Can't believe that the talent level is improving through all four 4A leagues? Look no further than Region 3 - sizeable Granger, talented Taylorsville, traditionally tough Skyline, scrappy Kearns, powerful Cottonwood, improving Cyprus, and inside-oriented Olympus - where the competition may be the best in several seasons.C

Cottonwood

The Colts may have lost five of last year's top six players, with senior guard Travis Warner - a starter as a sophomore who is averaging nearly 10 assists a game - the sole returning headliner. "We lost quite a bit, so I hope we're able to compete," says Head Coach Blair Martineau.

Not to worry, though, thanks to an influx of relatively new faces, including 6-7 sophomore Justin Weider (20 points and 14 rebounds a game so far) and 6-7 former Park City player Jason Schlenske (22-point average).

Cyprus

Back as starters for the Pirates are 5-10 senior Brad Rammell, a guard leading the Cyprus scoring this season; and 6-2 senior inside-man Jeff Obryan.

The rest of the team is young (as evidenced by sophomore standout Chris Matagi) and small (the two tallest players at 6-3 are underclassmen playing JV ball.

"There's not a lot of size or experience, but we're very aggressive," says Head Coach Mark Wilson. "We're the kind of team that progressively gets better later in the season."

Granger

The Lancers' admitted strength is its inside size, including 6-8 senior post player Mike Maynard, who has averaged 21 points and 15 rebounds per preseason game; 6-7 power forward Jeff Hudson; and 6-5 junior Orin Huston, whose getting plenty of varsity and jayvee playing time to make up for having missed last season with a broken foot.

Dave Ryan, a 6-2 senior shooting guard, leads the high-octane offense for first-year Head Coach Steve Paur. "I never thought that it would be hard for kids to adjust to a fast-paced system, but they're used to a slow-down game."

Kearns

Coaches are labeling the undersized Cougars as "scrappy," which is fine with new Head Coach Weymouth Anderson, formerly of South High. "If we're going to have any success, we've got to play hard," said Anderson.

Leading Kearns are a trio of seniors - 5-9 guard Danny Stirland, senior guard Tony Boekweg, and 6-3 frontliner Tony Rios. The Cougar frontliners are about Rios' size, while the guards are pushing 6-foot at best.

Olympus

The Titans have an inside game that's going fine, thank you, but Olympus' outside efforts and shooting will need to improve. "If not, we could be in for some trouble," Head Coach Ron Huber says.

Tyler Tanner, a 6-5 forward has been averaging 17 points a game so far and is teamming with 6-5 postman Cory Pugh along the front. Experimenting along the perimeter has allowed sophomore guard Brett Buchi to surface as a starter.

Skyline

During the past decade and a half, the Eagles have established a team- oriented tradition. "The kids seem to work really well together and that's a real plus," says Head Coach Paul Jeppesen, hoping that such an advantage compensates for a somewhat smallish squad.

Senior off-guard Ryan Hunter has shown an eye for outside shooting, always improving 6-5 Greg James has gone from sixth man to starting center, and 6-1 Mike Bailey fills in again at forward. Joining them as starters on the senior- laden team are point guard Jason Dunn and 6-3 forward Ken Staker, the former running the offense and the later leading the way at defense and rebounding.

Taylorsville

Returning starters for the Warriors are 6-5 Tyler Dow and 6-2 Jeff Leatherwood, the later the son of Head Coach Dan Leatherwood. While the tandem is considered by most coaches one of the best in Region 3, Taylorsville also boasts the likes of 6-6 center Blair Bamberought, 6-5 senior Ryan Coates, and a pair of 6-0 guards - Shane Lyon and Bill Van Ry.

The elder Leatherwood says there's more talent to draw on as well, with this year's juniors having gone 19-2 as a sophomore squad last year.