One of the more pressing questions already has been answered: John Brady is returning as Annapolis boys basketball coach.
But are his young Panthers equipped to make another run at a state championship? Or will Broadneck, with its senior-dominated lineup, finally get the Panther off its back?
And what about Old Mill, a region semifinalist last year that pushed the Bruins to three overtimes before bowing out of the playoffs? Or perhaps Severna Park or Meade, both expected to show marked improvement, will find their way to Cole Field House.
"I see a better team in Glen Burnie, and a much, much better team in Chesapeake," said Old Mill coach Paul Bunting, further clouding the postseason picture."It could be a very interesting year. It comes down to the breaks --who gets them."
The 4A League has a new look with the addition ofSouthern, South River and Northeast -- all playoff teams last year in the 3A-2A League. Queen Anne's also joins the fray, as the league separates into two divisions.
Meanwhile, St. Mary's has joined Severn and Archbishop Spalding in the Maryland Scholastic Association C Conference.
The following is a look at the county public and private school teams:
Annapolis coach John Brady is two wins shy of 300, with a chance to attain the magic number against his alma mater, Mount St. Joseph, on Dec. 16.
The Panthers, who went 21-4, losing to Parkdale of Prince George's County in the state semifinals, feature seven sophomores -- most seasoned by their participation in the Annapolis Summer Men's League.
"I think they are more experienced than a lot of people realize," Brady said. "They played 14 games in the summer league, then four more in College Park (summer tournament). And they're going to get playing time. With our style of play, we need at least eight or nine guys to be ready."
The defending Region IV champions, who lost All-County performers Dennis Edwards (27 points a game) and Delmore Howard (15.7) return Anne Arundel County Sun Player of the Year Rob Wooster, a 6-foot-5 senior swingman whoaveraged 14.1 points last season.
"Rob is going to be real strongthis year," Brady said. "Last year, he really stepped up and got thejob done. I expect the same from him this year."
Brady said the Panthers' defense is the key to turning loose his up-tempo offense.
"The defense is looking extremely good, and I think it'll generate lots of offense. (Marvin) Brown and (Lozonnah) James are very quick, maybe the quickest defensive combo we've had here in a while," he said.
Annapolis was responsible for three of Broadneck's five losses last season, including a 71-69 defeat in the 4A Region IV finals. And that was with now-departed point guard Johnny Williams in the Bruins'lineup.
"He's irreplaceable," said Broadneck coach Ken Kazmarek. "I don't expect any of these guys to try to replace him."
That's good news for 6-1 senior Maurice Washington, who inherits the point guard duties. Washington averaged 15 points in his final nine games last season.
He joins seniors Jeff Vincent (6-1), Matt Weimer (6-2), Greg Jackson (6-3) and Dave Britton (6-5) in an all-senior starting lineup. Vincent is Broadneck's leading returning scorer at 13.5 points, and Weimer led all Bruin rebounders at 8.1. Britton, who takes overthe center spot vacated by 7-2 Boris Beck, and Jackson saw marginal playing time last year.
With so much experience, Kazmarek said theBruins are "way ahead of where we were last year at this time."
While Broadneck was reaching the 20-win plateau for the third consecutive winter, Old Mill closed its season with a 72-70 triple-overtime loss to the Bruins in the regional semifinals.
The Patriots, winners of 17 games, only lost four players to graduation. But all four were starters.
The fifth starter, senior guard Ravon Austin, has missed all of practice with ligament damage in his left knee. Old Mill's leading returning scorer at 13 points a game, Austin is coming off a 20-point performance in the playoff loss to Broadneck.
Other returnees include 6-3 senior forwards Terrell Eldridge and Austin Johnson,two reserves who Bunting said "easily could have started" last season. Junior guard Steve Smith and junior forward Izzy Deschaine also will play more this year.
Perhaps the king of the county will emergefrom Severna Park. Coach Wayne Mook said the Falcons have "a ton back" from last season, when they won 10 games before losing to Meade inthe regional quarterfinals.
The starting lineup boasts a trio of 6-5 players: center Rich Riffle (11 rebounds), guard Scott Brown (17 points) and forward Gerald Cager.
A key addition is Arundel transfer Craig Dorsey, a point guard capable of running Mook's up-tempo offense. Of course, with the Falcons' height, "I can't say we're in any hurry to shoot," said the 11th-year coach.