meeting each other school once.
"We could have had more players, but I thought it better that there be a junior varsity team," Bernstein said. "There are nine on that team, and the younger ones will get more playing experience that way. As for the varsity, we'll go with it."
This will be the first year of Bernstein's second go-round as the school's head coach. He was the program's first head coach when the school opened 15 years ago.
Three players return from last year (13-6): brothers Tykell Johns, a 6-2 senior forward, and Lechea Johns, a 6-0 sophomore swingman, plus Jelani Edwards, a 5-9 junior guard. The first-year players are juniors Kelly Turner, Courtney Watters and Larry Belcher, and freshman Peter Surette. The first two are forwards, and the other two, guards.
Havre de Grace
The situation will be the same as it has been the past two or three years for Havre de Grace coach Alex Spooner -- using a lot of players to try to thwart the opposition.
"Perhaps as many as 12 will play, with the idea to go up-tempo and wear down other teams," said Spooner, beginning his ninth year as coach.
"We have to do this because we have only one player taller than 6 feet, no post player, and no one as a force on the boards."
Two years ago, the team record was 3-21, and last year it improved to 8-15, with the Warriors reaching the first round of the Class 1A regionals.
Holdovers from that unit are senior guards James Jenkins and Ryan Nolan, and junior forward Michael Gibson, although Gibson is sidelined by an ankle injury received during the football season. A year ago, Jenkins and Nolan combined for 36 three-point goals.
Ardie White, a 5-11 sophomore guard, is a promising newcomer, and joins five others who have had good preseason practices.
They are senior Calvin Edwards, and juniors Jeff Fox, Joel Duchon, Kenny Clark and Mark Grimsley, at 6-1 the team's tallest player.
Graduation may have been the best thing to happen to Joppatowne, because last year's seniors -- most of whom helped mold two state Class 1A championship teams -- did not come through as expected, although the team reached the Class 1A regionals.
Now the load likely will come down on two seniors and two juniors, as the team seeks an improvement to last year's 8-15 mark.
The most experienced player is three-year regular Jermaine Head, who averaged 15.0 points and 3.7 assists last year. A 6-0 guard, he will be paired in the backcourt with junior Chuck Hunter, a role player a year ago.
The other two veterans are senior Mike Harris, who played two years ago, then missed last season with a football injury, and junior Rodney Briscoe, who started the second half of last season.
Coach Mike Bauer sees Head and Briscoe as scorers, calls Harris "an excellent defensive player inside," and says, "Hunter will be the key. It depends on how rapidly he develops at point guard."
Three other seniors -- swingmen Jeff Luck and Corey Reynolds, and forward Chris Carr, who could be a physical factor at 6-1 and 220 pounds -- are expected to contribute.
"I'm concerned by our lack of size and an experienced point guard," Bauer said. "We have a lot of good athletes who are quick and can run and jump, and, as the younger ones learn, we should get stronger."
Damon Roberts can expect to be the center of attention for North Harford opponents, as the 6-4 senior comes back as the defending county leader in field-goal percentage and rebounding.
A year ago, his figures included shooting 54 percent and averaging 11.4 rebounds. In addition, he contributed 12.0 points a game, and now coach Spike Griffith is looking for candidates to step up and help share the scoring load.
Three seniors and a junior are returning players who got a lot of playing time on a team that had six seniors among its first seven.
Last year, North Harford (10-13) went to the Class 2A regionals, losing to Wicomico by one point in the first round.
Griffith points to guards Chris Mills and John Stearns as players he is looking to for help. Mills is a 5-10 senior and Stearns, a 5-9 sophomore, one of five on the 12-man squad.
"We need them to score," Griffith said, "because we know Damon will draw attention. There is an advantage here, though, because he is an excellent passer, a good distributor of the ball. Another one in that capacity is junior point guard Dominic DiDomenico, who will direct the offense and defensively draw the other team's top ball handler."
Besides Roberts and Mills, the other veterans are forwards Matt Appleby, Matt Miller and Rob Seifert. All are seniors, but Miller, a junior, who is getting more time as Appleby recovers from an ankle injury.
"We'll have trouble with big, physical teams," Griffith said, looking at a group that is topped by Roberts, followed by Appleby and Miller, both 6-2.
"We'll be short on game experience at the start, but we should get better. We still won't be able to compete with the Edgewoods and Aberdeens for the county title, but our goal is to go back to the regionals."
Pat Goles could be excused for calling on interim help again, as the John Carroll coach has seen his team hit with what he calls, "an unbelievable run of preseason bad luck."
A year ago, an illness forced Goles out for the season. Now, it is his players who are on the injury list.
When the Patriots opened against Havre de Grace on Friday night, not one projected starter was in the lineup, and a top reserve was also on the sidelines. Their returns run between this week and "indefinite."
Myron Cole, who averaged 18.9 points and 11.3 rebounds as a junior, is the top holdover, but a knee injury cost him most of the football season and when he reinjured it last Monday, it made his return questionable.
David Ishmael is a surgical case after receiving broken finger bones during the football season, and Mark Heimerl suffered a thigh injury in practice last week. Ric Abercrombie, a 6-5 forward, has had academic problems, but will become eligible this week.
Additionally, backup David Rosso injured his back last week, and lone remaining point guard Geoff Pickett missed the opener, as he was out of town for the weekend.
Along with seniors Pickett and Abercrombie, the load now falls on senior Brian Currey, juniors Frank Sweeney and Chris Babiak, and sophomores Jared Marmen and Jason Sealing. Marmen is the tallest of the group at 6-foot-6.
"We're not as good as some of the other teams, but if we play our [up-tempo] game, we'll be all right," said Goles, in his 25th year with the school.
Harford Christian School returns two starters from last year's 10-12 team, including top scorer Matt Snyder.
"We'll have a decent starting lineup, but we are thin on experience at the varsity level," said six-year coach Ron Stief.
The holdover starters are Snyder, a 6-4 senior center who averaged 15.0 points a year ago, and Roger Williams, a senior point guard who led the team in assists. Aside from Snyder, half of the 10-man squad consists of 6-0 forwards.
David Edmond (a 6-1 senior) is in a starting role at center for the first time, and is joined in the lineup by junior guards Nate Stark and Tim Olinger, as Stief will use a three-guard alignment.
Charles Finney and Shane Carpenter saw some action last season, and three players from junior varsity -- Bill Kojak, Jason Short, and Russell Turmire -- round out the squad.
"The challenge will be keeping the first five healthy," Stief said, "and if this happens we have a chance to be a good team. I'd like to achieve a .500 record."