High school boys basketball preview: Sexton, DeWitt, Waverly among best

High school boys basketball preview: Sexton, DeWitt, Waverly among best

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High school boys basketball preview: Sexton, DeWitt, Waverly among best

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CAAC BLUE

Coaches’ predictions: 1. Sexton, 2. Lansing Eastern, 3. Holt, 4. East Lansing, 5. Everett, 6. Jackson, 7. Okemos, 8. Grand Ledge

League’s top players: Jalen Hayes (Sexton), Trevor Manuel (Sexton), Javon Haines (East Lansing), Brian Morton (Eastern), Colin Jones (Holt), Donquall Jackson (Holt), Jeremy Williamson (Jackson)

EASTERN

Last season: 19-4, 12-2 (2nd place)

Coach: Rod Watts (7th season)

Returning players: Brian Morton (6-2 sr. G/F/C), Phoenix Washington (5-8 sr. G/F), Shawn Sparks (6-5 sr. F), Santiago Mendez (6-2 sr. G/F)

Other contributors: Dar’Relle Welch (6-6 sr. F/C), DeQuandre Dentmond (6-8 jr. F/C), Tameron Williams-Baker (6-4 jr. G/F), Tyrome Maxwell (6-2 jr. G/F), E.J. Jackson (5-8 so. G)

Outlook: Despite the graduation of Frederick Edmond and the transfer of Cha Cha Tucker (to Montrose Christian of Rockville, Md.), the Quakers once again will hover near the top of what is arguably the toughest conference in the state. Eastern returns all-area honorable mention senior guard Morton and seniors Washington, Sparks and Mendez. The Quakers also have some size with the 6-6 Welch and the addition of 6-8 transfer Dentmond from Lansing Catholic. There is no shortage of talent at Eastern.

EAST LANSING

Last season: 15-6, 9-5 (3rd place)

Coach: Steve Finamore (3rd season)

Returning players: Javon Haines (6-2 sr. G/F), Ahmad Newsome (6-2 sr. G), Akil Mitchell (6-1 jr. G)

Other contributors: Jake Pendred (6-2 sr.), Grant Uecker (6-1 sr.), Da’vontay Haines (5-11 jr.)

Outlook: What the Trojans lack in height, they more than make up for with speed and athleticism. All-area honorable mention Haines averaged 16.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per game last season while Mitchell adds a strong perimeter presence. The key for the Trojans may be how well Newsome adjusts to the role of starting point guard. The team will shoot a lot of threes and plans to employ a full-court press. East Lansing ikely will finish in the upper half of the league and could contend for the title.

EVERETT

Last season: 5-16, 2-12 (7th place)

Coach: Desmond Ferguson (1st season)

Returning players: Deshae Doll (so. G), Daren Kimbrough (6-1 sr. F), Javon Moore (5-11 jr. G), Devon Johnson (so. F)

Other contributors: Xavier Couthen (jr. F/C), Montreese Taylor (sr. G)

Outlook: Though they won only two conference games last season, the Vikings hope to be more competitive in the brutal CAAC Blue. Seniors Kimbrough and Moore will team with promising sophomores Doll and Johnson as Everett aims for a first-division finish. Ferguson, who is replacing 32-year coach Johnny Jones, is a former University of Detroit star who played briefly in the NBA.

GRAND LEDGE

Last season: 4-18, 0-14 (8th place)

Coach: Scott Lewis (3rd season)

Returning players: Nathan Megge (6-2 jr. F), Zack Artibee (6-1 sr. G), Cassell Jones (5-10 so. G), Damonick Hall (6-0 sr. G)

Other contributors: Albert Christensson (6-6 sr. F), Sebastian Kruger (6-5 sr. F), Jubraun Mckinley (6-0 jr. G), Tommy Maurer (6-0 sr. G)

Outlook: The Comets were winless in the league last year but graduated only one senior and return some talented underclassmen, most notably all-league honorable mention Megge (who scored over 12 points per game last season). Grand Ledge has some size in the frontcourt with Christensson and Kruger while seniors Artibee and Hall will anchor the backcourt. Coach Lewis is confident that the Comets will be much improved.

HOLT

Last season: 9-12, 6-8 (6th place)

Coach: Matt Essell (7th season)

Returning players: Donquall Jackson (5-10 jr. G), Colin Jones (6-3 jr. F), Cullen Smith (6-7 sr. C), Tanner Beachnau (5-11 sr. G), Trevor Stone (5-10 sr. G), Donte Jackson (5-11 sr. G)

Other contributors: Tyrell Williams (6-3 jr. F), T.J. King (6-0 sr. F)

Outlook: After last season’s sixth-place finish, the Rams return three starters, including all-area honorable mention juniors Colin Jones (who averaged 14 points and 8 rebounds per game) and Donquall Jackson. They also get senior Tanner Beachnau back from injury and have six players returning who started at various times during the season. The Rams should move up and could contend for the league title.

OKEMOS

Last season: 17-9, 7-7 (4th place)

Coach: Jeff Wonch (1st season)

Returning players: Nathan Lafayette (6-4 sr. C), Austin Mashburn (6-0 sr. G), Darius Morris (5-9 jr. G), Nathan Janick (6-5 sr. F), Peter Nichols (6-3 sr. G)

Other contributors: Riley McCarthy (6-4 sr.), Edward Smith (6-3 jr.). James Moore (6-4 jr.), Parker Peltomaa (6-2 sr.)

Outlook: The Chiefs made a remarkable run in the state tournament last season before finally falling by two in the quarterfinals to eventual state runner-up Rockford. However, Okemos lost its entire starting five to graduation and 17-year coach Dan Stolz to retirement. New coach Wonch does have four seniors and a junior amongst his returning players but their experience is limited. A middle-of-the-pack finish in the always tough CAAC Blue might be the Chiefs’ ceiling.

SEXTON

Last season: 27-1, 14-0 (1st place)

Coach: Carlton Valentine (7th season)

Returning players: Jalen Hayes (6-7 sr. F/C), Trevor Manuel (6-9 so. F/C), Javon Cooney (5-9 jr. G), Austin Johnson (6-5 jr. F), Michael Strong (5-9 jr. G), Damonte Davis (6-3 sr. F)

Other contributors: Jeremy Williamson (6-2 sr. G), Tyson Thomas (6-2 sr. G), Malik Mack (5-8 so. G), Joey Wilkinson (6-1 jr. G)

Outlook: What does a two-time defending state champion do for an encore? The Big Reds lost three NCAA Division I players from last year’s 27-win squad but return all-area forward Hayes (who’s committed to Oakland University) and Manuel, who’s had NCAA Division I offers from MSU and North Carolina State among others. Senior Williamson adds scoring from the perimeter. In short, Sexton still is loaded with talent. Coach Valentine, who sports a 124-25 record over his six seasons, feels that if his backcourt is solid the team should continue to improve as the season progresses and his younger players gain experience. The Big Reds will be tested early in the season with a tough nonleague schedule.

CAAC RED

Coaches’ predictions: 1. DeWitt, 2. St. Johns, 3. Owosso, 4. Haslett, 5. Fowlerville, 6. Ionia

League’s top players: Ryan Anderson (DeWitt), Robert Geoghegan (Owosso), Josh Hafner (St. Johns), Carter Collins (Fowlerville)

DEWITT

Last season: 13-10, 6-4 (2nd place)

Coach: Ron Marlan (10th season)

Returning players: Ryan Anderson (6-3 sr. G), Andrew Walker (6-0 sr. G), Ryan Bennett (6-2 sr. F), Ray Stein (6-0 jr. G), Josh Borta (6-3 jr. F), Andrew Rogoszewski (6-2 sr. G)

Other contributor: Andrew Eible (6-3 jr. F)

Outlook: The Panthers are led by all-area senior guard Anderson, who averaged 14 points a game last season and was among the area leaders in 3-pointers and assists. DeWitt returns two other starters in Walker and Bennett but needs to overcome a lack of size to be competitive on the boards. If that happens, the Panthers are likely the team to beat in the CAAC Red.

FOWLERVILLE

Last season: 3-18, 2-8 (5th place)

Coach: Fred Hackett (11th season)

Returning players: Carter Collins (6-1 sr. G), Garrett Brigham (6-1 sr. F), Mike Wisuri (6-1 sr. G), Joey Ackerman (5-10 sr. G), Patrick Harmon (6-4 sr. F)

Other contributors: Mike Hindy (6-4 sr. C), Court Langham (6-4 jr. C), Johnny Grable (5-10 jr. G)

Outlook: The six seniors returning for the Gladiators include all-league honorable mention Collins, who averaged nearly 11 points per game. The team will look to push the ball and could improve upon last season’s fifth-place finish. Fowlerville last won a league title in 1964.

HASLETT

Last season: 12-9, 6-4 (2nd place)

Coach: Rob Porritt (17th season)

Returning players: Patrick Harney (6-5 jr. F), John Hudgins (6-7 so. C), Brandon Diebolt (5-7 sr. G), Jake Schmeltor (6-3 sr. F)

Other contributors: Brandon Allen (5-8 fr. G), Marc Varlesi (6-0 jr. G), Josh Jackard (6-1 jr. F)

Outlook: The Vikings lost six of their top eight players to graduation and will lean heavily on their big men, Harney and Hudgins. There is some promising talent coming in from a junior varsity squad that went 15-5 last season. Freshman guard Allen will likely also contribute immediately. A repeat of last year’s second-place finish could be a stretch, however.

IONIA

Last season: 3-18, 2-8 (5th place)

Coach: Mark DeLap (1st season)

Returning players: Austin Gregory (6-2 so. F), Austin Wolcott (5-7 sr. G), Mike Cory (5-8 sr. G)

Other contributors: Bryce Cashman (6-4 jr. F), Mike Eavey (6-3 sr. F), Rudi McWhirr (6-2 sr. G)

Outlook: Mark DeLap, who coached the Ithaca girls team last season, takes over a squad that saw its entire starting five graduate. Of the returning players, only three got any significant playing time. The Bulldogs are clearly rebuilding.

OWOSSO

Last season: 11-10, 5-5 (4th place)

Coach: Dave Owens (12th season)

Returning players: Robert Geoghegan (5-11 sr. G), Brad Rigolout (5-11 sr. G), Austin Klapko (5-11 jr. G), Marcus McGill (6-1 sr. F), Matt Freeman (6-3 sr. C), Mitchell Hufnagel (6-0 sr. F), Evan Ardelean (6-0 sr. G)

Other contributors: Gavin Barnes (6-1 so. G/F), Jalen Weekley (6-0 so. G)

Outlook: The Trojans boast one of the top players in the area in Geoghegan, who averaged over 15 points per game last season but will need some help from a relatively inexperienced group. The team lacks size and will have to depend upon quickness and its transition game if it wants to make a run at the CAAC Red title.

ST. JOHNS

Last season: 12-9, 9-1 (1st place)

Coach: Denny Baratono (1st season)

Returning players: Matt Pearsall (6-7 jr. F), Josh Hafner (6-1 jr. F), Bryce Wischmeyer (5-11 sr. G), Austin Cleaver (5-9 sr. G), Jarred Eaton (6-0 sr. F), Tyler Mazzolini (6-0 sr. G)

Other contributors: Austin Ervin (6-5 so. F), Jonathan Niznak (6-5 sr. F)

Outlook: After winning the league last season, the Redwings return only a few experienced players, most notably all-league honorable mention junior forward Josh Hafner, 6-7 junior forward Matt Pearsall and senior guard Bryce Wischmeyer. New coach Denny Baratono’s squad should be competitive with the top teams in the conference but a repeat of last season’s 9-1 league mark is unlikely.

CAAC GOLD

Coaches’ predictions: 1. Waverly, 2. Jackson Lumen Christi, 3. Eaton Rapids, 4. Mason, 5. Charlotte, 6. Jackson Northwest, 7. Parma Jackson County Western

League’s top players: Dee Roberts (Waverly), Scott Koenigsknecht (Waverly), Khari Willis (Lumen Christi), Ta’Ron Gentry (Eaton Rapids), Garry Seay (Eaton Rapids)

CHARLOTTE

Last season: 7-14, 2-8 (5th place)

Coach: Jacob Briney (3rd season)

Returning players: Ryan Peterson (6-5 jr. G), Latrell Levanduski (5-9 jr. G), Alec Kushion (6-0 jr. G), Tegan Johns (6-3 jr. G)

Other contributors: Donnie Pruden (5-9 jr. G), Kevin Julilian (5-10 sr. G), Travis Tarasenko (6-0 jr. G)

Outlook: The Orioles have nine juniors on the squad and most of them are guards. This is a very quick team that will employ an up-tempo game for 32 minutes. Three starters return from last year’s team: juniors Peterson, Levanduski and Kushion. Despite the team’s depth at guard, it might be rebounding that determines how successful Charlotte will be.

EATON RAPIDS

Last season: 6-15, 2-8 (5th place)

Coach: Luke Brown (3rd season)

Returning players: Garry Seay (6-2 sr. F), Ta’Ron Gentry (6-2 sr. G), Jared McDaniel (5-10 so. G), Jacob Van Vliet (5-11 sr. G)

Other contributors: Sheldon Holmes (6-3 so. F), Sam Masteller (6-1 jr. G), Andrew Wright (6-3 jr. F)

Outlook: The Greyhounds have struggled in recent years but could be significantly improved this season. Athletic seniors Seay and Gentry will team with sophomore point guard McDaniel to give Eaton Rapids three of the top players in the league. The team will employ four guard lineups at times to take advantage of its speed and hopes to push the tempo offensively. The Greyhounds are capable of a top-three finish in the CAAC Gold.

MASON

Last season: 19-3, 8-2 (2nd place)

Coach: Lee Chaney (8th season)

Returning players: Doug Bradfield (6-5 jr. F), Quintin Way (6-2 sr. G)

Other contributors: Nick Sjolund (6-0 sr. G), Jon Orlando (5-8 sr. G)

Outlook: Nine seniors graduated from last year’s 19-win team including all five starters. Bradfield and Way are the only returning players that saw significant playing time so the Bulldogs will field an inexperienced group. A middle-of-the-league finish would seem to be a reasonable expectation.

WAVERLY

Last season: 15-6, 10-0 (1st place)

Coach: Craig Fields (9th season)

Returning players: Dee Roberts (6-1 sr. G), Scott Koenigsknecht (6-5 sr. C), Derrick hartwell (6-2 sr. G/F), Marcus Moore (6-2 jr. G)

Other contributor: Mike Fomby (5-10 jr. G)

Outlook: All-league seniors Roberts and Koenigsknecht return from last year’s league champion squad to give the Warriors a strong outside-inside presence. Hartwell and Moore add experience while newcomer Fomby (who led a 19-1 junior varsity team in scoring) adds offensive punch. The Warriors are the favorites to repeat as champions of the CAAC Gold.

CAAC WHITE

Coaches’ predictions: 1. Lansing Catholic, 2. Portland, 3. Williamston, 4. Corunna, 5. Lakewood, 6. Stockbridge

League’s top players: Jared Krausz (Portland), M.J. Myles (Corunna), Jimmy Kodet (Williamston), Devin Allen (Stockbridge), Marcus Prigge (Stockbridge)

CORUNNA

Last season: 10-15, 2-8 (5th place)

Coach: Kyle Clough (2nd season)

Returning players: Johnny Fattal (5-8 sr. G), Mitch Poirier (6-3 sr. F), M.J. Myles (6-0 jr. G), Mikhail Myles (6-1 so. G)

Other contributors: Josh Fattal (5-9 jr. G), Hank Sizemore (6-4 sr. C), Grant Renwick (6-2 jr. F)

Outlook: The Cavaliers return 11 players from a team that advanced to the regional finals before losing to perennial power Goodrich. Corunna is led by all-area honorable mention guard M.J. Myles who combines with all-league honorable mention Mikhail Myles and Johnny Fattal to form a solid backcourt. The team lacks size and will have to rely on athleticism and quickness to compete in the balanced CAAC White.

LAKEWOOD

Last season: 4-17, 2-8 (5th place)

Coach: Wayne Piercefield (1st season)

Returning players: David Parks (6-5 sr. F/C), Kalib McKinney (6-0 sr. G), Jacob Buehler (6-0 sr. G/F), Michael Carr (6-0 sr. F), Dylan Durkee (sr. F)

Other contributors: Luke Richmond (6-3 sr. F/C), Alex Potter (6-1 sr. F), Colin O’Mara 6-2 so. G/F), Nate Kauffman (5-8 jr. G)

Outlook: The Vikings are a veteran group with 10 seniors on the roster, including Parks and Richmond who provide size in the frontcourt. First-year coach Wayne Piercefield’s squad hopes to improve upon last season’s fifth-place finish

LANSING CATHOLIC

Last season: 21-2, 10-0 (1st place)

Coach: Darren Zwick (10th season)

Returning players: Dillon Rush (6-2 sr. G/F), David Poljan (6-8 jr. C), Brock Rucinski (6-1 sr. F), Jacob Foy (6-1 sr. G), Jose Enriquez (5-10 sr. G), Connor Patton (6-1 sr. G)

Other contributors: Tony Poljan (6-7 fr. F), Robert Mothersell (6-3 so. G), Joey Jurkovic (6-4 jr. F), Matthew Fata (5-11 so. G)

Outlook: Despite losing four all-league seniors to graduation, including all-state guard Stevie Repichowski, the Cougars are still the team to beat in the CAAC White. Rush and Poljan both played significant minutes while Rucinski gained valuable experience coming off the bench for last season’s 21-win team that lost in the district finals to eventual state champion Sexton. Despite their youth, the Cougars are a well-coached group that has some size with six players over 6-3.

PORTLAND

Last season: 12-9, 6-4 (3rd place)

Coach: Dave Pettit (4th season)

Returning players: Jared Krausz (6-3 sr. F), Dylan Carroll (6-4 sr. F/C), Adam Goodman (5-10 sr. G), Logan Seal (6-2 sr. F), Drew Roe (5-11 sr. G), Justin Goodman (5-9 sr. G), Zach Gustafson (6-6 jr. F/C)

Other contributors: Brodie Vanriper (6-6 jr. G), Andrew Click (6-1 jr. G)

Outlook: The Raiders are led by all-area senior Krausz, who scored over 17 points per game last season, and all-league honorable mention seniors Carroll and Seal. Portland has size and experience but could get off to a slow start because 13 of their 14 players were on the state champion football squad and didn’t get significant practice time until the past few days. However, this team has plenty of talent and eventually could push Lansing Catholic for the CAAC White title.

STOCKBRIDGE

Last season: 7-16, 3-9 (6th place in SMAA)

Coach: Joe Wenzel (1st season)

Returning players: Marcus Prigge (6-5 sr. C), Devin Allen (5-10 sr. G/F), Kaleb Grammer (5-10 jr. G)

Outlook: The Panthers join the CAAC White after finishing sixth in the SMAA last season. Stockbridge did win a district title last March and returns several of that team’s key players in all-area senior Allen and second-team all-SMAA senior Prigge as well as all-league honorable mention junior Grammer. The Panthers have a new coach in Wenzel, who feels his hard-working squad is up to the challenge of playing in a new conference.

WILLIAMSTON

Last season: 13-8, 8-2 (2nd place)

Coach: Jason Bauer (2nd season)

Returning players: Jimmy Kodet (6-7 sr. F), Ryan Watters (5-11 jr. G), Evan Fox (6-0 sr. G), Matt Meranda (6-0 sr. G)

Other contributors: Riley Lewis (5-10 fr. G), Tom Cotter (6-8 jr. C)

Outlook: The Hornets have plenty of size in the middle with all-area honorable mention 6-7 forward Kodet (who averaged 13 points and 8.5 rebounds per game last season) and 6-8 junior center Cotter. Whether Williamston can improve upon last season’s second-place finish could depend upon how much their younger players contribute.

CMAC

Coaches’ predictions: 1. Pewamo-Westphalia, 2. Laingsburg, 3. Bath, 4. Fowler, 5. Fulton, 6. Portland St. Patrick, 7. Saranac, 8. Potterville, 9. Dansville

League’s top players: Nick Spitzley (P-W), Jake Zielinski (Laingsburg), Grant Svendsen (Bath), Trent Goerge (Fowler), Tyler Simon (P-W)

BATH

Last season: 11-10, 10-8 (4th place)

Coach: Gabe Sowa (2nd season)

Returning players: Grant Svendsen (6-3 sr. G), Max VanVleck (6-0 sr. G), Jeff Dempsey (6-1 sr. F), Jacob Rolff (6-2 sr. G/F)

Other contributors: Dylan Parks (5-10 sr. G), Dan Hayes (5-11 sr. G/F), Cam Ellsworth (6-0 jr. G/F)

Outlook: Among the six seniors who return for the Bees is second-team all-league selection Svendsen, who averaged over 13 points per game last season. Three other senior starters are back and will combine with some incoming juniors from a successful junior varsity team to give Bath a serious shot at finishing in the upper echelon of the CMAC.

DANSVILLE

Last season: 1-20, 0-18 (10th place)

Coach: Cole Feldpausch (3rd season)

Returning players: Jacob Warfle (6-2 sr. F)

Other contributors: Brad Hunt (6-0 jr. F), Cody Williams (5-7 jr. G)

Outlook: Dansville didn’t win a league game in 2011-12 and this season’s prospects aren’t a lot brighter. The Aggies don’t have much height or depth and are clearly rebuilding. However, coach Feldpausch likes his team’s heart and drive and feels his young Aggies might surprise a few teams along the way.

FOWLER

Last season: 8-13, 7-11 (7th place)

Coach: Eric Buhr (1st season)

Returning players: Trent Goerge (5-10 sr. G), Dustin Wirth (5-7 sr. G), Andy Birchmeier (6-0 sr. G/F), Kevin Koenigsknecht (5-11 sr. G/F), Jacob Schmitt (6-2 sr. F)

Other contributors: Napoleon Watts (5-10 sr. G), Drew Simon (6-2 sr. F), Daniel Buhr (6-0 sr. F), Austin Cook (6-0 so. G)

Outlook: The Eagles have a senior-dominated team, led by second-team all-league Goerge (11.1 points per game) and honorable-mention Koenigsknecht. Coach Buhr is in his first season with the varsity but coached most of this team as freshmen and sophomores with the junior varsity. Fowler likely will climb a few spots in the standings this season.

FULTON

Last season: 20-4. 15-3 (2nd place)

Coach: Todd Walden (16th season)

Returning players: Braeden Proctor (5-11 sr. G), Dalton Trefil (5-9 jr. G)

Other contributors: Nathan Davis (6-2 jr. F), Colton Antes (5-10 fr. G), Talon Hyde (6-1 so. F), Gregg Jones (6-1 so. G), Jake Litwiller (6-2 fr. F)

Outlook: Nine seniors graduated from a Pirates team that won 20 games, a district title and advanced to the regional finals before losing 48-43 to Class D semifinalist Muskegon Catholic Central. This year’s squad is very young. Proctor is the only senior and coach Walden says that several freshmen and sophomores will see considerable playing time along with a group of juniors that are up from a junior varsity team that went 15-5. With the Pirates rebuilding, a middle-of-the-pack finish is likely.

LAINGSBURG

Last season: 18-4, 15-3 (2nd place)

Coach: Greg Mitchell (24th season)

Returning players: Jake Zielinski (6-2 sr. G/F), Shaun McKinney (6-3 sr. G/F), Sam Edwards (6-0 sr. F)

Other contributors: Zach Walker (5-10 sr. G), Ryan Wade (5-8 so. G), Matt Cyrus (6-2 jr. G)

Outlook: The Wolfpack will field a veteran squad led by second-team all-CMAC pick Zielinski and honorable mention McKinney. Lainsburg won 18 games last season and seems likely to be the chief threat to league favorite Pewamo-Westphalia. The Wolfpack will be tested early with a challenging nonleague schedule.

PEWAMO-WESTPHALIA

Last season: 25-1, 18-0 (1st place)

Coach: Luke Pohl (16th season)

Returning players: Nick Spitzley (6-2 jr. G), Tyler Simon (6-6 sr. C), Lane Simon (6-5 jr. F)

Other contributors: Kyle Nurenburg (6-3 jr. G), Adam Wesley (6-0 jr. G), Andy Pung (6-4 sr. C), Evan Fedewa (6-2 jr. F)

Outlook: If they can overcome some late-season football injuries, the Pirates could have another banner season. Last year’s squad didn’t lose a game until they finally were eliminated by Schoolcraft in the quarterfinals of the Class C state tournament. Leading scorer (16.3 ppg) and all-area point guard Spitzley returns as does the inside tandem of Lane and Tyler Simon (9.3 rebounds per game). The Pirates are athletic and deep and very capable of another long tournament run.

PORTLAND ST. PATRICK

Last season: 12-9, 10-8 (4th place)

Coach: Mark Scheurer (7th season)

Returning players: Collin Lay (6-1 sr. G), Caleb Lay (6-0 sr. G), John Pline (6-3 sr. F), Jesse Smith (6-4 sr. C)

Other contributors: Jake Miller (6-1 jr. F), Jake Schneider (6-3 jr. F), John Carley (5-9 jr. G), Connor Hengesbach (6-4 so. F/C), Joe Mackowiak (5-10 so. G)

Outlook: The Shamrocks will lean heavily on seniors Collin and Caleb Lay because the team is relatively inexperienced. There’s some size down low with seniors Pline and Smith and sophomore Hengesbach, but St. Patrick likely will go as far as its guards take them.

POTTERVILLE

Last season: 4-16, 4-13 (8th place)

Coach: Jay Austin (1st season)

Returning players: Seth Austin (5-7 jr. G), Chase Geisenhaver (6-2 jr. F), Spencer Dexter (5-11 sr. G)

Other contributors: Jeff Perkins (6-0 sr. F), Loren Smalley (6-3 so. C), August Schmiedeknecht (6-1 jr. F), Andrew Wright (5-11 jr. G)

Outlook: The Vikings will need a total team effort each night since they lack a true go-to player. The team has little height outside of sophomore center Smalley. So first-year coach Austin will likely have to rely on speed and defense to be competitive.

SARANAC

Last season: 3-18, 2-16 (9th place)

Coach: Carmen Brown (3rd season)

Returning player: John Kinsman (6-4 jr. G/F)

Other contributor: Branden Smith (6-4 fr. G/F)

Outlook: The Redskins will attempt to improve upon last season’s ninth-place finish. They will be led by all-league honorable mention junior Kinsman while coach Brown is excited about the potential of incoming 6-4 freshman Branden Smith.

MSAC

Last year’s final standings:1. Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart, 2. Blanchard Montabella, 3. Coleman, 4. Vestaburg, 5. Ashley

ASHLEY

Last season: 2-17, 1-7 (4th place)

Coach: Derek Stoneman (2nd season)

Returning players: Brandon Hier (6-0 sr. G/F), Josh Wilk (6-0 sr. F), Justin Wilk (6-0 sr. F), Carl Wilson (5-10 sr. C)

Other contributors: Cole Welch (5-11 fr. G), Bailey Felton (5-11 fr. G/F)

Outlook: The Bears feature a mix of veterans and incoming freshmen as they aim to finish in the top half of the league standings. The team is led by seniors Brandon Hier and Josh and Justin Wilk and is encouraged about the potential of freshmen Welch and Felton. The Bears lack height and that could eventually prove to be an issue.

CARSON-CITY CRYSTAL

Last season: 10-10, 8-10 (6th place in CMAC)

Coach: Ryan Fritz (4th season)

Returning players: Brann Schmitt (6-5 sr. C), Mitchel Schneider (5-9 sr. G), Grant Gage (6-3 so. F), Aaron Haines (5-9 jr. G), Hunter Clark (6-0 sr. F)

Other contributors: Spencer Harwood (6-0 jr. F), Drew Hugenot (5-9 sr. G)

Outlook: The Eagles move to the MSAC from the CMAC, where they finished sixth last season. The team faces a tough non-conference schedule that includes some of its old CMAC rivals. The Eagles are led by all-CMAC honorable mention center Schmitt, who averaged nearly eight rebounds per game last year, while seniors Schneider and Clark bring experience. It’s hard to figure how high Carson City-Crystal might finish in a new league.

GAC BLUE

Last year’s final standings: 1. Flint Hamady, 2. New Lothrop, 3. Genesee, 4. Burton Atherton, 5. Burton Bentley, 6. Burton Bendle, 7. Byron, 8. Dryden, 9. Webberville, 10. Morrice

League’s top players: Eric Layton (Hamady), Jomontae Wheeler (Hamady), Jordan Coffee (Byron), Griffin Lewis (Morrice), Kyle Kuzma (Bentley)

MORRICE

Last season: 2-19, 2-16 (10th place)

Coach: John Keetch (6th season)

Returning players: Griffin Lewis (6-4 jr. F), Ronnie Hubble (6-4 jr. C), Dustin Russell (5-6 sr. G), Jake Bindschatel (5-9 jr. G)

Other contributors: Connor Riley (5-9 jr. G), Cody Rivers (5-8 jr. G)

Outlook: The Orioles look to improve dramatically from last year’s two win, last-place finish. All-area honorable mention junior forward Lewis, who averaged a double-double last season (13.7 ppg and 10.3 rpg) anchors a front line that also features 6-4 junior shot-blocker Hubble. Morrice plays in a tough conference that features powers Flint Hamady and New Lothrop, but the Orioles almost surely will rise in the standings if they get reasonable production from their guards.

WEBBERVILLE

Last season: 7-15, 5-13 (8th place)

Coach: Travis Brown (5th season)

Returning players: Aaron Driver (5-10 sr. G), Daylan Howe (6-0 sr. G), Owen Judd (6-1 sr. F)

Other contributors: Tyler Adair (6-0 jr. G), Aaron Eberly (6-0 jr. G)

Outlook: The Spartans will rely on their guard play to overcome a lack of size as they seek to improve upon last year’s eighth-place finish. The team returns three seniors: Judd (who likely will play every position at some point during the season) and guards Driver and Howe. Coach Brown also sees incoming juniors Adair and Eberly contributing from the perimeter.

GAC RED

Last year’s final standings: 1. Flint Beecher, 2. Goodrich, 3. Montrose, 4. Mount Morris, 5. Otisville LakeVille, 6. Durand, 7. Lake Fenton

League’s top players: Monte Morris (Beecher), Jimmy Hodge (Montrose), Riley Warren (Montrose)

PERRY

Last season: 8-14, 2-8 (4th place in CAAC White)

Coach: Michael Shauver (3rd season)

Returning players: Larry Bogner (6-0 sr. F), Andy Price (6-1 sr. F), Carter Heminger (6-6 sr. F), Dan Bell (5-9 sr. G), Nathan Parker (5-9 sr. G)

Other contributors: Rickey Taylor (5-9 jr. G)

Outlook: The Ramblers left the CAAC White for the top-heavy GAC Red, which includes last year’s Class C state champion Flint Beecher and Class B quarterfinalist Goodrich. The team does have five returning seniors including all-CAAC White senior forward Bogner who averaged just over 12 pints per game last season. Honorable mention 6-6 forward Heminger also returns as well as point guard Price, who averaged three assists per game. Perry will get an early test in their new league because the Ramblers open against Beecher.

KVA

Last year’s final standings: 1. Delton Kellogg, 2. Schoolcraft, 3. Olivet, 4. Kalamazoo Christian, 5. Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic, 6. Battle Creek Pennfield, 7. Galesburg-Augusta, 8. Constantine, 9. Parchment, 10. Maple Valley

League’s top players: Luke Ryskamp (Schoolcraft), Quintan Harris (Olivet), Jordan Born (Galesburg-Augusta), Garrett Mater (Maple Valley), Garrett Miller (Maple Valley)

OLIVET

Last season: 15-8, 13-5 (3rd place)

Coach: Brian Dartt (13th season)

Returning players: Quintan Harris (6-8 sr. C), Trent Strang (6-0 sr. G), Nick Coolidge (6-0 sr. G), Brett Whitely (6-0 sr. G), Tyler Masters (5-9 jr. G)

Other contributor: Brendan Whitely (5-9 so. G)

Outlook: The Eagles return four seniors and a junior from last year’s third-place team and boast one of the top players in the region in the 6-8 all-area honorable mention Harris, who averaged over 16 points per game. Point guard Strang joins Coolidge and Brett Whitely to form a strong backcourt. The KVA contains Delton Kellogg and last year’s Class C semifinalist Schoolcraft, but don’t discount Olivet. This is a veteran team that could contend for the league title.

MAPLE VALLEY

Last season: 5-17, 2-16 (10th place)

Coach: Christopher Ewing (2nd season)

Returning players: Garrett Mater (6-1 sr. G), Garrett Miller (5-10 sr. G), Micah Bromley (6-0 jr. G), Austin Gonser (6-1 jr. F), Anthony Mahler (6-0 jr. G)

Other contributors: James Burd (6-2 sr. F), Dillon Kennedy (5-11 jr. G), Sam Benedict (6-0 jr. G)

Outlook: The Lions almost certainly will top last year’s two-win, 10th place finish in the KVA. The team will be led by senior all-league honorable mention guards Mater and Miller and juniors Bromley, Gonser and Mahler. The Lions not only look to rise in the standings but also are seeking an end to a 15-year run without a district title.

TVC CENTRAL

Last year’s final standings:1. Hemlock, 2. Shepherd, 3. Alma, 4. Ovid-Elsie, 5. Saginaw Swan Valley, 6. Freeland, 7. Chesaning, 8. Midland Bullock Creek

League’s top players: Kyle Slagell (Alma), Evan Marquardt (Bullock Creek), Josh Kunik (Chesaning), Kyle Sweeney (Chesaning), Ryan Hagerty (Hemlock)

ALMA

Last season: 13-9, 10-4 (2nd place)

Coach: J.T. Cleveland (10th season)

Returning players: Kyle Slagell (6-6 sr. G/F/C), Brett Green (6-2 sr. G), Tim DeJong (6-3 sr. G/F), Josh Moody (6-0 sr. G), Mitch Mott (6-2 sr. C), Lupe Garza (5-9 sr. G), Roger Western (6-1 sr. G/F), Chris Wood (6-0 sr. C)

Other contributors: Curtis Doyle (6-5 jr. C), Darren Olejniczak (5-9 fr. G), Jay Green (6-1 jr. F), Cole Thompson (5-9 jr. G)

Outlook: The Panthers have a serious shot at winning the TVC Central. They have the league’s top player in all-league senior Slagell and also return honorable mention guard Green. Those two combine with six other seniors to give Alma its most experienced squad in years. Slagell, in fact, has an outside chance of reaching 1,000 career points scored sometime late in the season. The Panthers reside in a tough conference but they have the talent to make a run at winning it.

OVID-ELSIE

Last season: 13-8, 9-5 (4th place)

Coach: Josh Latz (2nd season)

Returning players: Jake Helms (6-1 sr. F), Luke Hurst (6-2 sr. G)

Other contributors: Carter Hurst (6-2 jr. G), Austin Loynes (5-9 jr. G), Sawyer Astle (6-3 jr. F), Travis Fahey (6-5 so. F)

Outlook: The Marauders lost 10 players from last year’s team to graduation, including their top seven players. This season’s squad, according to second-year coach Latz, is young and athletic. The team has a bit of size in 6-3 junior Astle and 6-5 sophomore Fahey. The only returning seniors on the team are Helms and Hurst. The Marauders are likely in a rebuilding mode as they prepare for the districts in March.

TVC WEST

Last year’s final standings:1. Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary, 2. Ithaca, 3. Carrollton, 4. Breckenridge, 5. Saginaw Valley Lutheran, 6. Merrill, 7. St. Louis, 8. St. Charles

League’s top players: Mike Greenwood (Michigan Lutheran Seminary), Nate Kern (Valley Lutheran)

ITHACA

Last season: 16-7, 12-2 (2nd place)

Coach: Jim Thompson (3rd season)

Returning players: Sage DeMull (6-2 sr. G), Travis Smith (6-2 jr. F), Kaleb Fairchild (6-1 sr. F)

Other contributors: Caden Kipp (6-0 sr. F), Logan Hessbrook (6-3 jr. F), Eli Villalobos (5-9 jr. G), Markes Gadlen (5-9 sr. G)

Outlook: The Yellowjackets lost most of their scoring punch from last year’s district championship team and this year’s group must quickly make the transition from football to basketball in the wake of Ithaca’s third straight Division 6 state championship a week ago. There is enough talent there, however, for the Yellowjackets to make some noise in the TVC West. Ithaca has a good mix of seniors and juniors. They are athletic and, if they find enough scoring, will be tough to beat. The majority of this team played football as well so knowing how to win isn’t an issue.

INDEPENDENTS

LANSING CHRISTIAN

Last season: 8-13, 4-8 (5th place in SMAA)

Coach: Steve Ernst (1st season)

Returning players: Skylar Ross (6-2 sr. G), Jay Noyola (6-1 sr. G), Parker Allen (6-0 sr. G)

Other contributors: Josh Whitney (6-4 sr. G), Jordan Terry (5-10 jr. G)

Outlook: The SMAA dissolved so the Pilgrims are now an independent. The team has some talent, particularly in all-state honorable mention senior Ross, who scored almost 17 points per game last season. The team also returns seniors Noyola and Allen, and adds Whitney (a transfer from DeWitt) and the promising Terry (who didn’t play as a sophomore). First-year coach Ernst calls his team a work in progress.

LESLIE

Last season: 6-16, 3-9 (6th place in SMAA)

Coach: Matt Johns (2nd season)

Returning players: Aron Dollarhite (5-10 sr. G), Zac Schiller (6-3 sr. C), Trevor Alleman (6-3 sr. C), Jay Tropf (6-3 sr. F), Matt Subject (5-10 jr. G), Kaleb Dunn (5-10 sr. G)

Other contributors: Noah Jansen (6-1 jr. G/F), Caleb Rice (5-11 jr. F), John Baughan (5-8 jr. G), Chase Leonard (6-1 jr. F)

Outlook: The Blackhawks are now an independent after the collapse of the now defunct SMAA. Leslie returns five seniors from last year’s six-win team, and second-year coach Johns feels their principal strength will be speed and adds that the team’s ability to execute in the half-court offense could determine just how good this group of athletes can be.

— Compiled by Jack Dowd

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