Nine victories, four losses.
That was the record the 10 teams in the Prince George's 3A/2A/1A League had last year in the postseason against teams from other counties, and half of those losses came on the final day of the season, when Central and Gwynn Park lost in the Maryland 2A and 3A finals, respectively.
"The league had a tremendous amount of talent, every night you had great players going up against each other, and great teams, and everyone knew who the great players were before the season," Gwynn Park Coach Steve Matthews said. "This year, the best players are more of an unknown, but the talent is there. It will just take some time to find out who's got it."
Chances are the talent will be at Gwynn Park, Friendly and Fairmont Heights this season, as those three teams appear to lead the field.
Three starters graduated at Gwynn Park, including its two leading scorers -- All-Met point guard Louis Hinnant (18.2 points per game) and guard Darrick Sesker (18 ppg). This season, the burden falls to senior center Tariq Bond (7 ppg, 7 rebounds per game) and senior guard Edwin Davis (6 ppg, 3 assists per game) to lead the defending county and 3A East Region champions, who won a school-record 18 games last season.
Though Gwynn Park will look for breakthrough seasons from seven first-year varsity players, Matthews has consistently found a way to replenish his talent pool. Matthews has led the Yellow Jackets to five state tournament appearances in his 10 seasons, and has lost three state championship games -- in 1999, 2000 and last season -- by a total of eight points.
Though Matthews is confident he has the talent to win, so is Friendly Coach Gerald Moore. The Patriots return two senior starters -- point guard Trevon Jackson (10 ppg, 5 apg, 2 steals per game) and forward Jonathan Strong (7 ppg, 5 rpg) -- and six players overall from a team that was eliminated by Annapolis in the 3A East Region semifinals for the second straight season.
Friendly will need junior forward Sam Young (8 ppg, 10 rpg, 2 blocks per game) and senior forward King Minor (5 ppg) to replace the graduated Steve Nelson and Andrew Washington, who collectively averaged 33.5 points per game.
"This team is a lot closer than the one we had last year," said Moore, whose team went 19-5, but was 4-4 in games decided by single digits. "Entering the season we are further ahead of where we were last year going into the season."
Though Fairmont Heights two-time All-Met shooting guard Chris McCray (26.7 ppg) is now at the University of Maryland, the Hornets have plenty of talent to contend for the county title and, more important, the school's first state title in 22 years.
Junior forward Keith Edmonds (12.8 ppg, 8 rpg, 2 bpg) could be one of the area's best players this season, and should emerge as sophomore point guard Wesley Sweet's favorite target. Edmonds will be complemented by senior forward Terrance Milford (7 ppg, 5 rpg) and senior forward Ihsan Robinson, whose tremendous athleticism could make him a major contributor this season in his first year of high school basketball, according to Coach George Wake.
"I like the balance we have on our team this year," Wake said. "We have Wesley, who does not turn the ball over, period, and then we have Keith, who keeps getting better every day, can finish the play."
Bladensburg and Central, the two teams that advanced to the 2A South Region final last year, will need to have last year's role players be more dominant this year if they are to contend for league and region titles. Bladensburg has just one starter returning -- senior point guard Chris Nichols (6.4 ppg, 10 apg, 3 spg) -- from last year's team that lost to Central, 88-80, denying the Mustangs their first state tournament appearance in 23 years.
Bladensburg must fill the scoring void left by All-Met Calvin Cage (24.4 ppg), and most of that responsibility will be left to senior guard Channing Lincoln (4 ppg) and senior forward Don Marshall (4 ppg, 4 rpg). The Mustangs also need senior forward Yusif Leigh and junior forward Leon Myers, who were the junior varsity team's leading scorers last season, to have breakthrough varsity seasons.
Central is left with just one returning starter -- senior Chris Henderson (6 ppg, 4 apg, 2 spg) -- from last year's Maryland 2A runner-up team.
Three other seniors -- guard Jamar Spruill (2 ppg), guard Terrance Norris (2 ppg) and forward Uchenna Nwokorie (2 ppg, 3 rpg) -- will have to pitch in to offset the loss of West Otis III, who is now playing for Suitland. Their development will be key if the Falcons hope to make the 2A South Region final for the eighth consecutive season.
"Losing West hurts because he was a threat to score every time he had the ball," said Central Coach Brian Taylor, who took over for Walter Fulton after he stepped down after 22 seasons last spring. "But we have a lot of guys who have shown promise and can take his spot for us this season.
Potomac has a pair of returning senior starters in guards Gordon Bunn (8 ppg, 5 rpg) and Emmanuel Jean-Francois (7 ppg, 3 spg). Senior guards Nicholas Griffin (8 ppg, 3 rpg) and Maurice Henderson, who is the team's best defender, played in 23 and 15 games, respectively, last season and could help make the Wolverines the county's most improved team after going 9-15 last year.
Surrattsville won nine games last season -- three more than in 2000-01 -- and will rely heavily on senior point guard Chris Brown (8 ppg, 7.5 apg, 4 spg) to continue its progress toward returning to the county's elite. The Hornets, who won the Maryland 2A title in 1997, will look to senior forward Lamar Bentley (7 ppg, 6 rpg, 4 apg) to provide added scoring for a team that went 5-7 in games decided by 10 points or less last season.
Douglass is building for the future. The Eagles' top six scorers and all five starters from a year ago graduated, taking with them 1,250 of the team's 1,479 points last season (84 percent). Senior point guard Wendell Salisbury (7 ppg, 3 apg) is the team's top returning player, and Coach Taft Hickman is hoping a pair of juniors -- forward Otis Wilson and forward Devon Bazil -- can take charge of a team that finished last season by losing six of its final eight games.
Forestville has won just three of 38 games the past two seasons, and first-year coach Glennard Johnson has his work cut out for him. The Knights have just one returning starter -- senior forward Aaron Payne (9 ppg, 7 rpg) -- and will need contributions from sophomore guard Jerrell Suber (7 ppg), senior guard Josh Payton (7 ppg) and senior center Quentin Jones (7 ppg).