Coach: Greg Dirst, third season
Last season: 8-18.
Key returners: PG Bradon Ragsdale, jr.; SG Eli Brown, jr.; PF Clint Fenton, sr.; SG Cale Jackson, jr.; Brody Hodges, sr.; C Jon Richards, jr.
Key newcomers: Hunter McDonald, soph.; PG Parker Biederer, jr.; Nick Marion, sr.
Outlook: Central will play a four-guard lineup this season with Brandon Ragsdale (5 ppg, 4 apg), Eli Brown (10.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg) and Cale Jackson (12 ppg), among others, with Clint Fenton or Jon Richards manning the paint. The concern for Greg Dirst’s team with that setup is rebounding on both ends of the court.
Central’s returners (and newcomers) have to replace the scoring ability of the departed Jeremiah Jones, who averaged more than 17 points per game last season.
Jon Richards is a 6-foot-9 junior who Dirst said is the Bulldogs’ most-improved player from last season.
“I love how hard this team plays,” Dirst said. “We have a roster full of guys who like to compete … We are still looking to rebound better that we did last year both offensively and defensively.”
Coach: Curtis Eggleston, eighth season
Last season: 22-2; GICAA Div. II-A State Champions
Key returners: Jared Hamby, sr., Michael Walker, sr.
Key newcomers: Josiah Laws, jr., Daniel Durnwald, so., Ty Logan, jr.
Outlook: Horizon won the first Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association (GICAA) Div. II-A state championship last season, but the Warriors have moved up one division and in to the toughest region in the GICAA. Dakota Holtzclaw, a 6-foot-5 guard/forward and likely the best player in the GICAA, transferred to North Forsyth, leaving a major void.
Warriors head coach Curtis Eggleston, in his eighth season at Horizon, said his team is still trying to build chemistry with so many new faces.
“If we win this year, it will be because all 12 guys take it on themselves to think about the team before they think about themselves,” Eggleston said.
Horizon plays a fast-paced, up-and-down style on offense and defense, led by forward Michael Walker and fellow senior Jared Hamby. Eggleston said Matthew Prausa and Daniel Doherty should be his most-improved players on defense; Doherty is one of the Warriors’ better shooters.
Coach: Scott Bracco, third season
Last season: 23-7; lost in second round of GHSA Class AAAAAA state playoffs.
Key returners: SG Tanner Hall, jr., PG Jake Morris, sr., F Ross Morkem, jr.; G Patrick Noble, sr.; F Grant Lancaster, sr.
Key newcomers: F/C Trevon McSwain, sr., F Connor Mannion, jr.; G Andrew Melms, soph.
Outlook: Lambert is coming off its best season in school history, and the Horns are focused on staying at the top of Region 6-AAAAAA and Forsyth County.
Scott Bracco’s team may be more inexperienced this year, with sophomores and juniors taking over for graduated seniors, but those younger players are just as talented. Ross Morkem (6-foot-6) and Connor Mannion (6-foot-7) can both shoot from deep.
Junior guard Tanner Hall, does everything — shooting, rebounding, defending — well. His backcourt mate, Jake Morris, is a pass-first point guard, but he worked on his shooting and conditioning this summer to be prepared for the Horns’ energetic style of play. Patrick Noble and Grant Lancaster were important pieces off the bench for last year’s 23-7 team.
Trevon McSwain, a 6-foot-8 forward, transferred in from Lanier and gives Lambert a physical presence on the interior. He got to know his know teammates over the summer and proved himself as a capable rebounder, something Lambert needs in bunches.
Coach: Brian Moon, fourth season
Last season: 1-25.
Key returners: PG Chad Bureau, jr.; SG Nick Cunningham, jr.; F Coleton Holzer, sr. (6-2 post).
Key newcomers: SG/SF Dakota Holtzclaw, sr.; G Cole Phillips, jr.; G Tyler Koch, jr.
Outlook: North will be the smallest team in Region 6-AAAAAA, though the addition of 6-foot-5 Dakota Holtzclaw, a Division-I prospect, from Horizon should give the Raiders a shot in the arm.
“Holtzclaw will bring a lot of experience of playing against high-level players,” North coach Brian Moon said. “He needs to push all our players to play at a higher level.”
Junior point guard Chad Bureau and junior shooting guard Nick Cunningham (6-foot-4) combined to average 19 points per game last season. Outside of his backcourt and Holtzclaw, Moon is counting on several players with no varsity experience in Cole Phillips and Tyler Koch to contribute this season.
“One area that we must improve on is taking care of the ball,” Moon said. “We gave up far too many baskets off of turnovers [last season] … I feel this team will continue to get better as the season progresses and hopefully be a threat to make the playoffs.”
Coach: Jay Lynch, third season
Last season: 11-15.
Key returners: G Nick Palmer, sr.; G Sean Flanigan, soph.; F Adam Guard, sr.; F Zayne Rice, jr.; F Ryan McCarthy, soph.
Key newcomers: F Adam Rocko, jr.; G Santi Villar, jr.; G/F Carson Holler, soph.; G/F John Crone, soph.; F/C Kent Tagge; soph.
Outlook: Pinecrest expects to push the pace with All-Region guards Nick Palmer and Sean Flanigan and a roster that can go 10 players deep if needed. Paladins head coach Jay Lynch said his team has good shooting and athleticism that will serve Pinecrest well on both ends of the floor.
Palmer and Flanigan both are talented wide receivers with Pinecrest’s state playoff-bound football team; Adam Guard plays running back and will be a third-year starter at forward for the basketball team.
Lynch expects 6-foot-2 forward Zayne Rice to have a breakout year because of his ability to score, rebound and defend. If sophomore Kent Tagge, a 6-foot-3 forward with a 6-foot-9-inch wingspan, can continue to develop, Lynch said, the Paladins will be better at defending the bigger teams in their region. Ryan McCarthy (6-foot-3) is a strong rebounder and varsity newcomers Adam Rocko, Santi Villar and John Crone can shoot from deep; sophomore Carson Holler is a versatile guard/forward.
Coach: Manson Hill, third season
Last season: 4-19.
Key returners: PG Aaron Schmitz, sr.; SG Matt McCorkle, sr.; F Zach Sewing, sr.; F Chandler Cotter, sr.; C Thomas McLellan, sr.; Chason Smith, sr.
Key newcomers: F Evan Cole, soph.; G Chandler Strall, jr.; G Santhosh Savaranan, fr. Juniors Matthew Pelloch, Austin Childress, Joe Brandon, Matthew Pellock and Korleone Lanier.
Outlook: South head coach Manson Hill said this War Eagles team is the most experienced and close-knit group in his three-year tenure, with six seniors on the roster.
Aaron Schmitz and Matt McCorkle form a veteran backcourt. Hill said the War Eagles were solid on the defensive end and a good rebounding team last season, and that they should be again this year. Forwards Zach Sewing and Chandler Cotter and center Thomas McClellan are all back for their senior seasons.
On offense, South will push the ball when needed, slow it down at other times — whatever way works to score the ball.
“The key question for us will be our ability to score and our ability to limit points off of turnovers,” Hill said.
Coach: Jim Cook, third season
Last season: 10-15.
Key returners: SF Jimmy Staiti, sr. (honorable mention 6-AAAAAA); PG Grant Anderskow, sr.; Derek Morris, sr.
Key newcomers: PG Tripp Beatty, sr.; Courtland Fuller, sr.; Jack Keller, sr.; PG Cam Macer, sr.; F John Peterson, soph.
Outlook: Jimmy Staiti averaged nearly a double-double last season (12.4 pgg, 9.2 rpg) and earned honorable-mention all-region honors. The Wolverines will need even more out of him this year with Nick Staiti (19.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg) gone.
“It’s no secret that Jimmy will be the go-to player for [us],” West coach Jim Cook said.
Cook is counting on a large group of seniors — Staiti, point guard Grant Anderskow, Derek Morris, Tripp Beatty, Courtland Fuller, Jack Keller, Cam Macer — to help the Wolverines improve on their 10-15 finish last season.
Morris is an athletic, 6-foot-3 guard/forward that contributes all over the floor. Anderskow, Beatty and Macer will rotate at point guard. Courtland Fuller is a good shooter, and 6-foot-5 senior Jack Keller and 6-foot-5 sophomore John Peterson give the Wolverines some height on the interior.