Two of the three boys basketball programs start a new era and the other hopes to set a new standard.
While Desert Vista and Horizon Honors break in first-year head coaches at their respective programs, Mountain Pointe has the makings of a team that can contend.
The team won 22 games, including 11-1 in the East Valley Region, last season before losing the Class 5A Division I quarterfinals. The Pride returns a good mix of players that can get it done on both ends of the court with a couple of scholarship-worthy players leading the way.
The Pride has never made a state championship game. Is this the squad to do it? Tough to tell in November, but the talent is there.
"We got everything in place to be really successful," Mountain Pointe coach Brian Fleming said. "We have a lot of pieces in place, and we are going to go play. We lost three guys from last season but have a good core back ready to make some things happen."
The enthusiasm starts with senior Tylor Wimbush, last season's leading scorer (13.1) and rebounder (7.8), senior swingman Grand Canyon signee Jerome Garrison (7.4 points) and one of the state's top assists leaders (8.4 a game) in senior Steve Knox.
The 6-foot-6 Wimbush is receiving mid-major attention, while Garrison had a great summer tour with his traveling team, receiving MVP honors in one tournament.
The depth might be hurt depending on the football team's stay in the postseason as seniors Garrett Holle and Izzy Marshall provide height and length.
"We might have to go with an eight-man rotation until they get back and in basketball shape," Fleming said. "It might go through some growing pains, but we will be strong in the end."
Junior Marcus Ramirez should see a larger role, replacing his brother, Michael, at shooting guard.
"He was rated as one of the top wingmen to watch by one of the Internet sites," Fleming said. "He is fantastic."
The roster is filled with a lot of similar bodies with not much talent drop-off. It will give the Pride the chance to be a good defensive team that can move people around depending on the substitution pattern.
"We are pretty versatile," Fleming said. "We have a lot of different pieces that can play different. We got length, quickness and speed, and we have been tireless in the weight room."
Desert Vista has also put some time in the weight room since coach David Williams took over for Doug Harris.
"We went back to basics and really worked at becoming better athletes," he said. "We did a lot of running and jumping. There weren't a lot of athletes at this school. We went from two kids being able to dunk to 11 so we should be more athletic."
The Thunder dropped to 19-32 the last two seasons under Harris after winning the state title in the 2007-08 season.
This year's squad should be somewhere in between with a good core returning and the addition of junior Danny Powell from Mesa. The 6-foot-5 guard averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds for the Jackrabbits that won 25 games.
He will fit well in with juniors Jeff Lowery (11.4 points), Steve Klein, sophomore John Marshall (7.8 points) and senior leader Kamari Broom.
"I am excited about this group of kids," said Williams, who coached the Arizona Stars club team. "We have worked very hard and renewed our commitment to quality. I am looking to contend for our (Fiesta) Region title as well as a state title."
Horizon Honors, which plays in the Class 2A Central Region, has its third head coach in as many years as Ernest Shand takes over for Ben Wilson, whose squad went 11-13 last season, which was a seven-game improvement from the year before.
Shand, who coached Salt River to 37-52 record in three seasons before taking the job at Horizon Honors, is confident they can meld together in their first season together.
"It's very promising," he said. "We are quickly embracing an identity that encompasses the values that good teams have in their DNA."
The talent is there, but the big-game experience isn't.
Leading the way is 6-3 senior guard Alex Eddy, who is an athletic slasher who can hit the 3-pointer and disrupt opponents on defense.
The frontline has plenty of size for a 2A team as 6-4 junior Taylor Hudzinski, 6-6 junior Tyler Popescu and 6-6 senior Nick Dudley will be difficult to matchup with on the block.
Hudzinski offers a solid mid-range game, Popescu is a good passer for a big man and Dudley is great finisher.
Throw in junior varsity call-ups Dominick Chavez and Mikey Iosue, a pair of junior guards, and the team should make a run at the upper half of the difficult Central Region.
"We have good team chemistry, a strong work ethic and size," Shand said. "The desire is there, too."
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