Although Gonzaga Prep graduated four starters, it is favored to capture a second straight league championship. Ferris, which uncharacteristically shared sixth place last year with a young team, is expected to challenge the Bullpups, who finished fourth at state. Ferris brings back four starters. Mead, fifth a year ago, is also mentioned in the title chase with three returning starters. With two starters back, North Central is considered a dark horse and picked to be the best among the 3A teams. The top three 4A teams advance to regionals where four state berths are available. Four of five 3A teams go to regionals where two state berths will be decided.
Players to watch
G-Prep senior post Ryan Nicholas is the lone returning first-team all-league pick. Shadle Park senior guard Robby Douglas, a three-year starter, Ferris senior forward Connor Halliday and Lewis and Clark senior guard Levi Taylor were second-team selections last year. Other top players are Mead senior post Aaron Dunn, LC senior wing Austin Ehlo, NC senior forward Isaiah Antoine, University senior guard Kyle Bailey and Ferris junior wing Riley Stockton.
With the change in the schedule this year, each team has a handful of non-league games. Although the schedule features games between league teams Tuesday and next Friday, league play doesn’t begin until Dec. 15. In openers, Ferris is at rival LC, U-Hi goes to G-Prep, Central Valley is at Mead, East Valley goes to NC and Shadle is at Rogers – all at 7:15. Mt. Spokane, which has a bye, opens at 5:30 Dec. 18 at NC.
The league features two new coaches: Matty McIntyre at G-Prep and Greg Hannan at Mt. Spokane.
What the coaches are saying
McIntyre doesn’t mind the bull’s-eye. “I think we can get there, but it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s going to be a work in progress,” he said. “We have expectations of ourselves. We’re going to try to block out the expectations others have for ourselves. It’s easy to be distracted about what others are saying about us and easy to get sucked into the peripheral stuff.” … With several team members playing in the State 4A football final Saturday, Ferris will have a shorter transition between seasons than the other teams. The Saxons’ first two games have been rescheduled. Ferris coach Don Van Lierop understands it will take some time for his players to get their basketball legs. “(We’ll) come together in December and play our best basketball when it counts at the end of the season,” he said. Van Lierop rattled off a list of team strengths. “Experience, depth, scoring balance, chemistry, work ethic, competitive,” he said. … LC coach Jeff Norton listed several team strengths as well. “Nice mix of experience and newcomers,” Norton said. “Good athleticism and good depth.” … CV coach Rick Sloan, with just one starter back, isn’t sure what to expect this season. “Anxious to see what players step up and fill the voids created by graduation,” Sloan said. … Mead coach Glenn Williams is optimistic. “If we can avoid injury, we can compete for the championship,” Williams said. … NC coach Jay Webber has a good feeling about the year. “We’re looking to exceed what we have done the last couple of years,” Webber said. “(We have) lots of potential.”