A balanced Montgomery AA League, a Prince George's AA that could be dominated by two schools with tall front lines, and a Howard County player whom collegiate scouts are watching will highlight the upcoming 1984-85 Maryland boys high school basketball season.
In Montgomery AA, parity is at issue, where seven schools are considered contenders for the state playoffs.
Heading the list is defending Maryland Class AA champion Bethesda-Chevy Chase, which graduated its leading scorer and rebounder from last year's team, prompting Coach Bill Wright to quip about the Barons' strengths: "I wish I had some."
Wright does, however, have an experienced guard in 6-6 Mark Karver, who started as a sophomore on the title team.
Springbrook, only 10-12 last season, has the most returning starters in the league. And all fill key positions.
Guard Mike Mundy and 6-4 forward Kevin Joyce, who together averaged 32 points a game, will provide the offense. Center Tim Lea, who averaged nine rebounds, will support the defense.
Wootton Coach Stan Wolk, whose team lost in the state regional playoffs last season after winning the title the preceding year, will be able to depend on a full season from 6-5 senior center Jack Lynch, a key player who competed only part of last season because of academic problems. Three-year starter Rob McGothlin (14 points) and defensive standout Bill Copenhaver bring experience to the guard positions.
Blair was 19-4 last season and reached the regional finals. The Blazers graduated their leading scorer but return three-year starter, 6-6 forward Shaun Lewis, the team's strength on the boards. Senior center Max Hill (6-3), who played parttime last year, 6-7 reserve Herbert Alleyne, guard Vincent Smith and forward Derrick Sewer are being asked for team leadership.
With its leading scorer last year, Charlie Thomas, playing at Wake Forest, Coach Gene Doane says his inexperienced Seneca Valley Screaming Eagles will have to be team-oriented to reach the playoffs. Point guard Greg Perigard is the leading returning scorer with five points a game.
Churchill, 12-10 last year, shows strength under the boards and quickness outside.
Six-foot-six center Tommy Ladd and guard Mitchell Dove are experienced, and 6-4 forward Jimmy Collishaw, a starter last season who is injured, should be able play in January.
His school's advancement from Class A to AA this year concerns Wheaton Coach Tom Crowell, whose team was 18-4 last season and reached the state semifinals. But the Knights have 20-point scorer Tom Addison at the No. 2 guard and experienced Chris Kontsis running the offense at point.
In Montgomery A, few would argue that Paint Branch and Kennedy have the best chance at reaching the playoffs.
The Panthers lack height but are quick and will start five players who had playing time last year. Guards Jeff Parker (16 points) and Cliff Warren will carry the scoring burden while 6-1 center Mark Joseph will have to hold his own against taller opponents underneath.
Kennedy Coach Dennis Drown has three returning starters. Included are forward Curtis Pride (who averaged six assists), forward Mike Wills (leading scorer with 16 points) and 6-4 center Curtis Thorton (eight rebounds).
Last year, Woodward started the season 2-8 but ended up in the Maryland Class C title game against Mount Hebron. The Wildcats could perhaps do the same this season. "Right now I can't give you a logical answer (about how good the team is this year)," says Coach Tom George. "I can give you a much better answer in January."
Shawn Prather, quarterback of the state champion football team, averaged 15 points a game for Magruder last year and will be the key if the Colonials return to the state basketball playoffs.
In Prince George's AA, Suitland and Northwestern could hold the advantage with tall front lines.
Northwestern's two seniors, 6-9 David Gregg (Maryland) and 6-10 Bryan Tucker (Villanova), have signed letters of intent. With returning starter sophomore Clinton Venable, guard Mike Morrison, guard Tony Crawford and forward Damon Ramsey, the Wildcats are balanced in scoring and rebounding.
Suitland comes closer to matching up with Northwestern than any team and has four starters returning that have played together for three years. Six-foot-five guard Roddy Peters, 6-7 guard Luis Harris and 6-9 center Marvin Gant together averaged 47 points last season for Suitland (20-2).
Coach Irvin Hay also has a bench that averages 6-5, including 6-5, 240-pound center Brian Lewis.
Potomac was one point away from going to Cole Field House and the state semifinals last year. But most of the players are gone, leaving Coach Taft Hickman with a young squad.
Chris Davis, a transfer who averaged 14 points for his Winston Salem, N.C., high school team that made it to the North Carolina final four, will help run Potomac's three-guard offense.
Friendly, which made it to the state semifinals last year, will be under the direction of a new coach, Bob Lynch. The Patriots feature 6-8 center John Smith (17 points, nine rebounds).
Forestville, Fairmont Heights and Gwynn Park all look strong in Prince George's AB. Fairmont Heights was 13-11 last year and returns four starters and 6-6 senior center Joe Phelps. Point guard Ronald Stroud, guard Ronald Travers, small forward Chris Smith and forward Stacey Rogers together averaged 40 points.
Gwynn Park starts forward Steve Hinciliffe, who led the junior varsity in scoring last year, and returns 20-point scorer Lance Boyd at guard. The Yellow Jackets have support from the bench in point guard Kevin Hall, who scored 21 points in Gwynn Park's first game this season.
In Southern Maryland, McDonough Coach Evan Falkehagen says his 6-6 center Jimmy Parker blocked 125 shots in 25 games last season. McDonough also has "exceptionally good" point guard Dornell Griffin and the leading scorers from last year's junior varsity, Kevin Marshall and Rodney Smoot.
But what also worries him is Lackey High's "killer instinct." The Indians, quick and good shooters, but inexperienced on the front line, are led by senior guard Kent Smith (14 points).
Chopticon, 11-11 a year ago, is set at all positions. Terrence Allen (17.5 points, 3.5 assists) directs the offense at guard and Ricky Long and Billy Holt (11 rebounds each) apply the defense.
Every time Howard County's Quinton Burton strolls into a gym this season, you can be sure every seat in the house will be taken. Burton (17 points, 8.5 rebounds), and Hammond's 6-5 junior, has been looked at by most college coaches.
Hammond is also stacked at other spots: J.J. Martin, Spencer Fitzgerald, John Santos and Vincent Barnes averaged 44 points between them last year.
The other player on showcase in the county, Barry Young of Mount Hebron, averaged 22 points his freshman year to lead his team to the Maryland Class B title. But he is his team's only player with experience.
Oakland Mills, 17-5 last year, has two big forwards in Sean McMillan (6-5, 200) and Kevin Sykes (6-4, 190). The two last year combined for 20 points and 14 rebounds a game.
In Ann Arundel AA, Old Mill, Meade and Arundel will attempt to unseat Annapolis, which reached the Class AA title game, but has lost seven players.
At Arundel, Lee Rogers begins his first year as coach with one returning starter. Guard Gary Myers, who averaged 13 points last year, will have to carry the load.