The Lions, last year’s 4A state champions who amassed a 34-1 record, only return all five starters and 11 lettermen to a roster that typically eclipses triple digits in any given game. Led by a stellar group of guards in Darius Gardner, Brandon Peters and Joseph Young, Yates will look to the motivation of defending a state championship to help the team accomplish the feat of back-to-back titles.
There are subplots aplenty across the state, as teams prepare to tip off the season this week. 4A should again be dynamic, with a handful of teams ready to joust with Yates, including the likes of La Marque and University of Texas commit Julien Lewis, and fellow Houston ISD foes Washington, Jones and Wheatley. Also out of the greater Houston area, Friendswood’s Mustangs return all five starters from a 20-11 unit, including Sam Houston State signee Byron Randle.
Dallas Kimball, whom some believe went on a magical run to the state tournament last year, will not be under the radar this season. That is especially true for 6-5 David Kates, who almost singlehandedly took the Knights on his back last year all the way to Austin.
Out of the Red River region, a pair of Oklahoma signees in Sherman’s Cameron Clark and Denison’s T.J. Taylor both play for teams that could likewise make a lot of noise deep into the postseason.
LeBryan Nash, Dallas Lincoln’s 6-7 one-man wrecking crew, will keep the traditionally rich Tigers poised, as well, for a long playoff run.
Southern Dallas County is where you will find countless college scouts mining for talent, and they will have plenty of numbers to look at this year with Cedar Hill, DeSoto and Duncanville ranked Nos. 1, 3 and 4 in the TexPreps Basketball magazine preseason coaches rankings.
DeSoto knocked off neighborhood rival Cedar Hill to win it all last year in Class 5A, and while the Eagles and Longhorns are not in the same district, don’t be surprised to see them meet up again in the postseason. Duncanville, Cedar Hill’s district foe, will definitely have a say in matters behind Baylor signee Perry Jones and Julian Washburn.
Houston Bellaire is also loaded with talent, including four Division I prospects on its roster. Houston Cypress Woods returns DeeMarco Richardson and Andre Adams from a 33-4 club, while Klein Forest welcomes eight lettermen and three starters.
San Antonio Wagner and league rival Converse Judson should stage at least two dandy district contests, and both teams have the depth and athleticism to carry them deep into the postseason. San Antonio Madison welcomes back Stephen Baird as the Mavericks also have eyes on Austin.
Another Madison, this one Dallas Madison, would be a handful in Class 5A or 4A, but the Trojans reside in 3A and will look to cousins Timothy and Desmond Flentroy to defend a state title. Lubbock Estacado, another team that until last year played in 4A, will be formidable as always.
The Houston area and Golden Triangle area are ably represented by Stafford and Colorado State signee Maurice Wiltz, Cleveland and dynamic junior Cedric Reed, and 21-3A juggernauts Sour Lake Hardin-Jefferson and Silsbee.
One sleeper coming just north of Dallas is Argyle, which fell by just two points to Dallas Madison last year in the post-season.
Coaching veterans Barry Boren of Liberty Hill and Danny Nix of Burkburnett will again have teams boasting plenty of talent and looking for another prolonged post-season run.
Heading down the classification rung, Doug Boxell is no longer coaching Ponder in Class 2A, but the Lions and Jude Stanley will again look to defend a state crown with competition coming from athletic New Waverly and twins Tyren and Kyren Watts.
One of the feel-good stories last year in 2A came out of the Rio Grande Valley when Santa Rosa advanced to Austin. Coach Johnny Cipriano’s Warriors will be the hunted this season. Aaron Ramirez was the Valley’s newcomer of the year and is among a handful of returnees leading the way this year.
In Class A Division I, Cayuga looks to be a heavy favorite behind multi-sport star Traylon Shead, who has committed to the University of Texas as a football running back. West Texas, as always, is represented in this classification with Plains, Clarendon, Gruver, Roscoe and Bronte all top-10 selections heading into the season.
In Class A Division II, district rivals Laneville and Elkhart Slocum are picks No. 1 and No. 2 in either order. Both are deep, athletic and tradition-rich programs who rank as the favorites in this classification with Lester King’s dangerous Goodrich squad also a favorite.
R.V. Baugus is the publisher of Tex Preps Basketball magazine. Read all his work at