Coach: Mike Corrado, 2nd season
2011-12 record: 7-16 overall (missed the Class 5A state playoffs)
Players to watch: Anthony Holmes, 6-foot-6, F, jr.; Austin Hall, 6-3, F, jr.; Tate Johnson, 6-2, F, sr.
Outlook: The going got a little rough for Gateway last season as the Olys missed the Class 5A playoffs for the first time in more than two decades in the first season under new coach Mike Corrado. Gateway had trouble closing out games and lost seven games by five points or fewer, which dropped it to ninth in the 13-team East Metro Athletic Conference. The Olys have a sense of optimism about the new season, especially with the offseason development of two talented big players, juniors Anthony Holmes and Austin Hall, who will try to bring the chemistry they developed in club basketball to the high school season. The 6-foot-3 Hall was one of Gateway’s most productive players last season, as he averaged 10.0 points per game — second on the team — and led the Olys with an average of 5.7 rebounds per contest. The 6-6 Holmes didn’t see much varsity action last season, but Corrado will count on him for big minutes this season. Senior Tate Johnson, the starting quarterback on Gateway’s football team, is a strong role player who can provide the little things for the Olys. who will work a variety of new players into the lineup around the core trio.
Coach: Gary Childress, 15th season
2011-12 record: 16-9 overall (Lost in Sweet 16 round of Class 5A state playoffs)
Players to watch: Eric Garcia, 5-foot-10, G, sr.; Branden Cosby-Lee, 6-5, C, sr.; Tanner Gentry, 6-2, F/G, sr.; Akram Imam, 6-5, C, jr.; Devon Brown, 6-2, G, jr.; Jameson Cusworth, 6-4, F, sr.; Aaron Montgomery, 6-3, C/F, sr.
Outlook: Coach Gary Childress comes into a season with some of the highest expectations for a team he’s had in 15 years on the Grandview bench, as the Wolves were ranked No. 2 in a preseason Class 5A coaches poll behind only Denver East. Grandview returns three full-time starters and some other regulars from last season’s team that won 16 games and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the 5A state playoffs, with senior point guard Eric Garcia leading the way. The 5-foot-10 Garcia was a first team All-City player last season when he averaged team bests in points at 18.1 per contest and assists at 5.5 per game. The outside shooting, ability to get to the basket and overall court leadership of Garcia — who signed a Division I offer with Wofford University in the offseason — is vital to the Wolves hopes. Senior big man Branden Cosby-Lee was sidelined for the second half of last season with an injury, but he averaged 10.7 points and nearly five rebounds in the 12 games he played in and should improve on those numbers this season as a threat in the paint along with 6-5 junior Akram Imam, who blocked nearly two shots per game and scored five points per contest off the bench. Senior guard Tanner Gentry does a little bit of everything for Grandview and is a fearless, hard-nosed member of the starting lineup, while Childress will call on junior Devon Brown to give the lineup a jolt of energy when needed, while seniors Jameson Cusworth and Aaron Montgomery should also have a chance to contribute significantly in reserves roles for the Wolves.
Coach: Calvin Kelley, 1st season
2011-12 record: 14-11 overall (Lost in 1st round of Class 5A state playoffs)
Players to watch: Terry Lee Wedgeworth, 5-foot-9, G, sr.; Chance Drake, 6-3, C, jr.; Steven Ware, 5-8, G/F, sr.; Brolon Moton, 6-1, C/F, jr.
Outlook: Calvin Kelley moves up to the head coaching role filled for the past four season by Corey O’Hayre, taking a program coming off a 14-win season that marked significant improvement and also netted Hinkley a spot in the Class 5A state playoffs. Four of the Thunderbirds’ top five scorers graduated — including All-City first teamer Jon Newsom, a 20-plus point scorer — so Kelley’s job is to rebuild on the fly. Fortunately for Hinkley, one of the few returning players mans a key spot on the floor, as senior Terry Wedgeworth is back running the point. The 5-9 Wedgeworth averaged 10 points per game last season for the Thunderbirds, but spent much of the time looking to find his main weapons in Newsom and Dondre Smallwood. Wedgeworth has the game and leadership qualities Hinkley needs as puts a variety of new faces in significant roles at the varsity level. The Thunderbirds could be strong in the paint this season with the aggressive play of 6-3 junior Chance Drake and physical 6-1 junior Brolon Moton, while senior wing player Steven Ware is a versatile threat who can score in a variety of ways. Kelley won’t be afraid to go to his bench as he seeks the right combinations to help Hinkley match or better last season’s fifth-place finish in the East Metro Athletic Conference.
Coach: Danny Fisher, 1st season
2011-12 record: 5-19 overall (missed Class 5A state playoffs)
Players to watch: Austin Conway, 5-foot-9, G, soph.; De’Ron Davis, 6-9, C, fr.; Taren Williams, 6-4, F/G, jr.; King Grant-Perry, 6-5, C/F, soph.; Andrew Tillman, 6-5, F/C, jr.; Tyler Stevenson, 5-10, G/F, fr.; Reggie Gibson, 5-9, G, fr.; Jervae Robinson, 5-9, G, fr.
Outlook: The Aurora team with the biggest turnaround ahead in the new season figures to be Overland, which experienced some growing pains last season on its way to a 5-17 record, but has a new coach in Danny Fisher and a young, very talented core. Fisher lost senior standout Eddric Turner to a major knee injury before the season, so the majority of his go-to players will be underclassmen. The return of sophomore point guard Austin Conway is a big boost for the Trailblazers, as the 5-foot-9 floor general had a different gear than most other players on the floor and averaged team highs in scoring average (10.0 ppg), steals (2.4 spg) and assists (2.8 apg). His elevated play on the club scene has netted Conway a scholarship offer already from the top-ranked men’s Division 1 program in the country, Indiana. The Hoosiers have also extended an offer to Overland freshman De’Ron Davis, a 6-9 post player who arrives on the scene with significant fanfare. Some recruiting services have Davis rated as the top prospect in the entire country in the class of 2016, as he has “special talent” in Fisher’s words and has the ability to play inside and outside. With the two big names likely to draw plenty of attention, Fisher is looking forward to what he’ll get from junior guard Taren Williams, who will handle the ball more, should improve greatly on his average of 7.2 points per game from last season and serve as one of the team’s defensive stoppers with his length. At 6-5, junior Andrew Tillman and sophomore King Grant-Perry give Overland further toughness on the inside to compliment Davis, while a variety of role players give Fisher plenty of options depending on game situations. Freshmen Tyler Stevenson, Reggie Gibson and Jervae Robinson all have great skill sets and will have their roles more defined as they get more minutes on the floor. Fisher expects his roster to be hardened by Centennial League play and hit its stride around playoff time, when it could be very dangerous.
Reach Sports Editor Courtney Oakes at [email protected] or 303-750-7555