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1 Dunbar -- Despite off-season distractions that included a coaching change and the death of a teammate, the Poets are ranked No. 8 nationally by USA Today and Street & Smith's. They will have one of the nation's top front lines, led by 6-foot-8 senior center Norman Nolan, 6-7 senior Rodney Elliott, 6-8 senior Alexander Mobley and 6-4 senior Michael Cooper. Paul Smith is the interim coach.

2 Southern-Baltimore -- The Bulldogs may be the most talented team in the area. They begin the season with the state's longest win streak at 14 and four starters back from a team that won the state 3A championship. They may have the area's best backcourt with 6-1 senior Damon Cason and 6-5 senior Kevin Simpson. Dante Williams, a 6-foot-5 senior forward, also returns.

3 Lake Clifton -- Four starters return from a team that averaged over 90 points a game last season. They include 5-5 junior guard Shawnta Rogers, 6-4 junior forward Reggie Frazier and 6-7 senior center Terrance Payne, who has signed with Xavier. Lake Clifton also boast a solid bench.

4 Annapolis -- After failing to win the Class 4A, Region IV the past two seasons, the Panthers are in line to change that this season. Heading the list of returnees is 6-3 senior forward Larry Brown, a second-team All-Anne Arundel County selection last season.

5 Woodlawn -- The Warriors already have been dealt a slight blow with leading scorer Donte Dudley being slowed by a knee injury for the next three to four weeks. But with 10 of its top 12 players returning from a team that reached the Class 4A, Region II finals, before losing to eventual state runner-up High Point, the Warriors are the solid favorite to claim the Baltimore County

3A-4A crown.

6 Southwestern -- Coach Terry Leverette says that this is Southwestern's best squad and he may be right. Seven seniors, led by 5-8 guard Haywood Eaddy, one of the area's top best point guards, return. Forward Donnie Joy (6-5) and 5-7 guard Darrell Dawkins also return and they will be joined by members from a JV team that went 18-0.

7 Walbrook -- Along with Southwestern, Walbrook will be in the middle of the City 4A League and Class 4A North region chase with Lake Clifton and Southern-Baltimore. The Warriors will be without 6-7 senior center Andre Rafus, leaving the bulk of the scoring in the hands of 6-2 junior swingman Travon Broadway. Walbrook will have a good rotation of guards with Tony Tyrell,

Anton Jennifer and Marvin Matthews.

8 Mount St. Joseph -- In his second season, coach Pat McClatchely has his team the favorite in the Catholic League, after winning 10 of its final 12 games last season. The Gaels may have the league's best front courts with Richard Dent, a 6-7 senior center who transferred from Gibbons and 6-7 sophomore Daniel Wye.

9 Southern-AA -- Playing in the Class 2A, East region, Southern-AA may be only team that has a realistic chance of stopping Dunbar from reaching the state semifinals. Chatney Howard is one of the area's best players and he was Anne Arundel County's Player of the Year last season.

10 Gibbons -- The Crusaders again will be in the middle of the Catholic League race, led by Duke-signee Steve Wojciechowski, who was a second-team All-Metro selection last season. Senior forward Jerard Rucker and senior guard Troy Queen also return.11 Milford Mill -- Dunbar stopped the Millers' quest for a second straight state 1A title, but Milford Mill could be back in the finals this year. Several key players, including senior point guard Kenny Bostic and 6-7 junior center Blanchard Hurd, return.

12 Broadneck -- The Bruins dropped down from 4A to 3A this season and have a good chance of reaching the state semifinals for the first time since the 1985-86 season. Guard Jason Smith was an All-Anne Arundel County pick last season.

13 Edgewood -- The Rams reached the state 2A semifinals last season, before losing to Hereford, in overtime. Five of its top seven players, led by senior guards Alfred McAllister and Kenton Worthington, return. They are the favorite to capture the Harford

County and Class 2A North Region championship.

14 Atholton -- The Raiders haven't won a Howard County League championship since 1985. This season, they are considered the team to beat, with six returning players, including 6-2 senior swingman Tony Stewart, 5-9 junior point guard Brian Benden and 6-3 junior forward D. J. Chiles.

15 Dundalk -- Coach Andrew Pons calls his 1993-94 Owls team a "quality 11." Guards Travis Thornton, Emar Fleming and Mario Smith are the main reasons.

16 ixl,3l St. Frances -- The Panthers beat out teams like Dunbar, Lake Clifton and Southern-Baltimore to win the Craig Cromwell Summer League. Four players, including 6-1 forward Wayne Wheeler and 6-3 senior guard Kevin McClain, return.

17 Arundel -- The Wildcats will be looking for their second straight winning season under coach Gerald Moore. They have a solid backcourt with senior Jeff Hedrick (6-0) and junior Kevin Higgins (6-3).

18 Carver -- The Bears could be a strong team in the City 2A-3A Division. Jackson likes his front line, including seniors Jason Johnson and Harrell Rice.

19 Sparrows Point -- Three starters return from last year's state playoff team, including 5-10 junior point guard Carnell Damon, one of the county's best guards, and 6-5 senior shooting guard Will Marshall.

20 McDonogh -- With the realignment of the MSA Armstrong Conference, eliminating the Catholic League schools, the Eagles are the favorite in the A League. They return Donta Evans, one of the area's top point guards; 6-6 junior Bobby Sabelhaus; and 6-3 senior Mike Layden.

Note: The preseason Top 20 was selected by The Baltimore Sun staff. During the season, a panel of area coaches and writers will select the poll each week. It will appear Mondays.

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