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. Even strong role players like former Roo Jennings and former Eagle David Cobb are gone.
But the talent isn't gone completely.
It just may take awhile to figure out who has what it takes to lead their teams back to the playoffs.
BeltonLast season: 12-18, 3-11 12-5AOutlook: The Tigers struggled last season, floundering near the bottom of the District 12-5A standings. With the new season comes the question of how do 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.
Copperas CoveLast season: 14-17, 4-10 12-5AOutlook: The Bulldawgs struggled through much of their district schedule but did end 2011 with consecutive wins to head into the offseason. Now for the 2011-12 season, Cove must find players to step in for college-bound talents in Juwan Rice (Boston) and Ricardo Artis and Jonathan Bridges (North Lake College). The Dawgs do return Cory Scott. Watch for freshman Rashard Odomes, the younger brother of Raheem Odomes, the only known 1,000-point scorer in Cove history.
EllisonLast season: 23-13, 10-4 12-5A runner-up (Region II-5A quarterfinals)Outlook: After graduating a pair of Division I talents in Devonte Brown (Indiana State) and 6-7 wing Jaleel Williams (San Jose State), the Eagles are in desperate need of playmakers in their quest for an 18th straight postseason appearance. Making things difficult is the lack of experience with only junior Ojai Black returning from last season's squad.
FlorenceLast season: 10-19, 2-12 27-2AOutlook: The Buffs got off to a 4-3 start last season, but the back end wasn't pretty in Danny Wood's first season at the helm Florence ended 2011 losing six of its final seven games. Likely taking the scoring reins for Florence are senior Ben Futrell, who has already shown he can take on a challenge, doing so on the football field, and Trey Jett and Troy Afano.
GatesvilleLast season: 11-21, 3-7 19-3AOutlook: The Hornets were up and down in Todd Shelton's first year, but do return quality players to make a push for the playoffs. That starts with D.D. Marshall, who was named to the all-district second team last season. Gatesville also had four returning all-district honorable mentions, including senior Marqueese Phillips and junior Danny Byrd.
Harker HeightsLast 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.
KilleenLast season: 31-4, 10-0 8-4AOutlook: The Runnin' Roos lost three starting seniors, most notably all-state forward and two-time Killeen Daily Herald All-Area MVP Tashawn Thomas (Houston), but will still be in a position to defend their run of six straight district championships. Returning starters Tevin Bartney (8-4A all-district first team) and Brian Long (all-district second team) will get help from second-teamer Jamison Hicks and honorable mention Akeem Harrison.
LampasasLast season: 14-17, 3-7 25-3AOutlook: The Badgers will get a late start before they go full strength due to the football team making the playoffs. Once the additions do join, Lampasas will have its top defender in guard Brandon Scott. The football team's quarterback was named the district's co-Defensive Player of the Year.
SaladoLast 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.
ShoemakerLast season: 16-12, 7-7 12-5AOutlook: The Grey Wolves will surely miss the guard play of A.J. McDonald and the post play of Malcolm McDonald, but Shoemaker's cupboard isn't as empty as some of the others' in 12-5A. Returning are 6-foot-3 senior forward Chris Runnels, the district's newcomer of the year last season, a pair of honorable mentions (Renard Thomas and Shane Johnson) and 6-6 junior post Jose Roman.
Cory Scott, Copperas Cove The 6-foot-2 junior guard was a 12-5A honorable mention last year and showed flashes of an ability to score whenever he wants to.
Tevin Bartney, KilleenThe 8-4A all-district first teamer was a workhorse complement to Tashawn Thomas (Houston) last season. The 6-4 senior averaged eight points and eight rebounds a game last season.
Chris Runnels, ShoemakerThe 6-foot-2 senior forward was 12-5A's newcomer of the year averaging 12 points and nine rebounds last season.
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.
Ojai Black, Ellison The junior guard is the lone returning Eagle player to see any considerable playing time on varsity last season and should take over the scoring load.
D.D. Marshall, Gatesville The senior was an all-district second-teamer last year and will be looked on to lead a Hornet team looking to get back into the postseason.
Brandon Scott, LampasasExpect a big year after Scott, already a quality defender, quarterbacked the football team to its first district title since 1989.
Also worth a look (or two):Victor Glaze, Killeen; Brian Long, Killeen; Jose Roman, Shoemaker; Renard Thomas, Shoemaker; Trummell McCrimmons, Harker Heights; Darius James, Harker Heights; Cameron Delaney, Harker Heights; Kevin Diaz, Ellison; Trivez Tucker, Copperas Cove.
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.
Ellison at Killeen, Nov. 29: One of the fiercest rivalries in Central Texas may be heading into its final preseason meeting as Killeen is projected to join Ellison's 5A district next season.
Killeen at Lake Travis, Jan. 9: The Cavaliers snapped the Roos' home winning streak and ended their season with a regional quarterfinal playoff win in 2008; ever since, this has been one hot rivalry.
Shoemaker at Ellison, Jan. 13: Two of the last four 12-5A meetings between these teams have come down to last-second shots, including the Eagles' 59-57 win last year.
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.
Shoemaker at Copperas Cove, Feb. 3: These two much-improved teams meet in a positioning battle to see if either can sneak into the playoffs should one of the 'usual four' falter this season.
Waco Midway at Killeen, Feb 14: If past seasons mean anything, the winner of this series will likely win the 8-4A title, but Waco University also figures to contend, making this game at home that much more important for the Roos.
Tournaments to go toMT Rice Tournament - Dec. 28-29Gatesville Holiday Tournament - Dec. 28-29