MONTGOMERY 4A

Outlook: Gaithersburg, which lost to Sherwood in the Maryland 4A West Region final last season, returns "basically the same team," Coach Paul Foringer said. Six players that started at some point during the season are back. Quince Orchard, which fell to Gaithersburg on a buzzer-beating three-pointer in the regional semifinals, returns the tallest front court in Montgomery 4A, led by 6-6 C Greg Rector and 6-6 F Javon Saulter. Led by Maurece Wilkins, considered by some one of the state's top guards, Springbrook should be in the mix.

Players to watch: F Donnell King, Gaithersburg, (6-4), Jr., 10 ppg; C Greg Rector, Quince Orchard, (6-6), Sr., 19.6 ppg, 12 rpg; C Norman Smith, Gaithersburg, (6-4), Sr., 10 ppg; F Tucker Welch, Churchill, (6-4), Sr., 16 ppg; G Maurece Wilkins, Springbrook, (6-3), Sr., 16 ppg.

MONTGOMERY 3A

Outlook: Wheaton appears to be the class of a division loaded with talent. The Knights, who went 19-5 last season, will start with the same starters that defeated Montrose Christian in the Montgomery County summer league final. Marvin Moss was a breakout performer over the summer and Coach Scott Spear called returning senior Kweku Pesseh "maybe the best point guard in the county." Expectations also are high at Kennedy, which has three starters returning.

Players to watch: F Sadiq Abdul-Ali, Kennedy, (6-4), Sr., 15 ppg; G Donte Alexander, Wheaton, (6-2), Sr., 18.9 ppg; G Tavarise Cooper, Richard Montgomery, (6-1), Sr., 15 ppg; C Marvin Moss, Wheaton, (6-5, 240), Sr., 10 ppg, 7 rpg, 3 bpg; G-F LeVar Scott, Seneca Valley, (6-3), Sr., 18 ppg.

MONTGOMERY 2A/1A

Outlook: This league is up for grabs, as four of the five teams had losing records last season, and the fifth, Blake, played a junior varsity schedule. Bethesda-Chevy Chase figures to be a front-runner, led by G Ujzdarski Jackson, who averaged 24 points per game in the Jelleff summer league and was named most valuable player of its all-star game. The Barons also will be boosted by 6-3 junior F Robert Parris, a transfer from Carroll. Northwest has four starters and nearly its entire team back from last season, but lost 6-7 sophomore C Ryan Lambert (14 ppg, 10 rpg) to Montrose Christian.

Players to watch: C George Hackey, Northwest, (6-4, 225), Sr., 10 ppg, 10 rpg; G Kalfani Hoag, Blake, (5-9), Jr.; G Ujzdarski Jackson, Bethesda-Chevy Chase, (5-10), Jr.; F Trip O'Connell, Bethesda-Chevy Chase, (6-2), Sr., 11 ppg; G Andrew Randolph, Poolesville, (6-1), Sr., 8.5 ppg.

-- Nathan Max

PRINCE GEORGE'S 4A

Outlook: Oxon Hill (24-3), the two-time defending county champion, has lost in the 4A state final the past two years. And as Parkdale Coach Bob Johnson said, "Oxon Hill is the team to beat as long as [senior Michael] Sweetney is there." Sweetney, an All-Met center who has committed to play for Georgetown, is big (6-8, 285 pounds) yet agile. He is surrounded by quality players as well: senior point G Richard Little, junior Gs Lamar Butler and Phil Goss and senior F Ronald Miller, who has unofficially committed to Howard. Eleanor Roosevelt (14-11) will challenge the Clippers for the top spot, with Rhode Island-bound G Delonte Holland, and junior Gs Eddie Basden and Delonte West (the team's leading scorer during fall league).

Players to watch: C Michael Sweetney, Oxon Hill, (6-8), Sr., 25 ppg, 13.5 rpg, 5 bpg; G Richard Little, Oxon Hill, (5-10), Sr., 8 ppg, 10.5 apg, 2.5 spg; G Delonte Holland, Eleanor Roosevelt, (6-5), Sr., 18 ppg, 10 rpg; G Edward Basden, Eleanor Roosevelt, (6-4), Jr., 10 ppg, 7 rpg, 4.5 spg; G Jocara Knight, Laurel, (6-1), Sr., 9 ppg; F Aaron Gill, Laurel, Sr., 10 ppg, 8 rpg.

PRINCE GEORGE'S 3A

Outlook: Parity is the key now that Gwynn Park, a 3A state finalist last season, has dropped down to 2A. Friendly is the favorite by default -- the Patriots (18-5) are the defending county champions, though they have only four seniors returning. Junior point G Bryan Harrod will lead a young team that likely will need some seasoning. Bladensburg (14-11) has nine returning players -- but only one returning starter -- from a team that upset Friendly in the playoffs before losing to DuVal in the region semifinals. Crossland (14-8) will rely on several players who starred on a 17-2 junior varsity team last season.

Players to watch: G Bryan Harrod, Friendly, (6-2), Jr., 9 ppg, 8.3 apg; James Simms, Bladensburg, (6-4), Sr., 8 ppg, 6 rpg; G Rolando David, Bladensburg, (6-3), 10 ppg, 5 rpg; G Chris Clark, DuVal, (6-2), Sr., 7 ppg; G Curtis Bunn, Crossland, (6-4), Sr., 22 ppg on JV team.

-- Camille Powell

PRINCE GEORGE'S 2A

Outlook: With four of the league's six teams advancing to at least the regional finals in their respective classes, Gwynn Park, which dropped from 3A this season, tops what could be the most competitive league in the area. Gwynn Park, a state finalist last season despite finishing 13-14, returns four starters. The Yellow Jackets will be challenged by five-time county champion Central (22-5), which returns three starters from a team that lost in the state semifinals to Dunbar of Baltimore. Surrattsville (19-6) also has four starters returning from a team that lost to Central in the regional final.

Players to watch: G Brandon Thomas, Potomac, (6-3), Sr., 13 ppg; G Charles Ford, Gwynn Park, (6-4), Sr., 17 ppg, 10 rpg.; G Terrell Millington, Surrattsville, (6-4), Sr., 14.9 ppg, 7 rpg; G Kevin Jolley, Fairmont Heights, (6-4), Jr., 19.7 ppg; G Jeffrey Boston, Fairmont Heights, (6-2), 14 ppg; Sean Brooks, Central, (6-6), Sr., 20 ppg, 17 rpg.

-- Jon Gallo

ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

Outlook: Annapolis, Meade and Broadneck figure to be strong as usual, but North County likely will make some noise. Spalding, which plays in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference and the Catholic League, should be among the top public and private school teams in the state after its 31-5 season last year. Annapolis (23-2) should be at the top among the public schools. Coach John Brady's team will have a devastating combination in seniors G Marcus Johnson and F Thomas Hawkins and junior G Marcus Neal, each of whom averaged 15 points per game last season.

Players to watch: G Derrick Snowden, Spalding, (6-2), Sr., 10.6 ppg, 6.1 apg; G Mark Jennings, North County, (6-5), Jr., 16 ppg; G Marcus Johnson, Annapolis, (6-5), Sr., 15 ppg; F Thomas Hawkins, Annapolis, (6-5), Sr., 15 ppg; F Doug Underwood, Meade, (6-2), Jr., 11 ppg.

-- Jeff Seidel

HOWARD COUNTY

Outlook: Though many of the county's coaches and their inexperienced teams may be looking toward the future, Wilde Lake and its five returning starters are focused on the present task of dethroning defending county champion Oakland Mills. Wildecats Coach Lester Clay will return this year after missing much of last season for medical reasons. Waiting for Clay will be a squad that includes eight returning players from a team that finished 12-13, but tied for second in the county going 12-6. Centennial returns four starters from last year's 11-12 team.

Players to watch: G Jeff Bright, Wilde Lake, (6-1), Sr., 12 ppg; G Brian O'Connor, Centennial, (6-1), Jr., 15 ppg; G-F Chris Bowen, Glenelg, (6-3), Jr., 9 ppg; F Tally White, Long Reach, (6-5), Sr., 8 ppg.

-- Jon Gallo

SOUTHERN MARYLAND ATHLETIC CONFERENCE

Outlook: Westlake (22-3) is the defending SMAC champion but it won't be easy for the Wolverines to repeat. Westlake lost four starters from last season, including 6-8 C Gregg Jones. The lone returning starter is 6-4, 280-pound F Randy Starks, who could be the league's most dominant player. Providing the biggest challenge for Westlake will be Patuxent, the league runner-up last season, St. Mary's Ryken and Great Mills. The Panthers (18-5) have three starters returning and have back G Kavin Gantt, a standout player as a sophomore who missed last season with a knee injury.

Players to watch: G Eric Gross, Patuxent, (6-0), Sr., 15 ppg, 6.8 rpg; F Wade Lewis, St. Mary's Ryken (6-7), Sr., 9 rpg; G Chad Maloney, St. Mary's Ryken, (6-1), Sr., 16 ppg; F-C Randy Starks, Westlake, (6-4), Jr., 8 ppg, 7 rpg; G Dabren Wills, St. Mary's Ryken, (6-0), Sr., 5 apg.

-- Angie Watts

BELTWAY BASKETBALL LEAGUE

Outlook: Montrose Christian, under new coach Stu Vetter, has three players who have unofficially committed to play for Division I teams. It also has F Levi Watkins, considered by some the nation's top junior. Riverdale Baptist will be bolstered by G Kevin Bell, a transfer from Rice High School in New York and an American University signee. The Heights are not necessarily appropriately named -- the Cavaliers' tallest players are F Andrew Dausch and Peter Jaxcsens, both 6-4. Takoma Academy added G Tamir Goodman to its quick, athletic lineup, though its tallest player is 6-4 senior C Teddy Stewart.

Players to watch: C Mohammed Diakite, Montrose Christian, (6-11), Sr., 15.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg; G Kevin Bell, Riverdale Baptist (6-4), Sr., 19 ppg; G Jason Forte, The Heights, (6-0), Jr., transfer from DeMatha; G Wayne Gibson, Riverdale Baptist, (6-5), Sr., 26 ppg; G Tamir Goodman, Takoma Academy, (6-3), Sr., 36.4 ppg at Talmudical Academy; G Marvin Lewis, Montrose Christian, (6-4), Sr., 17.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg; Levi Watkins, Montrose Christian, (6-7), Jr., 15.2 ppg, 8.2 rpg at Palotti.

IAC

Outlook: Defending conference champion Bullis has won three of the past four league titles. The Bulldogs' strongest competition likely will come from Georgetown Prep and St. Stephen's/St. Agnes. The Little Hoyas expect to start four players 6-6 or taller. The Saints have three-year starters Mike Lederman, Garret Thomas and Jason Whitehead returning.

Players to watch: G-F Justin Burns, Georgetown Prep, (6-7), Jr., 19 ppg at Durango (NV) High; G Adam Harper, St. Albans, (6-1), Sr., 15 ppg; F Garret Thomas, St. Stephen's/St. Agnes, (6-5), Sr., 14 ppg, 10 rpg; G Jason Whitehead, St. Stephen's/St. Agnes, (6-1), Sr., 13 ppg, 3 spg.

MID-ATLANTIC CONFERENCE

Outlook: Sidwell enters its first season in the conference with five starting seniors, including 5-10 point G Brett Farley. Potomac School G Alex Mikszewski averaged more than 22 points in the team's summer league games. Maret must replace four starters, including graduated All-Met Tony Dobbins (24 ppg).

Players to watch: G Quentin Fairman, Maret, (6-3), Jr., 15 ppg; G Nick Friedman, Sidwell Friends, (5-11), Sr., 15 ppg; F Sebastian Hermenier, Maret, (6-6), Jr., 15 ppg; G Alex Mikszewski, Potomac School, (6-1), Jr., 11.5 ppg; C Chris Wilson, Sidwell Friends, 6-8, 13 ppg.

DCIAA

Outlook: DCIAA teams have won three of the past four City Titles, and Spingarn is a strong contender to win its first crown since 1985. The Green Wave (23-3) has four starters returning from a team that advanced to the DCIAA final before losing to Dunbar. Defending City Title champion Dunbar lost four starters, though it has several transfers, including F Mauricio Branwell and G Paul Bailey. Anacostia (19-5) has one starter back.

Players to watch: G Paul Bailey, Dunbar, (6-5), Jr., 24 ppg at Ballou; G O'Neal Cover, Coolidge, (6-3), Sr., 19 ppg at T. Roosevelt; F Matthew Crowder, Bell, (6-7), Sr., 15 ppg, 9 rpg; G Howard Gilmore, H.D. Woodson, (6-4), Sr., 14 ppg at Ballou; G El Hidji Niane, Bell, (6-1), Sr., 20 ppg; F Deon Saunders, Spingarn, (6-6), Sr., 24 ppg.

WCAC

Outlook: Despite five first-team All-Mets from last season having graduated, this still is one of the strongest conferences in the country. The only difference from last year may be the teams at the top. Good Counsel and Gonzaga, WCAC finalists last year, both must replace their entire starting lineups. DeMatha lost three starters, including graduated All-Met Gs Joe Forte and Keith Bogans, but has won at least 20 games in each of the past 41 seasons under Coach Morgan Wootten. The loss of experienced talent at the top could open the door for McNamara, Carroll and Paul VI Catholic (with new coach Red Jenkins and junior F Tyree Spinner). McNamara returns several key players, including F Maurice Young (a Virginia signee), the school's all-time leading scorer with 1,418 points. Carroll has three starters returning and likely will start five seniors, including Tulane-bound David Hawkins.

Players to watch: G David Hawkins, Carroll, (6-4), Sr., 19 ppg, 8 rpg; G Luke Martin, St. John's, (6-0), Sr., 10 ppg; F Tyree Spinner, Paul VI, (6-7), Jr., 12 ppg, 11 rpg; G Donnell Young, Carroll, (6-2), Sr., 12 ppg; G Billy Edelin, DeMatha, (6-1), Jr., 7 ppg; F Maurice Young, McNamara, (6-5), Sr., 22 ppg, 7 rpg.

PVAC

Outlook: The conference will be divided into north and south divisions for the first time. Barrie joined the conference this year; Jewish Day and Barrie have built new gyms; and St. Anselm's likely will break ground on a gym to replace the 53-year-old facility it uses in the spring. One thing that didn't change much was defending champion Field School's lineup. The Falcons have three key players back, including PVAC tournament MVP C Justin Nance.

Players to watch: F Derek Apfel, St. Anselm's, (6-1), Sr., 11.5 ppg, 9 rpg; G Gabe Dymond, Jewish Day, (6-0), Soph., 11 ppg; F Adam Heller, Jewish Day, (6-4), Sr., 10 rpg; C Justin Nance, Field School, (6-5), Sr., 14.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg.

INDEPENDENTS/OTHERS

Outlook: Newport School has one of the area's most talented teams. Juniors F James White and G T.J. Thompson are being recruited by several Division I schools and Tigers Coach Chris Chaney expects 6-7 F Harding Nguepnana, a transfer from Cameroon, to receive attention from Division I schools as the season progresses. Notre Dame must replace graduated All-Met G Jamaal Gilchrist, but returns F David Aliu, a native of Liverpool, England.

Players to watch: F David Aliu, Notre Dame, (6-7), Sr., 11.6 ppg; G Jonathan Bunch, Capitol Christian, (6-2), Soph., 15.3 ppg; G Warren Robinson, Capitol Christian, (6-3), Sr., 20.2 ppg, 11.8 rpg; F James White, Newport School, (6-7), Jr., 10 ppg.

-- Christian Swezey

VIRGINIA CARDINAL DISTRICT

Teams to watch: As usual, Woodbridge (19-6), Gar-Field (21-5) and Potomac (17-8), in no particular order. Woodbridge beat Gar-Field in a playback game to claim the regular season district title last season. Gar-Field rebounded to knock off Potomac in the Cardinal tournament championship, snapping the Panthers' streak of four consecutive district titles. Many consider Hylton (8-13) a dark horse in the seven-school district.

Players to watch: G Maurice Watkins, Woodbridge, (6-0), Sr., 14.9 ppg; F Jernavis Draughn, Potomac, (6-5), Sr., 14.9 ppg; F David Hooper, Gar-Field, (6-5), Jr., 13.3 ppg; F Cameron Kirby, Potomac, (6-6), Sr., committed to Elon College.

-- Preston Williams

VIRGINIA AAA COMMONWEALTH

Outlook: New rule: There won't be a regular season champion. The two teams that make it to the final will automatically advance to the regional tournament. With last year's district champion Courtland leaving because of realignment, Brooke Point, Culpeper and Stafford figure to be the top teams. Colonial Forge, in its first year of existence, had only 12 players try out and likely will struggle, as will a young and inexperienced Stafford team.

Players to watch: G-F Marcus Williams, Fauquier, (6-1), Jr., 12 ppg; G Hugh Parker, Stafford, (5-6), Sr., 8 ppg; G Rudy Kelly, Stafford, (6-0), Sr., 7 ppg; G Vince Hunt, Brooke Point, (6-4), Sr., 15 ppg; C Chris Behrens, Brooke Point, (6-7), Sr., 7 ppg.

VIRGINIA AAA CONCORDE

Outlook: South Lakes, which won the region last year and was the state runner-up, returns three starters (eight players total) and is clearly the class of the district. Led by a trio of senior guards -- Dustin Hellenga, Duke Cooper and Darren Lake -- the Seahawks (24-6) are looking to win the state title this year. Chantilly, Herndon, Centreville and Oakton have strong teams, but lack the firepower to compete with South Lakes.

Players to watch: G Dustin Hellenga, South Lakes, (6-4), Sr., 23 ppg; G Steven Harvin, Centreville, (6-0), Jr., 17 ppg; Alex Tombras, Centreville, (6-2), Sr., 12 ppg; G Kevin Brown, Oakton, (6-0), Sr., 15 ppg; G Duke Cooper, South Lakes, (6-4), Sr., 12 ppg.

VIRGINIA AAA LIBERTY

Outlook: Entering the season, Lee -- which returns three starters and features a solid starting five -- is the prohibitive favorite to repeat as district champion. Fairfax has a competitive team and should contend. The sleeper may be McLean, which has seven players returning and is coming off its best season (14 wins) since 1991. Woodson, which moved from Concorde to Liberty, has a first-year coach in Mike Flugrath.

Players to watch: G James Camlicay, McLean, (6-4), Sr., 8 ppg, 5 rpg; G Mike Daniels, Fairfax, (6-3), Sr., 17.6 ppg; F C.J. Vick, Lee, 6-7, Sr., 14 ppg; F Brendon Orsinger, Madison, (6-4), Sr., 13 ppg, 7 rpg; G Branden Wood, Fairfax, (6-2), Sr., 8.1 ppg, 3 apg.

VIRGINIA AAA NATIONAL

Outlook: Mount Vernon is stacked with talent, but will have to contend with Washington and Lee, last year's National District champion. Mount Vernon, which is 35-13 over the last two seasons, has a new coach in Bryan Hill. Wakefield, led by G Antoine Townsend, has depth and could be a surprise.

Players to watch: G Kelvin Coggins, Mount Vernon, (6-3), Sr., 14 ppg; F-C Chris Malifau, Mount Vernon, (6-6), Sr., 3 ppg; G Antoine Townsend, Wakefield, (5-10), Sr., 10 ppg; G Mike Mawlava, Wakefield, (5-7), Jr., 14 ppg.

VIRGINIA AAA PATRIOT

Outlook: Hayfield returns only two players -- senior Fs Mark Stafford and Joe Hardin -- from last year's district title team, and will find it tough to match last year's 24-2 mark. Robinson, which has three starters back, could be without senior G RaMell Ross for the entire season because of a serious shoulder injury that might require surgery. He is the team's only returning starter.

Players to watch: G RaMell Ross, Robinson, (6-5), Sr., 22 ppg; F Mark Stafford, Hayfield, (6-2), Sr., 12 ppg; F Joe Hardin, Hayfield, (6-3), Sr., 12 ppg.

-- Tarik El-Bashir and Jon Gallo