Three teams should contend for the Harford County girls basketball championship, so it should be no surprise that seven of the top 10 preseason players come from those teams. North Harford and C. Milton Wright are the early front-runners, but Bel Air could come on strong toward the end.
While one or two girls not named here could turn into surprise forces in the league, these 10 should be the dominant players in Harford County.
* Leigh Biggerman (5-6, senior, point guard), C. Milton Wright -- The top scorer returning for the Mustangs, Biggerman averaged 15.1 points per game.
She can shoot the three-pointer, but her best range is a step inside the arc. Her passes inside always put the ball where the post player can follow right through to the basket. Biggerman also has the quick hands and anticipation to be a top defensive player.
* Amy Dean (5-7, sophomore, guard), John Carroll -- After starting as a freshman, Dean will probably be the top scorer for the Patriots, who play in the Catholic League's B Conference. A good outside shooter to begin with, Dean honed her skills in summer league and is an even bigger threat.
In addition, Dean's quickness and speed combine with her hard-nosed hustle to make her a top defensive player.
* Cathy DeRan (5-11, senior, center), North Harford -- An aggressive inside player, DeRan should easily improve on her five points and seven rebounds a game. With some other strong players to share time last year, DeRan didn't need to put up the big numbers last year, but the Hawks will need her to stay in the running for the county title. Her strong moves to the basket and powerful rebounding will be a key.
* Nitrease Hamilton (5-11, junior, center), Havre de Grace -- Hamilton did a little bit of everything for the Warriors last year. Her 14-point, 14-rebound average helped them reach the state Class 1A semifinal game.
Hamilton again will be a force inside. She can dominate the boards and get a lot of put-back points. Although she will have a little more strength around her, Hamilton will still be the key to the Warriors' game.
* Jenny Howard (5-8, senior, guard) Fallston -- One of the most consistent players in the county over the last two years, Howard plays many roles for the Cougars. Last year, she averaged 10 points and 10 rebounds as a swing player. She can handle the ball, dish off, shoot from outside and get good positioning for the rebounds. On defense, the three-time state cross country champ is a quick, sticky pest.
* Carie James (5-11, junior, forward), North Harford -- For the past year, James has played with an AAU team, the Waves, in Anne Arundel County.
That kind of experience can only help to improve her 10.2 points and 14 rebounds a game average. In addition to James' strength as an inside scoring threat, she is a top defender. She gets four or five blocks in most games and is a powerful rebounder.
* Kelly MacNeill (5-7, senior, forward), C. Milton Wright -- MacNeill could be the surprise of the season for the Mustangs. Always a solid fundamental player, MacNeill has improved her rebounding tremendously.
She'll get a lot of scoring opportunities off her ability to anticipate the rebound and should improve her five-point, five-rebound average. MacNeill also has a strong drive to the basket and makes good cuts off the ball.
* Stacey Milton (6-0, sophomore, center), C. Milton Wright -- Milton is coming off a freshman campaign where she averaged seven points and 10 rebounds. In addition to her ability to play inside, she has the anticipation and court sense of a guard. She always knows what's happening around her and can quickly dish off to the open player. That ability helps make the Mustangs' outside game even more potent.
* Dawn St. Clair (6-0, senior, guard), Bel Air -- For the past few years, St. Clair has played in the shadow of her older sister Lisa. This year, she should come into her own. With the potential to be an inside powerhouse, St. Clair is strong on the boards and should get a lot of points on the follows. If St. Clair emerges as a force, the Bobcats will be competitive with C. Milton Wright and North Harford for the county title.
* Tracy Thompson (5-5, senior, guard), North Harford -- Thompson makes up for her height with a dead-eye shot from outside. Last season, she averaged 11 points, but she shot 50 percent from the field and 70 percent from the free-throw line. Although she can shoot the three-pointer, Thompson's best range is around 15 feet. She also converts well on the fast break.