LOUDOUN COUNTY RAIDERS

* Last season: 4-18, 3-11 Northwestern District.

* Coach: Chick Bushrod (seventh season).

* Top returning players: F Walt Houseknecht, 6-2, Sr. (6.1 ppg); C Tommy Welti, 6-5, Jr.

* Key departures: G Michael Browder.

* New faces: G Tyler Ramey, 5-8, Fr.

The roster shows Loudoun County graduated only one player from last year's team. But after taking a look at one of the Raiders' practices, the team appears depleted. Injuries, some to those who play on Loudoun County's football team (guards Jonathan Lincoln and Doug Poland) and others that set players back over the summer (guards David Groy and Walt Houseknecht), have made it impossible to develop court chemistry. "We're just trying to get back into sync," Bushrod said. "Basketball conditioning and timing aren't there yet. It might take a couple of weeks to do that."

One player who has escaped injury so far has been freshman point guard Ramey, who replaces Browder, the lone graduate. Bushrod has been overwhelmed by Ramey's court sense, decision making and explosiveness.

Ramey will lead a guard-oriented team that will do much of its scoring from the perimeter. Size comes at a premium on this team, so the Raiders' big man, 6-5 Tommy Welti, will be counted on to neutralize opposing big men.

SCHEDULE

(All nontournament games start at 7:30 p.m.)

December

3 Fauquier (L 59-58)

7 at Liberty (L, 64-60)

10 at Handley

11 Sherando

14 Broad Run

17 at Park View

27-29 Tip-Off Tournament at Park View

January

4 at Potomac Falls

7 Loudoun Valley

8 at Fauquier

14 Liberty

21 Handley

22 Warren County

25 at Broad Run

28 Park View

February

1 at Sherando

4 at Warren County

11 Potomac Falls

18 at Loudoun Valley

22, 25-26 District tournament

LOUDOUN VALLEY VIKINGS

* Last season: 22-6, 11-3 Northwestern District

* Coach: Scott Douglas (33rd season, 381-279).

* Top returning players: G Anthony Long, 6-3, Sr. (7.5 ppg); F/C Steve Dellinger, 6-5, Sr. (5.0 ppg).

* Key departures: G Gary Brown (15.3 ppg, first-team All-Extra); G T.J. Dorsey (16.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 4.1 spg, first-team All-Extra); F Brad Clegg (14.1 ppg, 3.4 bpg, first-team All-Extra)

* New faces: G Adam Harper 5-10, Soph.; G Travis Kidd 6-2, Soph.

The trio of Brown, Dorsey and Clegg scored two-thirds of the Vikings' points last year and led them to a school-record 22 victories. Now that they have graduated, Douglas needs to work a little magic to rebuild his program. "The thing about high school basketball is that it's always cyclical," Douglas said. "You're at the mercy of what kids come through your area. But while we're inexperienced and young, we're also talented and deep. There are 10 guys here who will play."

He may have found lightning in a bottle in sophomore guard Kidd, whose flair for flash imitates that of his NBA namesake, the Phoenix Suns' Jason Kidd. "He could be one of the better passers I've ever had," said Douglas, who enters his 33rd year at Loudoun Valley. "The players are going to have to be awake out there because he could stick [a pass] in their ear if they're not looking. But he's a very exciting player."

By mid-season, Kidd and two-year starter Long could form the Northwestern District's best back court. Joining them in the guard rotation will be 5-10 senior Kevin McKay, who has impressed Douglas in practices after playing sparingly last year, and sophomore Harper, who brings a solid jumper and good decision making for someone his age.

Up front, the Vikings have the size (three players 6-5 and taller) to control the boards and wear down opponents. Seniors Steve Dellinger and Jeff Hedrick likely will start, but Douglas likes what he has seen of sophomore Dan Hyatt.

SCHEDULE

(All nontournament games start at 7:30 p.m. unless noted otherwise.)

December

11 Brentsville (6:30 p.m.)

14 Potomac Falls

17 at Liberty

18 at James Wood

21 Broad Run

27-29 LTM Tournament at Park View

January

4 at Warren County

7 at Loudoun County

11 James Wood

14 at Handley

21 Park View

22 at Brentsville (6:30 p.m.)

25 at Potomac Falls

28 Liberty

February

1 Handley

4 at Broad Run

11 Warren County

12 at Park View

18 Loudoun County

22, 25-26 District tournament

POTOMAC FALLS PANTHERS

* Last season: 5-17, 2-12 Northwestern District.

* Coach: Jeff Hawes (third season, 7-37).

* Top returning players: C Ian Duff, 6-5, Sr.

* Key departures: F Jordan Grantham (9.1 ppg).

* New faces: F Robbie Bouman, 6-4, Sr.; G Demario McClearry, 5-7, Jr.; G Dustin Embry, 6-1, Sr.

Hawes had a plan to build Potomac Falls's basketball program when the school opened three years ago. Now he is entering stage two of that plan, and this is when it should get fun for the Panthers. Hawes purposely kept a nine-man unit together on the junior varsity squad last season to develop chemistry and camaraderie among the players, knowing full well they would form the core of his varsity team this season and next. "This was the plan," Hawes said. "It didn't just accidentally happen."

Executing the plan on the court will be point guard McClearry, who learned his teammates' quirks and nuances the past two seasons directing the JV team.

In addition to those nine juniors, two seniors will join the program and step into the starting lineup. After leading the Panthers JV team in scoring in 1997-98, Bouman, a 6-4 power forward, took last season off to concentrate on baseball; he is the shortstop on Potomac Falls's baseball team. In preseason drills, Bouman has shown little rustiness and a nice medium-range jumper. Embry, a 6-1 shooting guard as well as a linebacker on the Panthers' football team, is new to the school and has impressed Hawes with his shooting range. Embry is familiar with the starting small forward. Jason Lutman played in the same linebacking unit with Embry on Potomac Falls's football team.

The Panthers aren't going to win with flash. Hawes says this is his strongest and most physical team and will try to take advantage of those assets on defense and inside play.

SCHEDULE

(All nontournament games start at 7:30 p.m.)

December

3 at Broad Run (L, 49-48)

7 at George Mason (W, 64-52)

10 Warren County

14 at Loudoun Valley

17 Handley

21 Park View

27-29 LTM Tournament at Park View

January

4 Loudoun County

7 Liberty

11 at Brentsville

14 Broad Run

15 Brentsville

21 at Warren County

25 Loudoun Valley

28 at Handley

February

4 Park View

11 at Loudoun County

15 George Mason

18 at Liberty

22, 25-26 District tournament