Coach: Brandon Miller
Last season: 24-5
Key returners: Blake Stinson, PG, sr.; Brett Boyd, G, jr.; Brandon Sample, G, sr.; Hartley Hilton, G/F, sr.
Key loss: Alec Anderson
Promising newcomer: Grayson Honaker, G/F, fr.
Outlook: The 2016-17 Crooked Road Conference player of the year (Alec Anderson) and coach of the year (Marcus Dunham) are no longer in the fold at Honaker, but the Tigers should once again be one of the state’s top Class 1 teams.
Four starters return from a team that reached the VHSL state quarterfinals last season, while Brandon Miller takes over as head coach after Dunham stepped down.
Senior point guard Blake Stinson averaged 11.4 points and 8.3 assists per game last season and runs a team as well as any player in Southwest Virginia. Junior Brett Boyd (10.8 ppg) is one of the area’s top 3-pointer shooters, while seniors Brandon Sample (12.5 ppg) and Hartley Hilton (12.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg) are proven scorers. Sample, Hilton and Boyd were first-team All-CRC selections last season.
They’ll be joined in the starting lineup by highly-touted freshman Grayson Honaker, a veteran of the AAU circuit who scored points in bunches last season on the junior varsity level. Several opposing coaches have said he could have started on the varsity level for most teams as an eighth-grader.
Colton Compton, Corey Keene, Luke Goodie and Ethan Farmer should also contribute for the Tigers.
Coach’s Quote: “We are very excited in Honaker this year for basketball. I have one of the best coaching staffs in the area that know an awful lot about the game. We also have four very talented returning starters and some great new players that can really play the game at a high level. We will look to push the ball up the court and force our tempo on our opponents. We are guard heavy and can be a tough matchup night in and night out.”
Grundy Golden Wave
Coach: Brian Looney
Last season: 8-14
Key returners: Cole Street, G, sr.; Jacob R. McCoy, G, soph.; Kevin Dotson, G, sr.; Tanner Baldwin, G, sr.
Key losses: Christian Jackson; Axel Olin
Promising newcomers: Cade Looney, C, fr.; Jacob I. McCoy, G, sr.
Outlook: Grundy is sort of a mystery.
The Golden Wave lost its two leading scorers in Christian Jackson and Axel Olin, but return five seniors and a host of unproven varsity newcomers.
The ’Wave also has some much-needed continuity in the coaching ranks as Brian Looney returns for his second season at the helm.
Cole Street, a 5-foot-11, senior, and 5-foot-11 sophomore Jacob R. “Jake” McCoy are the returning starters. Street is the team leader.
“He possesses strong leadership skills, he’s a great ball-handler and he brings tenacity to the team,” Looney said. “Cole is a gritty player and will do whatever is needed for the team.”
Kevin Dotson, Tanner Baldwin, 6-foot-6 freshman Cade Looney, Jacob I. “Jib” McCoy, Josh Addair, Tristan Justus, William Bedsole, Ethan Owens, Jack Stacy and Garrett Keene are other players who could play big roles.
Coach’s Quote: “We will have a senior-led team this year.”
Coach: David Brown
Last season: N/A
Key returners: Tayten Sykes, G, sr.; Taylor Justus, F, jr.; Jonathan Hurley, soph., F; Dylan Hall, soph., G
Key losses: Zack Lester; Brady Justice
Promising newcomers: Rusty Bailey, F, soph.; Jacob “Bull” Sutherland, C, soph.
Outlook: David Brown is Hurley’s fourth head coach in four years and it might take the Rebels some time to get acclimated with another new boss as evidenced by a 1-3 start.
Hurley does have one of the area’s most prolific scorers in senior guard Tayten Sykes, who already has scored more than 1,000 career points. He was a first-team All-Crooked Road Conference selection last season.
Taylor Justus, a 6-foot-2 senior forward, is in his third year on the varsity level and is a capable scorer. Jonathan Hurley, Dylan Hall and Micah Blankenship also have varsity experience.
Hurley is currently sidelined with a knee injury he suffered during football season.
Rusty Bailey, Shane Boyd, Tyler Young, Jacob “Bull” Sutherland and John A. Justus are sophomores vying for valuable minutes.
Coach’s Quote: “We have a solid group of athletes that complement each other’s talents. We just have to learn to work together. Our success really depends on the boys’ effort. If they put the effort into it we should be competitive in the district.”
Twin Valley Panthers
Coach: Jeremy Ward
Last season: 19-7
Key returners: N/A
Key losses: Tanner Wagner; Roger McClanahan; Cole Payne
Promising newcomers: Trevor McGlothlin, F/C, soph.; Chance Keen, G, soph.; Tylor Keen, G, sr.; Isaac Hampton, F, jr.; Brandon Lester, F, jr.
Outlook: Twin Valley is in a unique predicament.
“No one off last year’s team is on this year’s team,” said head coach Jeremy Ward.
Ward is even in a new spot as he takes over for Matthew Baldwin as head coach. He was formerly the football coach at Grundy.
Trevor McGlothlin, Chance Keen, Tylor Keen, Isaac Hampton and Brandon Lester are expected to be the standouts for the Panthers. Tylor Keen played some varsity as a freshman, but a shoulder injury sidelined him last season.
Noah Daniels, Nasim Javed, Sam Brown, Jordan Gross and Alex Vance are other guys who could get significant playing time for the new-look Panthers.
Coach’s Quote: “Replacing starters in any sport can be difficult, but when you have to replace all five in basketball it can create many obstacles for a young and inexperienced team. However, our guys have risen to the challenge so far. They have had a couple of earlier scrimmages where they played really well together.”
Coach: Jeremy Ratliff
Last season: 3-20
Key returners: Jason Perkins, G, sr.; Timothy Osborne, C, sr.
Key losses: Andrew Gobble; Austin Shepherd; Zack Boyd
Promising newcomers: Caleb Stocks, G, fr.; Hunter Taylor, F, jr.
Outlook: Council coach Jeremy Ratliff was optimistic in the preseason and he has a right to be with 5-foot-8 senior guard Jason Perkins in the starting lineup.
An honorable mention All-Crooked Road Conference selection last season after averaging 10 points per game, Perkins exploded for 36 points and made some clutch plays in Council’s overtime win over Hurley last Saturday. More performances like that from the dynamic Perkins and Council could eclipse last season’s win total.
Timothy Osborne, a 6-foot-1 senior, also started last year. Logan Ratliff, Cody Sutherland, Matt Gilbert and Tyler Griffin are also varsity veterans.
With a lack of size, the Cobras are in danger of getting outrebounded on a nightly basis.
Coach’s Quote: “This group of young men has worked hard to improve over the offseason. We may not have the most talented team you see play this year, but they give it 110 percent and I think we will surprise some teams this year. We lost some talent last year, but the chemistry of this team should make up the difference. Although we have six seniors, we only have two [Perkins and Osborne] with a lot of varsity experience. Despite the lack of experience, I believe that through their hard work and effort that we will be a much improved team and will be able to be competitive night in and night out. Our starting lineup is fluid right now, as there are seven guys that are vying for a starting spot and all nine should see a considerable amount of playing time. We aren’t a big team, but all nine players are pretty quick and athletic.”
Grundy Golden Wave
Coach: Whitney Compton
Last season: 17-9
Key returners: Cassie Keene, G, sr.; Lexi Coleman, C, sr.; Julie Deel, G, sr.; Savannah Stiltner, F, jr.
Key losses: Alexis Boyd; Jessie Caudill
Promising newcomers: Alison Bandy, G, sr.; Maggie Deel, G, soph.; Kennedi Plymal, F/C, soph.
Outlook: Alexis Boyd led Grundy in scoring and rebounding last season and is now playing at Bluefield College.
However, even with Boyd now playing on the next level, the Golden Wave is the pick to win the Black Diamond District in the preseason coaches poll.
Versatile 5-foot-11 guard Cassie Keene, tenacious rebounder Lexi Coleman, sharpshooter Julie Deel and 5-foot-11 junior Savannah Stiltner are back and give Grundy a lineup that will be tough for teams to defend.
Transfers Alison Bandy (Hurley) and Maggie Deel (Honaker) give them ’Wave even more weapons. Meanwhile, sophomores Mashayla Belcher and Kennedi Plymal, along with juniors Haley Lester and Ashley Slone are varsity newcomers.
After losing in the finals of the Southern Empire Conference tournament to Marion last season and falling a game short of qualifying for the regional tourney, Grundy will drop to the Class 1 level this season and could be a factor come playoff time.
Coach’s Quote: “This year’s team will be a lot different from last year. Last year, it could be assumed who was going to lead us in stats each night. We looked to Lexy Boyd for the bulk of our scoring and to Jessie Caudill for her leadership and hustle. This year, I feel like our scoring will be much more balanced across four or five girls. We have several who could be in double figures any given night.”
Coach: Misty Davis Miller
Last season: 20-10
Key returners: Jada Mullins, C, jr.; Arabella Brown, F/C, jr.; Morgan Duty, F, soph.
Key losses: Alexis Vance; Tara Deel; Kiana Roman
Promising newcomers: Akilah Boyd, G, fr.; Halle Hilton, G, fr.; LeeAnna McNulty, F, fr.; Sommer Honaker, F, fr.
Outlook: With seven freshmen on the roster, there will be a lot of new faces on the court for the Honaker Tigers during the 2017-18 season.
Black Diamond District player of the year Alexis Vance is now playing at Emory & Henry, while Tara Deel is competing at Bluefield College. Both played key roles last season as Honaker reached the state semifinals and will be tough to replace.
Honaker has played well so far and went 2-1 last weekend in a tournament at Virginia High’s Bearcat Den. Akilah Boyd scored 22 points in a victory over George Wythe, while LeeAnna McNulty had a 23-point outing a in a win over Patrick Henry.
While Honaker will be inexperienced at the varsity level and figures to endure some growing pains, the Tigers are athletic and quick enough to cause trouble for a lot of foes.
Jada Mullins, Arabella Brown and Morgan Duty are the only players with varsity experience. Look for folks in the BDD to get accustomed to the names of Boyd, McNulty, Halle Hilton, Sommer Honaker, Hannah McCoy and Emma Barton, among others.
Coach’s Quote: “I am really excited to be coaching this team this year. This is a great group of girls. We have really good team chemistry. They have a desire to win and they work really hard. Although this will be considered as a rebuilding year for us this season because we lack a lot of varsity experience, we will be able to put a team on the floor that is very athletic, quick and wants to win. I believe this group of girls has a bright future in basketball here at Honaker High School. We are setting our goals high and working hard to achieve them.”
Twin Valley Panthers
Coach: Brian Moore
Last season: 8-14
Key returners: Kim Lester, G, sr.; Melody Brown, C, sr.; Morgan Underwood, G, sr.; Kaitlyn Damron, F, sr.; Paige Allen, G, sr.
Key losses: Makynzee Cantrell; Autumn Matney
Promising newcomer: Breonna Richardson, G, sr.
Outlook: The Panthers possess one of the top players in the Black Diamond District in 5-foot-7 guard Kim Lester.
Lester is a four-year starter and is the team’s lone holdover from the 2015 squad that finished as state runner-up. She averaged 17.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 1.5 assists per game last season and has all the speed you would expect from a state champion sprinter.
How important is Lester to the team?
She missed Tuesday’s game with J.I. Burton due to an illness and the Panthers lost 49-19.
Guard Paige Allen and center Melody Brown join Lester as returning starters. Brown was an honorable mention All-Crooked Road Conference selection last season
Breonna Richardson, Morgan Underwood, Kaitlyn Damron, Madison Cantrell, Paytan Perkins and Summer Tolbert will be key contributors as well.
Coach’s Quote: “We will be a very workman-like team this year. If we’re to have any significant success it will take everyone on the roster contributing, night in and night out. … Our strength will be defense and hustle. We have a good group of girls that aren’t afraid to work on the defensive end of the floor. We have good chemistry and we put in a good offseason.”
Coach: Wade Jackson
Last season: 4-19
Key returners: Alisha Hunt, G, sr.; Courtney Hess, G, jr.; Brianna Ratliff, F/C, jr.
Key loss: Chelsea Rasnake
Promising newcomers: Abby Stevens, F, soph.; Brooklyn Tiller, G, soph.
Outlook: Council will be playing the 2017-18 season with heavy hearts.
Popular head coach Brian Hess passed away in September at the age of 46 after suffering a heart attack and his death was tough on the small, tight-knit Buchanan County community.
The team wears warm-ups that say, “Playing in memory of Brian Hess,” and the Cobras opened the season with consecutive wins over Council (53-16) and Holston (50-46).
Junior Brianna Ratliff was an All-Crooked Road Conference selection last season and figures to lead the team in most statistical categories. Courtney Hess and Alisha Hunt were honorable mention All-CRC picks and return as well.
Coach’s Quote: “The foundation has been set with these girls by Brian and Becky Hess. We are going to build on what they already have in place.”
Coach: Randy Wimmer
Last season: 6-17
Key returners: Jayda Davis, G, soph.; Breanna Slone, C, jr.
Key losses: Ariel Endicott; Alison Bandy; Breanna Stacy
Promising newcomers: Arianna Endicott, G, fr.; Kaitlyn Justus, C, fr.; Celina Whitt, G/F, soph.
Outlook: Hurley could have a tough go of it this winter with just two starters returning.
The Rebels also took a hit when standout Alison Bandy, a first-team All- Crooked Road Conference pick last season, transferred to Grundy.
Breanna Slone, a 5-foot-7 junior post player, and Jayda Davis, a 5-foot-4 sophomore guard, return and both were honorable mention All-CRC picks last season.
Seniors Katie Jo Dotson and Emily Baker, along with juniors Tyla Layne and Tierra Justus are back this season and will go from supporting roles to significant contributors.
Coach’s Quote: “We hope to get better as the season goes along. We are young and small, but the talent and heart is there. It will take time to come together.”