A shakeup in City League boys basketball seems quite possible.
Rogers isn’t the same team that reached the Division I state championship game last season.
Start, which pulled off a surprising late-season run to win the City League tournament title, is also a team that appears to be in rebuild mode after losing several key players to graduation.
The door appears open for Scott and Bowsher — two teams with ample talent and depth — to make a move on winning the crown.
The Bulldogs, with seven returning letter winners from a team that finished last season 13-10, may have the upper hand.
“We’re all comfortable in the system and are looking forward to taking the program to the next level,” said Scott coach Chris Dames.
The Rebels are led by sharp-shooting guard Nate Allen, who poured in a league-leading 18.0 points per game last season. Bowsher came close last year, but were upended in the City League tournament championship game by Start in a game pitting brother against brother — Spartans coach Gil Guerrero vs. Bowsher coach Joe Guerrero.
The Rams may have lost standouts Clemmye Owens and Tony Kynard to graduation, but they shouldn’t be counted out as contenders. Rogers coach Earl Morris, who is in his seventh season, is working with a talented but inexperienced group that has the potential to come on strong.
Here is a look at each team in projected order of finish:
Coach: Chris Dames, fourth season
Last season: 13-10, 6-4 City League
Top players: Seniors Chris Harris, 6-0, G; Tray Brown, 6-3, F; Percy Bogan, 6-7, F. Juniors Chris Darrington, 6-0, G; Malik Brooks, 6-0, G. Sophomore Larry Green, 5-10, G.
Outlook: The Bulldogs have the pieces in place to give their faithful plenty to cheer about.
Harris (16.0 points), an All-City League first team player as a junior, and Darrington (9.9 points) lead a team that will suit up seven returning letter winners, including three starters. Harris and Darrington, who have been contributors on varsity since their freshman seasons, have the experience and understanding of what’s required to contend for the City League championship.
The makeup of the Bulldogs has them in position to be able to employ plenty of fullcourt defensive pressure. Brown (6.0 points, 7.0 rebounds), Green, and Brooks will also be important in their plans to try and finish at the top of the league.
Keeping the Bulldogs focused rests on Dames’ shoulders.
Also, finding steady bench help will be a concern particularly during the early part of the season.
Coach: Joe Guerrero, fifth season
Last season: 16-7, 7-3
Top players: Seniors Nate Allen, 6-4, G; Cam White, 6-1, G; Jason Sandridge, 6-3, F; Dajuan King, 6-1, G; Mark Washington, 6-2, C.
Outlook: The Rebels have to be considered a team with a legitmate shot at winning the league title.
Allen (18.0 points, 9.0 rebounds), who led the league in scoring last year, was an All-City League first team player and is a preseason favorite to win the league's top player honors.
The North Carolina Central University-bound shooting guard figures as the most significant piece to a talented Rebels teams that is also as experienced as any other team in the City League.
King (16.3 points) and White (10.0 points) were all-league second team selections last season after being two of the league’s top scoring guards on a team that led the state in scoring (83.0 points per game) for the second straight season.
Sandridge (9.1 points) and Washington are also returners who give the Rebels plenty of size and athleticism on the court.
Coach: Earl Morris, seventh season
Last season: 20-7 overall, 10-0
Top players: Seniors Alejandro Williams, 6-5, C; Fidail Robinson, 6-7, C; Terrell Cross, 5-9, G; Josh Folkes, 6-3, F. Junior Brandon Austin, 6-0, G.
Outlook: The Rams hope to continue their regular season rule in the CL, but that would require getting it done with practically an entirely new lineup from the team that made it to Columbus last season.
Robinson (10.0 points, 8.0 rebounds) is the top returner for a Rams team that appears to be in a rebuilding phase. Williams (5.0 points) and Folkes (2.0 points) were contributors in a supporting role on a talented and experienced squad a year ago. Their roles are greater and how they handle the responsibilities as team leaders will have plenty to say about where the Rams will finish in the standings this season.
Inexperience will definitely be put to the test when the Rams tip off this season. Where the Rams’ talent level stands in comparison to the rest of the league remains the biggest question concerning a Rogers team not expected to win the City League because it's been downsized to Toledo Public Schools.
Coach: Mark Knabbs, second season
Last season: 3-21, 0-10
Top players: Seniors Tahron Watson, 6-4, F; Ramoan Fane, 6-5, F; Anthony Bell, 5-11, G. Junior Craig Kirkwood, 5-7, G; Breon Stoziez. Sophomore Daijour Whittington, 6-0, G.
Outlook: The Polar Bears could end up as the surprise team in the City League race. There’s talent and some experience on the roster for Knabbs to work with during his second year in control of the program.
“I’m very happy with my team chemistry and leadership,” Knabbs said.
Fane (15.0 points, 11.0 rebounds) is coming off of a strong junior season and is bigger than he was a year ago. His development and effectiveness in the frontcourt impacts how competitive the Polar Bears will be during play.
Kirkwood (10.0 points, 5.0 assists) showed signs as a sophomore of becoming a playmaker teams had to be concerned with. Watson (8.0 points, 7.0 rebounds) and Bell (8.0 points, 4.0 rebounds) must also do their part in order for the Polar Bears to make a move up.
Coach: Gil Guerrero, fourth season
Last season: 12-10, 5-5
Top players: Seniors Mike Mitchell, 6-5, F; Chris Adams, 6-2, F; Richie Lynn, 6-5, F; Damar Ellis, 5-10, G. Junior Hermonte Scott, 6-3, G-F.
Outlook: The Spartans return three letter winners from last season’s team that came on strong to win the City League championship by surviving the league’s final four tournament at the end of the regular season.
Mitchell (8.1 points, 5.1 rebounds), Lynn (5.1 points, 3.1 rebounds), and Adams (2.1 points, 1.2 rebounds) experienced the Spartans’ league championship run.
The Spartans have good size in the frontcourt with Mitchell, Lynn, and Adams, but will be challenged in the area of team depth.
Finding additional playmakers from a number of newcomers, including Ellis and Scott, is a priority should the Spartans look to be a team to be reckoned with.
Coach: Adam Rodriguez, second season
Last season: 3-19, 2-8
Top players: Seniors Taywyn Mason, 6-4, F; Phillip Darrington, 5-9, G. Juniors Jeremy Pratt, 6-1, G. Sophomore Eric Neal, 5-10, G; Chris Johnson, 6-1, F.
Outlook: Mason (17.8 points) finished second in the league in scoring to prove himself as one of the league’s top talents last season. His development and improved play from last season could play a major role in the Indians ending up as the league’s biggest surprise of the season.
However, Mason represents the only member of the team with any real varsity experience.
Darrington, Pratt, Neal, and Johnson are among the projected contributors who will be given an opportunity to make their mark to help the Indians compete.
“We have to play hard and smart every game to have a chance to win,” Rodriguez said.