Even though New Hope Academy will not return a single starter from a team that reached the Class A district championship game a year ago, New Hope Academy has talent. The Ants just might not look like the high-scoring squad from a year ago.
"Last year, I just had some flat-out scorers," head coach Anthony Hall said.
Hall, in his third-year with the charter school, notes his team might look different this year, but he still has high expectations for his program. Last year the Ants went 18-9, reaching the second round of the state tournament. New Hope could run and score. This year, defense could be the spark New Hope uses to start their offense.
"I have a lot of blue-collar guys that can get up and defend," Hall said.
A valuable reserve last year, senior small forward Kaewan Matthews returns as a high-energy player, able to spark the team by creating offense off steals.
New Hope also has some size, which can always be tricky for opponents to defend in the Class A bracket.
Dennis Harris (6-foot-3) will provide a post presence, while senior Ishmeal Brown (6-4) could also be a valuable player. Dommique Salisbury transferred from William Penn, and freshman Montrel Morgan could be competing for a starting spot by the end of the season.
Looking back at last year, Hall believes New Hope's players might have been overwhelmed in the opening minutes of the district championship game. It's understandable. But while the team lost some valuable players from that squad, there's no reason to lower his expectations, Hall said. If anything, some of his young players earned experience and should be prepared for another big opportunity.
"There's no excuses and nothing to be afraid of now," Hall said. "The good thing about (the district final) was -- not only did we have (younger, inexperienced) guys dressed in that game -- we had the eighth graders dressed and sitting behind us.
"Now they know the work ethic they need to get through that tournament. They have to push each other, and they've been doing it all summer. They know they're not as talented at putting the ball in the bucket, but they really have each other's back."
Christian School of York: Head coach Nate Cartledge returns two starters from last season's 7-14 squad. Senior guard O.B. Gesese returns a year after he ranked second on the team in scoring, adding 7.4 points per game in 2011-12. Senior forward Bryce Zirkle also returns.
Senior forward Christian Hofer has improved in the offseason, according to Cartledge. Senior guard Chad Shuffield will be the team's 3-point threat. Andrew Mackley, a senior swingman, will help push the tempo for the whole team. And sophomore Austen Smith has been promoted from junior varsity and should handle point guard duties for Christian School of York.
"The team has a youthful excitement about getting better each day," Cartledge said. "I hope that this will allow us to peak at the right times."
Northern York: The Polar Bears are moving up to Class AAAA and to the Capital Division of the Mid-Penn this season.
The change comes with plenty of internal adjustments, too, for coach Ron McDonald and Northern, which finished 12-10 (7-5 Mid-Penn) last season. McDonald, in his second season guiding the Polar Bears, must replace about 85 percent of scoring from a season ago. Graduated are Zach Fish, Evan Werner and Jeff Berwager. Randy Violette, Ryan Schreiber and Dalton Lynch also are gone.
Two starters are back, with senior post Travis Saylor (8.9 points per game) the more potent scorer of the two. Senior point guard Tanner Dixon (6.6 points, 6.3 assists) also returns.
Northern moves up in competition but lacks size. Its ability to push the ball and utilize will be critical. Along with Dixon, Northern welcomes transfer Jason Johnson, a junior point guard who moved in from Alaska.
Red Land: After years of success on the court, Red Land missed the district playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons during 2011-12. Two years removed from an appearance in the Class AAAA district championship game, Red Land is starting over.
Red Land returns no starters from the 9-13 squad from a year ago.
In recent years the Patriots have lost a 7-footer (Steve Zack is a sophomore at Division I LaSalle), an all-time leading scorer (Michael Zangari is a freshman at East Carolina), a Wake Forest walk-on (Duke Antonelli) and a Big Ten-caliber recruit (Jermaine Marshall is a junior at Penn State). It also didn't help that Dom Antonelli transferred to Trinity. While all those losses might be scary for some programs, head coach Scott Slayton is embracing it as a positive.
"We are starting over from scratch," Slayton said.
"Our strength is our youth ... we have an innocence about us that everything is new, so we enjoy it more. We take nothing for granted. When we score a basket -- let alone if we will be fortunate enough to win a game or two -- it's like kids at recess. It has been refreshing to be able to start from the ground level and to continue to try to build this program back to the prestigious levels that we have enjoyed."
Red Lion Christian: Four starters return from Red Lion Christian's 10-16 squad from a year ago.
Offense shouldn't be a concern for the Swordsmen, a program that traditionally runs an up-tempo offense. Red Lion Christian returns junior point guard Corbin Willard (23.4 ppg, 7.6 assists, 3.4 steals), sophomore forward Jake Myers (22.4 ppg, 9.2 rebounds) and sophomore forward Chance Thompson (12.9 ppg, 8.6 rebounds). Size and depth, however, could be a concern.
Thompson (6-0) will be Red Lion Christian's tallest player.
York Country Day: The Greyhounds return three starters from their 12-win season from a year ago.
Sam Furio (5-11), Patrick Gross (5-9) and Matt Berland (6-0) are expected to start again.
Playing at the Class A level, the Greyhounds' biggest concern this year will be a lack of depth and inexperience.
Coach Chris Charleston -- who will also coach the Greyhounds' girls' team -- will maneuver a roster of six players.