TEAMS: Clearwater, Countryside, Dunedin, East Lake, Largo, Palm Harbor University.
OUTLOOK: Clearwater is the still the team to beat, coming off a 27-3 season and berth in the state semifinals. The Tornadoes return 6-foot-10 Cruz Daniels, who set a school record for blocked shots, and point guard Darius Hart, one of the best around. Trevor Lee, who played a key role as a sixth man, will move into the starting lineup. PHU (8-17) will be able to match Clearwater down low, with 6-9 junior forward A.J. Tyler and 6-9 freshman center Adam Pegg. But its guard play will be a question mark, with senior David Pegg and sophomore Sam Moroff heading up the group. Largo also has good size in 6-6 Charley Lytle and 6-8 Alex Gerhard, plus promising sophomore guard Ben O'Donnell. Dunedin will be hard-pressed to match last year's 16-9 record after losing all five starters to graduation. Senior guard Saj El-Amin (7 ppg) returns. Countryside guard Peter Alexandrou is the Cougars' best, but they struggled in two preseason games and need to run to succeed. East Lake is young and not very deep.
CLASS 5A, DISTRICT 10
TEAMS: Boca Ciega, Dixie Hollins, Gibbs, Northeast, Pinellas Park, St. Petersburg, Seminole.
OUTLOOK: Just about every team lost its best player but three picked up Northside Christian transfers to help offset the losses. The favorite remains the defending champion Green Devils. Point guard Marquis Ford returns, and Northside Christian transfer Christian Boyle gives them an explosive backcourt. St. Petersburg will have to find someone to do the banging down low, other than returning forward Donald Bowens. Randy Shuman is back coaching Bogie after a one-year hiatus, and the Pirates will be strong again. Senior guard Enoris Sly is one of the county's most explosive scorers. Dixie Hollins has to replace Ron Williams' 17 ppg, but senior forwards Corey Bolden and Eric Danford should fill in. Seminole appeared ready to contend until leading scorer Ryan Goshay was dismissed a few weeks ago. But point guard Devin Collins, center A.J. Comi and sharp shooter Bill Hobach (another Northside transfer) make Seminole a threat. Gibbs may have suffered the biggest loss of all in 6-10 center Marreese Speights, who transferred to Admiral Farragut, and will have to rely on its quick guards to force an uptempo pace. Northeast (9-17) returns point guard Leon Wright plus Justin Hood and Wesley Reed, and Pinellas Park has a new coach and some senior experience coming off a 4-19 season.
CLASS 4A, DISTRICT 10
TEAMS: Gulf, Hudson, Ridgewood, Tarpon Springs, Wesley Chapel, Zephyrhills.
OUTLOOK: The Spongers went 10-17 last year, but don't return much with the exception of Ben Gordon, a third-team pick for the PCAC North team after averaging 10 points and 7 rebounds. This district has been ruled in recent years by Ridgewood, but the Rams have lost 13 seniors the past two seasons and that may finally catch up to them.
OUTLOOK: Lakewood, last year's region finalist, also had an impressive summer, leading some coaches to predict the Spartans will make the state semifinals after a two-year absence. Forwards Sean Morrison and Mario Telfair, guards Dion Burton and Ed Nixon and center Edward Brown all were impressive last year, and football standout Louis Murphy is an able rebounder. Former JV standouts Anthony Dorsey and Mike Morrison will play big roles.
CLASS 3A, DISTRICT 9
TEAMS: Sarasota Cardinal Mooney, Clearwater Central Catholic, Jesuit, Robinson, St. Petersburg Catholic, Tampa Catholic
OUTLOOK: The Barons won a school-record 28 games last season before losing in the state championship game, but will have to overcome a slow start to get back to that number this year. With starters Billy Tapp, Carl Teague and others playing football, the Barons will have to make do without its full team at top speed until January. But as long as returning Player of the Year Aaron Holmes is around, SPC is still the favorite. He should get help from post player Joey Baker, who also returns. CCC will rely on guard play and the 3-point shot in hopes of upsetting the Barons.
CLASS 2A, DISTRICT 11
TEAMS: Admiral Farragut, Indian Rocks Christian, Northside Christian, Bradenton St. Stephen's, Shorecrest, Tampa Prep.
OUTLOOK: It is highly unlikely the Blue Jackets, defending district and state champions, will lose a district game in 2004-05. Even with the losses of Tommy Lampley and Vitor Boccardo, the Blue Jackets just reloaded when 6-foot-10 center Marreese Speights transferred in from Gibbs. Admiral Farragut returns point guard Lewis Lampley, a James Madison signee, Felipe Schmidt (MVP of state final), 6-5 forward Thomas Atherton (25 points in region final) and highly touted 6-6 forward Ed Rolax. Northside Christian's players scattered after coach Chip McAlister resigned. The Mustangs will be rebuilding, as will Indian Rocks Christian. Shorecrest could challenge for the runner-up spot behind returners Richard Lowry, Kevin Johnson and Andy Gleim.
OUTLOOK: Oldsmar Christian looked like a state title contender last year until injuries and a string of discoveries of ineligible players caused the season to implode. But the Eagles got a huge break when Trevor Ferguson, who broke his wrists in January following a dunk, was awarded an extra year. The Eagles also return Danny Ortiz, one of the county's top shooters, and 6-3 forward Alex Arias, a Jefferson transfer who averaged around 18 ppg in Class 4A last year. Calvary Christian (18-9) returns leading scorer Brian Horrach (14.8 ppg), and bolstered its inside game with two transfers: 6-8 Kevin Cantinol and 6-4 Andrew Giancola from Tarpon Springs. Canterbury returns senior guards Rob Donaldson and Curt Daily.