Not that anyone really needed to tell you that if you're a fan of local high school hoops. Heck, you don't even need a calendar to know when it's that time of year again. You just kind of feel it in the air.
Well, that and the fact that you're probably seeing your friends, neighbors or neighbors' kids heading off to a practice or a scrimmage in advance of opening night of the 2012-13 high school basketball season.
That being said, preparation time is all but over and tip-off time is near. It's time to get down to business, in more ways than one.
And one of those ways is through our annual A to Z look ahead at what's in store on local hardwoods this winter.
So without further delay, let's begin another trip through the alphabet Lebanon County hoops-style.
Oh yeah, and one more thing: Thanks again to local players, coaches and fans for coming along for the ride again this season, and most importantly for being the ones who make it all so much fun in the first place.
OK, here we go...
A is for attitude, which can take a player a long way or nowhere at all. It all depends on whether said player is all about the team or all about themselves.
Needless to say, it's better to have a good attitude than a bad one.
It doesn't hurt when you're writing a lengthy story like this one, either? Wow, we're only at 'A'?
B is for Brandt, as in the Northern Lebanon girls' basketball team's senior point guard Emily Brandt.
Although there are a number of talented players around the county who may end up making a strong bid to disprove this statement, it says here that Brandt is the county's top girls' basketball player.
The county's second leading scorer a season ago at 15.4 points per game, Brandt can pretty much do it all - shoot, handle, defend, you name it. And she competes like crazy. Well worth the trip to Fredericksburg, if you're so inclined.
And she's not alone.
C is for coaches, who probably put in more time and lose more sleep than anyone else associated with the high school hoops season. Which is saying something, considering the hard work put in by many throughout the winter.
They may not all be John Wooden reincarnated, but local coaches are out there for your kids, in most cases doing the best they can every single day. And I can assure you, they're not getting rich doing it. Just a little food for thought before firing off that next rant about how the coach isn't this or that.
OK, off the soapbox now...
D is for Dawson, as in Nate "Noon" Dawson, New Covenant Christian School's 6-foot-9 senior center, who averaged 26.5 points and nearly 15 rebounds per game as a junior.
Not bad for a small-school kid playing against PIAA competition for the first time. And lest you think Dawson's production came against lesser light small school programs, it should be noted that Dawson did score a game-high 21 points in a New Covenant loss to Northern Lebanon in January.
Just sayin'. The big fella can play a little.
E is for emotions, which can get kinda stirred up during the heat of battle. But as long as they're channeled properly, who doesn't like to see some emotion on the court?
After all, it lets you know that the combatants truly care about what they're doing. Rather see that than a dull, lifeless performance any day.
F is for the Falcon Cage, home of the Cedar Crest boys' and girls' basketball teams. "The Cage" will have a little different look to it this season since new, brighter lights have been installed.
Thumbs up to that move, which should enhance both the playing and viewing experience for visitors to Cedar Crest's gym this season.
G is for goals. It might sound corny, but it's important to have goals - small, medium or larger. Otherwise you're just aimlessly wandering through the season.
H is for height, which you can't teach. But you can certainly enjoy it when you have it.
Size isn't everything in high school hoops, which is often driven by guard play, but it sure is nice to have some big kids to throw the ball into once in a while.
Example: The Cedar Crest boys, who are blessed with some honest-to-goodness big guys for the first time in a while in the person of 6-foot-6 sophomore Andrew Eberhart and 6-5 junior Andrew Eudy.
I is for instincts, which can help make up for any physical deficiencies a player might have.
And if a player is blessed with great physical attributes and instincts? Well, then that's a player right there.
J is for... Come on now, you know what "J" is for. Jumper, of course. Come on, stick that jumper. Ah, nothing like watching a jump shooter get hot and find the zone. Good stuff.
But don't be afraid to take it to the basket once in a while, too, OK?
K is for "K," the first letter of the first name of many a girls basketball players. We've got Katies, Kaits, Kaylas, Kiana, Kadys, etc. It's not enough to drive you krazy. Oops, crazy. Sorry, had K's on the brain there for a minute.
Can you tell it was a little bit of a struggle with this part of the alphabet?
Moving right along...
L is for Light, as in the Northern Lebanon boys' electric junior point guard Sam Light. There's a good deal of optimism in Fredericksburg this winter, and much of it center around the presence of Light, who's primed for even bigger and better things after a brilliant junior campaign in which he led the Lancaster-Lebanon League in scoring with 471 points (21.4 per game).
Yep, and he's only a junior.
M is for Mohl, longtime Lebanon Catholic girls' basketball assistant Mike Mohl, who won't be on the bench on Assumption Hill for the first time in 34 years.
A change in the demands of his full-time job has forced Mohl to step away from the coaching duties he has shared with close friend and longtime Catholic head coach Patti Hower for three-plus successful decades.
Needless to say, it's going to be a little strange to look at the Beavers' bench this season and not see the ever-present Mohl at Hower's side.
For Hower, too.
"It was a great 34 years," Hower said. "It's really different. Really different. We were both head coaches, really. It'll be hard to get used to it."
N is nomads, which is what the Lebanon boys and girls will be for the first few weeks of the season while renovations at the LHS gymnasium are completed.
Fortunately, Lebanon Valley College has graciously decided to serve as the Cedars' home away from home, hosting games on Saturday, Dec. 12, 13, 17 and 21. In addition, Palmyra will host the opening round of the Cedars' tip-off tourney on Friday.
O is for offense. Of course it is. Defense may win championships, but if you can't put the ball in the basket you can't win.
Plus, let's face it: It puts people in the seats.
O is also for Orr, Lebanon Catholic senior guard Timmy Orr. Orr, a three-year starter and four-year contributor, is the leader of a Lebanon Catholic boys' team that appears to be primed to reclaim its status as a district title contender. He averaged 15.9 points per game a season ago and could well up those numbers if the Beavers get on a roll this season.
P is for point guards. Actually, that would be PG, but work with me, people. OK?
Anyway, point guards are the coaches on the floor, controlling the pace and tempo and setting the tone for a team's performance. In short, the good ones are well worth their weight in gold.
Q is for quit, which we hope no one will do, no matter how discouraged they might become. It's understandable to get frustrated on occasion, but quitting isn't the way to deal with that frustration. Keep on, keepin' on, kids.
R is for Richardson, as in Carly Richardson, the Palmyra girls' junior forward and emotional leader of what looks to be a pretty deep and talented Cougars' squad.
With Richardson as its second-leading scorer at 10.3 points per game, Palmyra advanced to the Class AAA district semifinals last season on the way to a state playoff berth. Wouldn't be a shock to see the Cougars do something similar this time around.
S is for sisters, speaking of the Palmyra girls. The Cougars have no less than three sets of sisters in the gym on a given day - Gabi, Katie and Molly Gundermann; Kait and Shannon Carmo; and Riley and Josie Stovall.
That's a starting five and two bench players right there. Nice.
S is also for Sanchez, as in former Lebanon girls' coach Carlos Sanchez, who has returned to the sidelines as an assistant for the LHS boys this season. Welcome back, sir.
T is for twins, of which there are two sets on county courts. (I promise we'll move on from the sibling thing in a moment.
There's Palmyra seniors Gabi and Katie Gundermann, and Cedar Crest sophomores Nichole and Emily Wagner. Must be kinda cool to have a twin. Maybe.
U is for underdogs. It's also for upset. Gotta love it when an underdog pulls an upset on a more highly-regarded opponent. Hope to see some of that this season. That's always fun.
V is for vision, which is what separates the good players from the so-so ones. If a player can truly see the floor and everything that's taking place on it, you'll know it.
W is for winning, which, of course, beats any and all alternatives.
But, at the risk of sounding corny, it's not everything. Keep that in mind.
X is for... Ah, geez. Here we go again. This is always a tricky one.
Guess we'll have to rely on the old standby: X is for X's and O's, the strategic aspects of the game. It's fun to discuss strategy, if you're a basketball geek like yours truly.
Y is for Yikes, we're almost at the end of the alphabet. I thought we'd never get there.
Z, then, is for zoom. As in players who zoom down the court on the fastbreak. Love to watch a well-run fastbreak.
Z is also for zoom, as in, "Zoom, we're outta here."
Let the games begin. Enjoy the season, everybody.