Austin Black Bears
Area: 8 with Bob Jones, Florence and James Clemens
Head coach: Major Deacon, first season, 40-21 record in AHSAA basketball
Last season: 15-8, eliminated in area tournament
Returning players: Caleb Carter (5-11, Sr.), Kelton Petty (6-0, Jr.), Hunter Mitchell (6-7, Sr.), Jackson Breedlove (5-10, Sr.)
New faces: Will Lowery (6-1, Sr.), Max Gardner (6-0, Sr.), Winston Lyle (6-3, Jr.), Jalen Orr (5-9, So.)
Noteworthy: Deacon is the first Austin coach to be hired outside of the Austin in the program’s history. Petty, Carter, Breedlove and Mitchell will be key pieces for Deacon as he adjusts to his roster. Carter was a routine starter and Petty saw time off the bench. Petty impressed on the travel basketball circuit this summer and shot 41 percent from 3-point range last year, which will be important inside Deacon’s fast-paced offense. Breedlove was also a routine starter last year, and Mitchell will be an important rim-protector.
Decatur Red Raiders
Area: 14 with Cullman and Hartselle
Head coach: Sam Brown, fourth season, 38-42 record at Decatur
Last season: 12-15, lost in sub-regional round to Muscle Shoals
Returning players: Adam Burroughs (5-11, Sr.), Smith Coon (6-0, Sr.), Mitchell Terry (5-11, Sr.)
New faces: Malik Bird (Jr.), William Penney (6-5, Jr.), Kobe Johnson (6-1, Jr.), Shawn Hullett (5-10, Jr.), Charlie Taylor (6-1, Jr.), Ty Russell (6-3, Jr.)
Noteworthy: Decatur will deal with a lot of roster turnover with only three seniors leading the way. The Red Raiders have five key players in Kenneth Sanders, Omar Pointer, John Adam Berry, Cade Smith and Kaden Rosencrance. Decatur’s team chemistry could be a work in progress at the beginning of the year as the new players learn to play with each other.
Area: 14 with Cullman and Decatur
Head coach: Faron Key, sixth season, 76-67 at Hartselle, 201-173 overall
Last season: 22-8, lost in sub-regional round to Columbia. Won first area title under Key.
Returning players: Brody Peebles (6-2, Jr.), Tad Sivley (6-5, Sr.), Jackson Raley (6-0, Sr.), Trent Wright (6-3, Jr.), Trent Hill (6-0, Sr.)
New faces: Kiah Key (Fr.), Ryan Dunn (Fr.), Luke Ward (So.)
Noteworthy: Peebles took a leap last season, scoring 22 points per game. He was selected as a second-team member of the Class 6A All-State team. Peebles is one of the more exciting prospects in the area. He is a volume scorer is attracting a lot of attention from Division I programs.
Athens Golden Eagles
Area: 15 with Columbia and Muscle Shoals
Head coach: Stace Tedford, 11th season, 159-124 at Athens, 216-175 overall
Last season: 9-19, lost in area tournament
Returning players: Braden Gross (6-2, Sr.), Antino Shoulders (6-3, Sr.), Tokie Porter (6-0, Sr.), Keenan Hambrick (6-5, Sr.)
New faces: Jordan Scott (5-10, Jr.), Tyree Patterson (6-3, Jr.), JD Jude (6-4, So.)
Noteworthy: Athens may start slow with many of its of its top performers (Gross, Hambrick and Scott) still playing football, but it should be able to hit its stride when area play starts. It will need to, too. Athens plays in an extremely tough area with two proven teams in Muscle Shoals and Columbia. Tedford’s expectations are high, and he expects his team to play fast and be more athletic this season.
Area: 15 with Arab, Guntersville and Scottsboro
Head coach: Jeff Thompson, second season, 7-19 record
Last season: 7-19, lost in the area tournament
Returning players: Conner Hall (Sr., 6-0), Michael McLemore (5-10, Jr.), Kris Bramlett (5-10, Sr.), Jake Lawrence (5-10, Sr.), Josh Kelly (6-0, Jr.)
New faces: Matt Kempson (6-0, Jr.), Nate Gaines (6-1, Sr.)
Noteworthy: The Patriots will be more comfortable with Thompson’s style after having a year under the new coach. He returns five key players from last year. McLemore and Hall will be key contributors and should take on a lot of the scoring for the Patriots.
East Limestone Indians
Area: 16 with Ardmore, Madison Academy and Madison County
Head coach: Fred Steger, third season, 36-24 record
Last season: 23-9, advanced to the Northwest Regional final and lost to eventual state champion Wenonah
Returning players: Austin Harvell (6-6, Sr.), JaKeese Erksine (6-2, Sr.), RJ Duncan (5-10, Sr.), DJ Davis (5-9, Sr.)
New faces: Xavier Griffith (6-5, Sr.), Branden Barnett (6-4, Jr.), Julian White (5-11, Jr.), Jacob Eslick (6-1, So.), Kris McNeil (6-0, So.), Tyler Kelly (6-0, Jr.)
Noteworthy: East Limestone returns one of the best players in Class 5A in Harvell. The Daily’s Class 5A-7A Player of the Year averaged a double-double and earned first-team All-State honors in Class 5A. He has multiple Power Five offers. He led the Indians to their first regional final since the 1990s. Harvell is a forward who can use his size to bully small defenders inside and has the capability of knocking down shots from beyond the 3-point line.
Area: 16 with East Limestone, Madison Academy and Madison County
Head coach: Kyle Owens, fourth season, 20-64 record.
Last season: 10-18, lost in first round of area tournament.
Returning players: Colton Hardiman (5-11, Sr.), Matthew Perry (6-0, Sr.), Michael Turner (6-6, Sr.), Chase Duskin (6-4, Sr.), Chase Patterson (6-1, Sr.), Samuel Hardiman (6-4, Sr.).
New faces: Owen Doss (6-3, Jr.), Conner Harbin (5-11, Jr.)
Noteworthy: Owens is excited about this group that returns four starters from last year’s team. That includes Hardiman and Turner. Hardiman was All-County and All-Area last season. Turner is a three-year starter who provides size in the middle for the Tigers.
Lawrence County Red Devils
Area: 14 with Hamilton, Russellville and West Point
Head coaches: Royal Carpenter and Gary Steadman, third season, 31-25 record
Last season: 14-14, eliminated in area tournament
Returning players: Malik Strickland (6-2, Sr.), Tayi Strickland (6-2, Sr.), Ty Hutto (6-3, Sr.), Garrett Lee (6-4, Jr.)
New faces: Alandis Johnson (6-0, So.), Brody Sparks (5-11, Jr.), John Humphries (5-10, Sr.), Wiley Dutton (5-11, Sr.), Zach Hudson (6-1, Sr.), Evan Aflred (6-0, Jr.), Ki Pointer (6-0, Sr.), Ben Michael Bennett (5-6, So.)
Noteworthy: Lawrence County’s four returning players were all crucial parts of its rotation last season. Malik and Tayi Strickland are both athletic forwards who can run the floor and give Lawrence County speed in transition. Lee will be an important player inside for the Red Devils.
Area: 13 with Priceville, St. John Paul II and West Morgan
Head coach: Scott Ellis, seventh season, 91-99 record
Last season: 13-14, lost in sub-regional round to Curry
Returning players: Wren Cole (5-10, Sr.), K.J. Melson (5-11, Jr.), Dylan Parker (6-0, Jr.), Cameron Moore (6-1, Jr.), Dez Morrow (5-9, Sr.), Grant Sparks (5-9, Sr.), Cooper McCay (6-2, Sr.)
New faces: Jasper Eddy (6-0, Sr.), Kohl Randolph (6-2, So.), Witten Morgan (6-2, So.)
Noteworthy: Danville returns two of its leaders in Cole and Melson. Those two were largely responsible for the Hawks winning the Area 13 championship last year. Cole is starting to attract attention from college coaches and should be a volume scorer for the Hawks.
Area: 13 with Danville, Priceville and Saint John Paul II
Head coach: Justin Henley, second season, 17-10 record
Last season: 17-10, lost in the first round of the area tournament
Returning players: Ashton Owens (6-2, Sr.), JaKobe Fletcher (6-0, Sr.), Adam Langford (5-10, Sr.), Coby Hutto (6-2, Jr.), Shyler Hutto (6-3, So.), Carson Muse (6-5, Fr.)
New faces: Jakobe Griffin (6-4, Jr.)
Noteworthy: Owens is a big returning starter for West Morgan this season. He averaged 17 points per game last year while shooting 41 percent from the field. Owens was the Rebels go-to scorer. Muse was a great second option for the Rebels. The talented underclassman averaged nine points and seven rebounds last year and will try to take the next step this season.
Area: 13 with Danville, Saint John Paul II and West Morgan
Head coach: Darrell Haynes, 19th season
Last season: 9-19, lost in the first round of the area tournament
Returning players: Seth Hood (5-10, Sr.), Trey Summers (6-2, Sr.), Chris Thomas (6-3, So.)
New faces: Jaxon Cross (5-10, Sr.), Will Hammon (6-1, Jr.), Elijah Hopkins (5-8, So.)
Noteworthy: Priceville will have a very inexperienced roster, returning only three players with varsity experience from last year’s team. The Bulldogs will have five sophomores on its varsity team. Its three returning starters— Hood, Summers and Thomas— averaged a combined 18 points per game last season.
Elkmont Red Devils
Area: 15 with Brooks and West Limestone
Head coach: Eric Smith, second season, 13-13
Last season: 13-13, eliminated in area tournament
Returning players: Layton Smith (6-2, Jr.), Preston Robinson (6-0, Jr.), Ryan Boyd (5-8, Jr.), Hunter Broadway (6-2, Jr.), Brett Parker (6-4, Sr.), Matthew Lowery (5-9, Sr.)
New faces: Christian Smith (6-3, So.), Colby Murphy (6-2, Jr.)
Noteworthy: Elkmont returns most of its roster with only two of its players being new players. The Red Devils built a foundation for success last season by being competitive and reaching a .500 record in their first year under Smith. It will hope to improve and make some noise in the area tournament this season.
West Limestone Wildcats
Area: 15 with Brooks and Elkmont
Head coach: Justin Taylor, 15th season
Last season: 20-13, made it to the Class 4A state championship before losing to Talladega
Returning players: Camryn Williams (6-1, Jr.), River Helms (6-2, Jr.), Thorne Slaton (5-10, Jr.), Brody White (5-9, Jr.), Branson Owens (5-6, Sr.)
New faces: Dylan Simmons (5-9, Sr.), Logan Haggard (6-0, Jr.), Collin Patterson (6-3, Fr.)
Noteworthy: Williams and Helms were two main players that helped the Wildcats shock the state and make an impressive run to the state title game. Williams scored 10 points per game last season and hit a lot of 3-pointers. Helms, who was the regional tournament Most Valuable Player, averaged 10 points per game and was a big rebounder for the Wildcats.
Area: 16 with Lauderdale County, Lexington and Westminster Christian
Head coach: Mike Holt, first season, 0-0
Last season: 2-26, lost in the area tournament
Returning players: Shane Starns (Sr.), Deontae Crenshaw (Jr.), JT Farrar (Jr.), Miles Fleming (Sr.), Landon Martin (Sr.)
New faces: Dylan Patrick (So.)
Noteworthy: Clements welcomes in a new coach after multiple losing seasons in a row. The Colts last had a winning season in the 2014-2015 season but didn’t make it past the area tournament. It won an area championship in the 2010-2011 season.
East Lawrence Eagles
Area: 14 with Colbert Heights and Phil Campbell
Head coach: Marrieo Davis, seventh year
Last season: 9-17, lost in first round of area tournament
Returning players: James Kelly (5-10, So.), Coleman Garner (5-11, Fr.), Teondre Hubbard (5-11, So.), Larry Lorance (5-11, Sr.)
New faces: Isaiah Parham (5-11, Sr.), Jrich Ray (6-0, Sr.), Dylan Hunter (5-10, Sr.)
Noteworthy: The Eagles have to replace to All-State caliber players in Tyler Irons and Jared Bolden from last season. Irons was a third-team selection with 15.1 points and 5.8 rebounds. Bolden scored 15.4 points per game and grabbed 5.8 rebounds.
Area: 16 with Colbert County, Hatton, Sheffield and Tharptown
Head coach: Chris Whitt, 26th season, 567-190 record with the Rattlers
Last season: 27-6, won the Northwest Regional tournament and made it to the final four before losing to eventual state champion Central-Coosa
Returning players: Malik Atkins (6-2, Sr.), JJ Jones (6-4, Sr.), Jireh Jackson (6-1, Sr.), Dashaun McNabb (5-11, Sr.)
New faces: Jared Cruz (6-1, Jr.), Evan Fuqua (6-2, Jr.), Jabari Brown (5-10, Fr.)
Noteworthy: Tanner has made the Northwest Regional every year since 1999. Tanner has also been to the final four in six of the last seven seasons. Tanner will have a great chance to get back this year with three leaders in Atkins, Jones and Jackson returning and McNabb stepping into a starting role.
Area: 16 with Colbert County, Sheffield, Tanner and Tharptown
Head coach: Tanner Tesney, second season, 10-17 record
Last season: 10-17, made it to the second round of the area tournament
Returning players: Cade Smith (6-3, Sr.), Trey Steadman (6-1, Sr.), Ridge Harrison (6-1, Jr.), Jaxon Mitchell (5-8, Jr.), Carter Reed (5-11, Jr.)
Noteworthy: Smith and Harrison both return after productive seasons last year. Harrison averaged 16.5 points per game operating out of a guard spot as a sophomore. Smith was right behind him with 13.8 points per game. Hatton will most likely turn to them if they need a bucket.
Decatur Heritage Eagles
Area: Area 13 with Falkville, Lynn, Meek and Saint Bernard
Head coach: Jason Marshall, seventh season, 124-48 record
Last season: 32-4, won first state title in school history
Returning players: GianCarlo Valdez (6-3, Sr.), Jackson Kyle (5-9, Sr.), Clay Smith (5-9, Jr.), Preston Terry (5-9, Sr.), Carter Sample (6-2, Sr.), Brayden Kyle (6-1, So.), Cole Garner (5-11, Sr.)
New faces: Jordan Burks (6-5, So.)
Noteworthy: The Eagles have the tough task of defending their first state title since the program started in the 1990s. Decatur Heritage has the pieces to do it, however. Valdez returns after scoring 18 points per game and earning Class 1A first-team All-State honors. Jackson Kyle has played point guard for the Eagles since eighth grade. Decatur Heritage will once again play a tough non-region schedule that features appearances in the Pepsi Classic and AL.com Huntsville Classic.
Falkville Blue Devils
Area: Area 13 with Decatur Heritage, Lynn, Meek and Saint Bernard
Head coach: Greg Tomlin, first season, 0-0 record
Last season: 0-31, eliminated in area tournament
Returning players: Camden Reid (5-9, So.), Wyatt Tomlin (6-2, Jr.), Austin Holmes (5-10, Jr.), Gage Ruiz (5-9, Sr.)
New faces: Colton Hooper (6-1, So.), Avery Miller (6-5, So.), Dawson Norwood (5-11, So.), Jordan Greenfield (5-11, So.), Elijah Bradford (5-10, Jr.), Austin Bullard (5-10, Jr.)
Noteworthy: Step one for Tomlin will be helping Falkville get a win, which it failed to do last season. He returns only one starter from last season’s team in Reid, but Tomlin, Holmes and Ruiz all played significant minutes for the Blue Devils.
R.A. Hubbard Chiefs
Area: 15 with Lindsay Lane, Whitesburg Christian Academy, Oakwood Adventist Academy, Athens Bible School
Head coach: Sonny Conwill, sixth season, 93-53 at R.A. Hubbard
Last season: 16-10, lost in first round of area tournament
Returning players: Montoya Kellogg (6-3, Sr.), Ca’ni McCoy (6-0, Sr.), Domiryck Stewart (5-8, Sr.), Bret Mason (5-9, Sr.), Keyondrick Cobb (5-10, So.)
New faces: Chase Porter (6-1, Sr), Todd Perkins (5-10 Sr.), Trenton Hampton (6-0, Sr.), Cleveland Bibbs (6-0, Sr.), Tyrus Johnson (6-1, Jr.)
Noteworthy: Montoya Kellogg returns to lead R.A. Hubbard after the Chiefs fell short of expectations by losing to Whitesburg Christian in the first round of the area tournament. Kellogg scored 15 points and averaged 7.5 rebounds per game last year. He is one of eight seniors for the Chiefs, including Trenton Hampton, who transferred from Decatur High this offseason.
Lindsay Lane Lions
Area: 15 with Athens Bible, Oakwood Adventist Academy, R.A. Hubbard and Whitesburg Christian Academy
Head coach: Steve Murr, sixth season, 87-55 at Lindsay Lane, 432-215 overall
Last season: 18-14, won area championship and lost in the regional semifinals to Spring Garden
Returning players: Tommy Murr (6-1, Sr.), Charlie Morrison (6-0, Sr.), Amar Fuqua (6-2, Fr.)
New faces: Christian Killgore (6-6, Sr.), Joseph Graves (6-2, Jr.), Max Morrison (Fr.)
Noteworthy: Tommy Murr returns eyeing the AHSAA scoring record after averaging 45 points per game last year and posting an AHSAA-record 1,442 points. He is at 4,210 career points, which is 346 points away from breaking the all-time record. Charlie Morrison, Killgore and Fuqua will be important complementary pieces.
Athens Bible Trojans
Area: 15 with Lindsay Lane, Oakwood Adventist Academy, R.A. Hubbard and Whitesburg Christian
Head coach: Rusty Brand, second season, 7-14 record
Last season: 7-14, eliminated in the first round of the area tournament
Returning players: Kacen Pierce (6-3, Jr.), Ty Dutton (5-11, Sr.), Grey Fortenberry (5-10, Sr.), Nicholas Ulrich (6-3, Sr.)
New faces: Brayden Suggs (5-8, Fr.)
Noteworthy: The Trojans return only one starter this year in Pierce. Brand expects Pierce to be his go-to player and shoulder a lot of the leadership responsibilities. Fortenberry is coming off of an ACL tear that sidelined him last season. He, along with Dutton and Ulrich, will take pressure off of Pierce.
*Coach records are reflective of their record before the current season started