Pinecrest AcademyCoach: John Bauersfeld, first season
Last season: 8-16, 4-10 Region 6B-A
Key returners: G Caleb Bohn (Jr.), G Josh Boeye (Jr.), F Hank Lynch (Jr.), G Charlie Soukop (So.)
Key newcomers: G Oscar Lynch (Fr.), G J.J. Hayes (Fr.)
Outlook: Just like their counterparts on the girls side, the Paladins boys are starting with a new coach in 2018. This one has a bit more prestige about him, though: John Bauersfeld comes to Forsyth County from Calvert Hall in Baltimore, where he competed in the cutthroat prep ranks of the Mid-Atlantic. Bauersfeld wanted a change from that high-pressure atmosphere, and he’s found himself at a place with some decent pieces for the future. Most of the Paladins’ key contributors are non-seniors, and they plan to feature multiple freshmen in the rotation. Rebounding might be a weak spot at this point, but Bauersfeld already has chemistry and defensive effort in place and is shaping up to be a strong long-range shooting team.
West ForsythCoach: Fredrick Hurt, third season
Last season: 16-13, 7-3 Region 5-7A
Key returners: G Broc Bidwell (So.), F Mikhari Sibblis (Sr.), W Payton Aiken (Sr.), G Jack Bock (Jr.), G Nick Zabetakis (Jr.), W Jackson Butler (Sr.), F Tyler Lane (So.), F Russell Miller (So.)
Key newcomers: G/F Stephon Bland (Sr.), W Peyton Ragsdale (Jr.), W Zack Zabetakis (Jr.), W Caleb Lesch (Fr.), G Oshen Young (Jr.), W Caleb Thompson (Jr.), F John Bachner (So.)
Outlook: Last year was the breakthrough for the Wolverines, with the program recording its first-ever winning season and snagging a No. 2 bid in the state playoffs, although West fell to Duluth in the first round. Now comes the task of sustaining that success. West has a wealth of talent returning from last year’s squad, including talented point guard Broc Bidwell and two important wings in Payton Aiken and Jack Bock. However, the three seniors that West lost – wings Michael Zabetakis and Terrence Taylor and post Andrew Stanton – were all crucial contributors, and the loss of junior wing Joseph Staiti to an ankle injury hurts as well. The Wolverines will likely go as far as their group of guards lets them go, and they’re leaning into that group, playing three point guards together in some lineups.
Forsyth CentralCoach: Greg Dirst, 16th season
Last season: 7-19, 2-8 Region 5-7A
Key returners: F Jackson Leak (Sr.), G Anthony Roveto (Jr.)
Outlook: The Bulldogs were a gritty, defense-first team that didn’t score much last season, and that probably won’t change significantly this year. Central returns just two players with significant varsity experience, and the newcomers won’t add a huge influx of size. Head coach Greg Dirst is mainly trying to get Central to “maximize (its) potential,” though he does believe that this season’s group could be better shooting the ball.
South ForsythCoach: Scott Givens, fourth season
Last season: 10-19, 4-6 Region 5-7A
Key returners: F Jefferson Stepp (Sr.), F Devin McGlockton (So.)
Key newcomers: G Ethan Underwood (Fr.), G Kendall Fleeman (Sr.), G Corey Hereford (Sr.), C Cory Schmitz (Jr.), G Kohl Harris (So.), G Kymani Reid (Sr.), W Lowry Hicks (So.), W Andrew Kightlinger (So.)
Outlook: Last year’s War Eagles squad was one of the most experienced teams head coach Scott Givens had ever coached, and while South scuffled in the early going, its balance and discipline let that group cause some headaches in region play late on and make the state playoffs. Now Givens has one of the greenest groups he’s ever had, returning only two players that contributed significantly in 2017-18. Jefferson Stepp has a good all-around game and Devin McGlockton was a promising contributor in the post as a freshman last year, but apart from that, there are a lot of unknowns. The main point of emphasis for Givens is simply playing together more.
North ForsythCoach: David Sokol, first season
Last season: 6-19, 1-9 Region 5-7A
Key returners: G Jonathan Pefanis (Sr.), G Braden Collins (Sr.), G Wil Graham (Sr.)
Key newcomers: G/F Justin Costello (Jr.), F Cory Seitz (Jr.)
Outlook: The Raiders turned to a familiar face to some in the county after Brian Moon stepped down as head coach after last season, hiring former South Forsyth coach David Sokol from Flowery Branch. Now Sokol has the task of building up a program that hasn’t had a winning season in quite some time. The Raiders return a solid trio of senior guards, and that’s where their main experience and leadership will come from.
LambertCoach: Scott Bracco, seventh season
Last season: 22-6, 8-2 Region 5-7A
Key returners: G Mitch Ganote (Sr.), F Cameron Nayebi (Sr.), F Thomas Hickey (Sr.), G Luke Champion (Jr.), F Colin Granger (Jr.), G Braxton Beaty (Jr.)
Key newcomers: G Matthew Whicher (Fr.), G Chance Thacker (Fr.)
Outlook: For the Longhorns, the second-round hump remains, but it might not for much longer. This is one of the most loaded squads Scott Bracco has had in his run of successful seasons at Lambert, with a balance of experienced seniors, like reigning All-County Player of the Year Mitch Ganote, and talented younger players, like sharpshooting wing Luke Champion and freshman shooting guard Chance Thacker. Bracco has prepared a tough non-region schedule for the Longhorns, and with many of their region counterparts rebuilding, Lambert’s chances of running the table look pretty, pretty good.
DenmarkCoach: Tyler Whitlock, first season
Last season: N/A
Key returners: N/A
Key newcomers: G Sutton Smith (So.), W/F Adonnis Easton-Tolbert (So.), W/F Joseph Scott (So.)
Outlook: Like Denmark football coach Terry Crowder, Danes boys basketball coach Tyler Whitlock is setting goals that are somewhat modest, taking the school’s first-year status into account, but aren’t completely without ambition, with real dreams of the state tournament. A season-opening win over a West Forsyth squad that returns many players from its 2017-18 playoff team is a great start, and that game saw sophomore Sutton Smith, who Whitlock mentioned as a potential main contributor, drop 27 points. Experience is obviously the Danes’ biggest stumbling block, but they certainly have talent.
Horizon Christian AcademyCoach: Damon Taylor, fourth season
Key returners: F Mason Bierster (Sr.), C Michael Gul (Sr.), G Ryan Stevens (Sr.), F Evan Rees (Sr.), G Leon He (Sr.), G Malachi Morris (So.), F Camden Moore (So.), G Ben Risinger (Jr.), G Joe Risinger (Jr.)
Key newcomers: F Johnathon Scott (Jr.), F Wesley Harris (Jr.), G Matthew Bowles (So.)
Outlook: On paper, no team in the county has been as good as the Horizon boys over the past four years. The Warriors won three state titles in a row and finished as runner-up last season, and plenty of pieces from that team are back. Given that experience and a good group of newcomers, Horizon should be exceptionally deep. One of head coach Damon Taylor’s main focuses is the team’s maturity, as many of the Warriors will have to adjust to new roles due to the departure of key seniors.