The Times previews all of the area's boys basketball teams.
East Hall Vikings
Coach: Joe Dix
2006-07 record: 30-2, 14-0; lost in the Class AAA state championship game
Returning starters: PF Ken Wise (6-5 Sr.), SG Trevor Bishop (6-0 Sr.) PG Josh Chapman (6-3 Sr.)
Key losses: PF Walter Hill (6-5 Sr.), Jay Jackson, SF Antoine Footman (6-2, Sr.)
Notable: The Vikings spent quite a bit of the summer playing without their second leading scorer from 2006, Wise which helped the other players on the team gain confidence. ... According to Dix, senior point guard Dedric Ware had a great summer and fall and people are going to be shocked at how good he plays this year. ... Wise has been transitioning to the perimeter after playing inside his junior year. ... Bishop made 80 three-pointers in 2006.
Key to success: For the Vikings to continue the success that Valhalla is used to, they are going to have to find a couple of guys to help senior shooting guard Bishop fill it up from outside and East Hall is going to have to develop as good a second unit as it had last year.
Coach: Jerry Davis
2006-07 record: 18-10, 8-4; Lost in first round of state tournament
Returning starters: F Allan Dockery (6-5, Sr.)
Key losses: Jamarco Warren, Josh Johnson
Key newcomers: G George Manomano (6-1 Jr.), G Martin Estes (6-1, Sr.), D.J. McDuffy (5-9, Jr.).
Notable: What this team lacks in experience, it makes up for in height. The Red Elephants have 10 players that eclipse six feet. ... Coach Jerry Davis expects players like senior Gerald Ford, junior Juwon Jeffries and junior Brock Boleman to make a contribution to this team. ... Davis is only one win away from 600 wins at Gainesville and is 11 wins away from 700 career wins. ... Davis says this team’s strength may be its work ethic. ... Gainesville opens its season at the South Forsyth Turkey Shootout that ends Saturday.
Key to success: The Red Elephants have a lot to catch up on with only one returning starter, but there is plenty of talent waiting on the bench. Davis says his team has to take care of the ball, improve on defense and focus on rebounding to make this year a success.
"Of course, it always helps if you can make some shots," he said.
Coach: Benjie Wood
2006-07 record: 15-10, 7-3; advanced to second round of state playoffs
Returning players: SG Josh Haymore (5-10, Sr.); SG Drew Hill (5-9, Sr.); PG Ethan Satterfield (5-10, Jr.); SG Brannon Nix (6-2, Sr.); SG Andrew Peck (6-1, Sr.); PG Robert Humphrey (5-10, So.); SF Chase Syfan (6-1, So.)
Key losses: Kyle Wiley, Tim Cox, Martin Estes
Key newcomers: Milt Coleman (6-3, Sr.); Charles Wardlaw (6-4, Sr.); Chris Cruz (5-9, Jr.)
Notable: The Trojans look to build on the momentum of last season’s run in the playoffs. North Hall finished just shy of upsetting Hart County to qualify for the state quarterfinals. Despite returning major contributors from last season, Trojans coach Benjie Wood is looking to offset for a lack of size.
"We must consistently play with great intensity and intelligence to offset a lack of size," Wood said.
Key to success: Just like last season, the Trojans need to get off to a fast start to build some momentum going into region play. North Hall opens the season with West Hall and Johnson before the Lanierland Tournament.
Coach: Warren Sellers
2006-07 record: 10-13, 3-9
Returning starters: F Ricky Vital (6-5, Sr; 8 ppg)
Key losses: Maurice Tabor (25 ppg), Ben Martin, Chris Schneider
Key newcomers: PG Kavon Williams, F Marquise Stephens
Notable: The Spartans lost a large part of their scoring from last year in Maurice Tabor and only have one starter coming back. ... Terrell Penland, Tray Malone and Derek Weatherly all saw significant playing time last year and will add some experience to this year’s squad. ... Kavon Williams, Rodney Gibson and Marquise Stephens stood out on last year’s junior varsity team and will be playing varsity this year. ... West Hall starts its season at the South Forsyth Turkey Shootout that ends Saturday.
Key to success: West Hall coach Warren Sellers expects this year’s team to be more athletic than last year’s. The ability to execute on offense and maintaining a high level of intensity on defense will be important to the Spartans’ success.
Coach: Todd Cottrell
2006-07 record: 4-17, 2-8
Key losses: SG Keenan Harris (6-2 Sr.), SG Andrew Nunez (6-0 Sr.), C Andrew Clack (6-4 Sr.), PG Daniel Thornhill (6-3 Sr.)
Key newcomer: PG Tracey Sykes (5-10 Sr.)
Notable: Flowery Branch won a dismal four games last year beating Johnson, Habersham Central, West Hall and Pickens. ... The Falcons open the 2007 season with Pace Academy in the Flowery Branch Thanksgiving Invitational
Key to success: Gaining confidence with early wins over Class A and AA competition could bode well for a struggling Falcons program.
Coach: Russ Triaga
2006-07 record: 13-17, 6-6; Lost in second round of state tournament
Returning starters: G Parker Smith (6-3, Sr.; 28. ppg); G Brandon Jovaag (6-2, Jr.; 13 ppg); PG Nathan Shope (5-9, Sr.); F Jackson Chandler (6’3, Soph.; 5 ppg); F Jo Jo Sweet (6-0, Sr.; 6 ppg)
Key losses: Evan Lowell (11.8 ppg)
Key newcomers: G Lamar Brooks (5-9, Soph.); G Brandon Smith (5-11, Jr.); F Andrew Begtine (6’3 Sr.)
Notable: Coach Triaga expects to see expanded roles for Brooks and Smith. Brooks played in 15 games last year and Triaga said that Smith can play many positions while being the teams best defender. ... The War Eagles have six returning seniors on this year’s squad and don’t have a single freshman on the roster. Experience and depth should not be a problem. ... Chestatee shot 43 percent from the 3-point line last year. ... The War Eagles first game against a region opponent will be Nov. 20 when they play host to Flowery Branch.
Key to success: Aside from continuing to shoot the 3-pointer well, Chestatee needs to improve on getting baskets in transition and limiting turnovers. On defense, the War Eagles need to limit opponents to one contested shot per possession and improve the team rebounding philosophy.
Coach: Jeff Steele
2006-07 record: 14-10, 8-0
Returning starter: SG Brandon Sloan (6-4, 190 Sr.); PG Devaris Finch (5-6, 150 Jr.); SG Travis Butts (5-8, 185 Sr.); SG Colby Horne (5-8, 170 Sr.)
Key losses: A.J. Gustavel, Sam Bowman, Tyshawn Cheek, Luis Romero
Key newcomers: C Jim Orr (6-8, 200 Jr.), PF Emmanuel Torres (6-4, 195 Sr.)
Notable: The Knights lost the majority of their scoring from last season’s squad that went undefeated in the regular season in 7B-AAA. ... Johnson hopes the addition of 6-8 post Jim Orr to go along with Sloan will give the Knights the size inside they need to succeed.
Key to success: "We must play with tremendous energy and effort," Knights coach Jeff Steele said. "We have to hang our hats on the defensive side of the ball to create easy scoring chances. We must pay attention to detail on offense and shoot high-percentage shots."
Coach: Mark Carroll
2006-07 record: 16-11, 6-4
Returning starters: PG Tyler Norman (5-11, 170 16 ppg.); C Adrian Hamilton (6-3, 8 ppg, 6 rpg.); F Ty Slaton (6-2); C Shon Crisp; F Devon Cox (5-10)
Key losses: SF Dustin Anderson (15 ppg. 9 rpg.); SG Quint Moss (9 ppg.); SG Cody Kimbrell
Key newcomers: F Ashley Lowery (5-10, Fr.); C Brandon Vaught (6-3, Sr.)
Notable: The Warriors should feel optimistic about their chances this season with last season’s leading scorer returning at point guard. ... White County only missed the playoffs last season by one game. According to coach Mark Carroll, the key to this season is defending and rebounding.
Key to success: "We will be a much smaller team this year so we will have to rebound," Carroll said. "We believe we can be a good defensive team also.
"We also need other people to step up and help carry the load on offense."
Coach: Matt Bohon
Region: GISA Class AAA North
2006-07 record: 20-7, 10-2; advanced to GISA Class AAA semifinals
Returning starter: G Joseph Lister (6-4, 200 17 ppg. 10 rpg.); G Charlie Riley (6-3, 200 7 ppg. 5 rpg.); G Steven Frady (5-10, 170 7 ppg., 5 rpg.).
Key newcomers: C Dave Anachebe (6-5, Sr.)
Key losses: Todd Dutro, Andy Stevens
Notable: The Eagles return quality depth to the court from last season’s Final Four team. ... Lister, Riley and Frady all move over to play guard after the graduation of Riverside’s starting guards from last season. ... Riverside has good size back on the floor with three guards that stand 6-3 or taller. However, the Eagles coach is still waiting to finish out his roster with the football team still wrapped up in the playoffs.
"There’s kids I’m going to have to play that I don’t even know yet," Eagles coach Matt Bohon said. "I’ve never seen a lot of these kids dribble a basketball."
Key to success: The Eagles expect to be back in the semifinals again this season with the best teams in the state North Cobb Christian (defending state champs) and Deerfield-Windsor that also return the majority of their teams this season.
"We’ve been practicing a lot, and I’m very pleased with what I’ve seen," Bohon said. "I’m ready to see our kids play."
Coach: Milt Travis
2006-07 record: 24-6, 14-2; lost in quarterfinals of playoffs
Returning starter: SG Twoey Hosch (6-1, 180 Sr.)
Key losses: John Overton, Terrance Birdette, David Hendrix, Chase Burnette
Notable: The Wolves can expect to experience some growing pains with nine of their top 10 players from last season gone. ... Buford’s still waiting for five possible key contributors to step onto the court once football season is complete, according to coach Milt Travis.
"We have to have consistent play with overall improvement in all areas of the game," Travis said. "Rebounding and strong defense are a necessity."
Key to success: The Wolves have no time to waste. Buford jumps right into the Region 6-AA schedule with games early against Holy Innocents, Lovett, Pace and Paideia. Buford also plays North Hall and Flowery Branch early in the season.
Coach: Bolling Dubose
2006-07 record: 24-6, 11-0; lost in second round of state
Returning starters: SF/SG Chris Beck (6-3 Jr.; 8 ppg); PG Ronnie Lewis (6-4 Sr.; 4 rpg)
Key losses: PG Jarrell Rakestraw (20 ppg, 7 apg); C Brandon Mosely
Key newcomers: Cody Smith
Notable: According to Coach Dubose, Chris Beck and Ronnie Lewis will be the leaders of this year’s team. ... Seniors Richie Guzman and Chase Harris, who don’t have a lot of varsity experience, improved greatly over the summer and have been working hard during the offseason. Dubose expects both to have standout seasons. ... Cody Smith, Darius Minor and Tab Martin will each see lots of playing time this year. ... Dubose credits Smith as Jefferson’s hardest worker, Minor as their best ball handler and Martin as the Dragons’ best defender.
Key to success: Coach Dubose expects his Dragons to go through a considerable amount of growing pains early in the season. Jefferson’s success will depend on how quickly the Dragons adapt to the varsity level.
Coach: Chad Bridges
2006-07 record: (8-12, 4-9)
Returning starters: None
Key losses: All of last year’s starters
Key newcomers: Cohen Cooke, Jake Flint, Taylor Gary
Notable: Chad Bridges enters his first year at the helm as the Tigers coach, following the retirement of long time coach Rex Gregg. ... According to Bridges, Commerce is expecting seniors Cohen Cooke, Jake Flint and Taylor Gary to each assume the roles as leaders on this year’s team. ... Coach Bridges expects his team to be at least nine deep, as juniors Drake Cash and Matt Adams will see considerable playing time this year.
Key to success: It might take the Tigers a while to gel as a team. Depending on how long it takes, could reflect on how successful Commerce is this season.
Coach: Thad Burgess
2006-07 record: 19-9, 8-0; Region 8-AA North champion, lost in first round of state
Returning starters: G Lee Little (5-9, Sr.; team leader in assists); G Zach Cook (6-0, Sr.; 6 ppg); F Robert O’Quinn (5-10, Sr.; 8 ppg)
Key losses: Mario Graves and Ryan Brown, the team’s top two scorers
Key newcomers: F Blyth Chester (6-4, Jr.; 3 ppg, 3 reb); Allen Gilleland (6-2, Sr.)
Notable: Last year’s trip to the state playoffs was the first in 30 years for Dawson County. ... The injury bug gives and takes for Dawson County as Gilleland will return after missing the past two years with an injury, but 6-4 Nick Fiorentino might miss the entire season with an injury. ... Coach Burgess plans on playing a more up-tempo style, including a full-court press, this year and taking the majority of shots from three-point range. ... Dawson County opens its season Nov. 19 at the Jackson County Thanksgiving tournament.
Key to success: The Tigers will need to find depth on the bench this year. Outside of the starting five, no player has varsity experience. With the press-and-run offense Burgess likes to run, keeping the starters fresh will be important.
Coach: Britt Beaver
2006-07 record: 13-17, 6-6; Lost in second round of state tournament
Returning starters: None
Key losses: None
Key newcomers: J.B. Baxter, Joseph Smith
Notable: Coach Beaver enters his first year as the Jackson County coach. ... With the opening of East Jackson High, the Panthers lost all but three varsity players. ... Beaver, who stated that the Panthers lost no players from last year’s team, is excited about the challenge that he has been presented with, and knows that if his younger players can improve, then the future looks bright. ... J.B. Baxter, Joseph Smith and Marquise Gillespie should all see considerable playing time this season.
Key to success: Coach Beaver expects this season to be a long one for the Panthers. If he can get his young players out on the court to gain experience, look for the Panthers to improve drastically within the next couple years.
Coach: Seth Vining
2006-07 record: 17-12, 9-4; ousted in first round of state by Southwest Atlanta Christian
Returning starters: PG Haughton Carswell (Jr.), SG David Pruett (6-2, Sr.), Kelly Nash (Sr.)
Key losses: C Rand Carswell, SG Zach Buckner
Notable: The Lions are a deep team this year with 18 on the roster. ... Lakeview’s leading scorer from 2006, Pruett is probable for Tuesday’s opener against Providence Christian after having orthoscopic knee surgery earlier this fall.
Key to success: Lakeview’s key to success in 2007 lies in its ability to score.
"We are going to have to score with more confidence," said Lakeview coach Seth Vining. "If we have guys that will step up and help us with scoring our depth and experience should help and we should have a pretty good season."
Banks County, Habersham Central, Lumpkin County and Flowery Branch could not be reached for this report.