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11/29/2015 - From The Press Box: Snow and Cold Are Signs That Basketball Is Here
 With the brush of snow, freezing rain and cold this week, that must be a sign that basketball season is here.

It was a little more than a week ago that temperatures were in the 60s and many of us were out doing yard work.  I still have leaves to mulch and need to clean the gutters one more time.

Regardless, basketball season is upon us and could be filled with surprises.

The boys race in Lincoln may come down to either North Star, Northeast or Southeast.  On paper, the Navigators have a good group of players returning led by South Dakota commit Triston Simpson.

Northeast returns some juniors who gained valuable experience a year ago as sophomores on their state semifinal team.  Tyson Shadegg is the lone returning starter, while 6-9 center Trace Tupper started in a few games last season.  Tivon Phillips, who saw limited action, is another junior with experience but one key shooter, Noah Thompson, is out for the year with a knee injury.

Southeast will look to Sam Morris as their go to man.  The UNK commit burst onto the scene a year ago showing signs that the Knights could be competitive in 2015-16.  He'll have some support from veteran guard Brady McDonald.

East, one of the six teams to beat Northeast last season, returns Nate Netz, Hunter McPhail and Clay Reimers.  Those three could get immediate help from some promising sophomores like post players Jordan Janssen and Hayden Barrett.

Lincoln High, last year's city champion at 14-5 but didn't qualify for state, will likely go through the biggest changes.  The Links will look to replace most of their starting line up, but may have key players like Aundra Gilbert and Donovan Bargen.

Southwest returns veterans Bo Els and Tyler Lenz, but the key for Coach Duane Baack is to find some depth and development from underclassmen.  Looks like another rebuilding year for the Silver Hawks, who played in the Class A championship game seven years ago.

We'll continue to preview other area boys and girls teams as we go through December.

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SPOILER ALERT: Omaha South is our preseason No. 1 team in our Union Bank Class A Boys basketball top ten.  Our rankings won't be out until later this week, but that will give you an idea of who we think will be tough to beat this year.

South returns several key players from last year's runner-up team, which includes 6-6 senior forward and Iowa football recruit Noah Fant, 6-2 guard Karlon McSpadden and 6-6 junior Aguek Arop, who injured his knee in the first game of the year.

The Packers, with those three and other experienced players, are our pick to be the top team in Nebraska.

Not too far behind them is the team that won the Class A crown last season, Creighton Prep.  The Junior Jays also return a wealth of experience with 6-6 senior guard Drew Homa, 6-5 junior guard Aguir Agau, 6-7 center Will Schenken 6-3 senior guard Joey Machado and 6-3 guard Nate Schimonitz.

Coach Josh Luedtke's Prep team could be dancing again in March, if the team chemistry continues to gel like it did a year ago.

If you include South and Prep, then you must consider Norfolk to be another highly favored team in Class A.  The Panthers lose Tyler Hagedorn, Kory Reestman and Thomas Eacker due to graduation, but everyone else is back.

Junior Logan Strom at 6-9 will be tough to beat under the basket, Miles Morrissey will be another inside presence and guards Brandon Villapando, Lane McCallum and Travis Larson will be outside threats for Norfolk.  Sophomore Matt Hagedorn could likely be another contributor close to the basket.

Norfolk will likely give Lincoln and Omaha teams fits this season, much like a year ago.  But it was Northeast who had them on the ropes at home and lost 67-66 before exploding in the fourth quarter of the Class A quarterfinal to hand the Panthers their lone loss of the season.

Still, Norfolk, is highly dangerous.  You could say the same about Bellevue West, Omaha Central, Millard West and a few others.

Fremont is another team to watch out for in Class A.  The Tigers get three transfers (K'zhan Jimerson and Christian Harmon from Omaha Central and Taylor Keeney from Cedar Bluffs) and add them with veterans Matt Hahn and Ryan Williams, that's a recipe for trouble for other teams.

Head Coach Mark Williams told the Omaha World-Herald recently the addition of those three players hasn't upset the team chemistry.

Fremont, early on, looks to be the favorite in the Heartland Athletic Conference.  Teams like North Star, Northeast and Southeast will likely be right behind them.

The next four months should prove to be interesting on who will rise up the ranks and who will fall in prep basketball.  At least that's something I can look forward to during the cold months of the year.

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