Graduation hit most of the Greater Spokane League boys basketball teams hard, particularly defending State 4A champ Gonzaga Prep.
If history shows one thing, though, it’s that by the end of the season the league will produce battle-tested teams poised to fare well at state.
Look at recent history. Ferris won back-to-back state championships in 2007-08 and Gonzaga Prep captured a state title last year, and the league was well-represented in between.
While contenders for the league championship were clear in recent seasons, it’s clear as mud this year.
In fact, one coach believes as many as six of the 10 teams could challenge for the conference title.
G-Prep graduated four of five starters and will feature a lineup full of fresh faces.
“I couldn’t really nail down a starting five right now,” Bullpups coach Matty McIntyre said. “That’s exciting in a way. We don’t really know what we have. Many of them have sat on the bench, but they haven’t been in a position where they’ve had to perform.”
They’ll get their chance this season. Senior guard TJ Bracey is the lone returning starter and the only other starting spot secured is by senior Ryan Gregory, the Bullpups’ valuable sixth man last year.
After that, McIntyre will have several pieces to choose from, including perhaps two transfers.
“If we can bring it all together and the chemistry mixes correctly and we get some senior leadership, it could be a really exciting year,” McIntyre said.
G-Prep has known where its scoring was going to come from the past two seasons. That’s largely an unanswered question going into this year.
When McIntyre talks about a deep league, he should know.
“I see a league that is way more challenging than the last two years,” McIntyre said. “I see a lot of teams that can compete for a championship. I see five, maybe six teams that could legitimately win it.”
One of those teams that stands out on paper is University, which returns four starters and three other lettermen who saw playing time.
“U-Hi is super talented,” McIntyre said.
In fact, U-Hi, which didn’t have any trouble scoring last year, returns its top five scorers.
“It’s an experienced group that has played together for years,” U-Hi coach Garrick Phillips said. “We’re very athletic and will be able to pressure defend and score in transition.”
Another team McIntyre figures will challenge is Shadle Park. The Highlanders will be led by Washington State University-bound Brett Boese, who missed most of last season with a broken foot.
“Their starting five will be very solid,” McIntyre said of the Highlanders.
Although Ferris graduated three all-league players, including most valuable player Riley Stockton, the Saxons return starters Chris Wilson and Chase Haack.
Central Valley is mentioned among the top teams with the bulk of its players coming off the Bears’ football team that advanced to the State 4A quarterfinals.
“I couldn’t tell you who the favorite is,” McIntyre said. “It should be very competitive.”