Nobody wants to be a preseason No. 1, it seems.
As the basketballseason opens this week, none of the boys coaches -- for a variety ofreasons -- figures his team to be the favorite to win the Harford County title.
Not Edgewood's Bob Slagle -- too inexperienced.
Not Joppatowne's Mike Bauer -- too little confidence.
Not Aberdeen's Ron Petrey -- too short.
But ask the other coaches in the county and they'll say, "Don't let these guys fool you."
What each of these three coaches has is a roster filled with solid athletes. Usually by about midseason, that can overcome lack of experience, lack of confidence or lack of height.
That's not to say that the top three don't have a few problems. None appears headed for a season to match last year.
Defending county champ Edgewood's inexperience, especially at point guard, could keep the Rams from going 24-2 again and reaching the state Class 2A title game.
Joppatowne also suffers from inexperience and no true point guard, as well as a lack of confidence. The Marinersprobably won't match last year's 20-4.
And they probably won't make it back to the state championships to defend their Class 1A title for the second time.
Aberdeen also returns few starters, and neither of its two veterans is over 5-foot-8. But the Eagles have experience, and they have a point guard.
Most coaches say the race for thecounty title is between Edgewood and Aberdeen with Joppatowne right behind. Despite their problems, all three -- especially Edgewood and Aberdeen -- have great potential.
For Edgewood, four starters are gone. Only Lawrence Worthington returns. But if Slagle can get a quick improvement from a couple of seniors who have been ineligible earlier in their careers, the Rams could be well on their way.
Greg Ingram, a 6-7 center, and James Jackson, a 6-5 forward, could join veteran Cornelius Carey, a 6-5 forward, as the biggest front line in the county.
But whether Ingram and Jackson can get used to the varsity game quickly is still a big question mark. "Our true test is going tobe whether we can get the experience necessary," said Slagle.
Another big hurdle for the Rams is their lack of point guard. Slagle expects the point guard chores to be a team effort.
Joppatowne appears to be the team that has fallen the farthest. Of course it's a long way down after two years as state champ.
"We've crashed big-time, but it was bound to happen," said Bauer. "We've been up for quite some time. When you're rebuilding, you just look to improve. We have to set realistic goals."
Bauer expected to have one starter back, butnow he's lost that one, too. Junior defensive star Michael Harris tore ligaments in his knee during football season and will be lost for most, if not all, of the basketball season.
The Mariners will be led by 6-0 guard Jermaine Head, who saw a lot of action last year, and6-7 center Trent Nichols, who Bauer said is his most improved player.
Aberdeen has the most proven talent returning, with three starters back. Point guard Demont Blackmon and guard Demetrius Harris should be the county's top backcourt, while 6-6 center Richard Johnson is also back.
On the basis of their returning strength, the Eagles would have to get the dreaded nod as the team to beat. Even Petrey is willing to concede that his team might have a shot.
"Our size dictates what we have to do," said Petrey. "We have to use a lot of full-court pressure and avoid turning the ball over. Offensively, we are going to score a lot of points. It's just a matter of how many points we're going to give up."
As for the rest of the league, every team appears to have improved. Both C. Milton Wright, with four starters back, and Fallston could make a run at the top.
Don't look for thistitle race to be over until late February.
Coach:Ron Petrey, fourth season.
Assistants: Tony Cole, Bill Shelley, Joe Collins.
Last year's record: 18-6, Class 2A regional finalists.
Starters lost: 3.
Returnees: Demont Blackmon, 5-7, sr., PG; Demetrius Harris, 5-8, sr., G; Tito Coley, 5-10, sr., F/G; Richard Johnson, 6-6, sr., C.
Newcomers: Mark Brazley, 5-11, sr., F; Paul Smith, 5-9, jr., G; Chuck Brown, 5-9, jr., F/G; Mike Willard, 6-1, jr., F; Thomas Williams, 6-2, jr., F; Adolphus Salter, 5-8, sr., G.
Coach's outlook: "Our size dictates what we have to do. We have to use a lot of full-court pressure and avoid turning the ball over. Offensively, we are going to score a lot of points. It's just a matter of how many points we're going to give up."