The SLL girls’ coaches met to vote on a preseason favorite, and Lake got the nod with three first place picks and 57 points. Gibsonburg followed with two first place choices and 55 points, and Genoa was third with three first place votes and 54 points.
Following Genoa in fourth is Otsego (34), Woodmore (31), Elmwood (27), Eastwood (21), and Lakota (9).
Eastwood garnered all eight first place votes when the Suburban Lakes League boys’ coaches met at The Forks on Tuesday night.
Coach Todd Henline said he expects to have five returning lettermen, including three starters in 6-7 junior post Clay Rolf, senior guard Jason Faykosh, and senior guard/post Mark Schult. That includes about 50 percent of his scoring and 55 percent of his rebounding.
The other two returning lettermen are senior guards Zach Lawniczak and Matt Schlumbohm. From the junior varsity squad, he expects Clayton Ruch and Nick Schmeltz to have a significant impact.
“We have the potential to be a nice team, but all it is right now is potential. We’ll see,” Henline said.
Henline said Ruch and Schult will be coming off knee injuries from football. Henline expects all-state track athlete and football speedster Cody Seifert, who did not play basketball last season, to join the team this season.
“I was blessed last year with the group that I had. It all depends on how well it all comes together,” Henline said.
In voting, Eastwood led with 64 points, followed by Genoa (54), Elmwood (46), Gibsonburg (43), a tie between Lakota and Woodmore (24), Otsego (22), and Lake (11).
Genoa coach Jeff Overmyer said his Comets should have five seniors, including four starters. Both the Comets and Eagles will have to wait until football playoffs are over to have any real determination, Overmyer and Henline admitted.
“We don’t have a lot in the gym right now and until after football,” Overmyer said.
Junior Matt Bassitt returns at point guard for the Comets, and returning role players are seniors Marcus Vicars and Zach Apel. His size tops out with one player at 6-8 in junior Richard Wonnell, but after that Overmyer says there is not a whole lot of size.
Overmyer says he has a solid core of former JV players expected to fill roles, which is nothing new for him.
“We’ve been lucky to have that happen the last three to four years, where we’ve had some seniors graduate and we’ve had some kids fill in some spots,” Overmyer said.
Gibsonburg will have two starters returning, said Coach Brian Liskai, and one of them is one of the best players Liskai says he has ever coached.
Six-foot-5 senior post/wing Tony Egbert will be Liskai’s franchise player, but he also returns starting senior point guard T.J. Bowen. Other than that, he has no one over 6-1. In all, Liskai has three seniors and four juniors.
Last year’s Gibsonburg junior varsity team was very successful, but “that was juniors playing against younger kids,” Liskai warned.
“If we can get some consistency, we’ll be alright,” Liskai said.
At Woodmore, second-year coach Mike Haar says he has no one over 6-4 and lost about 75 percent of his “positive stats.” He also referenced “consistency” as the key to a winning season. Returning are seniors Chris Jacobsen and Robert Schumaker.
“Our strength this year is we’ll definitely have speed and team defense,” Haar said. “They had a good summer and matured together as a group and we hope to have most of these guys together two to three years.”
Jim Scharer takes over at Lake for Jim Welling, the former Owens College coach who had one season at Lake and left to fill a City League coaching vacancy at Central Catholic.
Scharer says he has three starters back from a team that had four wins, including as many as six to seven letter winners. He said last year’s team played a slow brand of basketball, and he expects to pick up the pace.
“We’ll try to play faster than they played last year and make sure we use the kids we have to the best of their ability,” said Scharer, who said he appreciates the opportunity to coach at Lake.
At Otsego, Coach James Bostdorff said his team is the “anti-Eastwood” because it would take “three of our players to stack up to Clay Rolf,” calling his team “midgets.” He was joking, of course.
“We have two good guards back to do the scoring. With them we will be a lot more athletic than we were a year ago,” Bostdorff said.
Otsego graduated about 17 rebounds a game and the coach said he doesn’t know where the boards will come from this year with his lack of size.
At Lakota in the Raiders’ final season in the SLL, Coach Marc Diels said that “experience will be a killer for us, and depth.”
First-year Elmwood coach Ty Traxler says his team will be “small, inexperienced, and should be down from last year.”