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November 27, 2012

Preseason AAA Hoops Top 25 - 10-6

We continue our Preseason AAA Hoops Top 25 Countdown with teams #15 through 11 below . . .

11. Petersburg - - The Crimson Wave basketball team has put together a better record than anyone else in the state at the Group AAA level over the past six years 160-18, which included a 29-2 mark in their first seasons under Head Coach Rick Hite. But as great as Petersburg has been of late, they've seen their Championship quest come up short with five losses in the State Tournament over the last six years, four of those times being eliminated by the Eastern Region Champion. While the state's leading scorer is gone in Frank Mason, Petersburg will have a pretty deep rotation with seniors Earl Adams, Quadree Walker, Marius Watson and Malik Blackwell; juniors Gevon Arrington, James Byers and Adonis Jameas; and sophomore Gemonta Jackson.

12. GW-Danville - - New Coach Thomas Carr comes in with a different mindset and a plan to push the basketball up the floor at a rapid pace for the GW-Danville Eagles, who are trying to get back to the State Tournament for the first time since 2009 when they lost to King's Fork in overtime in the quarterfinals. This team will feature some seasoned talented with seven seniors, led by two highly sought after recruits in guard Jarod Williams and wing Ahmad Thomas. Last season, Thomas put up nearly 16 points per game for the Eagles as they made it to the regional quarterfinals, whereas Williams returns to GW after spending last year at Blue Ridge. They have two bona-fide scorers in Williams and Thomas to be in the hunt, but to contend for hardware it may take getting a lift from the support cast.

13. Maury - - In 36 seasons at the helm, Jack Baker has won 649 games, the most among all active VHSL coaches in the state. His Commodores are sure to be competitive, even with the departure of ultra-athletic scoring wing Jamal Ferguson to Marquette. Jamal's younger brother, Jaleel Ferguson (14PPG, 9.8RPG), is going to carry them on the baseline alongside fellow 6-foot-5 junior Shyheim Draughan, a potential breakout player in the Eastern Region this year. Size and outside shooting is there. What they aren't real sure about going into the campaign is ball-handling duties, where things could be split up amongst the likes of Mike Basnight, Jalon Williams and Blake Gibson until someone takes control at the point.

14. Green Run - - Fifth-year Head Coach Kenny Harris has the Stallions looking to build on a regional playoff appearance and 17-win campaign, but they will have to do it with double-double man Mark Hall, the Beach District Player of the Year who's now playing football at UVA. Fortunately for the Stallions, they have basically everyone else back and couple talented newcomers to make a push towards the school's first Beach District title since 1988-89. They will lean on the perimeter trio of senior point guard Lequan Thomas, junior wing Keon Buchanan and junior shooting guard Tyler Blount. Each brings a different dimension to the equation with Thomas providing quickness and relentlessness, Buchanan possessing athleticism and toughness, and Blount bringing three-point shooting and poise.

15. T.C. Williams - - Four times in the past six years, the Titans have won the Northern Region, highlighted by their run to a state title 2008. Gone are three-year starters Daquan Kerman and Anthony 'T.J.' Huggins, leading to questions about where some of their leadership and scoring will come from this season. One guy they will lean on heavily is 6-foot-5 senior forward Landon Moss, who put up over 11 points and seven rebounds a game this season and is capable of raising those numbers to around 18PPG and 10RPG. Typically, T.C. Williams plays extremely hard defensively and is battle-tested come playoff time because of the tough non-district schedule they play, so count on them being a factor when the postseason rolls around even if they get off to a slow start.

And in case you missed teams #16 through 25 earlier . . .

16. Stonewall Jackson - - Last season, the Raiders made their first trip to the Northwest Region Tournament since 2003. Now, Stonewall Jackson has its sights set on winning the Cedar Run District and making a deep playoff run with ten players back from their 2011-12 bunch, headlined by 6-foot-3 senior guard J.R. Washington (20.9PPG, 7.8RPG, 4.1SPG). Alongside Washington, the Raiders expect to get quality play from senior point guard Mustafa Ali and junior forward Diandre Stubbs. Defensively, they gave up 63.2 points a contest and will have to reduce that total to go further in the postseason this time.

17. Norcom - - It's not quite the Greyhounds team that won back-to-back state titles with Dorian Finney-Smith, DeCarlos Anderson and Jeremy Canty leading the way, but there's firepower for Coach Leon Goolsby to pursue a sixth Eastern District Tournament crown in seven years. At his disposal are two of the best perimeter scoring threats in Malique Trent and James Whitaker, a pair of seniors getting courted by D-1 schools. Each can erupt for a huge scoring outburst at any time. How far they go will depend on a few factors, such as the defensive intensity for 32 minutes, production from role players like Antonio Parker and Troy Locke, and what kind of consistency they get out of the point guard and post positions.

18. Westfield - - This spot might be a little low for the defending Northern Region Champions, who did say good-bye to front-court standouts in the 6-foot-11 Zach Elcano, now at American University, and 6-foot-4 forward Quentin Basil. What they do have back is an All-District athlete in 6-foot-3 wing C.J. Hill, who is explosive going to the rim and reliable defensively for a Bulldogs team known for stymying offensive-minded squads that want to get out and run. Six-foot-4 senior swingman Trevon Walton, a transfer from Riverbend, gives the Bulldogs a major boost with what they lost in terms of scoring as well as rebounding.

19. Thomas Jefferson - - Under Coach Kendrick Warren, the Vikings enjoyed a major turnaround last season in winning 20 games, including a comeback victory over L.C. Bird in the Times-Dispatch Tournament and beating John Marshall to capture the Colonial District Tournament Championship. None of their five starters from last season graduated, but word has it that injuries to a couple of key starters, Josh Boone and Vidrell Lee, will have them sidelined for the first month of the season, if not longer. They'll lean on Garrick Ellis, Kadeem Wright and Rashawn Alexander, all double-figure scorers. How healthy this team is down the stretch, and what kind of lift they are able to get from their bench, should determine their success in the postseason.

20. Great Bridge - - Even though All-District point guard Taj Owens is gone to Radford, the Wildcats have perhaps the best junior guard in Tidewater in Marcus Evans, who'll follow in the footsteps of Owens and VCU's Briante Weber as the next D-1 product from a Great Bridge program that's coming off its first Southeastern District title in 12 years. Steve Bienlien is more than serviceable on the interior for the Wildcats, and both Andre Banks and Mark Madison must be accounted for by defenses with their ability to strike from three-point land. This is a team that wants to control tempo, dictate the pace and let their defense set the tone to frustrate the opposition. It'll take a team forcing the action in transition, yet being disciplined and patient in the half-court when needed to beat them.

21. Thomas Edison - - The amount of progress the Eagles have made from going 1-19 three years ago to reaching the Group AAA State Tournament last season, their first trip since 1970, is rather remarkable. Coach Terry Henderson relied heavily on the twin tower combination of Matt Murphy and Ty Mackall down low, but those two graduated, meaning the backcourt will be in the spotlight. Markus Brumsey Jr. and Chief Amoah give them two quality guards that can create off the bounce and pressure the basketball defensively. Edison will have to make up for that front-court scoring and rebounding they lose in Mackall and Murphy, though, and improve their outside shooting, which cost them in the 68-61 State Playoff loss to Petersburg when they shot 0-for-10 from beyond the arc.

22. Gar-Field - - Winning their first 23 games a season ago, the Gar-Field Indians went on to grab the Northwest Region Tournament crown before falling to Kecoughtan in the State Tournament quarterfinals to cap one of the finest years in school history on the hardwood. Gone is All-State guard Marcus 'Smoke' Knight, but they'll be just fine in the backcourt with a couple of All-Cardinal District selections in Navy commit Zach Fong (66 3's) and Curtis Lovitt (13.3PPG). Most importantly, Gar-Field has developed a winning mentality and confidence that will give them an edge most nights when they take the court. Beyond Fong and Lovitt, the Indians have to identify who else they can count on for consistent minutes and productivity because there's not a ton of size or depth for Coach Andy Gray.

23. Battlefield - - Three starters return for the Bobcats after notching a 12-11 mark in year one under Coach Kurt Pauly. Six-foot-1 senior Roman Hall (12PPG) is a four-year starter and speedy off the bounce; 6-foot-4 senior wing Terrell Walker (10PPG) is a three-year starter that affects the game in a variety of ways; and 6-foot-3 junior guard Trevor Blondin has stellar touch from long distance. In addition, Battlefield returns junior guard Jamison Glover and Kameron Hedgepeth, a dynamic 6-foot-2 sophomore that contributed quite a bit as a freshman. Look for this program to be on the rise for years to come with four members from a J.V. team that went 33-2 over the past two seasons moving up the ladder.

24. Cosby - - Led by Second Team All-State performer Troy Caupain, a fearless attacker who averaged 25 points per game as a junior, the Cosby Titans are looking to follow up their Dominion District Tournament crown with another solid campaign. To go with him, the Titans have one of the better freshmen around in Justin Henry. Outside of the Cincinnati signee Caupain and Jarek Frankovich, there isn't a great amount of experience, plus Coach Ronald Carr has concerns about their size and depth against some of the upper echelon teams in the Central Region. However, when Caupain is on and if Henry develops on schedule, this team will threaten again in the Dominion District.

25. Landstown - - In 11 seasons under Coach Dwight Robinson, the Landstown Eagles have gone 187-86 with a record of 103-39 in Beach District play. All four perimeter starters from last year's team in Tim Marshall, D.J. Roberson, Sedric Nady and Tyri Morring moved on to the next level. Diminutive 5-foot-6 point guard Jordan Roberson is the pulse of the team and plays with terrific energy and hustle every possession. Robinson's teams are always aggressive defensively with various presses and traps, but they now finally have a true inside presence to fall back on in 6-foot-8 sophomore center Darius Bolstad.

Honorable Mention: Bethel, Patrick Henry-Roanoke, Fairfax, Nansemond River and Meadowbrook

The 2012-13 Group AAA Basketball Schedules with Results & Standings
The 2011-12 Group AAA Basketball Schedules with Results & Standings

Matthew Hatfield serves as State Basketball Analyst for VirginiaPreps.com, part of the Rivals.com Network. Check out Hatfield's Twitter page for more sports related info and updates. To contact Matthew, please e-mail [email protected], and don't forget to listen to him on the VirginiaPreps.com Hour every Saturday at 11AM on ESPN Radio 94.1 and watch him on the Cox 11 Sports Report.

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