Published Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015 | 2 a.m.
Updated Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015 | 12:44 p.m.
The Bishop Gorman High basketball team may be the four-time defending Division I state champion.
But, with multiple unproven players expected to contribute, most feel the Gaels can be beaten this season.
Centennial has one of the nation’s best players in Troy Brown Jr. and expects to give Gorman a challenge in the playoffs. But, with the talent in this city, anything can happen.
Last season, for instance, Palo Verde took third in the Northwest League, then got hot at the right time in advancing to the state championship game.
And, in the Division I-A, two-time defending state champion Clark will be tested in the Sunset League by Sierra Vista and Mojave. It might not matter, though, as Desert Pines appears to be the clear-cut favorite to win state.
Buckle up, it should be a wild ride.
Here’s our preseason top 10:
1. Bishop Gorman Gaels
Last year: Four-time Division I state champions
While Gorman must replace two McDonald’s All-Americans in Chase Jeter and Stephen Zimmerman, the cupboard is far from empty. Zach Collins, a 6-foot-11 Gonzaga signee, should thrive in the starting rotation. Top 2017 recruits Chuck O’Bannon Jr., a 6-foot-5 wing, and 6-foot-4 guard Christian Popoola, give Gorman athleticism on the perimeter and big-game experience. Senior guard/forward Byron Frohnen is one of the team’s most improved players and is expected to contribute, and 6-foot-6 sophomore Jamal Bey will be the program’s next great recruit. He already has a UNLV scholarship offer.
2. Centennial Bulldogs
Last year: Lost in the Sunset Regional semifinals
With junior Troy Brown Jr., one of the top players nationally, leading the charge, some feel Centennial is a big-time threat to dethrone Gorman. The 6-foot-6 guard averaged 16 points, 7.9 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game last season, and can take over a game single-handedly. But he’s not the Bulldogs' lone option. Guard Isaiah Banks, also a junior, is quick and athletic, and 6-foot-8 post player Darian Scott has a scholarship offer from Fresno State. Others, such as Roy Sparks and Jake Hutchings, are more than capable of helping Centennial battle Gorman basket for basket.
3. Desert Pines Jaguars
Last year: Division I-A state runner-up
With some of the best players in the state, Desert Pines is the clear-cut favorite to win the Division I-A state championship. They have two players on the Sun’s Super Seven preseason team in junior Capri Uzan at point guard and wing Trevon Abdullah (a UNR commit), and forward Greg Floyd Jr. is a four-star recruit. Also, Jordan Simon, Curtis Stewart and Sierra Vista transfer Randal Grimes give the Jags’ plenty of athletic players. Some feel they are the best team in the state regardless of classification.
4. Clark Chargers
Last year: Two-time Division I-A state champions
Clark must replace its backcourt of Colby Jackson and Carter Olsen, who led the Chargers to the past two state championships and past three state title games. Senior guard Keyshaun Webb, who averaged in double figures last season, will combine with senior forward Darius Jackson to give the Chargers a solid one-two punch. And James Bridges, who contributed last season as a freshman, is one of the best sophomores in Las Vegas.
5. Coronado Cougars
Last year: Southeast League champs; lost in the Sunrise Regional semifinals
Led by three-year varsity performer Jake DesJardins and physical post player Travis Boman, Coronado is the most experienced team in the Sunrise Region. Last year, the Cougars went undefeated in the Southeast League and should again be the league’s top team. The 6-foot-8 DesJardins is part of the Sun’s Super Seven preseason team after averaging 11 points and seven rebounds in 2014-15. Kennedy Koehler and Bryce Savoy are other returners expected to have strong seasons.
6. Durango Trailblazers
Last year: Lost in the Sunset Regional quarterfinals
Durango, who won just seven games last year while breaking in multiple first-time varsity contributors, is expected to contend in the Sunset. They are led by 6-foot-8 Alabama transfer Jason Landman, who is verbally committed to Air Force and can score from the perimeter and close to the basket. Michael Diggins, a 6-foot-5 forward, Chase Ruiz and Demetrius Valdez give Durango plenty of scoring options.
7. Palo Verde Panthers
Last year: Division-I state runner-up
Palo Verde peaked in the playoffs last season, upsetting Centennial in the Sunset Regional semifinals and battling all the way to the state championship game. Guard Taylor Miller, one of the standouts during the postseason run and a Southern Utah signee, averaged 15.5 points per game last season. He’s joined by returners Christian Bryant and Ryan Vogelei to give Palo Verde another competitive team.
8. Canyon Springs Pioneers
Last year: Won a third straight Sunrise Region championship; lost in state semifinals
Canyon Springs graduated most of its top performers from last season’s Sunrise Region championship team, and another — guard Channel Banks — transferred to a school in Arizona. But the Pioneers always seem to reload and find other contributors, especially those who fit into the team’s fast-paced style of play. Returners such as Darion Jackson, Zaahid Muhammad, Laymon Jackson and Derrick Legardy each possess the athleticism and defensive skills that will again make Canyon Springs a threat in the Sunrise Region.
9. Sierra Vista Mountain Lions
Last year: Lost in the semifinals of the Division I-A Southern Region tournament
The past three seasons, Clark and Desert Pines have represented Southern Nevada in the Division I-A state tournament. This year, Sierra Vista could crash the party. The Mountain Lions, led by sophomore standout Maka Ellis, should be one of the most improved teams in Las Vegas. And last year, they weren’t bad in falling one game short of the state tournament. The 6-foot-5 Ellis averaged 18 points per game last season as a freshman, and has scholarship offers from New Mexico State and Utah State. Sierra Vista has a strong backcourt with junior Chris McCoy and senior point guard Tanner Lewis.
10. Foothill Falcons
Last year: Lost in the Sunrise Regional quarterfinals
Foothill, a perennial Southeast League power, will rely on multiple underclassmen this season. But if those players continue to develop, the Falcons will again be a contender in February. That group is led by sophomore guard Marvin Coleman, who averaged 3.4 points per game as a freshman and is much improved. Junior guard Jeron Bodin is consistent on the perimeter, averaging 5.7 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game last season. And big things are expected from both Jonny Rolle and Devon Erb, who both will see a significant pump in minutes.
The Next Five
Mojave is led by senior Daryl Adams and returns several key contributors. ... Bonanza reached the Sunset Regional semifinals in 2015 and returns guard Jamal Logan, who averaged 19.3 points per game. ... Silverado and Liberty are much improved in the Sunrise Region, and Shadow Ridge in the Sunset.