Which team sits atop our preseason power rankings?
In the preseason, the tendency is to concentrate on what players won't be back and examine how a team can fill the void. There's no avoiding it, the York-Adams lost some serious star power to graduation.
Central York no longer has tireless Jared Wagner. William Penn lost three college-bound scorers in Montrel Morgan, Kristopher Johnson and Trey Shifflett. Josh Bailey won't be running the point at West York, and Broguen Nicholas won't be knocking down jumpers for Eastern.
Guards Marquise Camel (Gettysburg), Kobi Nwandu (Northeastern) and Kyle Krout (Hanover) have all moved on. Even the big guys, forwards Najah Fink (Dover), Jason Rebuck (Red Lion) and Darin Gordon (Spring Grove) all played their last high school games.
Not surprisingly there are some new up-and-coming teams. The YAIAA looks to be wide open. But who is ready to make the jump to contenders in 2016-17?
Honorable mention: Central York (23-5), York Country Day (23-1), Eastern York (21-8), William Penn (12-11).
5. New Oxford (9-13): Here's a team that might be overlooked headed into the season simply because they haven't won in recent years. But with help from John Wessel and Jordin Brown, they took District 3 finalist Central York to the wire last season — losing the lead in the final five seconds. The Colonials had some of the pieces and some of the talent in place last season, but that doesn't always mean a team is ready to become a winning program and contend for a playoff spot. New Oxford has promise, but it also has plenty of questions.
Will younger players accept their roles, and will they be able to fill those roles? Are the Colonials really a better team than William Penn, which suffered from lapses in defense and rebounding last year? Are the Colonials better than District 3 champion and state-tournament tested York Country Day? Or could the Colonials be better than the fifth-ranked team in the area? We will find out.
4. Dallastown (11-11): The Wildcats had a busy summer and fall, trying to improve after a .500 season. A guard-oriented team, the backcourt duo or Donovan Catchings and Brandon McGlynn will lead the way. The Wildcats should be a team that's not afraid to run up and down the court, but watch to see how the Wildcats play in the post.
Like New Oxford, however, Dallastown still has a lot to prove on the court.
3. York Catholic (16-6): A YAIAA Division III team must be doing something right to crack the top three. Sure enough, the Irish have the least amount of questions of any program on this list entering the season. Of its top six players in the rotation last season, five return. The Irish did suffer a disappointing first-round loss in the District 3 tournament, but coach Blaine Claiborne understood. Championship teams have to learn how to play championship-caliber basketball. That loss was part of the learning process.
Now back on the court, the key for York Catholic will be trying to mesh. Four-year starter Andrew Forjan runs the offense from the point, but three players in the program's top eight rotation are in their first or second seasons at York Catholic, including York Suburban transfer Torrey Thomas and former William Penn transfers D'Andre Davis and Melik Martin. Claiborne is preaching for his players to put in maximum effort at every practice, every game. If that happens, expect to see some big improvement.
2. Spring Grove (25-4): The Rockets lost three senior starters to graduation, but nobody is writing off Spring Grove. Eli Brooks (Michigan) is the biggest basketball recruit in the school's history, and Brooks might just be the biggest hoops recruit in YAIAA history.
Moreover, the Rockets could still have an experienced starting five that includes seniors Drew Gordon and Jonathan Sager. Add in some young talent that will need to learn how to provide the concentration and effort needed for an entire game, and the Rockets should be dangerous. They might just be the best team in the league … if it weren't for the newest addition to YAIAA Division I.
1. Northeastern (21-3): Always on the doorstep, the Bobcats appear to be the best team in the league. Northeastern should win 20-plus games for the third straight season. And maybe, just maybe, they will become one of the top teams in the district. They have serious talent. The Bobcats backcourt consists of juniors Fred Mulbah and Antonio Rizzuto. They will create all sorts of headaches for opposing defenders.
So the question will be can they make a smooth transition from Division II to the big-school Division I? And can they take a big step forward after a disappointing one-and-done showing in the District 3 tournament? All signs point to yes.