Central, Manual, Portland Christian, St. Francis, Shawnee
* Coach: Doug Bibby (13th year).
* Last season: 15-12, lost to Ballard 81-79 in overtime in Seventh Region quarterfinal.
* Player to watch: Devin Firman, a 5-foot-10 senior guard, is the Yellowjackets’ top returning scorer after posting 13.5 points and 3.7 rebounds per game last season. Firman is a streaky shooter who connected on 35.8 percent (48 of 134) of his 3-point attempts as a junior.
* Other top players: G Derron Douglas (6-1, Sr., 5.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg); G Korey Johnson (6-1, Sr., 4.2 ppg, 1.8 rpg); G/F Dominique Knight (6-0, Sr., 3.7 ppg, 2.5 rpg, transfer from Eastern); G Andrew Crittenden (5-8, Sr.).
* Outlook: Central must replace its top two scorers from last season in Dai’Von Thompson and Brandon Wells. Bibby said he was “very disappointed” with the way last season ended and is using that as a teaching tool for this season’s senior class. “Hopefully we can learn from that and create a more competitive nature in practice,” Bibby said. The Yellowjackets are small and will have to rely on their quickness. “As long as we play with a big heart we’ll be fine,” Bibby said.
* Coach: Jimmy Just (10th year).
* Last season: 17-13, lost to Eastern 52-46 in Seventh Region quarterfinal.
* Player to watch: Noah Hawkins, a 6-5 forward, returns after a breakthrough sophomore season in which he averaged 10.5 points and 5.8 rebounds.
* Other top players: G Will Britt (5-11, Sr., 4.4 ppg, 1.6 rpg); G Kenyan Jacob (Jr., 4.5 ppg, 1.8 rpg); G Jordan McClendon (Jr., 3.9 ppg, 1.8 rpg); F Brock Cassin (Sr., 1.9 ppg); G Brendon Williams (Sr., 1.7 ppg).
* Outlook: The Crimsons lost five of their top six scorers from last season to graduation, but Just said he believes he’ll still have a deep team capable of contending in the Seventh Region. “Nobody’s expecting much out of us right now – we don’t have much name recognition – but that’s OK right now,” Just said. Along with Hawkins, Britt should provide leadership after serving as the quarterback on Manual’s football team.
* Coach: Jeremy Niestadt (first year).
* Last season: 11-17, lost to Central 65-18 in district semifinal.
* Player to watch: Quincy Dye, a 6-2 sophomore guard/forward, led the Eagles in scoring (11 ppg) and rebounding (5.4 rpg) last season. “He’s a pretty good leaper and a good scorer,” Niestadt said. “He’s kind of unorthodox and quirky, but he’s fun kid and he had a really good summer.”
* Other top players: G Isaiah Young (5-9, Jr., 6.5 ppg); G Jonah Trejo (5-10, Jr., 4.5 ppg); G Michael Merideth (5-7, So., 7.2 ppg); C Keller Mackey (6-3, Jr., 5.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg); G Luke Kennedy (5-6, So.); G Zach Lowman (5-7, So., 1.9 ppg).
* Outlook: Niestadt served as interim coach last season as head coach Joseph Meredith was battling cancer. Meredith, who coached the Eagles for six seasons, passed away in May at the age of 44. “It was a super-emotional time, but I was really proud of the way the kids played last year through that,” Niestadt said. “They have not forgotten Joe, but it doesn’t come up a lot now. They’re focused on this year and the task at hand.” There’s not a senior on the roster, but most of the Eagles got plenty of varsity experience last season.
* Coach: Richard Butcher (third year).
* Last season: 9-20, lost to Portland Christian 50-49 in district quarterfinal.
* Player to watch: James Risley, a 6-2 senior guard/forward, averaged 18 points per game last season and is on pace to surpass 1,000 career points this season.
* Other top players: F Andrew Thurstone (6-3, Sr.); G Jabrell Moore (5-11, Sr.); F Ahmad Moore (6-2, So.); G Noah Sparks (5-11, So.); G Connor Gorman (5-9, Fr.); G/F Guistave Bah (5-11, So.); G Caleb Mason (5-8, So.).
* Outlook: The Wyverns hope to continue their steady improvement under Butcher, who went 3-15 in his first season and tripled that number of victories last season. Four starters return from last season, led by Risley, who has topped 30 points several times in his career.
* Coach: Clayton Reeves (first year).
* Last season: 5-24, lost to Manual 90-53 in district semifinal.
* Player to watch: Reeves said 6-1 senior combo guard Nick Warf “will provide great perimeter shooting and ballhandling.”
* Other top players: F Amontay Mitchell (5-11, Sr.); F/C Josh Cunningham (6-5, Sr.); G Lajuantre Gray (So.); F Jonathan Heck (Jr.).
* Outlook: Reeves takes over for Kevin Geary, who stepped down after one season. Warf, Mitchell and Cunningham give Reeves a solid trio of seniors to build around, and he expects Gray and Heck to be solid newcomers.