The West Central Conference season tips off Friday night for the boys basketball team at Smith-Cotton.
The Tigers are coming off a 3-7 season in league play and again will have their work cut out for them in their quest to climb the conference ladder.
Center, of Kansas City, should be in the hunt for the league championship, as should O’Hara. Despite losing eight players from last year’s team, Center is ranked No. 7 in Class 4 in the preseason rankings.
The Celtics finished third in the WCC last year but return four starters from a traditionally strong program.
St. Pius X may take a step back after losing four starters from last season’s state runner-up squad that placed second in the WCC. St. Pius X received votes in the preseason rankings.
Warrensburg and Clinton have something in common with Smith-Cotton. They all lost several players, so they will need some underclassmen to step up in order to improve on their 2012-13 finishes.
Smith-Cotton, which tied Warrensburg for fourth place last season, will be its best at the guard positions, but they lost almost all of their interior players. They have some height with newcomers Jacob Bergman and Albert Hall, who both stand 6-6. Their improvement throughout the season is crucial.
Here’s a quick look at the other conference teams:
Center, the 2012-13 conference champion, returns seven seniors from last year’s team that went 22-5 overall and 10-0 in the conference, and reached the district semifinals where it was upset 68-65 by Grandview. The Yellowjackets bring back Quincey Butler (6-2, G), Jarel Canty (5-9, PG), Gary Starr (6-5, C) and Trevon Wilson (6-3, F).
St. Pius X
The Warriors, who went 8-2 in the conference last season and finished 21-6 overall, were the state runners-up in Class 3. The only team to beat them in conference play last winter was Center. With a new head coach, the Warriors must replace four starters from last year’s team. Point guard Marshall Mason is back, and Kyle Deters should supply the team with a go-to player in the post, according to The Kansas City Star.
The Celtics, who went 15-10 overall and 6-4 in the conference in 2012-13, should have the most experienced team in the conference. The Celtics only lost one starter from last season, Kyle Baker.
The Tigers, who went 11-13 last season and 3-7 in conference play, split two games against Smith-Cotton, whom they tied for fourth place. Warrensburg lost six seniors from last year. They were Corbin Bell, T.J. Classen, Dalton Thompson, Maalik Murrell, Lynell Jackson and Tanner Nappe.
The Cardinals, who went 3-20 last year and 0-10 in the conference, lost five seniors from last year’s squad: Joe Muehlberger, Doug Hutcherson, Cody Jeffrey, Tylor Hankins and Wyatt Ross.