Coach: Tammi Traylor-Statewright, 5th season
2012-13 record: 8-15 overall (missed Class 5A state playoffs)
Players to watch: Precious Luster, 5-foot-7, G, sr.; Kyah Scott, 5-8, G/F, sr.; Allurah Taylor, G, 5-3, sr.; Lexus Davis, F, sr.
2013-14 Outlook: The Olys improved in the win-loss column by one game last season and had a lot of success against other Aurora Public Schools teams, sweeping two games from Aurora Central and Hinkley and topping Vista PEAK in non-league play, though they suffered two close losses to rival Rangeview. Coach Tammi Traylor-Statewright had a roster made up almost completely of juniors last season, so this season’s group is varsity experienced and senior-heavy. Traylor-Statewright has a lot of seniors with athletic ability, but she needs to see her team work on some of the small, mostly mental mistakes that plagued it last season in order to see it gain traction in the league standings. A hefty slate of tournament and non-league games prior to winter break should be instructional for Gateway. The Olys’ lone All-EMAC first team performer returns in senior G Precious Luster, who will look to follow a season in which she averaged a team-high 8.3 points and contributed in a variety of statistical categories last season for Gateway, which graduated its only other all-league performer in Zhane Brooks. Senior F Lexus Davis pulled down a team-best 8.6 rebounds per contest and was also good for nearly handful of points per contest last season, while senior G Kyah Scott used great hands and averaged nearly four steals per game, a valuable asset to Traylor-Statewright’s intended goals of playing tough and aggressive defense.
Coach: Josh Ulitzky, 9th season
2012-13 record: 24-3 overall (lost in Final Four of Class 5A state playoffs)
Players to watch: Katie Cunningham, 6-foot, G/F, sr.; Natalie Halbleib, 5-10, F, sr.; Brittany Bender, 5-10, F/C, sr.; Michaela Onyenwere, 5-11, F, fr.; Kennede Brown, 5-3, G, fr.; Jen Jordan, 5-6, G, sr.
2013-14 Outlook: It’s a much different look for coach Josh Ulitzky’s Grandview team this season, as a veteran group that helped raise the bar for the program over the past few seasons has finally graduated after claiming back-to-back Centennial League championships. The Wolves, who are 26-2 in league play over the past two seasons, advanced to the Class 5A state semifinals for the first time last season — before they lost to eventual state champion Regis Jesuit — on the strength of seven players who earned All-Centennial League first or second team distinction, but only two of them return in senior G/F Katie Cunningham and senior F Natalie Halbleib. Cunningham played exclusively point guard last season, but still managed to finish fourth on the team with an average of 7.5 points per game, in addition to 5.3 rebounds and 3.9 steals per game as she earned first team all-league honors. Ulitzky will need the 6-foot Cunningham to score more this season, so he’ll use steady senior G Jen Jordan and fleet freshman G Kennede Brown for more ballhandling duties this season to allow Cunningham space to shoot and slash to the basket. Halbleib provided bursts of instant offense to the Wolves last season, which helped her come in third on the team with an average of 9.5 points per game and earned her second team All-Centennial League honors. Halbleib also averaged 2.1 steals per game and works well with Cunningham when Grandview pressures opposing teams, which it expects to do a lot this season with the graduation of much of its size. In the paint, freshman F Michaela Onyenwere is an exceptionally athletic addition who can make a difference on both ends of the floor and in transition and help in the scoring column as another threat to opposing defenses. Senior F/C Brittany Bender is the most experienced post player the Wolves have and has good tenacity around the basket. Two of Grandview’s three losses last season came to Regis Jesuit and the Wolves get another crack at the Raiders on Jan. 11.
Coach: Harry Sledge, 3rd season
2012-13 record: 7-16 overall (missed Class 5A state playoffs)
Players to watch: Ashley Trotter, 5-foot-6, G, sr.; Nyece Smith, 5-5, G, jr.; Rozhiane Edmond, 5-8, G, jr.
2013-14 Outlook: The Thunderbirds added one victory to their season total from the previous season and also climbed a few spots to come in sixth in the East Metro Athletic Conference standings in 2012-13. Hinkley graduated its lone All-East Metro Athletic Conference performer from last season in F Yanoudji Diarra, who leaves a big hole as she averaged 12.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, both team bests. As a junior, G Ashley Trotter made her way onto the all-league second team with averages of 7.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game and is the team’s returning leader in all those categories except for steals, where junior G Nyece Smith led the way with 2.7 per game. Junior G Rozhiane Edmond also came away with 2.5 steals per contest last season for the Thunderbirds.
Coach: Wayne McDonald, 3rd season
2012-13 record: 7-15 overall (missed Class 5A state playoffs)
Players to watch: Michaela Hinton, 5-foot-10, F, sr.; Jaiden Halliburton, 5-6, G, sr.; Zelle Moore, 5-3, G, sr.; Lamija Spahic, 5-7, F, jr.; Frannie Reed, 5-10, F/C, soph.
2013-14 Outlook: Wayne McDonald returns to the Overland bench after Jeff Neises took over the reins for one season, in which the Trailblazers won seven games, but missed out on the Class 5A state playoffs after making it the previous two seasons. Overland — which won just one of its 14 Centennial League games last season — graduated several pieces from last season’s team, but returns both of its All-Centennial League performers in F Michaela Hinton (second team) and G Jaiden Halliburton (honorable mention) as seniors. Hinton led the team in nearly every major statistical category, averaging 13.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game — nearly double her production in each category from the previous season as she got a lot of the touches that went to 2012 graduate and Show all-star game selection Simone Evans — while her 1.7 steals per contest ranked second. Halliburton, in her second season at Overland after transferring from Grandview, contributed 6.3 points per game last season. McDonald believes he has a difference maker at point guard this season in diminutive senior G Zelle Moore, a transfer from Montbello who excels at dribble penetration, which should help Overland get better looks offensively. The 5-foot-3 Moore averaged 6.5 points per game for the Warriors last season and finished second on the team assists and steals. Junior F Lamija Spahic is another varsity experienced member of the Trailblazers’ core and does a little bit of everything, while sophomore F/C Frannie Reed — a volleyball standout at the school — has needed size at 5-10 and counts half a season of varsity experience gained last season.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. Facebook: Aurora Prep Sentinel