Powers Klein Forest; Travis; Bush headline VYPE's Top 11-20
No. 11 Klein Forest Golden Eagles
It was a magical and historic run to the UIL state finals a year ago for the Golden Eagles and coach Cary Black. Klein Forest fell to Duncanville in a tight game, but the season had so many great memories which included a 16-0 district mark and a 33-4 overall record. Calvin Solomon and Kharee McDaniel led the squad, picking up accolades and college scholarships along the way. Both are now teammates at Stephen F. Austin. But it's back to the drawing board for coach Black, who will plug-and-play new names in to run his up-tempo style of play. The Golden Eagles hope to have their opponents seeing double as twins Dylan and Daylan Hamilton will be a pair of featured scorers. Junior Marion Williams will take over the point guard spot as a returner with some varsity experience. Last year, Klein Forest was loaded with seniors. The show must go on as coach Black will be ready to defend the north.
No. 12 Fort Bend Travis Tigers
After a third-place finish in the tough District 20-6A, Fort Bend Travis is one of the favorites to win the conference and make a run in the Region III postseason. Why? Coach Craig Brownson has "been-there and done-that." He has led the Tigers to a pair of state tourneys and won it all in 2013 with Andrew and Aaron Harrison. He has the coaching chops, but he also has an experienced guard-oriented team coming back this year. Justin Hill is a tremendous team leader running the point and is a DI player. Hill can score, distribute and defend. Cameron Oliver brings a football-mentality to the team as the Tigers' starting defensive back on the football field. Zul Sakhiyani and Mekhi McIntyre are also quality guards that will play a bigger role with a year of varsity experience under their belts. The Tigers' biggest competition will be Fort Bend Bush in district. While the Tigers were bounced by Sam Houston in the second-round last season, watch for Travis to make a move towards the Regional Tourney.
No. 13 Nimitz Cougars
The Nimitz Cougars stubbed their toe in the first round of the postseason in a three-point lossto Klein Collins, which made a shocking little run in the playoffs. Let's just say they haven't forgotten about it and have high expectations in 2019-2020. Coach Nathan Toon (10th season; 172-93) has some nice pieces to work with as the Cougars look to fend off Eisenhower and Westfield for the district title. The Cougars have made the playoffs in eight of the last nine seasons. Getting off the bus, the Cougars are intimidating with junior Ashton Smith at 6-foot-7 and Reggie Comeaux at 6-foot-5 clearing the glass and putting opponents in the rim. Seniors AJ Rose and Zavion Crosby will handle most of the backcourt duties with an explosive ability to get to the rim. Kentrell Royston could also make a splash this season as a guard who can shoot. Could Nimitz make a run like Eisenhower did, coming out of Aldine ISD?
No. 14 Madison Marlins
Every year since 2005, the Madison Marlins have been to the postseason – that's 14-straight years. Last season, the Marlins reached the third round after going 12-2 in district play. They fell to Port Arthur Memorial after taking down Manvel and Friendswood in the early rounds. All that is great, but sports are about the NOW. Coach Craig Maura has some nice returners, who should make it 15 consecutive playoff appearances, but can the Marlins swim upstream to the Regional Semis? Tim Moore Jr. is a 6-foot-6 athlete, who has gotten more athletic and comfortable putting the ball on the floor. Moore is a college-level player, who can carry a team late in the game. Adam Kanafani has transferred from Episcopal as a shooting guard to become a featured starter. Jacoby Brown will run the point and Brian Myles is the muscle inside. The pieces are in place, but will Madison move into elite status?
No. 15 FB Bush Broncos
Fort Bend Bush has become a consistent power in Houston. The Broncos enter this season seeking their 14th-straight playoff appearance led by second-year coach Brandon Gay, who took over for Fort Bend ISD legend Ronnie Courtney. Gay led the Broncos to a 26-11-mark last year, reaching the regional semifinals before falling to George Ranch, 48-42. The Broncos return four starters including Stephen Faramade, who averaged a double-double scoring 10 points and grabbing 12 rebounds per game. Faramade added two blocks per night. Also returning is Danny McAdory, who averaged 12 points and six rebounds per game last season. Other key returners include DJ Stewart (8 points, 5 assists, 2 steals) and Braelon Joe (8 points, 2 assists, 2 steals). With FB Elkins losing Donovan Williams (Texas) to graduation, that opens the door for Bush to have a shot at capturing the top spot out of District 20-6A. Fort Bend Travis will battle them for the title.
No. 16 Eisenhower Eagles
Unfortunately for Swoop Nation, the Redus-era is over. All-stater Ja'Mare Redus and his twin brother Ja'Mere are off to college after leaving a tremendous legacy at the Aldine ISD school. The Eagles made school history reaching the Regional Finals in 2018, before falling to Klein Forest in the third round last year. So, now what does coach James Johnson have up his sleeve for 2019-20? The Eagles graduated nine seniors, leaving Charyles Bell and Patrick Punch to carry the baton. Both are 6-foot-5 hybrids who can get to the rim and have big-game experience. Punch has some serious bounce and will be just a junior, while Bell can shoot and get to the rim. Nimitiz and Westfield have improved, so Eisenhower has a big bullseye on their back. Let's see who steps up from the JV to fill some massive shoes.
No. 17 Langham Creek Lobos
There is always a Sleeper in the bunch. This year, one of the more interesting teams who could make some noise are the Langham Creek Lobos. The Lobos finished third in District 14-6A a year ago and reached the second round of the postseason. That was their first playoff win in three years. Coach Charles Ament has a solid trio returning to the huddle in 2019, who can play. Seniors RJ Crawford and Devion Jackson accounted for 22 points per game. Crawford is a heavy ball-handler and shooter, while Jackson can score from several spots on the floor. Junior Chris Wiseman will play a much bigger role in 2019. His bounce and defense will be key to their success. Cy Springs and Cy Ranch were hit by graduation, opening the door for the Lobos to get off the porch.
18 Humble Wildcats
Move from 5A up to 6A – not a problem. Humble took moving up to the state's largest classification in stride and extended its impressive playoff streak to 26-straight years last season. Twenty-six ... That is insane. Humble looks to make it No. 27 in the 2019-2020 season and will have to do it with one starter returning from a team that went 24-11 last season. The Wildcats exited the playoffs in the second round with a loss to Pearland Dawson. So, who do we keep an eye on inside of Wildcat nation? Start with the seniors James Mason and Tristan Charles. The two wings bring size to the floor, Mason checking in at 6-foot-2 and Charles coming in at 6-foot-3. Lair Crawford enters his 8th season at the helm of the program and is 19 victories away from win No. 200 at Humble. Keys to success for the Wildcats include playing fast, crashing the boards and make open shots.
No. 19 Clear Lake Falcons
The Clear Lake Falcons finished second behind Dickinson in District 24-6A in 2019 but split the season series. The Falcons are predicted to play second-fiddle to the Gators again but have a year of experience under the belts of their top players. Coach Tommy Penders Jr. is a bona fide leader, who gets the most out of his guys. Senior guard Jaja Sanni has the green light, like bright green. He averaged double-figures last season and can fill it up like his brother Ajare did before him. Sanni will have the ball in his hands more than anyone on the team. It's his show. He will get some help from backcourt-mates Caleb Wright and Alex Lee. Wright averaged six points a game in 2018-19, and Lee will be more of a factor as a sophomore. The Falcons fell to Beaumont United in the second round of the playoffs and learned something – they need to be a little more athletic to hang with the area's elite programs.
No. 20 Memorial Mustangs
The Mustangs finished on the outside of the playoff picture a year ago. Finishing 19-16 overall and 6-9 in district. With four starters returning, the Mustangs have the pieces to the coveted playoff berth. Ethan Taylor (Air Force- commit) will lead the group after averaging 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists per game last year. Dallas Baptist University- commit Grayson Buehler will also contribute after averaging 14 points, four boards and two assists. Omar Kaniche (9 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists) will run the point, while Gaston Elie (7 points, four rebounds and two assists) will play guard. Elie is the son of three-time NBA Champion Mario Elie. David Lay enters his 15th year leading Memorial and knows defense, experience and chemistry will be their keys.