* Team to beat: Eleanor Roosevelt.
* What makes them so good: The Raiders have a veteran backcourt, one of the county's most talented underclassmen and add two transfers to the starting lineup. Forward Jourdan Morris played at Roosevelt before transferring to Montrose Christian last season. The Saint Bonaventure signee has returned to Roosevelt and gives the Raiders an explosive scorer. The Raiders also have added former St. John's center Sean Hawkins. Together with returning center Tim Morton, the Raiders will have plenty of size inside and 6-foot-6 junior Darnell Dodson is so talented that one opposing coach says, "I don't think he knows how good he can be."
Roosevelt must deal with losing All-Met guard Ray Brewer, but seniors Pat Prewitt and Brandon McDonald provide plenty of stability in the backcourt. Brendan O'Connell and Glenn Farello officially switched titles, with O'Connell becoming the head coach and Farello the assistant.
* The contenders: Like Roosevelt, Largo and Suitland also added top transfers to fill out their rosters and add size. Largo might have the tallest lineup of any public school in the Washington area. The Maryland 4A South Region defending champion Lions already expected to be good with the return of 6-foot-7 center Stephen Wade and an experienced backcourt led by Carl Scott and Robert Pettis. Then they added 6-8 junior forward Branden Doughty from National Christian and 6-10 junior Maurice Sutton from Jericho Christian. Add to the mix 6-7 junior Norman Washington off last season's junior varsity team and Coach Lewis Howard knows he has plenty of size. "I like our options," Howard said. "We've got some trees and we like our guard play as well." . . .
Suitland added two transfers from Douglass that Coach Tyrone Massenburg believes will make his team a threat to successfully defend its first league title in 20 years: 6-9 center Cliff Dixon, who missed the second half of last season while academically ineligible, and 5-10 guard Mike Lewis, a top three-point shooter who averaged 22.8 points last season. Their presence was welcome news for a team that has no returning starters after losing center Chris Braswell to DeMatha and with guard Navorro Bowman choosing to graduate early to attend spring football practice.
* Best of the rest: Bowie made a nice run last season but has some work to do after losing 11 players from its 14-9 team. But the Bulldogs return guard Eric Henderson, who should be one of the county's top scorers, and guard Greg Adams. Senior Nigel Lee, a reserve at Eleanor Roosevelt last season, will start at center. . . . Crossland enjoyed a run to the Maryland 3A semifinals last season, but subsequently moved up in classification and returns only one starter, 6-5 forward William Foster. The Cavaliers, however, will be bolstered by a pair of transfers. Senior guard Angelo Jones was the leading scorer last season for Surrattsville and junior Darnell Anthony was Suitland's starting point guard, so Crossland might look outside more often after a season in which they went inside almost exclusively. . . .
Oxon Hill has been one of the league's top teams for many years, but this season could be a challenge. Coach Billy Lanier has no returning starters. Junior guard Cedric Daily, in his third season on the varsity, and junior forward James Grant will be counted on as team leaders. . . . Some coaches expect C.H. Flowers to be among the league's top teams. The Jaguars return three starters and 6-7 senior center Charles Thompson played quite a bit last season. Junior Jourdan Brooks and senior Justin Robertson give Coach George McClure an experienced backcourt and senior forward Rodney Williams also returns, though the Jaguars must replace guard Francis Gunn, their leading scorer last season. . . .
One familiar face returning to the sideline this season is Northwestern Coach Gerald Moore. Moore guided Friendly to three state titles but sat out last season as he was reassigned by the school system. Moore took a teaching job this season at Northwestern and takes over a team that struggled last season. The only returning starter is season forward Chuck Bunn. Senior point guard Leon Leonard and senior forward Tyrell Smith return after missing the second half of last season due to academic ineligibility. . . .
Laurel has perhaps the top center to return to his team from last season, 6-9 junior Milade Lola-Charles, who already is receiving college scholarship offers. Senior forward Brandon Simpson joins Lola-Charles in the frontcourt and Coach Keith Coutreyer hopes the return of Marcus Jones -- who was academically ineligible the second half of last season -- will provide a boost. . . . High Point Coach Reggie Williams has a pair of returning starters in senior forward Mezie Nwigwe and senior guard Justin Teklemarian. Williams is hopeful that his second season will go more smoothly than last season, when he said he had to work to get the team to play the way he wanted. . . .
Bladensburg moved into its new school building this year and has a new coach, Jim Butler. After spending 19 seasons at Surrattsville, Butler did not coach last season but now the 1997 All-Met Coach of the Year is back on the sideline, replacing Dean Brooks. "It's a really big challenge," Butler said. "Right now, the team is the go-to guy." . . . Parkdale first-year coach Robert Green hopes to improve on last season, when the Panthers won six games. Green does have four returning starters, all seniors: guard Dashaun Freeman, forwards Byron Pearce and Cedric Jones and center Stephon Farley. . . . Douglass Coach Lloyd Bryant has an equally difficult task. After going 12-11 last season in the Prince George's 3A/2A league, the Eagles moved up in classification and lost top scorer Mike Lewis to Suitland.
-- JOSH BARR