Butler appears the class of the Southwestern 4A conference this year, as they return a veteran team led by one of the best backcourts in the Charlotte area in Marcus Burton (committed to Wagner) and Anthony Stitt (College of Charleston), who have both already signed with Division I schools.
Beyond the Bulldogs, Ardrey Kell, East Meck, Myers Park and Providence will fight to see who belongs in the upper-echelon of the conference standings. All four enter the season with more questions than proven talent.
Coach: Kurt Wessler.
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2009-2010 record: 15-13.
Key players: PG Marcus Burton, SG Anthony Stitt.
After struggling early last year, Butler came on strong toward the end of the season, winning the SW4A tournament on a 40-footer by Marcus Burton. The Bulldogs are the favorite for the SW4A title.
It starts with a dynamite backcourt in Burton and Stitt, both Division I talents, and former East Meck (redistricted) guard White. How well the Butler frontcourt does has a lot to do with how far the football team goes. Players like forward Kris Frost, Channing Stribling and Zach Ferguson will be key once they trade in their pads for high-tops.
Coach: Rick Lewis.
2009-2010 record: 16-10.
Key players: PG Thomas Brafford, SG Patrick Wallace.
After a slow start to the 2009-10 season, the Mustangs were one of the hottest teams in the 4A playoffs.
While the Mustangs lost a lot in starting point guard Griffin Shaw and forwards Frank Elliott and Mike Humphries, they have a promising young team, with senior point guard Thomas Brafford running the offense. Brafford will try to get the ball to shooter Patrick Wallace and sophomore forwards Major Thomas and Clayton Massey, both 6-foot-5.
Coach: Jason Grube.
2009-2010 record: 13-14.
Key players: PG Miles Leathers, SG Avery Rice.
The Eagles have been hit hard by graduation and redistricting.
Junior Miles Leathers will be the point guard to start and should be one of the Eagles' top scoring options, along with shooting guard Avery Rice.
In the frontcourt, East will also rely on inexperienced players like sophomore Jerrin Morrison (East Meck's quarterback) and junior Jaye Hunt.
Coach: Mike Craft.
2009-2010 record: 20-9.
Key players: F Andrew Alexander, PG T.J. Cox.
The Knights have won at least 20 games and advanced to the 4A state quarterfinals each of the last two seasons. But this year, Mike Craft will have to win with a different group.
Ardrey Kell turns to point guard T.J. Cox and forward Drew Alexander for more production, while they will also expect Justus Pickett and Drew Owens to contribute in key roles once they finish on the gridiron.
Coach: Myron Lowery.
2009-2010 record: 18-10.
Key players: F/C Howie Davenport, F Robby Van Lanen.
The Panthers won the Southwestern 4A regular season title last year, but now the Panthers must start over to some degree as all five starters are gone.
The Panthers will rely on two post men who played a good bit last year in 6-foot-7 Howie Davenport and Robby Van Lanen.
Coach: Preston Davis.
2009-2010 record: 4-19.
Key player: G Ivan Blair.
Independence was competitive last season but struggled to win once the SW4A got started. This year will be an uphill battle again, and Preston Davis will miss 6-foot-6 star forward Evan Shelton.
Davis will lean heavily on guard Ivan Blair, a 6-foot-4 wing/forward, who is already receiving a lot of recruiting attention.
Coach: John Fitch.
2009-2010 record: 3-15.
Key Player: F Josh Moore, PG Carrington Kirkpatrick.
The Sabres struggled mightily last year winning just three games. But South Meck could be one of the most improved teams with a mix of experience and talent in a younger SW4A this year. Senior Josh Moore will be the go-to-guy early on as he nearly averaged a double-double last season, but he will have a lot more help with point guard Carrington Kirkpatrick back after being ruled ineligible just before last season. Junior center Demetrius Dove (6-foot-6), Rob Harrell and David Moore will also be solid contributors in John Fitch's 2nd year as the head coach.
Coach: Brandon Blalock.
2009-2010 record: 1st year.
Key players: F Matt Ward, PG Dequann Simpson.
The Ravens will definitely face an uphill battle in their first year.
Coach Brandon Blalock will depend on former Independence guard Dequann Simpson to run the offense while he looks to former East Meck forward Matt Ward and Deandre Bembry, both 6-foot-5, to add a scoring punch.
Coach: Mike King.
2009-2010 record: 12-12.
Key players: F/C Alex Kilmartin, G Jack Brodowicz.
After being one of the best teams in their conference (ME-GA 7) earlier this decade, Catholic has hovered around the .500 mark for several years.
Center Alex Kilmartin (6-foot-6) will be the go-to-guy. Junior Jack Brodowicz is a solid point guard while Jack Quigley should be a tough wing player.