By Nick Talbot
Harker Heights Herald
Tashawn Thomas is gone. Devonte Brown? Gone. Royce O'Neale, Jaleel Williams, Malcolm McDonald, Sean Voss and Sedrick Jennings are all gone, too.
In their place is a new crop of promising talent.
The problem is, no one knows who they are, yet. Killeen, Ellison, Harker Heights and almost every other area team has to completely reload their rosters this season as they try to win without the talent that left after last season for the college ranks.
With Brown and Williams gone, Ellison's 17-year playoff streak is on the line as coach Alberto Jones must figure out how he will replace Williams' size and Brown's sheer determination.
And for Killeen there is no way to replace Thomas. The 6-foot-8 forward will be suiting up for the Houston Cougars this basketball season.
But the talent isn't gone completely.
It just may take a while to figure out who has what it takes to lead their teams back to the playoffs.
Team previews Belton
Last season: 12-18, 3-11 12-5A
Outlook: The Tigers struggled last season, floundering near the bottom of the District 12-5A standings. With the new season comes the question of how the Tigers fill the hole left by dynamic guard Sean Voss. Senior Trey Rose and junior Daniel Mills will be counted on for their experience, while the 6-foot-3 Mills, Tanaj Washington (6-3) and Bo Vaughn (6-4) will be the Tigers' height.
Last season: 29-6, 12-2 12-5A district champions (Region II-5A quarterfinals)
Outlook: Led by a strong group of seniors, the Knights won only the second district title in their history last season. But gone are multi-year stalwarts like Royce O'Neale (University of Denver) and Daevon Brown. Thankfully for head coach Celneque Bobbitt, the cupboard is far from bare, led by three-year starting point guard Thomas Cherry (the lone returning starter), all-around talent CJ Rodriguez and lanky 6-foot-6 post Trummel McCrimmons.
Last season: 22-11, 6-4 25-3A No. 3 seed (area round)
Outlook: In reaching the area round for the first time since 2007, the Eagles were another playoff team fueled by a talented group of seniors, the biggest (literally) being 6-foot-7 post Braxton Tucker. The Eagles only return two varsity contributors - 6-3 shooters Koby Spears and Jada Kornegay.
Players to watch
Thomas Cherry, Harker Heights - Entering his third year as the Knights' starting point guard, Cherry will be needed to shoulder more of the scoring and leadership responsibilities as the lone returning starter.
Games to watch
Killeen at Harker Heights, Nov. 22: Killeen owned this rivalry for three years, but the Knights have won the last three meetings in the series.
Harker Heights at Ellison, Jan. 27: The teams faced off in games that decided the District 12-5A pecking order last season, with the Knights getting the best of the Eagles both times.