They're still a week from playing actual games, but area boys basketball teams have already hit the court in preparation. This week, the Daily Herald will highlight the area's best five returning players. But, we start today with a look at each team, including who to watch for during the 2010-11 season and keys for each. Belton Last season: 16-15, 4-10 in District 12-5A Key players: Sean Voss (Sr.) and Jacob Whitman (Sr.) Outlook: Whitman averaged 11.1 points per game and Voss was right behind him at 10.5, but the Tigers will have to find some inside scoring if they want to improve on their four wins in district last season. Luis Staggers (6-4), Jared Barber (6-3) and Tanaj Washington (6-3) all hope to fill that role. The team could also get additional scoring from Adrian Henderson.
Copperas Cove Last season: 11-23, 1-13 in District 12-5A Key players: Ricardo Artis (Sr.) and Robert King (Sr.) Outlook: Copperas Cove struggled in Billy White's first season as head coach, losing its first 10 district games before upsetting Shoemaker at home. Turnovers were a re-accruing problem for the Bulldawgs, who go into the season needing to replace their point guard (Romando Garcia graduated) and interior presence (Antonio Clemons is now at Ranger College).
Ellison Last season: 22-12, 9-5 in District 12-5A Key players: Devonte Brown (Sr.), Jaleel Williams (Sr.) Outlook: Seeking their 17th straight postseason appearance, the Eagles feature potentially it's two most dynamic scorers in a while in combo-guard Devonte Brown and 6-foot-7 wing Jaleel Williams. The duo have Ellison thinking big, but must learn to work in sync if they hope to reach those lofty expectations.
Florence Last season: 8-21, 1-11 in District 25-2A Key players: Daniel Taylor (Sr.) and Michael Ramirez (Sr.) Outlook: Florence will go as far as Taylor can take them this season. The Buffaloes lack size and will struggle against taller teams. Taylor averaged 13.1 points per game last season and pulled down 7.3 rebounds, while Ramirez scored nearly 10 and dished four assists a game. The Buffaloes enter a new district this season, 27-2A, but it shouldn't get any easier.
Gatesville Last season: 21-12, 10-0 in District 7-3A Key player: Nardi Meyers (Sr.) Outlook: Gatesville will likely be in a season of transition. The Hornets have a new head coach Todd Shelton, who spent last season as an assistant at Fort Worth Southwest. They reached the playoffs in seven of the last eight years, but graduated four starters and more to a more-competitive District 19-3A. Nardi Meyers, the lone returning starter, leads the Hornets.
Harker Heights Last season: 16-16, 6-8 in District 12-5A Key players: Royce O'Neale (Sr.), Daevon Brown (Sr.) Outlook: As the dean of Killeen coaches, Heights' Celneque Bobbitt enters his 11th year with one of his largest and most talented rosters. With five players reaching at least 6-foot-5, and a multitude of returning talent led by 6-5 wing Royce O'Neale and 6-1 guard Daevon Brown the Knights seek a playoff return after missing out last season.
Killeen Last season: 26-9, 9-1 in District 25-4A, bi-district finalists Key players: Tashawn Thomas (Sr.) and Sedrick Jennings (Sr.) Outlook: Success breeds success which is why last year's Runnin' Roos were able to win the District 25-4A title and are expected to win their sixth straight district title this season. University of Houston-pledge Thomas averaged 15 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks a game in becoming a 25-4A co-MVP in just the 6-foot-8 senior's first full varsity season. Last season's first-round playoff loss was an anomaly the Roos would rather forget but will serve as motivation to keep them focused on each opponent this season, especially in their new district (8-4A) and region (I).
Lampasas Last season: 8-22, 0-10 in District 25-4A Key players: Brandon Scott (Jr.), Gabe Myles (Jr.) Outlook: Rob Shivers takes over as head coach for the Badgers, who for the second-straight season must replace their go-to senior leader. Two years ago, it was Heath Hopson, who was the 25-4A MVP. Last year, it was Eduard Davila, the team's lone first-team honoree. The move to 3A after 16 years in 4A should help the Badgers, who will lean on Brandon Scott.
Salado Last season: 14-16, 6-6 in District 25-2A Key players: Braxton Tucker (Sr.), Koby Spears (Jr.) Outlook: As they begin their first season in 3A, the Eagles have one major component working in their favor experience. Returning all but one from last year's roster, Salado is led by 6-foot-6 post Braxton Tucker and 6-foot-3 sharp-shooter Koby Spears, along with a bevy of role players who can shoot from anywhere.
Shoemaker Last season: 17-17, 6-8 in District 12-5A Key players: Anthony Gonzales (Sr.) and A.J. McDonald (Sr.) Outlook: The Grey Wolves suffered a late-season collapse and missed the playoffs for the third time in four years. After opening its 12-5A season 5-2, Shoemaker lost six of its last seven games and was unable to duplicate 2009's postseason berth, the Grey Wolves' first since 2006. Shoemaker lost Jade Allen, a penetrating guard that was able to finish at the rim, but returns 5-foot-9 senior guard McDonald, who was a second-team selection last season. Also returning are sharp-shooters Gonzales, a first-teamer last season, and Levi Roderick as well as 6-5 big man Malcolm McDonald.