YAIAA basketball preview: Part 1
So much for a break between seasons. Six days after the high school football season officially ended in our area, the prep basketball season will get going tonight. In a few hours, boys' and girls' teams from across the areas will take part in tip-off tournaments and other opening night contests. Not exactly much time to transition from the football field to the hardwood. Then again, just tell that to Red Lion's hoops team. Before you head out to your local gym tonight, here's a quick division-by-division primer on what you can expect this season in the YAIAA. We'll start with the boys' here, and follow up with the girls' preview later today. ************************** DIVISION IThe breakdown: This division may be as wide open as it's been in recent memory. William Penn is the two-time defending champion, although they'll have to make up for the heavy toll graduation took on them last season. Defending divisional player of the year Kelvin Parker is the Bearcats' lone returning starter on a lineup that will include versatile 6-foot-6 forward Zach Newby and a slew of relatively unproven guards. Central York will have plenty of talent to work with heading into coach Marty Hasenfuss' second season, including juniors Tremaine Bowman, Jalil Ford and Spencer Ortmeyer. Dallastown may have the division's best player in guard Four McGlynn, and also boasts some other intriguing pieces. Red Lion and South Western will be young but talented (the Mustangs two top returning scorers, Chris Duffy and Parker Bean, are both sophomores), while Spring Grove returns several starters from a team that finished 3-12 in the division last year. Player to watch: There are plenty of good candidates here -- Central's Bowman, Red Lion's Evan Ehrhart -- but I'll go with William Penn's guard trio of Dontae Davis, Collin Smith and Dejian Williams. Smith and Williams are transfers from New Hope, and both will likely see some playing time this season. Davis is a senior who has waited patiently for an opportunity. The Bearcats graduated several talented guards from last year's team, and how quickly their unproven ballhandlers assimilate into the system should dictate how well they perform. The pick: William Penn/Central York. Too close to call right now between these two. The Panthers are the up-and-comers, but the Bearcats have been the team to beat lately. Some see William Penn as being vulnerable this season, but I'm not so sure. Tough to choose right now ... there's just too many variables. The dark horse: Dallastown. Lots of talent, and McGlynn can take over any game he plays in. Can they come together quickly enough to challenge for a title? DIVISION IIThe breakdown: Several interesting teams here. Dover lost its top scorers after a breakout season, but returns plenty of talent. Northeastern has some promising pieces, most notably junior point guard Elijah Cooper. Kennard-Dale moves up from Division III, but has enough strength and experience to make life difficult for opponents. And New Oxford is trying to work its way back after a disappointing 2009-10 campaign. And then you have the kingpins, West York. The Bulldogs always put a quality unit on the court. Forward Bryt Abel (pictured above, left), a key player last winter, transferred to Eastern York, but West York will still put out a deep and experienced group, led by sharpshooting guard Luke Cable. Player to watch: Northeastern's Cooper. The slick point guard has already received some D-I feelers, and has hung with some strong competition at the AAU level. Now's his chance to legitimize some of the hype, and help boost the Bobcats in the process. Not sure Northeastern can challenge for a division title after going 5-16 last season, but a playoff spot may not be out of the question. The pick: West York. Not much of a contest here. Bulldogs coach Bill Ackerman has proven himself to be one of the area's best for a reason, and his team will be going for its seventh straight Division II title. Any reason to think they don't get it? The dark horse: Dover. Yes, a few of the Eagles' key players (including Seth Warren and Zach Shaffer) graduated. But the Eagles should have plenty of size, and have a coach in Brian Schmoyer who has them heading in the right direction. We'll see if Dover can match last year's 15-8 campaign. DIVISION IIIThe breakdown: It's no mystery who the favorites in the division are. Eastern York is coming off an unforgettable 2009-10 season, which saw them go 31-1 and advance to the state Class AAA semifinals. Senior duo Austin Tillotson and Andrew Nicholas return for one more go-around before they head to Monmouth next season, but Eastern also picked up a transfer in Abel. He'll be a welcome addition to a frontcourt that had looked like it might be a sore spot. Depth is a concern for the Golden Knights, but that shouldn't hurt them in the division. If there's one team that could keep Eastern on its toes, it would be York Suburban. The Trojans lost their best player from last year in Thomas McInerney, but returns second leading scorer Kevin Donahue and a few other pieces. With those two at the top, Littlestown, Bermudian Springs and Susquehannock will likely be left playing catch-up. Player to watch: Ted Hinnenkamp, York Suburban. The junior grew three inches in the offseason to 6-foot-5, and should step into a bigger role for the Trojans after serving as a go-to bench guy last season. Donahue will be counted on to carry Suburban's scoring load, but he needs another steady option to emerge. Perhaps Hinnenkamp can be that guy? The pick: Eastern York. Two reasons: Tillotson and Nicholas. Those two should carry the Golden Knights through the division and maybe even the county. But sooner or later, they'll need help. That will determine how far Eastern goes at the district and state level. The dark horse: Susquehannock. Not to win the division -- or even finish second -- but to continue to build under second-year head coach John Zerfing. The Warriors play good defense, and are moving down from Division II. A .500 record is a real possibility. DIVISION IVThe breakdown: On paper, this looks like a two-horse race. Hanover should contend after last year's run to the state playoffs, despite the loss of leading scorer Ben Connor and a few others. Delone Catholic, which moves down from Division III, also suffered a few losses after narrowly missing states last year. The common denominator for the Nighthawks and Squires? Excellent point guard play from senior Pete Yingst and sophomore Brett Smith, respectively. Yingst was excellent last season for Hanover and will carry even more of the load this year, while Smith should take another step up for Delone after an impressive freshman campaign. The traditional power here, York Catholic, will start the season with the deck stacked against it a bit. At least four potentially key players won't suit up for the Irish this season, including Gary Laucks (didn't come out), Nick Full (torn ACL) and Michael Sperring (complications from concussions). Irish coach Joe Keesey likes the hard-working spirit of his team, but how far can that take them? Finally, Biglerville, Fairfield and York County Tech will all try to improve on sub-.500 campaigns in 2009-10. Player to watch: Delone's Smith. He's already one of the top point guards around, and promises to be one of the area's better players in the years to come. Expect him to take another step in his second year as a starter. The pick: Delone Catholic. They have a key building block in Smith and one of the best coaches around in Jim Dooley. With York Catholic seemingly reeling and Hanover hit by graduation, the door is open for the Squires. The dark horse: Hanover. Although to be fair, it's hard to call the Nighthawks a true dark horse considering they qualified for states last year. Hanover lost a good chunk of its scoring, but still returns a rock solid point guard in Yingst, along with a bit more size than last year. The Nighthawks won't make life easy for Delone. We could get an early at these two against each other, as well. Both are in playing in Hanover's tip-off tournament, and could meet in the final on Saturday.