Coach: Ernest Jones, 1st season
2012-13 record: 6-17 overall (missed Class 5A state playoffs)
Players to watch: Austin Hall, 6-foot-3, F, sr.
2013-14 Outlook: The Olys have their third coach in the past four seasons, as Mike Corrado took an administrative opportunity after two years on the bench (with a 13-33 overall mark) replacing longtime coach Jeff Sweet and is followed by newcomer Ernest Jones. Due to graduation and other players such as F/C Anthony Holmes and F Elijah Coleman moving away, Gateway is left with very little back from last season’s team, although senior F Austin Hall — the team’s leading scorer — returns. The 6-foot-3 Hall averaged 11.3 points per game a year ago, getting his points in a variety of ways with a team-high 13 3-pointers and also converted several of his 5.3 rebounds per game into putbacks as well. Gateway finished seventh out of 10 teams last season the East Metro Athletic Conference and missed the playoffs for the second straight season after making it every year for the two decades prior.
Coach: Gary Childress, 16th season
2012-13 record: 16-8 overall (lost in first round of Class 5A state playoffs)
Players to watch: KyRon Allen, 6-foot-2, G/F, sr.; Devon Brown, 6-2, G, sr.; Jared Burr, 5-8, G, jr.; JR Smith, 6-1, F, sr.; Keanu Flores, 6-3, F, sr.; Andrew Joyner, 6-3, G/F, jr.; Armani Stevenson, 6-1, G, sr.; Irane Sharp, 6-0, F, sr.; Sam Pixton, 6-9, C, sr.
2013-14 Outlook: A whole lot is different for coach Gary Childress’ Grandview team, which moves on without a core group that has kept the Wolves among the most competitive teams in the Centennial League for several seasons, including a third-place finish last season. Three all-league performers from the 2012-13 season graduated in G Eric Garcia, F Tanner Gentry and C Branden Cosby-Lee, while another — senior C Akram Imam — did not rejoin the team this season, leaving a cast with very few familiar faces and more than 80 percent of its offense to replace. Childress does have some holdovers to build around in senior G Devon Brown, a defensive stalwart last season who will have the chance to contribute more than the 5.5 points per game he scored a year ago, along with junior G Jared Burr, who stands to see extensive ballhandling duties with Garcia’s graduation. The Wolves did get a welcomed boost with the arrival of 6-2 senior G KyRon Allen, a move-in who was a double-digit scorer for Aquinas Institute in Rochester, N.Y. Besides an ability to score, which Grandview needs this season, Allen is also used to handling the ball and should help the Wolves as they attempt to play pressure defense at every opportunity. Senior F JR Smith got minutes in 21 of Grandview’s 24 games last season, while junior G/F Andrew Joyner and senior G Armani Stevenson saw spot action, but should be on the floor more this season. Much of the Wolves’ inside presence could come from senior F Irane Sharp, who can score inside and outside and hit the boards, as well as 6-9 senior C Sam Pixton, who starts the season sidelined by an injury.
Coach: Calvin Kelley, 2nd season
2012-13 record: 8-15 overall (missed Class 5A state playoffs)
Players to watch: Chance Drake, 6-foot-3, C, sr.; Brolon Moton, 6-2, F, sr.; Dante Richardson, 5-8, G, jr.
2013-14 Outlook: The Thunderbirds enter their second season under coach Calvin Kelley, who saw his team finish with six fewer wins than the previous season and miss returning to the Class 5A state playoffs. The graduation of two big scoring threats after the 2011-12 season had a lot to do with the difference and Hinkley will have to make up for another loss as star G Terry Lee Wedgeworth — a first team All-East Metro Athletic Conference selection — moved on. Wedgeworth averaged 22.1 points per game and also led the team in assists and steals. While the Thunderbirds need a new primary ballhandler to emerge, they have back an effective inside combination in senior C Chance Drake and senior F Brolon Moton. The 6-foot-3 Drake — coming off an outstanding football season for Hinkley — finished in double figures in scoring last season at 11.5 points per game to go with a team-best average of 4.9 rebounds per contest, just in front of the 4.5 per game Moton pulled down in addition to his 5.3 points. Just about all of the Thunderbirds’ other regulars from last season were seniors, so players who saw spot duty such as junior G Dante Richardson will see their duties expand greatly.
Coach: Danny Fisher, 2nd season
2012-13 record: 15-10 overall (lost in 2nd round of Class 5A state playoffs)
Players to watch: Austin Conway, 5-foot-9, G, jr.; De’Ron Davis, 6-10, C, soph.; T’Aren Williams, 6-4, F/G, sr.; King Grant-Perry, 6-5, C/F, jr..; Tyler Stevenson, 6-0, G/F, soph.; Jervae Robinson, 6-1, G, soph.; Khalil Jenkins, 6-1, G, sr.; Tre Thomas, 6-2, F, sr.
2013-14 Outlook: With an influx of young talent and Danny Fisher taking over on the bench, the Trailblazers expected to take a step forward last season and they definitely did, improving by 10 wins to 15-10 and advancing to the second round of the Class 5A state tournament before losing to ThunderRidge. Overland’s young players succeeded in a lot of situations and failed in a few others, gaining experience that has many expecting a jump into the ranks of the elite this season and a shot at winning a Centennial League championship. Just three seniors who played last season graduated and only one was on the floor for any significant time, leaving the Trailblazers with a nearly intact roster, including all three of its double-digit scorers in junior G Austin Conway (15.8 ppg), sophomore C De’Ron Davis (12.4 ppg) and senior F/G T’Aren Williams (12.0 ppg). Conway, coming off an outstanding football season, is the ringleader of the talented Overland team and averaged 4.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.0 steals per contest in addition to his scoring prowess and Fisher expects him to be even better on the defensive end in his third varsity season. With sophomore G Jervae Robinson coming back improved, Conway may be able to work without the ball in his hands more this season. Davis — one of the most highly-regarded prep players in the country — grew an inch to 6-foot-10 in the offseason and has improved his basketball IQ on top of a wide range of skills that helped him average 9.4 rebounds and 3.4 blocked shots per contest, priming him for a monster sophomore season. Williams is a slashing offensive player who fills the scoresheet in a variety of ways each night and could be motivated by the improvements of sophomore G/F Tyler Stevenson, who is pushing for more playing time. Overland also has a strong group of role players in senior G Khalil Jenkins — a perimeter threat — while vastly improved junior C King Grant-Perry and senior F Tre Thomas, a physical force, should help the Trailblazers match up with a variety of teams.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. Facebook: Aurora Prep Sentinel