Anne Arundel County
Old Mill (18-6) and Arundel (13-10) are each loaded with quality returnees and appear ready to shift the power in the county league that has been traditionally ruled by Annapolis with Glen Burnie emerging in recent years.
Annapolis (13-10) has won 21 county titles in coach John Brady's 27 years, but gave way to Glen Burnie the past couple seasons. The Gophers, ranked No. 8 last season in The Sun's final poll, set a school record for wins (23-4) and won their second straight Class 4A East region title.
Glen Burnie was upset, 40-38, by No. 18 Severna Park (18-8) in the county championship game. Old Mill returns four starters, led by sharp-shooting guard Alex Buchholz and 6-7 senior Travis Hyman.
The good news for Dunbar is the return of 10 letter winners from last year's Class 1A championship squad. The bad news is they'll be coming off the gridiron for the Poets' state 1A football team, and may be vulnerable early.
Lake Clifton and Mervo will be pursuing the Poets for a spot in the city finals. The Lakers will have to replace the All-City/County backcourt of Chester Frazier and Parris Carter. Lake Clifton again will be in the mix for the 4A North region title along with Woodlawn and Walbrook.
The Warriors should vie with Douglass for supremacy in Division II. The Ducks again will be a contender for the 3A state title. After several down seasons, Southwestern may be ready for a huge rebound.
After missing the 4A state finals last winter, Woodlawn must replace four starters from its county championship team. Randallstown will again battle the Warriors in the 4A-3A division.
Parkville could be a dark horse with coach Rod Norris, who built Dulaney and Woodlawn into contenders. The Knights may also compete with Woodlawn, Walbrook and Lake Clifton in the 4A South region playoffs. Eastern Tech is the early favorite in the 2A-1A division.
Catonsville, Dulaney, Dundalk, Kenwood, Milford Mill, Patapsco, Perry Hall and Towson are in the 4A-3A division. Chesapeake, Hereford, Loch Raven, Owings Mills, Overlea, Pikesville, Sparrows Point and Western Tech are in the 2A-1A division.
Liberty should be the team to beat in Carroll County. The Lions, who last year captured a share of the county title with Westminster, return all five of their original starters from last season's 15-10 squad, including first-team All-County point guard Frank Sisolak and 6-7 center Andrew Martin.
Conversely, Westminster (16-8 last year) lost all five of its starters. South Carroll also could be in the hunt. The Cavaliers return nine players, including three starters, from last year's 9-15 squad, and get back guard Zach Baker, a second-team All-County pick in 2003 before missing last season with an injury.
Winters Mill returns all of its players, including second-team All-County forward George Neville and point guard T.J. Connor.
Aberdeen, Bel Air and Fallston are likely to be the top teams in the county this winter as they play in the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference.
Senior center Robbie Jackson (7-0) was one of the county's best big men last year, averaging 11 points and 10 rebounds per game for Aberdeen (17-5), a UCBAC division champion.
Fallston should get another big season from its center, county Player of the Year Phil Vornadore. He averaged a double double each of the past two years, and the 6-foot-5 center has several colleges looking at him.
Nate Weigl takes over as the Bel Air coach. Weigl played at C.M. Wright in the late 1990s and was a team manager for the Arizona men's basketball team for four years.
The graduation of 12 of last season's 14 All-County players, plus the loss of Hammond's 6-foot-7 Kyle Cannon to Towson Catholic, has created opportunity for younger players in an 11-team league that hasn't won a state title since 1990.
Atholton (16-8) is the preseason favorite because it returns seven players, including starters Craig Sauers, Brandon Boy and Jimmy McQuilkin. Long Reach (19-5), last year's county champ, will again be competitive despite heavy losses to graduation. The Lightning will feature 6-4 Eugene Lightfoot and 6-3 Darryl Webb. Centennial (11-12) returns 6-6 Chris Moore, who sparked a strong Eagles second half last season. Glenelg picked up promising 6-5 transfer Ryan Smith from Mount St. Joseph.
Several teams are lining up to challenge Mount St. Joseph in the Baltimore Catholic League and the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference.
The defending BCL champion Gaels (29-6) graduated The Sun's Co-Player of the Year in Will Thomas, but return a strong nucleus and added a blue-chip Randallstown transfer in 6-foot-6 Louis Birdsong.
St. Frances (26-7) has a wealth of experience, size and speed as does Towson Catholic (21-12).
The Deon Peters/Jamal Jones senior combo are ready to take Severn (15-9) back to the B Conference final.
Chapelgate (20-1), the defending C Conference champion, is rebuilding.