High school boys basketball: Hoops season tips off

Published: Monday, Nov. 21 2011 6:00 p.m. MST

Just a few days removed from the conclusion of the high school football season, it's time to shift gears to the indoor sports as the boys basketball season officially tips off today with 23 games around the state.

Among them is East's game at Hillcrest. Last Friday, East's football team lost a heartbreaker to Logan in the final minute. On Saturday, basketball coach Skip Lowe held his final tryouts, and yesterday the team handed out jerseys. It's certainly been a hectic week for the Leopards.

With the season set to begin this week, only two of last year's defending state champions begin the year as the preseason No. 1 in their respective classification.

Here's a class-by-class look at the teams to beat during the 2011-2012 season.

Class 5A

With four starters back from last year's 24-1 state championship team, Lone Peak was a near-unanimous No. 1 selection by the state's coaches in the Deseret News preseason rankings.

Nick Emery, TJ Haws and Talon Shumway combined to average 44 points last season, giving the Knights a lethal offensive punch.

"This is the most skilled team I have coached in nine years at Lone Peak," said coach Quincy Lewis. "To win a state title this year, I feel like we must get to a higher level than we were at last season."

The reason for that is American Fork and West Jordan. Like Lone Peak, both programs are loaded with talent and, any other year, they could probably make a legitimate claim to be the preseason No. 1.

American Fork returns three starters from last year's state runner-up team, including USU signees Marcel Davis and Quincy Bair. The Cavemen lost to Lone Peak three times last year, though, and closing that gap has been the focus this offseason.

"Our players have worked hard to become more physically tough and hopefully will be mentally tough to be able to beat teams that we are supposed to and to play together," said coach Doug Meacham. "The challenge will be to continue to be unselfish and share the ball on offense."

Jaden Jackson's transfer from Skyline to West Jordan this summer has transformed 5A from a two-team to a three-team race. Jackson averaged 24.9 points at Skyline, while Jordan Loveridge averaged 23.5 with the Jaguars. Together, they form the best 1-2 punch in the state.

After the big three, teams like Fremont, Davis, Alta and Bingham should all be very good as well.

Class 4A

Unlike the state's largest classification, there's a lot more uncertainty heading into 4A this year.

Even though Sky View was dubbed the preseason No. 1 by the coaches, seven other teams garnered first-place votes.

Defending 4A state champion Highland wasn't among the eight, either, as the Rams try and rebuild after graduating four starters from last year's title team.

Despite the lack of preseason attention, coach Keith West expects his team to be competitive.

"Excellent athleticism and very good shooting team. Not particularly big, but have players who have some length and play hard," said West. "Should contend for region title and have an opportunity to do well in state."

Sky View will lean heavily on 6-foot-8 big man Casey Oliverson, who averaged 14.0 points last year in leading the Bobcats to the quarterfinals.

Along with Sky View, the teams from Bountiful, Orem, Olympus, Provo and Timpview all received a little preseason buzz in the preseason coaches poll. Last year's runner-up Bountiful is starting from scratch with zero returning starters, but coach Mike Maxwell likes the chemistry of his team.

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