It’s never too early to start speculating, so even before the teams actually tip off, here’s a way-too-early power rankings for YAIAA boys’ basketball.
1. William Penn. Or York High. Whatever you prefer calling the Bearcats, they’re the champs until someone beats them. Even after the loss of 2014 GameTimePA Player of the Year Jahaire Wilson, the Bearcats have a legitimate chance to do something no District 3 team since 1957 has done: Secure a district three-peat. Why? Because they have arguably the best backcourt in the league with Trey Shifflett and Montrel Morgan, and a 6-foot-6-inch forward Kristopher Johnson, who can do a little of everything. Add in sharpshooting Jacquez Casiano (39 3-pointers) and head coach Troy Sowers has a stacked lineup once again.
2. West York. Sorry, Northeastern fans, but West York might hold the edge for the second spot with a lineup that includes Josh Bailey, Darian McCauley, Ian Lalic and Matt Dellorfano, who all averaged between 7 and 14 points per game last season. That’s a lot of returning talent for Bill Ackerman to work with. The Bulldogs also have four guys coming off the bench who are 6-foot-2 or taller in addition to McCauley and Dellorfano.
3. Northeastern. The Bobcats are talented enough to jump to the top spot this season, but for now, we’ll place them here. Jon Eyster’s squad loses Michael Coleman (8.1 points) and Derrick Hoffman (9.2 points) to graduation. Throw in DeAireus Brown’s (9.9 points) transfer to York Country Day, and those are three key roles to fill. However, Kobi Nwandu is a returning first-team all star and Donovian Maxfield is an underrated guard. Jeff Reynolds adds size in the backcourt and Jordan Zirkle is expected to play a larger role after averaging 3.3 points last season. The Bobcats have three games against the top two teams on this list, so plenty of opportunity to move up.
4. Spring Grove. The good news for the Rockets: They return four starters and several more role players from a team that went 15-10 and reached the district playoffs. The not-so-good: The Rockets aren’t sneaking up on anyone anymore. Just a few years removed from a two-win campaign, the Rockets will be on everyone's radar this season. The Eli Brooks-Darin Gordon duo is among the best in the league, and Spring Grove has a few sharpshooters around them in Liam Flaherty and Grant Wierman. The issue for the Rockets will be size. They’ll be the smaller team when they line up against the majority of their divisional foes.
5. Central York. The Panthers barely snuck onto the list after losing Sam Saxton and Charlie Gingrich. But for now at least, they make the list. The question will be how quickly can Kevin Schieler mold a group of guys who were role players on a 20-win team last year into an efficient starting lineup? He’ll rely heavily on Central's solid backcourt mates Jared Wagner and Nathan Markey in the early going. The good news for the Panthers is their schedule is much more favorable early in the season than it is in late January and February.
5a.Eastern York. Yes, this is cheating but Eastern could be too good to deny. Broguen Nicholas is one of the best pure scorers in the league and the Golden Knights had one of the better defenses in the YAIAA last season. Alongside Nicholas, Eastern returns Jarad Woods (9.1 points), Jared Achterberg (10.2 points, 5.3 rebounds) and three seniors listed at 6-foot-3 or taller up front. Several opposing coaches have gone out of their way to point out Eastern as a potential surprise team. We agree.
Closing in: Hanover. Red Lion. Delone Catholic. Gettysburg. Dallastown.