ends with the Libbey Cowboys. The Cowboys raced through the league
undefeated last year and captured the City League playoff title as
well. With all five starters back, the Cowboys are the prohibitive
favorite. St. John's, Central Catholic and St. Francis also challengers.
Everyone who follows high school basketball in the Toledo area – and Ohio – is aware of the magnificent talents possessed by Libbey’s William Buford (6’5”, Sr.) but the talent does not end there for the Cowboys. Oft-injured senior Julius Wells (6’5”, Sr.) may be the second best player in the league and the fact that Marist University has signed Wells to a scholarship despite his having missed nearly his entire junior year is testament to Wells’ potential. Expect Wells to have a big year if he can avoid injuries.
Getting the ball to Buford and Wells, while providing considerable offensive explosiveness of their own, will be the trio of Brad Sandridge (6’3”, Sr.), Brad Burton (6’2”, Sr.) and Lance Jones (6’5”, Sr.). Although these three do not receive the publicity and attention accorded Buford and Wells they are each talented athletes that know their roles within coach Leroy Bates’ system. Add in a solid bench and you have a team that is not only the best in the City League but, possibly, the entire state.
Beyond the talented Libbey team, there is not likely any team that can seriously challenge the Cowboys or hope to entertain any thoughts of a March trip to Columbus but there are a number of teams that will battle it out for the remaining three spots in the League’s playoffs.
The St. John’s Titans are always contenders. Over the past 28 years head coach Ed Heintschel has built one of the state’s finest high school basketball programs and, in doing so, always places a competitive team on the floor. Several of Heintschel’s least talented teams have been his most successful and so it is difficult to pick against them but, on paper, this year’s Titan squad has a number of possible weaknesses and lacks a proven scoring or floor leader.
The Titans’ strength this year will be at guard where Michael Taylor (6’1”, Jr.) and Jay Springs (6’0”, So.) return. Both saw extensive action last year and have demonstrated potential but have suffered from inconsistent play. Joining Taylor and Springs is newcomer Cheatham Norrils (5’10”, Fr.) who is reportedly being counted on to start for the Titans. If so, the St. John’s backcourt will be short but very quick and cause match-up problems for most of their opponents.
Inside the Titans lack an imposing force. Footballers, Andrew Schaetzke (6’4”, Sr.) and Tim Kynard (6’3”) provide some bulk and muscle inside but both young man are football players first and are not great offensive threats. Tim Simmons (6’7”, Jr.) is the only other returning big man with any measurable playing experience but he must develop some consistency in his game and become more aggressive if the Titans are to seriously challenge the more experienced Cowboys.
The Central Catholic Irish are an interesting team. Their greatest strength may be their depth and senior leadership. With seven seniors on the roster who have all seen significant playing time they could very well be primed to go out by making a big splash in the City League.
The backcourt tandem of Cory Lehman (5’10”, Sr.) and Matt Collins (5’10”, Sr.) is a good one. Lehman is a coach’s dream. A hard-working, no nonsense player who makes everyone else on the team better, he will direct the Irish on both ends of the court while Collins is the team’s sparkplug.
The Irish lack size and this may prove to be their undoing but coach Paul Patterson usually has his players playing aggressively all over the court and this may help them overcome their size deficiencies. A spot in the League’s final four is a near certainty. Beyond that, who knows?
The great unknown in the League is St. Francis. Coach Nick Lowe’s squad returns only two starters, seniors Kevin Henry (6’4) and Jordan Frost (6’4”) but the Knights show considerable promise due to the fact that they also boast two of the tallest players in the league in Storm Hanley (6’10”, So.) and exchange student, Ali Hodzic (6’9”, Sr.). The presence of these two on the court should provide the Knights with a huge rebounding advantage on most nights.
Both Whitmer and Waite return experienced squads that could challenge for one of the league’s top four spots. The Panthers are led by Purdue signee, Ryne Smith (6’3”, Sr.) but have plenty of other talented players to provide a hand. The Indians, meanwhile, feature three players, Brent Meredith (6’3”, Sr.), Khari Riley (6’1”, Sr.) and Hakeem Muhammad (5’9”, Sr.) who have been four year starters and several newcomers who show promise.
The remainder of the League is a notch or two below the above mentioned six teams and none are likely to challenge for a spot in the league’s upper division. Rogers, Bowsher and Woodward all sport new coaches and all three have major rebuilding projects ahead of them while Joe Guerrero at Clay and his brother, Gil, at Start are experienced coaches that lack the same on their rosters.