By Ryan Rohde
1. Scott County Cardinals (Georgetown, Kentucky): It's hard to say that the 2007 state champs are a surprise team, especially with the talent this group has. The Cardinals were bounced out in the first round of the playoffs last season by a solid Lexington Catholic team, and this year's Cardinals have redemption on their minds. Scott County has many opportunities to prove its worth as they play one of the hardest schedules in the nation.
2. Gastonia Huss Huskies (Gastonia, North Carolina): This young team made a statement by winning a game in last season’s playoffs. Sophomores Jarvis Anderson and T.J. Wilson are two of the Charlotte area's brightest young stars. This team still has some maturing to do, but they will learn fast in a city with great talent. If this team comes together, they can go deep into the playoffs.
3. White Station Spartans (Memphis, Tennessee): Last season's state runner up won’t sneak up on anyone this season. The Spartans are consistently one of the top teams in Tennessee and the nation. White Station has won four state titles since 2000 and wants to finish what they started last season. Junior guard Joe Jackson is emerging as star and senior forward Ferrakohn Hall is a strong post presence.
4. Austin East Roadrunners (Knoxville, Tennessee): Austin East made another appearance in the AA playoffs last season but look to go deeper this time around. The Roadrunners feature senior twins Chase (6-5, 210 lbs.) and Chance (6-0, 185 lbs.) Jones, two forces to be reckoned with. Meanwhile, Travei Pryor has a nice post game that complements well with the Jones brothers. These three also play football, so it might take some time for the tem to gel, but they will be a force by season's end.
5. Bishop O’Connell Knights (VA): O’Connell is a traditional D.C. powerhouse and a four-time Virginia Independent school champion. The Knights came up short of the coveted WCAC title to Gonzaga last season. The D.C. league is one of the best in the nation and features other formidable teams like DeMatha, Good Counsel and Gonzaga. Gonzaga and DeMatha received all the hype last season, so look for O’Connell to try and steal some for themselves. They will get their chance against DeMatha on Feb. 17, which will be aired on ESPN.
6. Wheeler Wildcats (Marietta, Georgia): Wheeler has won four state titles and is favored again this season. The Wildcats posses one of the best frontcourts in the country. Forward Ari Stewart is a 6-7 wing man who can shoot the three, and 6-8 forward Richard Howell averaged 17 points and 11 boards last season. Wheeler will showcase its talents as they play one of the toughest schedules in country.
7. Porter Gaud Cyclones (Charleston, South Carolina): Small forward Khris Middleton has become one of the best outside shooting threats in the country. Porter Gaud fell short in the SCISA title game last season to Pinewood Prep and look to finish the job this year. Plus, they will have two shots at Pinewood Prep during the regular season and either of these two matchups could be game of the year candidates.
8. Redan Raiders (Stone Mountain, Georgia): The Raiders try to make another step in the playoffs after bowing out in round one last season. Power forward Kenny Hall is one of the toughest players in the state. The Tennessee commit averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds in ’07-’08. Redan looks to make its mark in the talent-rich state of Georgia.
9. Fayette County Tigers (Fayetteville, Georgia): The Tigers made a somewhat surprising run to the AAAA title game last season before falling to Columbia. Two-guard Noel Johnson is a great pull-up shooter in transition and has signed with USC. Fayette County has the depth and tools to make another title run.
10. Mt. Zion Christian Academy (Durham, North Carolina): Mt. Zion is just one more in a long list of great North Carolina private schools. At 6-11 and 240 lbs., center Bawa Muniru is physical specimen and is still developing his skills around the net. Muniru is signed to play at Indiana next fall. Mt. Zion plays a tough schedule and has plenty of opportunity this year to showcase its talent.
11. Lake Norman Wildcats (Mooresville, North Carolina): This team has the chance to open some eyes in the Charlotte area. Garinger transfer Reggie Price adds his 20 points per game to center Paul Larson’s potent inside game. This potent inside-outside threat could make some waves across the state.
To contact correspondent Ryan Rohde, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.