The coaches like Southview to repeat as NLL titlist with this core, from left, Andy Borcherdt, Shaun Joplin, Tim Hausfeld and Bernard Pinckney. Hausfeld averaged 19.2 to lead the league.
Make mention of the Northern Lakes League boys basketball race and Perrysburg and Southview quickly come to mind.
The two teams shared the championship a year ago and are favored to battle it out again this season.
Perrysburg, which has won at least a share of the NLL title six of the previous eight seasons, is coming off its best season in school history after advancing to the Division I regional semifinals.
On the other hand, nearly half of Southview's roster is made up of individuals who took part in the Cougars' Division II state football championship.
So, both teams return experienced players with a history of winning.
Charlie Hughes, David Hieber and Nolan Falls are the Yellow Jackets' top returners from a 22-2 team.
However, Perrysburg coach Dave Boyce has warned his team about not focusing on previous success.
"Every team is its own team and this group is going to have to forge its own identity," said Boyce, who returns three key players from a year ago. "We've told them you have to look forward and not backward."
Southview coach Marc Jump, whose team is picked by the league coaches as the favorite, spent most of the preseason practicing with only half his team. Several members from the football team did not join practice until Monday. That includes the starting backcourt of Tim Hausfeld and Shaun Joplin.
Jump had only four practices with a full team before tonight's season opener against Columbus Brookhaven in the NWO Showcase at Central Catholic.
"I'm sure they all will be riding on an emotional high but like anything else they'll have to shift gears. It's going to take us some time to develop as a team," Jump said.
Perrysburg is picked to finish second, followed by Bowling Green and Anthony Wayne.
Boyce doesn't see anyone running away with the NLL race this season.
"First and foremost, the league should be pretty good," Boyce said. "The top half of the league should be pretty strong."
AW, Northview and Maumee have new coaches.
Here is a look at the teams in predicted order of finish:
Coach: Marc Jump, 15th year
Last season: 17-4, 13-1 NLL
Top players: Seniors Tim Hausfeld, 5-6, G; Shaun Joplin, 6-1, G; Bernard Pinckney, 6-2, G. Juniors Andy Borcherdt, 6-2, G; Jimmy Hall, 6-2, F.
Outlook: With the core of the Cougars team that won a share of the NLL title a year ago back on the court, Southview is an obvious early season favorite to finish at the top of the league race. Hausfeld (19.2 points) led the league in scoring a year ago and figures to continue right where he left off last season. Borcherdt (9.6 points) came through down the stretch as a sophomore and Joplin, who sat out the end of last season due to academics, should provide another scoring threat.
Pinckney and Hall, who were also key members of the Division II state championship football team, will also be counted on for leadership.
The Cougars biggest concern is not having enough time to practice together before the season starts.
Coach: Dave Boyce, eighth year
Last season: 22-2, 13-1
Top players: Seniors David Hieber, 6-5, F; Nolan Falls, 6-0, G. Junior Charlie Hughes, 6-4, C.
Outlook: The Yellow Jackets are perennial contenders in the NLL. They have won at least a share of the NLL title six out of the past eight seasons and are obvious contenders this season.
Hughes (13.2 points, 5.8 rebounds) is one of the league's top all-around players and figures to improve upon a stellar sophomore season in which he helped lead the Yellow Jackets to the regional finals. His versatility allows for him to play close to the basket, as well as on the perimeter.
Hieber and Falls saw plenty of action a year ago, but their responsibilities will increase this season as full-time starters.
The Yellow Jackets don't have the same experienced depth that contributed to a school-record 19-0 start a year ago. However, they do have enough talent and experience to make a strong push for another league championship.
Coach: Von Graffin, sixth year
Last season: 8-14, 6-8
Top players: Senior Patrick Graham, 6-6, F. Juniors Tony Dible, 6-1, G; Jonathan Stoner, 6-1, G. Sophomore Xavier Brown, 5-11, G; Chauncey Dee, 6-3, F.
Outlook: The Bobcats are one of the teams in the NLL that could make the league race more interesting than anticipated. Graham (11.0 points, 5.0 rebounds) and Dee (9.0 points, 4.0 rebounds) lead the way for a young team looking for a turnaround from a losing season a year ago.
"The league is as balanced as it has ever been," Graffin said. "We'll need to compete every night to be successful."
A fast start could go a long way for the Bobcats to make a run at challenging the defending co-league champions for the title.
Coach: Nate Gaubatz, first year
Last season: 9-11, 7-7
Top players: Seniors Cam Walton, 6-1, G. Juniors Andrew Donnal, 6-6, C; Brad Celusta, 6-0, F.
Outlook: With a new coach in place the Generals are looking for some different results from past seasons.
Gaubatz steps in looking to make the Generals more of a player in the league race. His goal is to have them in contention for the league title. But it may take some time for his plan to fully develop while he becomes familiar with his team, as well as league opponents.
Walton (13.8 points) and Donnal (8.0 points, 5.2 rebounds) are the leading returners from a group that played .500 basketball during league play last season. Celusta (5.0 points) has also seen some playing time and figures to make an impact.
Depth could be an issue early in the season while the Generals learn new offensive and defensive schemes.
Coach: Tim Reiser, 23rd year
Last season: 8-13, 5-9 NLL
Top players: Seniors Tyler Liber, 6-0, G; Zach Culbertson, 6-1, G; Patrick Hartman, 6-4, F. Sophomore Chester McFadden, 6-2, G. Freshman Leroy Alexander, 6-1, G.
Outlook: This could wind up as a breakout season for the Blue Devils.
Despite his youth, McFadden (14.3 points) is a key returner on the Blue Devils roster. Lieber (14.0 points) and Hartman (4.0 rebounds) will also be counted on for their senior presence.
"We're going to be pretty young but hopefully we'll rely on our quickness and perimeter shooting," said Reiser, who has been coaching in the NLL longer than any other current coach. "These guys have worked hard. Hopefully we can make a run at the title."
The success of their perimeter shooting and an up-tempo playing style will play a role in the Blue Devils' fate in the NLL race.
Coach: Derek Sheridan, first year
Last season: 5-16, 3-11
Top players: Seniors Brian Rahmon, 6-1, F; Jay Hall, 6-1, G; Josh Eckert, 6-0, G. Junior Damon Contat, F.
Outlook: The Panthers head into the season as one of the NLL teams looking to turn things around with a new coach in place.
Sheridan has three returning letterwinners back from last season when the Panthers won only three times during league play. Contat (5.6 rebounds) is one of the top returning rebounders in the league. Rahmon, Eckert and Hall are also expected to contribute in the Panthers' push out of the bottom half of the league.
"We will have to compete as hard as we can to be successful," Sheridan said.
Sheridan, who previously coached in Indiana, must also become acquainted with playing in the NLL.
Coach: Brian Vorst, fourth year
Last season: 7-14, 6-8 NLL
Top players: Seniors Tommy Kralovic, 5-11, G; Jesse Hoover, 6-3, F; Casey Clayton, 6-4, F; Jon Reitz, 6-2, C; Ryan Davis, 5-10, G; Zach Sutter, 5-10; G. Junior Tyler Kralovic, 5-11, G; Zach Leahy, 6-1, G.
Outlook: The Bulldogs look ahead to this season with optimism after last season's effort.
Tommy Kralovic (13.0 points, 4.3 rebounds) and Leahy (10.0 points, 3.0 rebounds) make up the Bulldogs' one-two punch that could help lead the way to a surprising showing this season.
"I think the league is really talented and really athletic this year," Vorst said. "I think a lot of teams on the bottom half of the league last year will figure into the picture this year."
The Bulldogs, who lack size in the frontcourt, prefer to push the tempo offensively and apply pressure defensively.
"The key for us is our ability to penetrate and knock down shots," Vorst said. "Our posts are developing but they need to keep improving."
Coach: Terry Shadle, First year
Last season: 4-17, 3-11 NLL
Top players: Seniors Tripper Northrup, 6-3, F; Ryan Yockey, 6-0, G-F; Stephan Vizina, 6-4, C. Juniors Jarred Bowens, 5-6, G; Jake Jureich, 6-1, F.
Outlook: A new playing style and approach is expected under the Wildcats' new coach, who has four returning starters to work with.
There is optimism surrounding a team that won only three league games last season.
"We are going to play hard every night that we step on the floor," Shadle said.
"We hope for our defense to create easy opportunities for our offense and make it very difficult for the opponents to score on every possession."
Shadle, who previously coached in college, will have to adjust to coaching at the high school level and in the NLL.
How quick the team comes together and establishes good team chemistry will play a role in the Wildcats' plans for moving out of the league's cellar.
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