Coach: Tammi Traylor-Statewright, 4th season
2011-12 record: 7-16 overall (missed Class 5A state playoffs)
Players to watch: Precious Luster, G, jr.; Fatou Keita, C/F, jr.; Kyah Scott, G, jr.; Jessica Slade, jr.; Samantha Koehler, C/F, jr.; Adiam Habtemicael, G/F, sr.
Outlook: In her fourth season at the helm at Gateway, coach Tammi Traylor-Statewright is looking for improvement from a junior-heavy group that got a look at varsity play last season. The Olys will have a lot of chances to work on the up-tempo, but patient style Traylor-Statewright is hoping to adopt this season, as they play 11 games — almost half of their total — in the three weeks before winter break. A variety of players will have to pick up the slack for the graduation of leading scorer and rebounder Shapprrea Ramzy (15.4 ppg, 9.8 rpg), an All-East Metro Athletic Conference second team selection. Junior Fatou Keita leads returning players in scoring average at 4.1 points per game, and could have had more if she’d made more of her free throw attempts, and also pulled down six rebounds per game a year ago. A number of other players will need to become more aggressive as they build more varsity experience, with juniors Precious Luster, Kyah Scott, Jessica Slade and Samantha Koehler, plus senior Adiam Habtemicael, among them. Gateway finished seventh in the EMAC standings last season.
Coach: Josh Ulitzky, 8th season
2011-12 record: 20-6 overall (lost in Great 8 round of Class 5A state playoffs)
Players to watch: Adaeze Obinnah, 6-foot-1, F/C, sr.; Tasha Edge, 6-0, F/G, sr.; Brooke Genovese, 5-6, G, sr.; Erin Kemp, 5-9, F, sr.; Natalie Halbleib, 5-10, F, jr.; Katie Cunningham, 5-11, G, jr.; Sedia Olsen, 5-10, F/C, sr.
Outlook: This is the season coach Josh Ulitzky and the Wolves have been waiting for, as a young core that’s played together for three years or more returns. Grandview took another big step last season by advancing to the Great 8 round of the Class 5A state playoffs for the first time before losing to Highlands Ranch at the Denver Coliseum and with all but one player back comes into the new campaign ranked No. 3 in 5A in the preseason behind No. 1 ThunderRidge and No. 2 Highlands Ranch. Seniors Adaeze Obinnah, Tasha Edge, Erin Kemp, Brooke Genovese and Sedia Olsen have a lot of varsity experience under their belts and want to close out their careers in a big way. Obinnah — who signed with Rice University in the offseason — and Edge (Oklahoma Baptist) both earned first team All-Centennial League honors last season as they tied for top scoring honors on the team at 10.9 ppg each, while Obinnah (an All-City first teamer) was Grandview’s leading rebounder at 5.7 per contest and Edge averaged 4.7 boards and 3.1 assists. Perimeter threat Kemp (a Black Hills State signee), multi-sport athlete Genovese and inside threat Olsen each fill key roles for the Wolves. Junior point guard Katie Cunningham made the All-Centennial League second team last season and had an excellent offseason of development, as did junior Natalie Halbleib, who has improved her already strong perimeter shot and has added a better ability to get to the basket. Grandview went 13-1 in the Centennial League last season, suffering its only loss to Arapahoe, which finished with the same league record.
Coach: Harry Sledge, 2nd season
2011-12 record: 6-16 overall (missed Class 5A state playoffs)
Players to watch: Yanoudji Diarra, 5-foot-11, F, sr.; Nyece Smith, 5-5, G, soph.
Outlook: The Thunderbirds won twice as many games last season as the year before, including victories in three of the last five games, and look to keep up the momentum in Harry Sledge’s second season on the bench. Despite losing five seniors to graduation, Sledge believes Hinkley could improve on its 9th-place finish in the East Metro Athletic Conference with the contributions of a number of younger players. The Thunderbirds’ go-to player will be senior forward Yanoudji Diarra, a multi-sport athlete at the school who also runs cross country and track. The 5-foot-11 Diarra averaged 10 points and 8 rebounds per game last season for Hinkley and was selected honorable mention All-EMAC and All-City. Sophomore point guard Nyece Smith has improved since last season and could direct the team to a new level.
Coach: Jeff Neises, 1st season
2011-12 record: 14-10 overall (Lost in 1st round of Class 5A state playoffs)
Players to watch: Michaela Hinton, 5-foot-10, F, jr.; Kim Brown, 5-6, G, sr.; Alex Jones, 5-11, C, sr.; Jaiden Halliburton, 5-8, G/F, jr.; Lamija Spahic, 5-9, G/F, soph.
Outlook: Jeff Neises — who has worked with Overland’s boys basketball program for a few seasons — takes over on the bench for Wayne McDonald, who is taking a year leave for personal reasons. Leading scorer Simone Evans (19.0 ppg) — who was selected for The Show all-star game and was chosen first team All-Centennial League — and six other seniors (including all-conference second teamer Breanna Witt) graduated from a team that doubled its win total from the previous season, had the third-most victories among Centennial League teams and was very competitive before falling to Castle View in the first round of the Class 5A state tournament. Neises has only had a little more than a month to work with his new team, but he is expecting a break-out season from junior Michaela Hinton, who averaged 7 points and 3.4 rebounds per game, numbers he sees doubling with the increased touches she is likely to see on the wing. Senior Kim Brown averaged 6.6 points last season in mostly a reserve role, but will take over duties as the primary point guard in place of Evans. Senior Alex Jones is a tenacious post player who is capable of posting a double-double in any given game, while junior Jaiden Halliburton — a transfer from Grandview — and sophomore Lamija Spahic will also have key roles for the Trailblazers. Neises doesn’t discount his team’s chances to win double-digit games and qualify for the postseason, especially if they can capitalize consistently in transition and play fast and under control.
Reach Sports Editor Courtney Oakes at [email protected] or 303-750-7555