If early predications hold, the North Bay League title fight — for both the boys and the girls — will not be much of a fight at all. But all is not lost for area hoops fans; the real battle will be for second in both boys and girls competition and could prove to be the most exciting basketball of the season.
But first things first.
Ahead of the pack on the boys side are the Windsor Jaguars.
“Windsor is by far the best team in the league,” said Cardinal Newman head coach Tom Bonfigli. “All starters are back except one — they are definitely the class of the whole area.”
The Jags return three all-league players, including first-team pick Gabe Knight, who averaged close to a double-double last season.
In addition to Knight’s nearly 19 points and eight rebounds a game, Windsor expects big things from last year’s second-teamer, Brent Tucker, who averaged nearly nine points a game along with five rebounds. Fellow senior Parker Canady was an honorable mention selection last season on the merits of his 8 points per game and better than five rebounds.
On the girls’ side, last year’s league champ, Cardinal Newman, is just as loaded, if not more so.
This is a squad that ran roughshod over every league opponent last season, winning NBL games by an average of 39 points. And the bad news for opponents this season is that except for 2015 All-Empire Player of the Year Kylie Kiech, they nearly are all back.
That means foes will have to contend with the likes of forward Hailey Vice-Neat, a first team all-league pick last year as a sophomore who is averaging nearly 11 points per game this season as well as three assists, and last year’s freshman sensation, first-team pick Maiya Flores, who is averaging 12 points per game to go with her three assists. New to the mix is point guard Avery Cargill.
“She may be a freshman in terms of age, but in terms of maturity and basketball, she’s not a newcomer,” Cardinal Newman head coach Monica Mertle said of her new floor general.
Cargill is averaging 10 points per game and more than three assists.
Of the 11 players on Newman’s roster this season, six are either freshmen or sophomores.
“They have so many weapons they can throw at you,” Windsor head coach Jeff Paul said.
Star attractions aplenty
Windsor’s Knight, the only junior on last year’s all-league first-team roster, will lead the Jaguars on a number of fronts. The senior averaged 18.7 points per game for the Jags last season, in addition to eight rebounds, two assists and a steal. Tucker, the only junior on last year’s second-team roster, and Canady will be joined by Curtis Johnson, a 6-foot-4 senior who is expected to have an impact.
Casa Grande could have a strong duo with last year’s second-team all-league guard Robbie Sheldon working with JJ Anderson, a 6-foot-6 senior coming off a strong season as the Gauchos’ quarterback.
And while there are some marquee names to see this season, there are also some big names whom basketball fans are likely to miss.