Hoops Preseason Rankings and Preview
Preseason Rankings (Last season's final record in parentheses)
1. Starkville (19-9); A year after winning the 6A and Overall state titles the Yellowjackets overcame some late season struggles to make a return trip to the state tournament. The Jackets return all but one player from last year's team and get the nod as this year's No. 1 team. The Jackets are led by the inside out duo of 6-foot-8 Sr. Center Gavin Ware, who is committed to Mississippi State and 6-foot-0 Sr. Guard Jacolby Mobley, last year's leading scorer. Other returnees with starting experience are: 6-foot-5 Sr. Forward Tory Rice, 6-foot-2 Sr. Guard Steven Brand, 5-foot-9 Sr. Guard Michael Brand and 6-foot-1 Sr. Guard Stanley Childs. Added depth and size come by way of 6-foot-5 Sr. Forward Calvin Young and 6-foot-4 Sr. Forward Chris Harris, while 6-foot-0 Jr. Ravontae Gandy provides another experienced returnee.
2. Wayne County (31-1); Top Players: Coach Ronald Norman and his War Eagles made believers out of everyone last year coming from the back of the pack early to take home the 5A state title. The War Eagles are well equipped to make another run at the title and will be led by the outstanding duo of 6-foot-4 Sr. Forward Raeford Worsham and 6-foot-2 Sr. Guard Avery Woodson who both put up big numbers during the War Eagles title run. Also returning for the War Eagles are 6-foot-1 Sr. Guard Alex Lacy and 6-foot-7 Sr. Forward Alphonzo Smith who both played lots of minutes in the rotation last year. Despite losing a bevy of seniors off of last year's team The War Eagles shouldn't suffer for depth, Coach Norman utilizes a deep rotation and while their bench may be an unknown entity you can rest assured that it will be productive.
3. Biloxi (21-5); The Indians appear to be the class of the 6A ranks and could very well make a run for the No. 1 spot in the state provided their expected roster is available. The Indians return only one starter from last year in 6-foot-4 Jr. Forward Tavonn Tyson but he is expected to be joined by three newcomers, 6-foot-1 Sr. PG Keith Broome, 6-foot-7 Sr. Forward Davon Ester and 6-foot-4 Sr. Forward Adrian Edwards. 6-foot-0 Sr. Guard A J Murphy should round out the starting line-up. Depth should be provided by 5-foot-9 Jr. Guard Tevaris McCormick, 6-foot-3 Jr. Johnathan Quarels and 6-foot-4 Jr. Scott Austin.
4. Jackson Provine (25-3); New head Ram Otis Gaines inherits a veteran team that has the components to be one of the best in the state if the coach and players can mesh into one. The Rams will be led by 6-foot-4 Sr. Forward Roger Woods and 6-foot-0 Jr. Guard Courtney Shannon; joining Woods on the frontline will be 6-foot-4 Sr. Forward Jock Johnson and 6-foot-5 Sr. Forward Marcus Hogan, the fifth starter is expected to be 6-foot-1 Freshman Guard Deangelo West. Depth will be provided by: 6-foot-3 Jr. Javares Brent, 6-foot-4 Soph. Dontaveon Robinson, 6-foot-2 Soph. Kyarius Body and 5-foot-11 Soph. Shannon Bailey.
5. Jackson Callaway (13-11); Coming off of back-to-back state championships the Chargers fell victim to inexperience last year and suffered an early end to their season, but the roster is now full of players with a year's experience under their belt and the Chargers seem poised to regain their place as one of the state's premier teams. The Chargers will enter the season with a line-up featuring 6-foot-8 Jr. Forward TreShawn Bolden, 6-foot-7 Sr. Forward Terron Gilmore, who has committed to Murray State, and 6-foot-2 freshman guard Malik Newman, one of the top freshman in the nation. They will be supported by 6-foot-3 Sr. Forward Davion Smith, 6-foot-4 Jr. Guard Dontarious Simmons, 6-foot-1 Soph. Guard Cortez Mitchell, 5-foot-11 Soph. guard Dontellius Ross and 5'7" Jr. Guard Jarvis Williams. 6-foot-4 Soph. post Rod Taylor, 6-foot-2 Soph. Forward Ronald Walker and 6-foot-0 Sr. Guard Jacquez Ross should provide even more depth once they come off of the football field.
6. Piney Woods (29-3); Coach Lemuel Jones and his Tornadoes rolled to the 2A state title last year and showed along the way that they could play with anyone in the state finishing No. 3 in the final rankings. The Tornados are back for an encore, this time in Class 1A, and again expect to be able to play with anyone in the state. The Tornados will be led by the senior duo of 6-foot-7 Forward Phillip Jones and 6-foot-4" Forward Kenneth Taylor. They will be joined by 6-foot-9 Jr. Center Dwight Colbey to form one of the best frontcourts in the state. Backcourt duties will fall to 6-foot-0 Sr. Michael Franklin and 6-foot-2 Jr. Prince Cooper with depth coming from 6-foot-3 Jr. Christian Lane and 5-foot-8 Jr. Deonnte Scavalia.
7. Jackson Forest Hill (18-13); The Patriots made an unexpected trip to the "Big House" last season for the 5A state tournament and this year they will be looking to make a return trip but in the 6A classification. Returning Starters are 6-foot-4 Sr. Forward Quentarious Porter, 6-foot-1 Sr. Guard Chris Bilbo and 5-foot-11 Soph. Guard William Brown. This trio will welcome back 6-foot-0 Soph. Chris Hughes who was a starter for the first half of last year before having to sit out the second half of the season. Interior support will be provided by 6-foot-5 Sr. Forwards Patrick Banks and Ben Lewis.
8. Pascagoula (25-8); Coming off of a trip to the 6A state tournament semifinals the Panthers return 4 starters from that team and drop down to the 5A ranks for this year. Returning starters are 6-foot-6 Sr. Forward Ladarron Johnson, 5-foot-9 Sr. Guard Cordaryl Weathersby, 6-foot-0 Jr. Guard Tracy Hadley and 5-foot-11 Jr. Guard Paul Plainer. They will receive support from 6-foot-1 Jr. Forward Brandon Rich, 6-foot-2 Sr. Forward Miguel Miller and 5-foot-11 Soph. Guard Ladatren Deas.
9. Tupelo (28-4); Top players: Rashon Coleman 5-foot-9 Sr. Guard, Dajon Reno 6-foot-4 Sr. Guard, Josh Hamilton 6-foot-3 Sr. Forward, Chaz Jones 6-foot-3 Sr. Forward
10. Harrison Central (16-11); Top Players: Chris White 6-foot-5 Jr. Foward, Trent Jeffries 6-foot-3 Sr. Guard, Corey Williams 6-foot-3 Sr. Forward
11. Jackson Lanier (25-9); Top Players: Javerick Burell 6-foot-0 Sr. Guard, Andre Funchess 6-foot-0 Sr. Guard
12. Gulfport (25-6); Top Players: Jeremy Holliman 6-foot-1 Sr. Guard, Otis Harvey 6-foot-3 Jr. Forward
13. New Albany (28-5); Top Players: Moses Kingsley 6-foot-9" Jr. Center, Devonte Berry 6-foot-3 Sr. Forward, Eric Chaney 5-foot-10 Jr. Guard
14. Greenwood-Amanda Elzy (25-10); Top Players: Jamarius Middleton 6-foot-8 Jr. Center, Rahkeem Leahman 6-foot-3 Jr. Guard, Maurice Dunlap 6-foot-1 Soph. Guard
15. Jackson Murrah (16-13); Top Players: Josh Carroll 6-foot-1 Jr. Guard, Nick Warren 6-foot-0 Sr. Guard
With four teams (Biloxi, Forest Hill, Harrison Central and Gulfport) in the preseason rankings South 6A is stacked but there are a few other teams that bear watching. Hattiesburg seems to be best equipped to challenge the big four, Brandon and Meridian are perennial challengers, and St. Martin, Terry and Oak Grove are teams to watch. In the North there could be a free for all. Tupelo seems to be the favorite but must deal with a group of challengers that include: Murrah, Desoto Central, Madison Central, Greenville Weston, Clinton, Jim Hill and Vicksburg.
In South 5A, Wayne County and Pascagoula appear to be the teams to beat but Wingfield, McComb and Moss Point won't go down easily, while Pearl and West Harrison seem ready to make some noise. Despite having 3 of the top 5 teams in the preseason rankings (Starkville, Provine and Callaway) North 5A is much more wide open than one would think as the group of teams behind them: Lanier, Canton, Oxford, Ridgeland, Yazoo City and West Point, have lots of potential.
In North 4A, New Albany seems to be the team to beat but may not be the most talented team, that destinction goes to Amanda Elzy which seems poised for a breakout season, Gentry comes down from the 5A ranks, Rosa Fort, Corinth and Noxubee County are always in the mix, while Humphreys County and Shannon seem ready to make some noise. In South 4A Raymond, Columbia, Lawrence County, Bay High and Laurel all seem to have what it takes to make a run to the Big House, while Port Gibson is always talented.
Defending state champion Booneville again appears to be the top dog in the North but should get solid challenges from Eastside and Aberdeen, and never county out Holly Springs or Ripley. In the South, Forest, Kemper County, Newton and Pass Christian appear to be the teams to beat, while Bailey, St. Andrews, West Marion and Crystal Springs bear keeping an eye on.
Bruce, Calhoun City, Baldwyn and S.V. Marshall appear to be the class of the North while Coahoma County, Broad Street and West Bolivar all bear keeping an eye on. In South 2A Scott Central, Bay Springs, St. Andrews, Richton, East Marion and William Sullivan appear to be the cream of the crop.
Piney Woods drops down and immediately become the favorite to take home the title but can expect challenges in the South from Durant, Dexter, West Linclon and Hinds AHS. Myrtle, West Oktibbeha, Drew, Shaw, Ingomar and Greenville St. Joe appear to be the contenders up North.