By THE HERALD-WHIG
Coach: Jared Hoots (63-47 at Brown County, fifth season).
2011-12 record: 17-12 (8-2, second place in the Western Illinois Valley Conference).
Returning starters: None.
Other returning letterwinners: F Jacob Shoopman, 6-2, Sr.; F Lee Crank, 6-2, Sr.; G Brandon Winner, 5-10, Sr.; F Colt Garrett, 6-1, Sr.
New faces: G Braxton Phelps, 5-9, Jr.; G Brady Long, 5-10, Jr.; G Dylan Ruble, 5-9, Jr.; F Michael Scoggan, 6-1, Soph.
Key losses: G Justin Volk, G Clayton Taylor, F Alex Sheppard, G Rick Logsdon, F Austin Gooding, F Luke Gragg, G Derek Kitchell, G Sam Henricks.
Outlook: The Hornets will be a very inexperienced team after graduating all five of last year's starters.
Hoots expected to have Tim Woodward return, but the senior guard suffered a torn ACL during football season for the second year in a row.
That means Shoopman and Crank will need to step up after both averaged 4 points per game last year. Winner and Garrett are the only other players who saw any varsity time.
Hoots is looking for big things from a trio of juniors -- Phelps, Long and Ruble.
"This is a hardworking group," Hoots said. "We'll have to defend well and be ready to rebound the ball."
Coach: Todd Plattner (81-38 at Central, fifth season; 287-169 overall, 17th season).
Returning starters: G Douglas Weese, 5-9, Sr.; F Marcus Landes, 6-1, Sr.
Other returning: C Taylor Heimann, 6-3, Soph.; G Cole Phillips, 5-9, Jr.; F Kurt Schuster, 6-1, Sr.
New faces: G Austin Kramberg, 5-7, Jr.; F Zach Hibbert, 6-3, Jr.; C Jacob Eilers, 6-4, Jr.; F Jason Dormire, 5-11, Soph.; F Alger Saldana, 6-1, Soph.; G Ryan Freiburg, 5-11, Soph.
Key losses: G Austin Dormire, G Alex Walter, F Nathan Knuffman, F Adam DeRousse.
Outlook: A deep postseason run by the Central-Southeastern football team didn't help the basketball team much. Heimann, a golfer during the fall, has been the only varsity player during preseason practices.
The way Plattner looks at it, it has given the younger players an opportunity to get some experience and exposure.
"The goal of this team will be the improvement of the younger players so they can be playing their best basketball at the end of the season," Plattner said. "We have a lot of depth which should provide great competition for playing time."
Heimann will be the go-to player in the post after playing some valuable minutes on the varsity last season. Weese, the second-leading scorer last season, is the scrappiest player on the court with the tendency to dive after loose balls and play aggressively.
Landes started nearly half of last year's games, while Phillips also started a handful of games in the backcourt.
"A tough schedule early in the season and a late start due to the success of the football team will make wins hard to come by early," Plattner said.
Coach: Todd Bradshaw (212-145 at Griggsville-Perry, 13th season).
2011-12 record: 19-11 (4-4, tied for fourth place in the West Central Conference).
Returning starters: G Dryden Craven, 5-10, Sr.; G Matthew Kennedy, 5-9, Sr.
Other returning letterwinners: C Levi King, 6-3, Jr.; F Wyatt Bradshaw, 6-2, Sr.
New faces: F Skyler Dunham, 5-10, Sr.; F Hayden Bradshaw, 6-0, Jr.
Key losses: G Dillon Butler, F Clayton Myers, G Brock Rumple, F Ison Smith.
Outlook: Kennedy and Craven have put in the time the past three years to be ready to inherit the leadership of the team. That time has come.
Both were steady scorers last year. Craven was one of the area's top 3-point shooters, while Kennedy is equally successfully creating his own shots.
The Tornadoes lost a lot underneath the basket and on the defensive end. Bradshaw is hoping to see King and Wyatt Bradshaw step into those positions.
If they fulfill those expectations, Griggsville-Perry could be a dangerous team in February.
"I really like this group of boys," Bradshaw said. "They are hard-working, intelligent, and respectful young men. However, when you lose the players we did, you're going to have to work extremely hard to fill those voids."
Coach: John Hughs (58-23 at Illini West, fourth season; 76-56 overall, sixth season)
2011-12 record: 21-6
Returning starters: G Brody Gronewold, 5-11, Sr.; F Levi Kirby, 6-2, Sr.
Other returning letterwinners: F Ethan Neally, 6-1, Sr.; G Forest Ellison, 5-10, Sr.
New faces: F Payton Ryner, 6-2, Sr.; G Brayden Carroll, 5-11, Jr.; G Holt McKenney, 5-7, Jr.; F Braxton Squier, 6-0, Jr.
Key losses: F Evan McGaughey, G Jack Bastert, G Nick Driskell
Outlook: Hughs watched Gronewold step onto the football field for the first time since he was a freshman and quarterback the Chargers to the playoffs. He'll be asked to lead this winter, too.
Experienced, knowledgeable and savvy, Gronewold was an honorable mention all-area pick last year who is expected to have the ball in his hands as much as possible. He averaged 10.5 points and four assists per game
"He's the kind of kid other kids rally around," Hughs said.
With so many fresh faces in the gym, Hughs needs a leader like that.
The Chargers lost only twice in 2012, winning 14 straight games at one point. That team had experience and size. This team is lean in those areas, but the Chargers are willing to put in the effort to get better.
"I like how hard they practice and the progress we've made from the first day," Hughs said. "I like the intensity they bring daily."
Coach: Andy Douglas (42-19 at Liberty, third season).
2011-12 record: 20-11.
Returning starters: F-C Isaac Murfin, 6-4, Sr.; G Michael Blewett, 5-11, Jr.
Other returning letterwinners: G Tyler Ormond, 5-10, Sr.; G Connor Wolf, 5-10, Jr.; G Brett Genenbacher, 5-11, Jr.; F Connor Klingele, 6-4, Soph.; F Kody Leapley, 6-3, Sr.
New faces: G Michael Mast, 6-3, Soph.; G Austin Mast, 6-3, Jr.; G Evan Schreacke, 5-9, Jr.; G Alex Rost, 5-9, Jr.; F Cameron Francis, 6-4, Jr.
Key losses: G Jared Shover, G Jordan Obert, F Dalton Crawford.
Outlook: The Eagles will builod around the inside-outside duo of Murfin and Blewett. Both have been on the varsity for three years and will give the team solid leadership.
To fill the other three spots on the floor, Douglas has several players to choose from.
Leapley played a considerable amount in the post last season, while Ormond came off the bench. Douglas is also excited about the future of several other players, including Klingele, Wolf, Genenbacher and Michael Mast.
"There may be some new roles for a few of our returners," Douglas said. "We'll need to find guys to fill those voids."
Coach: Brian Rea (54-30 at Payson Seymour, fourth season; 93-123 overall, ninth season).
2011-12 record: 17-11 (7-2, second place in the West Central Conference).
Returning starters: F Jake Voss, 6-2, Sr.; G Cody Hildebrand, 6-0, Jr.
Other returning letterwinners: G Joey Blickhan, 5-11, Sr.; G Jacob Farr, 5-7, Sr.; G Lance Buhlig, 5-11, Jr.; F Gage Klitz, 6-5, Jr.; F Daulton Speckhart, 6-0, Sr.
New faces: F Cameron Brink, 6-1, Jr.; F Hunter Flesner, 6-0, Soph.; G Austin Coultas, 5-11, Jr.; F Brett Loos, 6-0, Jr.
Key losses: G Aaron Edwards, G Landon Epperson, F Abram Wiseman.
Outlook: The Indians graduated several important players, including an all-area performer in Edwards.
But Rea will try to replace those players with some promising newcomers, while relying on upperclass leadership to keep the team together.
Voss, a three-year starter, was a solid performer at forward scoring eight points per game. Hildebrand, who has played varsity basketball since his freshman season, checked in with 6 ppg in his first full season as a starter.
Rea has been impressed with the energy of his players, who came together to play well against top-notch competition over the summer.
"Our keys will be the ability to sustain a consistent level of play, compete with maximum effort each night and catch a few breaks along the way against a very tough area schedule," Rea said.
Coach: Brad Tomhave (147-66 at Pittsfield, eighth season).
2011-12 record: 21-11 (4-4, tied for fourth place in the West Central Conference).
Returning starters: G Ethan Borrowman, 5-10, Jr.; G Kennedy Kattelman, 5-11, Jr.
Other returning letterwinners: G Dylan Reel, 5-11, Jr.; F Dylan Woodward, 6-2, Jr.; F Brant Bess, 6-2, Jr.; F Ty Rylander, 6-1, Jr.; G Wayde Smith, 6-1, Soph.; G Cameron Herring, 5-9, Soph.
New faces: G Nick Kattelman, 5-11, Sr.; F Eli Petty, 6-3, Jr.; F Josh Delrosario, 5-11, Jr.
Key losses: F Dalton Hoover, G Seth Petty, F Austin McCartney, G Joe Miller.
Outlook: The Saukees have to replace some key parts to their Class 2A regional championship team. The bright side is there are several players who have been waiting for their chance to step into the spotlight.
Kattelman and Borrowman will be looked to for leadership at the guard positions. Smith stepped up with some key baskets last season, while Reel and Bess made progress as the season went on.
It'll be difficult to replace a player like Hoover, who at 6-6, led Pittsfield in both scoring and rebounding and was a three-year starter.
"We have an outstanding group of youngsters that will step in and work extremely hard to pick up where we left off last season," Tomhave said. "Hopefully, we can stay healthy throughout the season and be playing our best basketball going into the regional."
Coach: Blake Skillman (0-0 at Pleasant Hill, first season; 12th season overall).
2011-12 record: 5-20.
Returning starters: F Zach White, 6-1, Sr.
Other returning letterwinners: F Blake DeCamp, 5-10, Jr.
New faces: None listed.
Key losses: F Matt Gunterman, F Avery Gregurich, F Brett Cox, G Kolton Latham.
Outlook: The Wolves' graduation losses will be difficult to overcome. It's not everyday a small-school team has players the caliber of Gunterman (18.5 points per game), Cox (9.8 ppg) and Gregurich (8.8 ppg).
Pleasant Hill had six players in the program last year. Two of those return.
"It's like starting over with only two returning players," said Skillman, a former assistant in the program. "We will be spending a lot of time working on fundamentals especially early."
Coach: Todd Fox (sixth season at Southeastern; 12th season overall).
2011-12 record: 5-23 (0-9, 10th place in the West Central Conference).
Returning starters: F Shea Flesner, 6-3, Soph.; F Matthew Ramsey, 5-11, Sr.; F Alex Thompson, 5-7, Sr.; F Ryan Slater, 5-11, Sr.
Other returning letterwinners: F Derrick Bostic, 5-7, Sr.; F Slade Kline, 5-4, Sr.; C Dwyer Kelly, 6-3, Jr.; F Josh Hoing, 5-8, Sr.
New faces: G Winston Smith, 5-5, Soph.; F Brandon Carl, 5-8, Jr.; G Justin Hainline, 5-8, Sr.; F Geoffrey Stout, 5-7, Jr.; F John Farris, 6-2, Sr.
Key losses: G Joey Thompson.
Outlook: Fox, the district's superintendent, returns for his third stint as the team's coach. He has a number of experienced players to work with.
Ramsey, who has played on the varsity all four years, was the Suns' leading scorer with 11.4 points per game. Flesner made a lot of progress last season as a freshman, finishing with 7.9 points and 7 rebounds per game.
Fox believes that after winning a total of eight games during the last two seasons, things are heading in the right direction.
"This team has the desire to be successful and to focus on that," Fox said. "We'll need to do a good job handling pressure and using good game managment skills."
Coach: Keith Carothers (49-106 at Unity, sixth season).
2011-12 record: 19-11 (4-4, tied for fourth place in the West Centrail Conference).
Returning starters: F Andrew Doyle, 6-2, Sr.; G Reed Bentzinger, 5-9, Sr.; F Thomas Donley, 6-1, Sr.
Other returning letterwinners: G Will Klusmeyer, 6-0, Jr.; C Lane Davis, 6-3, Jr.; G Alex Blickhan, 6-0, Jr.
New faces: G Adam Donley, 6-0, Fr.; Thomas Fielding, 6-0, Jr.; G Blake Wittler, 5-2, Jr.; G Mark Jansen, 5-9, Jr.
Key losses: G Matthew Duesterhaus, G Andrew Jansen, G Brett Jackson.
Outlook: Don't be surprised if the Mustangs pound the ball inside a little more often this season.
Unity has the size to do it. It's Carothers' largest team since he took the reins in 2007-08.
The post will be anchored by Doyle, a three-year starter who scored 11 points per game, and Donley, who added 7 points per game. Blickhan came off the bench last year to score 10 points per game, while Bentzinger should once again be the team's steadiest shooter from the perimeter.
Carothers hopes to use last year's Class 1A regional title -- the team's first since 1990 -- as momentum for more success this season.
"I'm looking forward to some very competitive practices as guys battle on a daily basis," Carothers said. "After losing the guards we lost from last season, how we rebuild that position could determine our level of success."
Coach: Reno Pinkston (85-32 at West Hancock, fifth season; 459-168 overall, 21st season)
2011-12 record: 22-8
Returning starters: G Paxton Harmon, 6-3, Sr.; G Austin Hardy, 6-0, Sr.; G Coy Dorothy, 6-1, Sr.; F Parker Gibbs, 6-3, Sr.
Other returning letterwinners: G Jordan White, 5-6, Sr.; G Jesse Espinoza, 5-8, Sr.; G Ben Sinele, 5-10, Sr.; F Marcus Longenecker, 6-3, Sr.
New faces: None listed.
Key losses: F Jeremy Ferguson.
Outlook: A year ago, the Titans were labeled a team on the rise thanks to their junior-laden roster.
A year older, stronger and more savvy, the Titans are now considered one of the teams to beat.
The rise in expectations has a lot to do with the rise of Harmon as the area's preeminent scorer. Last year, Harmon averaged 20.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists. He's only gotten bigger and stronger during the offseason, which should allow him to handle physical play defenses will throw at him.
Better yet, there are plenty of other scoring options around him. Gibbs gives the Titans some size and tenacity, while Hardy is a headsy player and a glue guy. Dorothy, White and Espinoza are athletes who fill roles and give the Titans some grit.
Coach: Pat Rafferty (0-0 at Western, first season; 28th season overall).
2011-12 record: 5-23.
Returning starters: F Kyle Warning, 6-3, Sr.; G-F Jake Walch, 6-1, Sr.; G Austin Fee, 6-0, Sr.; F Izack Hively, 6-3, Jr.
Other returning letterwinners: G-F Eric Rueb, 6-2, Sr.; G Keegan Guthrie, 6-0, Sr.; G Brian Johnson, 6-1, Sr.; G Conner Beardsley, 5-7, Jr.
New faces: G Josh Sally, 5-7, Jr.; G Toby Vincent, 5-11, Sr.; G-F Cole Smith, 6-1, Sr.; F Nekoda Gerding, 6-2, Jr.
Key losses: F Connor Wharton.
Outlook: Experience should benefit the Wildcats. Only Wharton graduated from a team which recorded all five of its victories during the second half of the season.
Western's top two scorers return in Hively, who scored 11.6 points per game, and Warning, who averaged 10 points.
The Wildcats have spent the preseason getting used to Rafferty's system.
"It's coming along pretty slowly, but things aren't too bad," Rafferty said. "Our goal is to be playing our best basketball the second half of the season."