Annapolis hasn't won a region title for three years and was 17-7 last season, but county coaches once again are tagging the Panthers as "the team to beat" in Class 4A.
Broadneck is the county's Class 3A team and the Bruins' chances of winning the East Region and earning a trip to the Final Four at College Park are very good.
Southern is unquestionably the toast of Class 2A and a legitimate state title contender with returning county Player of the Year Chatney Howard.
Last year was the first time in over 20 years that Annapolis went two consecutive seasons without winning its region title and it was the first time in John Brady's 16 years as the Panthers' head coach. Meade won last year's Region IV title (now East Region) while Old Mill did it the year before.
It was the first time Annapolis was shut out two years in a row since Arundel won back to back region titles in 1970 and '71.
Meade coach Butch Young, Coach of the Year last season after leading the Mustangs to their third region title in 10 seasons (1983 and 1988 were the others) expects his team to be down and is pointing to Annapolis to regain its status.
Young is not alone.
"Yeah, but you know Brady, when he's been down, he usually comes back with an explosion," said Arundel coach Gerald Moore.
Old Mill coach Paul Bunting says, "Annapolis is head and shoulders above everybody else."
Annapolis returns seven players, including second-team All-County senior forward Larry Brown (6-3) and Brady is not surprised the majority of coaches are picking his Panthers.
"Why not, aren't we the team to beat every year?" he asked.
Led by returning All-County junior Jason Smith, Broadneck should be the class of a 3A East Region that includes Baltimore City's Carver, City and Poly.
Southern's 2A East Region is loaded with last year's State 1A champion Dunbar and the 1A runner-up Cambridge-South Dorchester, but the Dawgs have surrounded Player of the Year Howard with a lot of talent. Howard, the only county public school player listed among Street & Smith's preseason honorable mention All-Americans, can carry a team.
"We've had good luck against Cambridge over the years and if we get Dunbar on a neutral court, who knows," said Southern coach Tom Albright.
Defending MSA B Conference Champion Severn School has a new head coach and a new league.
Wayne Fowler has succeeded Jim Doyle as the Admirals' head coach but is no stranger to the program. Fowler was an assistant to Doyle, who led the Admirals to their finest season in school history at 25-2, including its first MSA B Conference title in boys basketball.
Local rivals Archbishop Spalding and St. Mary's are back in the B Conference with the Admirals.
Severn appears loaded for this level of play with six returnees, including superb junior John Vereen and a couple key transfers in Alhamisi Simms and Jaylonnie Booth.
St. Mary's and Spalding lack height and experience at the varsity level and aren't expecting to be contenders like Severn.
Should it be surprising that opposing coaches are calling Annapolis "the team to beat" even though the Panthers haven't won their region the past two seasons?
While it would be considered a great year at most schools, the Panthers' 17-7 mark last season was a downer for them. It marked only the third time (19-5 in 1979-80 and 17-7 in 1982-83) in Brady's 16 years as head coach his team didn't hit the 20-win level.
However, Annapolis took two out of three from eventual region-winner Meade, winning the Friendship Division title over the Mustangs.
Annapolis was 9-5 at one point in the season and went on to win eight of its last 10 games. Unfortunately for the Panthers, one of those losses was by 78-71 to Meade in the region final.
"We really came on at the end and we've got seven players back," said Brady.
"Our strength is that we are really deep. We can go 10 to 11 players deep."
Employing the run-and-gun offense he learned in 1989-90 (state-title year) from then Loyola Marymount coach Paul Westhead, who is now at George Mason, Brady uses at least 10 players to fulfill the "84 feet for 32 minutes" philosophy. Those words appear on all Panthers basketball letterheads and team attire.
"We're going to play even faster this year because I'm giving up on man-to-man defense, and we're going to let the other teams score and see if they can outscore us," said Brady.
Larry Brown, 6-foot-3, second-team All-County last year, heads up the returning seniors, including Kelsey Watkins (6-0), Lewis Day (6-2), Rico Lee (6-2) and Rodney Watts (6-7). A sixth senior is Juan Johnson (6-1), who played two years ago, and who will share point guard with returning junior Teshawn Cooper (5-8).
Junior Ronnie Johnson (6-4) is the other returnee, and JV grads Lenny Barber (6-7) and Damion Day (6-5), both juniors, give Brady quality depth at the center position with Watts.
"They'll [opponents] have to try and keep up with us," said Brady.
Coming off the team's best season (17-10), the Cavaliers will be hard pressed to come close to last year's record.
"We can't look inside like we have the past couple years, so, we're trying to develop a perimeter game," said fourth-year head coach Lee Dove.
"We're going to have everybody crash the boards and try to control things."
Spalding lost two 6-5 players and a trio at 6-3 or better to graduation, but returns 6-4 senior Doug Little and has a 6-4 JV grad in junior Tim Morris to play inside.
Little is one of four returning seniors. The others are Leo Zerhusen (5-11), Mark Shiers (6-0) and Matt Moneyhon (6-1). Juniors Chad Langville (6-0) and Charles Ross (6-1) also got some playing time last year.
Besides Morris, five other players are up from the Cavaliers' JV team that lost in the B Conference championship game to Friends School of Baltimore. Sophomore Mike Massarini (5-11) is up along with juniors Dominic Lascola (6-0), Jason Quarantillo (6-1), Jeff Parsons (6-1) and Charlie Canter (6-2).
Andre Matthews (6-1) completes the team as a senior playing for the first time.
Spalding split its first two games of the season over the weekend in the Babe Ruth Classic at Cardinal Gibbons knocking off Archbishop Curley, 52-45, and losing the title game to the host Crusaders, 95-36.
"Believe me I didn't expect us to upset Gibbons, but I didn't expect us to get beat by 60 either," said Dove.
"But I think that's the way it's going to be this year. Expect the unexpected, which hopefully will work the other way for us."
With the B Conference make-up changing in the words of Dove to "the weaker schools moving out and tougher
schools moving in," the coach expects his Cavaliers to be respectable while he builds the future.
"We will be competitive and, as I said, expect the unexpected," said Dove.
Coach Gerald Moore calls his team "a program on the move," and there is no reason to believe they won't keep on trucking.
The Wildcats posted a 15-8 record last year, for not only Moore's first winning season in four years, but also Arundel's first since 1979. Among the wins, was the first over Annapolis since 1975, covering over 30 games.
A first-round playoff loss to underdog Broadneck was the low point, but could serve as incentive to go further this season.
"I don't want to set goals for this team, and will give them everything I have," said Moore (36-53).
"People ask me what we will do without Abrams [Richard, All-County center], but that's why we have juniors who become seniors."
A junior who has become a senior and is expected to step into the big shoes of Abrams is the 6-foot-6 Sean Soyers. Abrams averaged 14.7 points and 15.3 rebounds a game.
"Sean will be the top big man in the county," said Moore.
Soyers will complement a superb backcourt tandem, led by senior Jeff Hedrick (6-0) who Moore calls "our catalyst and the catalyst in every sport he plays."
Junior Kevin Higgins (6-3), who was second team All-County last year after averaging 15.9 points a game, is another returning guard and Severna Park transfer Bakari Ward adds to the wealth.
"Bakari was not fundamentally sound when he got here, but that's what we emphasize at Arundel," said Moore. "I get the greatest pleasure out of a player sacrificing his talent for the team and Bakari is learning that there is more than just scoring."
Other Wildcats returnees include seniors Paul Madden (6-3) and John Golombeck (6-1), and JV grads Mitchell Martin and Jeff Starr, both 6-1 juniors are expected to contribute.
"Annapolis is the team to beat because when Brady [Annapolis coach] is down a year or two, then, there is usually an explosion," said Moore.
"But my program is on the move."
Junior Jason Smith, an All-County guard as a sophomore after averaging 23.0 points a game, is primed to lead the Bruins to College Park for the first time since the 1985-86 season.
Broadneck, 15-9 overall last year including a first-round playoff loss to state 4A finalist Meade, has dropped down to Class 3A, thus enhancing its chances of making it to the state Final Four at the University of Maryland.
"I'm not sure it's an advantage playing in a region with City, Poly, James M. Bennett and Carver," said coach Ken Kazmarek, whose team is now in the 3A East Region after spending the past six seasons with the county's larger 4A schools.
Broadneck's trip to the Final Four in 1985-86 was as an "A" school, which is now the 3A division, and the Bruins rank as one of the top contenders with Smith, a cast of five other returnees and several promising newcomers.
Smith, one of the top athletes in the metro area who was All-County and All- Metro in football, starts the season in fourth place on the Bruins' career points (749) list and second in career assists (201).
The 6-foot-2 Smith, who started as a freshman, averaged 4.5 assists and 7.2 rebounds last year and led the Bruins in 21 of 32 individual categories.
"Jason is our leader, and we're looking for him to carry us," said Kazmarek (167-69), beginning his 10th season at Broadneck and 11th overall as a head coach (Arundel 1983-84).
Another key returnee is 6-7 senior forward Sean Ryan, who averaged 10 points and eight rebounds per game.
Also back are 6-3 senior forward Eric Hoppa, and junior guards Dan Paulsen (6-1), Eric Elston (5-11) and Cory Ross (5-7). All four saw a lot of action last season.
"And we've got a freshman who will most likely start at guard in Johnny Williams," said Kazmarek. "He has a good instinctive feel for the game."
Williams, who is 6-4, started for the Baltimore Bullets Amateur Athletic Union 14-and-under team that did well in a national tournament in Seattle last summer.
Kazmarek is also excited about juniors Kolapeba Kalemba (6-4), Renaldo Walker (6-2), Robert Wakefield (5-11) and Josh Grover (6-9).
"Josh is growing like a tree and may not be finished," said Kazmarek of Grover, who played at 6-6 on the Bruins' JV a year ago.
Unable to schedule certain teams, Broadneck, also a member of the county's four-team 3A/2A League, does not open its 22-game schedule until Dec. 17.
John Spinnenweber is the new kid on the block so to speak as the Cougars' head coach. Spinnenweber succeeds Tom Kraning, who resigned after eight seasons to concentrate on his head football coaching duties.
Spinnenweber was head coach at Archbishop Spalding from 1983-85 and the Northeast grad later has served as an assistant to Paul Evans at Navy and Ken Kazmarek at Broadneck. He joined the Broadneck staff in 1987 and stayed until landing the Chesapeake job last spring.
Chesapeake was 8-14 last year and never has had a winning season since opening in 1976. That dubious streak is not likely to end this year, but it won't be for lack of effort.
"We've gotten better already because these kids are working hard to improve," said Spinnenweber.
"They're committed and that's all I can hope for."
The coach says his Cougars, who lack height and experience, "will be out to challenge people by playing man-to-man defense and pushing the ball up court, which is all new around here."
Five seniors are back with Brady Baziat the tallest at 6-foot-3. Chris Kintop (6-2), Aubrey Golff (6-1), Scott Sayman (6-1) and Jeremy Pellegrini (6-0) are the other 12th-graders who return with little playing experience.
Newcomers include junior Matt Michalowicz (6-0) and sophomores Zach Burke (6-2) and John Jennings (5-11).
"We've got the kind of athletes they have at Broadneck, but we need to build the local youth teams so they learn the basics earlier," said Spinnenweber, who is getting a lot of support from the Lake Shore youth organization.
"Their [Lake Shore's] 13-14 teams have always played county 'B' level basketball, but now we've got them playing 'A' ball."
The new coach hopes that the result down the road will be more quality players with foundations to build on.
"I'm looking forward to the challenge of building a program," he said.
Glen Burnie Gophers
For a while last year, Glen Burnie looked like the team to beat in Class 4A, winning 14 of its first 16 games before falling four times in its last seven including a region playoff loss to Old Mill.
Veteran coach Terry Bogle, whose Gophers finished 17-6 overall, is looking for an encore with a different ending. The coach is hoping to avoid a late season slide.
"We've got the potential to do as well as last year because our inside game should be better than last year and we have a lot of quickness," said Bogle (247-300), who begins his 27th season at Glen Burnie.
The Gophers' inside game was pretty good last year with the likes of 6-foot-3 Vernon Osborne (15.4 ppg), a second team All-County choice, 6-6 Jamal Forbes (11.5) and 6-7 Bill Dykhuis (8 rpg).
"But Ledbetter and Farmer are as quick as anybody and give us great size inside," said Bogle of senior Scott Ledbetter and junior Marquis Farmer, a transfer from Arundel High. Farmer's freshman year was spent at Meade, before his family moved to Kansas and back to this area.
Ledbetter and Farmer are 6-6 and 6-5, respectively, and will be surrounded by an extremely deep, experienced and athletic cast. Ledbetter is one of eight returnees, six of whom are seniors.
William Brown (5-10) is "going to be one of the top shooting guards in the county, a guy we expect big things," says Bogle.
Brown will be joined in the backcourt by returning junior point guard Rocky Newton, three-point specialist Shawn Mahaney (6-2) and Courtney Eldridge (5-11). The latter two are returning seniors along with forwards Andre Bryan (6-3), Jeff Dickerson (6-1) and Kenny Pitts (6-2).
First time player Ruland Gross (5-10) is the only other 12th grader and Bogle also is excited about four sophomores, including the first son of a former player he has ever coached.
The 10-graders who Bogle calls "maybe the best group we've ever had," include Cardinal Gibbons transfer Jason Harris (5-11), Damon Flamer (5-10), Quincy Caldwell (6-0) and Desmond Dailey (6-2).
Dailey is the son of former three-sport (football, basketball and baseball) All-County athlete Tony Dailey, who graduated in 1978 and signed a pro baseball contract with the California Angels.
"We will play an uptempo game and will look at using two platoons as we did last year in order to buy some time for certain key players," said Bogle.
"The league should be fairly well balanced again and we should be right there."
Coming off a banner 21-5 season as a State 4A finalist, veteran coach Butch Young starts his 27th (17th at Meade) season as a county head coach just seven wins shy of 400.
Tom Albright, who is beginning his 29th season at Southern of Harwood, is the only other coach to crack the 400-win milestone. Albright is 413-230. "I would hate for it to take me three years to get to 400," said Young, who is 393-203 in his career.
The reference was to his Mustangs' lack of experience and height thanks to graduation. Gone are three key starters in All-Metro and All-County guard Derek Barrett (18.9 points), All-County forward Danny Sancomb (17.9) and superb ball handler Tommy Stevens.
Senior Tyrone "Sticks" Jones (5-11), who scored 14 points to go with a team-high eight rebounds in the 4A championship loss by 82-70 to Largo, is the main man back.
"Problem is, Sticks has a deep thigh bruise that has calcified and he's on crutches and has yet to practice," Young said.
"We're in trouble without Sticks and right now he's a big question mark."
While Jones mends, Young will count on three returning seniors who saw limited time last season in Dennis Jenks (5-7), Teddy Brent (6-1) and Jorge Cruz (5-6). Two other seniors who didn't play last year in Mike Ellis (6-0) and D'Andre Hiers (5-11) will play.
Ellis, a quarterback, broke his leg the final football game of 1992 and Hiers was on the JV two years ago.
Two transfers from Oklahoma and Panama City in junior William Bates (6-5) and Honoray Frith (6-3) could help pick up the slack.
"We're not real big, but we've got some pretty athletic guys, but without Sticks, we need some leadership," said Young.
"I really don't know what to expect."
Eagles coach John Barbour has been at it long enough to know that his small school's success runs in cycles and Northeast is currently on a down cycle.
Northeast last posted a winning season (16-8) in 1990-91 and was a Class 2A Region finalist. Seasons of 7-15 and 5-17 have followed with no end in sight.
"We struggled last year again and lack experience and height," said Barbour (159-164, 14 years) whose Eagles are in the 2A East Region with Southern, South River and last year's state 1A champ and 1A runner-up, Dunbar and Cambridge-South Dorchester.
"I always go in thinking we can win, and I'm optimistic because of the great attitude of this team, but realistically, .500 would be a good season."
Senior center Eric Knapp, who is hampered by a nagging knee injury (Barbour says he is "a big question mark") is the tallest Eagle at 6-foot-5, but only one of four at 6 feet or better expected to play.
Junior point guard Jeff Dolch is 6-0, and senior forward Mike Anderson and junior JV grad Delray Brooks are 6-1 each.
Mike Eaton, a 5-10 senior guard, is the key returnee with the top stats. Eaton averaged 7.0 points a game last season and, according to Barbour, "will be our main man."
Senior forward Todd O'Brien (5-11) is the only other returnee, and another 5-11 senior forward, Gary Byrum, is up from the JV.
"It should be a difficult season for us after our first three games," said Barbour.
Northeast opens with St. Mary's, Baltimore Lutheran and Archbishop Spalding, three teams that Barbour says "are more on our level."
After that, the Eagles will knock heads with county 4A schools and play home and away series with the county's three other 3A/2A league teams in Broadneck, Southern and South River.
North County Knights
This should be the Knights' breakthrough year, ending the school's brutal growing pains.
In its first three years of existence, the Knights have gone 6-60 including an 0-22 season in 1991-92 and the county's longest losing streak (36) that ended last January in a 76-60 triumph over Severna Park.
"We should be better than .500 because this is the most talent we've had, and they did very well in a summer league at Lake Waterford," said head coach Brad Wilson, who has otherwise been used to winning.
Wilson is an assistant coach to Chuck Markiewicz on the school's successful football team, and was a longtime assistant basketball coach to Butch Young at Meade. Obviously, he knows what it takes to win and how to do it, and now he's ready to do it in basketball at North County.
"We've never had more than one senior returning on our basketball team since I've been here, and we've got six this year," said Wilson, who has a total of eight 12th-graders and nine returnees in all.
"This team has grown up together and I think they're ready to break through."
Leading scorer, 6-foot-2 Teon Carter, who averaged 20.6 points a game, is back for his fourth varsity season and will be the Knights' big gun.
Other returning seniors include Jarryn Avery (6-5), who averaged 7.1 points and 6.9 rebounds a game; Damon Henriques (6-2), 6.0 points and 3.0 rebounds; Kevin Mitchell (6-4), 5.0 points and 3.0 rebounds; Justin Rice (6-0), 4.0 points and 2.0 rebounds; and Matt Lentz (6-1), 2.0 points.
Tweety Barton (6-3), who averaged 5.0 points and three rebounds, heads the trio of returning juniors. Lou Brown (5-7) and Reno Owens (6-2), each of whom averaged 4.0 points a game, are the other two who saw varsity action on last year's 2-20 team.
Two seniors playing for the first time are Frank Jennings (6-0) and James Rivers (6-3), and Wilson also welcomes three juniors from the school's first winning JV team in Mike Mercurio (6-3), John Brugoun (6-1) and Terry Weathers (6-0).
"We're just trying to keep a positive attitude because one of these days, something good is going to happen," said Wilson.
Old Mill Patriots
Shooting for his sixth consecutive playoff appearance, coach Paul Bunting, who led the Patriots into the 4A state semifinals at College Park in 1991-92, will be disappointed if this year's team doesn't qualify for the postseason.
"Sure I will be disappointed if we don't make the playoffs, because we've gotten used to being there," said Bunting, whose first three teams at Old Mill were a cumulative 21-39 before going 79-40 the last five playoff seasons.
If you're adding, Bunting hit the 100-win milestone (100-79) last year and didn't even realize it.
"One thing at a time," said Bunting, the county Coach of the Year in 1992 and 1989.
"I'm more concerned about this team and they could be very good or very bad because at times they're out of control."
Old Mill lost its top player to graduation in Troy Green, who averaged 17.7 points and 6.5 rebounds a game and was named second team All-County. Only five players who got varsity experience last year are back.
All five are seniors in Todd Singleton (6-4), sharpshooting Andrew Lewis (6-0), Nate Oliver (6-3), Dee Ballard (6-1) and Matt Tilley (6-4), who at the moment is a question mark.
Bunting has six players up from the JV, including 6-foot-3, 200-pound sophomore Anthony Graves.
"Anthony is the most talented offensive player I've ever coached," said Bunting of his 10th-grader. Graves, the younger brother of the school's star football running back, Ricky, had not played basketball until last year.
Other JV grads expected to contribute are sophomores Joe Barnes (5-9) and Deemar Thompson (5-10) and juniors Jeff Lefevre (6-2), John Perry (6-4) and Tim Gentry (6-0).
Junior transfers Adrian Johnson (5-11) from Hawaii and Dewayne Hiers (5-9) from Meade give the Patriots some depth.
"We've got Annapolis and Meade in our first four games, so we should get an idea early what this team can do," said Bunting.
St. Mary's Saints
The Saints have a new coach and a new philosophy although not by design.
Hank Gareis stepped down as varsity coach after one season and an 11-14 record, to concentrate on his teaching position. Gareis is coaching the JV, but his assistant, Dave Lombardi, has taken over the varsity.
Lombardi sat on the bench last season with Gareis and watched Charles McLoud score 20.5 points a game. McLoud has graduated and his departure has prompted a new offensive attitude.
"We are going to be more balanced not relying on one person as we've done the last couple years," said the new coach.
Senior Kevin Sturm (6-1), the team's most experienced returning player, dispelled that philosophy in the Saints' season-opening loss to Pallotti of Laurel by 89-52. Sturm scored 25 points.
"Pallotti is a very good team and not all the teams we play will be that good," said Lombardi.
"Kevin will do a lot of scoring for us, but we will be emphasizing balance."
Sturm is joined by four other returning seniors with only Mike Greenlee (6-1) getting any time to speak of as a junior. The others back are Mike Smith (5-11), Mark Kiefer (6-1) and Joe Gruendel (6-2).
"We don't have much height, but that's not unusual for us, and we have a lot of inexperience. Defense will be our strength," said Lombardi, who is counting on JV graduates.
Six juniors and a 10th-grader are up from the JV. The 11th-graders are: the coach's son Chris Lombardi (6-2), John Cannelli (6-0), Scott Preston (6-1), Taron Jones (6-3), Pete Grimm (6-2) and Steve Zelezen (6-1).
Braxton McNeill is the only sophomore to make the team.
"We're in a strong league with the new teams [Gilman, McDonogh and St. Paul's] and Severn is very good," said Lombardi.
Severn School Admirals
Rookie head coach Wayne Fowler has a touch act to follow and didn't take the easy road. In his words, "We have turned an easy schedule into a tough schedule."
Under Jim Doyle, the school's head football coach, the Admirals went 25-2, including the school's first MSA B Conference Championship in boys basketball.
Repeating such a lofty record won't be easy with the Admirals playing a tough schedule that could total 33 to 35 games, depending on how they fare in six or seven tournaments.
It's Fowler's hope that he can continue to upgrade what Doyle started -- making basketball a winner at Severn School. Fowler dropped several "sure" wins and added such top teams as Calvert Hall, Cardinal Gibbons, Mt. St. Joseph and Class 4A Old Mill to the Severn schedule.
Gibbons ripped Severn, 76-58 in the first game of the Babe Ruth Classic Friday.
"Hopefully, we will make people realize that Severn athletics is more than lacrosse, and the tough schedule will only improve the quality of our players," said the coach, who was All-County at Glen Burnie in basketball and football in the 1960's before spending a few years in the NFL.
Severn lost 60 percent of its offense to graduation in All-County first-teamer Brad Fowler (coach's son) and second-team All-County Jamand Mack, but an excellent nucleus returned.
Junior John Vereen (5-foot-10) is back along with senior co-captains James Carpenter (6-0) and Joe Burke (6-4), junior Javal Mack (5-10) and sophomores Kevin Schelenski (6-4) and Andrew Watts (6-7). Watts started last year's MSA championship game.
Fowler is also excited about two junior transfers in Alhamisi Simms and Jaylonnie Booth, who come from excellent programs at Annapolis and Broadneck. Simms and Booth will start.
Other key newcomers are senior Andrew Jones (6-4), junior Jeff Gibbs (6-1) and sophomore John Prichett (5-9).
Severn will play in the MSA B Conference with county teams Spalding and St. Mary's, plus Boys' Latin, Gilman, John Carroll, McDonogh and St. Paul's.
Severna Park Falcons
First-year head coach Paul Pellicani is a rookie only at Severna Park. Inheriting a team that was 5-17 last year, Pellicani brings a wealth of experience and enthusiasm with him.
Pellicani brings a career coaching record of 187-22 from prep schools in New England and the Virgin Islands.
"The enthusiasm of the kids has been mind-boggling," said Pellicani, 37, who moved to Severna Park in 1989 and began coaching in the Green Hornets' youth program.
"We had over 100 kids try out and no question this team can be competitive. We will be ready to open Dec. 7 [tonight], but will be better by Jan. 7, and by Feb. 7, we should be pretty good."
Only six players, five of them seniors, are back from last year's team, which lost leading scorer Bakari Ward to a transfer to Arundel.
David Orso (6-3), Chad Moran (6-2), Brad Evans (6-5), Brian Morehead (6-2) and Eric Kunkel (6-2) are the 12th-graders who saw time last year along with junior Dave McClure (5-10).
Two more seniors playing varsity for the first time are Brian Castleberry (6-5) and Jason Briggs (6-4).
Two freshmen, a sophomore and four juniors are part of Pellicani's rebuilding program. The promising ninth-graders are Jeff Hatch (6-5) and Todd Poorman (6-1). Devon Phillips (5-10) is the lone 10th-grader.
Reggie Jones (6-3), Isaac Aaron (5-8), Todd Batty (6-2) and Ryan Moore (5-10), a transfer from North Dakota, are the 11th graders.
"Our whole will be so much better than our parts," said Pellicani.
"It's always been the trademark of teams I've coached that they get better as the season goes along."
It's business as usual in Harwood, where Tom Albright, the dean of county coaches, is preparing his Dawgs for a 29th season.
Albright, the county's all-time winningest coach (413-230) with a county record four state championships in boys basketball, is a master at getting his team to peak in late February for a run at Cole Field House, where the state playoffs are held.
Led by senior blue-chipper Chatney Howard (6-2), last year's Baltimore Sun Anne Arundel County Player of the Year and first team All-Metro, Southern has a team capable of making it to College Park out of the East Region in Class 2A. That's if the Dawgs can get by a team from Baltimore called the Dunbar Poets.
"I raise hell with the state and I know because I do, that every year we will be in the toughest region," said Albright, who last won a State title in 1986, and 1973, 1981 and 1983 before that.
"I knew that as soon as Dunbar moved up to 2A, they would be in our region."
Dunbar was the State 1A champion a year ago in its inaugural season in the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association. Cambridge-South Dorchester was the 1A runner-up, and the Vikings also have moved up to the 2A East Region.
"We would have to beat them anyway, so why not do it in the region, ' said Albright whose team centers around Howard.
Howard led the county public schools in scoring with 25.0 points per game and averaged 11.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 4.3 steals.
What makes Southern a state title contender is not only Howard but the cast around him. Five other talented seniors return in Adrian Turner (5-8), Corey Contee (5-9), Roy Contee (5-9 and no relation to Corey), Joey Harmel (6-0) and Jamar Mullen (5-11).
Ron Petska (6-4) is a returning junior, who gives the club height inside along with seniors Eddie Paddy (6-5) and Igor Milosevic (6-5) and junior Rich Mullen (6-3). Paddy played two years ago, Milosevic is a raw foreign exchange student from Yugoslavia, and Mullen, no relation to Jamar, is out for the first time.
"We're a little bigger and for the first time since '86 with Geno [Spriggs, star of state title team] we may have an inside game," said Albright.
JV grads Rico Gross (6-2), J. J. Allcott (6-1), Brian Chambers (5-10) and Scott Crandell (5-11), all juniors, add to the Dawgs' depth.
South River Seahawks
Last year's banner 15-8 season that included a spot in the 3A playoffs and a first- time win over Class 4A contender Annapolis by 86-84 in overtime, isn't likely to be duplicated by this year's Seahawks.
Graduation swept away the Hawks' inside game with Darren Hall (6-7), Robert Randall (6-6) and Jason Fullmer (6-5) all receiving their diplomas. Hall, who is on a basketball scholarship at Liberty, is the biggest loss.
A Baltimore Sun first-team All-County player and second-team All-Metro, Hall averaged 23.8 points and 12 rebounds.
"Andy Moore has to replace some pretty big shoes," said 16th-year head coach Kenny Dunn (151-181), pointing to Moore, a 6-4 senior, who will take Hall's place in the pivot.
Dunn is hoping that Moore will get a lot of help from offensive PTC standouts Corey Davis (5-9) and Russell Tongue (6-1), both juniors. Davis, third-team All-County, averaged 12.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists.
Tongue grabbed 4.5 rebounds a game, scored 6.0 points and had averaged three assists.
Another junior in Andy Meyers (5-10) is being counted on to anchor the defense. Four other returnees are seniors Brian Ulrich (6-0) and Bobby Patterson (5-10), junior Jason Dine (6-1) and 10th-grader Jared Cameron (5-9).
JV grads Tommy Terry (5-6), John Henry (6-3) and Doug Cook (6-0), and two who are playing for the first time in the program in junior Mike Stevenson (6-7) and senior Joey Darnell (6-2) round out the squad.
"I'm hoping Corey [Davis] and Russell [Tongue] can show the other kids what it takes and we can have a respectable season, but we're small and slow," said Dunn.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
* Jarryn Avery, North County, 6-4, Sr., C -- An imposing 235-pounder who was All-Metro football lineman, Avery averaged 7.1 points and 6.9 rebounds last year and is expected to lead the Knights to their first winning season.
* Larry Brown, Annapolis, 6-3, Sr., F -- He was second-team All-County as a junior, averaging 10.8 points and eight rebounds a game. He is tough and physical with a great sense for positioning.
* William Brown, Glen Burnie, 5-10, Sr., G -- Brown is extremely quick as evidenced by his 42 steals. Coach Terry Bogle says he "will be one of the top guards in the county."
* Teon Carter, North County, 6-2, Sr., G -- A four-year starter who averaged 16.5 points a game as a sophomore and 20.6 as a junior, Carter will be a contender for county scoring title.
* Teshawn Cooper, Annapolis, 5-8, Jr., G -- The Panthers hope to play even faster this year with their non-stop philosophy, and this guard who averaged 4.0 assists last year is the ignition.
* Corey Davis, South River, 5-9, Jr., G -- Davis was third team All-County last season after averaging 12.9 points, 5.4 boards and 3.0 assists a game. He is quick with great instincts.
* Anthony Graves, Old Mill, 6-3, Soph., F -- Ninth-year head coach Paul Bunting calls this JV grad, "a sculpture [235 pounds] and the most talented offensive player I've ever coached . . . can be virtually unstoppable."
* Jeff Hedrick, Arundel, 6-0, Sr., G -- Anne Arundel County's Male Athlete of the Year as a junior, is the team catalyst in three sports (also football and baseball) and averaged 10 points and 3.0 assists a game for the Wildcats.
* Kevin Higgins, Arundel, 6-3, Jr., G -- A second team All-County pick last season after averaging 15.9 points, Arundel is rarely out of a game because of Higgins' perimeter accuracy.
* Chatney Howard, Southern, 6-2, Sr., G/F -- Unquestionably the county's premier player. Howard was named a Street & Smith's preseason honorable mention All-American. He can do it all. The county Player of the Year last season, he averaged 25.0 points, 11.3 rebounds (4.7 on the offensive boards), 3.6 assists and 4.3 steals; has scored 1,027 points in two years.
* Tyrone Jones, Meade, 5-11, Sr., G/F -- Jones is a third-team All-County pick who averaged 14 points and eight rebounds for the Class 4A state finalists. Currently he is nursing a serious thigh bruise.
* Andrew Lewis, Old Mill, 6-0, Sr., G -- Showed flashes of being a dangerous outside shooter last year and expected to be the Patriots' top sharpshooter.
* Shawn Mahaney, Glen Burnie, 6-2, Sr., G -- Mahaney averaged 10.5 points a game for the Gophers last season, and can shoot the three-pointer.
* Sean Ryan, Broadneck, 6-7, Sr., C -- When Jason Smith misses, Ryan is usually there to clear the boards. He averaged eight rebounds and 10.0 points per game last season.
* Alhamisi Simms, Severn, 6-2, Jr., F -- Simms, an Annapolis transfer who saw a lot of action with the Panthers, and will give the Admirals needed strength at the forward position.
* Jason Smith, Broadneck, 6-1, Jr., G -- All-County as a sophomore, he averaged 23 points (shot .704 in free throws and .464 from the floor), 7.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists.
* Sean Soyers, Arundel, 6-6, Sr., C -- Last year, after transferring from DeMatha, he played a prominent role in the Wildcats' first winning season since 1979, averaging eight rebounds per game.
* John Vereen, Severn, 5-10, Jr., F -- Averaged 10 points a game last season but will be called on to score more this year. He has extraordinary court sense and a knack for the intangibles that win games.
* Kelsey Watkins, Annapolis, 6-0, Sr., G -- Deadly from the wing, he led the team in three-pointers (52) last season and is expected to shoot even more this year in the Panthers' running offense.
* Bakari Ward, Arundel, 5-10, Jr., G -- Ward is a transfer from Severna Park, where he led the team in scoring.