Size in Eastwood's core group of players, Clayton Ruch,left, 6-5, Clay Rolf, 6-8, Nick Schmeltz, 6-0, and Jon Juergens, 6-6, is expected to give the Eagles an advantage in Suburban Lakes League play. The Eagles are the reigning SLL champs after finishing last season 14-0 in league play.
Suburban Lakes League teams will be hard pressed to match the size that Eastwood puts on the floor each night.
Add in experience and depth and the Eagles appear to be the clear favorite to repeat as league champs. Eastwood ran through the SLL unbeaten (14-0) last season.
The Eagles feature post players Clay Rolf (6-foot-8), Jon Juergens (6-6) and Clayton Ruch (6-5).
"We do have the potential to be pretty good," Eastwood coach Todd Henline said. "How quickly this team gels together as a team will determine what kind of season we will have."
Henline's teams have compiled a 35-9 overall record the last two seasons, including a 26-2 mark in league play.
The title last season was the first for Eastwood since 2002-03.
Genoa, which won the title in 2007-08, is expected to give the Eagles their stiffest challenge. The Comets also have depth in the post with athletic players that have the ability to score consistently.
"In order to contend for a league championship, perimeter shooting must improve over last season and depth must be developed," Genoa coach Jeff Overmyer said.
Elmwood, which won three straight titles before the Comets stopped the run, also is expected to contend.
Here is a look at the teams in predicted order of finish:
Coach: Todd Henline, third season
Last season: 20-3 overall, 14-0 SLL
Top players: Seniors Clay Rolf, 6-8, P; Clayton Ruch, 6-5, W/P; Jon Juergens, 6-6, W/P; Nick Schmeltz, 6-0 PG.
Outlook: Size, experience and depth are the hallmarks of a team that did not suffer a league loss last season. The Eagles also reached the Division II district semifinals.
Rolf, a three-sport standout who will play football at Bowling Green State University next season, scored 14.4 points and grabbed 10.8 rebounds last season. Rolf ranked third in the league in scoring and was second in rebounding.
Ruch (9.4 points, 6.3 rebounds), Juergens (4.1 points, 2.8 rebounds) and Schmeltz (5.1 points, 2.0 assists) all return after making significant contributions as well.
Henline also said depth and quality guard play from Justin Faykosh, Dylan Davis, Cody Seifert, Eric Magrum and Schmeltz could be keys.
But Henline said Rolf and Ruch have been slowed by illness and injury in the early going.
Question marks include the Eagles' ability to shoot from the outside and how well they handle defensive pressure.
"We should be able to play many different styles," Henline said.
Coach: Jeff Overmyer, 10th season
Last season: 15-8, 10-4
Top players: Seniors Matt Bassitt, 6-1, PG; Jon Lester, 6-3, P; Richard Wonnell, 6-8, P; Nolan Eli, 5-8, G.
Outlook: The Comets are seeking their fifth consecutive 15-plus win season under Overmyer, who has a 105-91 career record.
Three of Overmyer's top four scorers and his top two rebounders are back.
Bassitt, a three-year starter at point guard, scored 13.6 points and dished out 4.9 assists last year.
"He provides leadership and experience in the backcourt," Overmyer said.
Lester (13.4 points and 7.8 rebounds) and Wonnell (9.4 points, 8.0 rebounds) provide a solid tandem in the post.
The Comets' nonleague schedule features Central Catholic, Liberty-
Benton and Clyde.
Overmyer, whose team lost to state runner-up Tinora in the district semifinals last year, said relative inexperience other than his top three players could be a weakness.
Coach: Ty Traxler, second season
Last season: 13-9, 10-4
Top players: Seniors Adam Tyson, 6-2, W; Reid Rothenbuhler, 5-9, PG; Tyler Chamberlain, 5-10, W; Mike Huettner, 5-9, G. Juniors Jay Hannah, 6-0, W; Jack Waldock, 5-11, W.
Outlook: Traxler counts team speed, guard play, depth and experience as strong points for his Royals squad.
But a lack of overall size and a difficult schedule could pose problems.
Tyson led the team in scoring with 10.0 points last season. Huettner averaged 6.3 points per game. Rothenbuhler (4.8 points and 4.4 assists), Chamberlain (5.8 points, 4.0 rebounds) and Hannah (5.9 points) are among six returning letterwinners.
"We believe leadership and depth will be the strength," Traxler said. "If we can overcome our lack of size, we believe we can contend for a league title and make a tournament run."
Coach: Jeff Bostdorff, fifth season
Last season: 11-9, 7-7
Top players: Seniors Matt Weisenborn, 5-10, G; Tony Gerwin, 5-10, G. Junior Sam Forshey, 6-1, P.
Outlook: Three starters and five letterwinners are back for Bostdorff.
Weisenborn ranked second in the league in scoring with 16.4 points. He also dealt out 4.2 assists to earn first team all-league and all-district honors.
Gerwin was the Knights' second-leading scorer with 10.0 points.
Bostdorff said quality guard play with quickness out front should be his team's strong suits.
Forshey anchors the post, but he is the lone returning starter in the paint. Rebounding could be a trouble area.
"Our guard play is in good hands with three-year starters returning," Bostdorff said. "We'll need to get some solid inside play from some inexperienced varsity level kids to be successful."
Coach: Rod Daniel, first season
Last season: 11-11, 7-7
Top players: Seniors Justin Garver, 6-1, G; Andy Flick, 5-11, G; Brock Avers, 6-0, G; Tyler Donnell, 6-3, P. Juniors Billy Kuhlman, 5-10, G; Grant Weirich, 6-1, G. Sophomore Jon Sandwisch, 6-2, P.
Outlook: In his first season, seven of Daniel's 10 players are seniors.
Garver averaged 5.7 rebounds.
Daniel sees the return of a lot of varsity experience and team speed as key strengths. He also said his players' knowledge of the game should be beneficial.
But he said the Wildcats must maintain a good attitude with the depth his team has (eight returning letterwinners) and that buying into the team concept is pivotal.
"With our speed and depth we look to create a more up-tempo style of play and pressure our opponents defensively," Daniel said.
"Each man on this team will play a key role in our season. They need to accept and fill that role for us to be successful. Once the guys settle in and buy into the new style of play, hopefully the results will show up each night. They have really bought in and are working hard."
Coach: Jim Scharer, second
Last season: 4-17, 1-13
Top players: Senior Alex Cordell, 6-7, F. Juniors Ahmed Ismail, 5-7, G; Chris Pennington, 6-3, F; Joe Vancena, 6-3, F.
Outlook: Cordell was the Flyers' leading rebounder last year with 5.0 rebounds. He also scored 7.8 points.
But Cordell is one of only two returning starters and four letterwinners. Scharer lost 80 percent of his scoring to graduation.
Yet Lake has good size along the post and the team is fairly athletic, Scharer said.
"I think we will be very competitive if we can find some consistent scoring," Sharer said. "We should have a chance to win some games if we can avoid turnovers."
Coach: Brent Liskai, eighth
Last season: 8-13, 5-9
Top players: Seniors Lee Renner, 6-2, W; Zac Smith, 6-1, P. Junior Nick Sneider [cq], 6-1, P. Sophomores Gage Beaber, 5-10, P. Logan Jones, 6-3, P.
Outlook: Liskai cites quickness as a positive heading into the season with two starters and four letterwinners.
Renner ranked ninth in the league in scoring (12.4 points). He also pulled down 5.0 rebounds. Smith averaged 6.0 points and 6.2 rebounds.
But overall youth and inexperience - only two seniors are on the Golden Bears' roster - are potential trouble spots.
Liskai lost the league's leading scorer and rebounder, Tony Egbert, to graduation.
"We will get better as the year goes on and we gain valuable floor experience," Liskai said.