Here's something you've heard before: Rainier Beach is the team to beat in Class 3A boys basketball.
The Vikings, who won the Metro League title and then finished fourth at the state last season, appear to have the physical ingredients plus added savvy this season.
"I really like the makeup of this team," said coach Mike Bethea, who has won three state titles in nine years. "I've got 10, 11 guys with good basketball IQs."
A safe prediction is that a team from the Metro League will win the state championship. Metro teams have won the past five titles and six of seven this decade. It was Seattle Prep's turn last season.
This season, the tournament will be held in Seattle instead of Tacoma. This also is the first year of reclassification and schools that previously were factors in 3A, such as Lynden and Mark Morris of Longview, now are 2A.
Here are The Seattle Times' preseason Class 3A rankings:
1. Rainier Beach: The Vikings have powerful 6-foot-6 inside force Emeka Iweka, who will play football at the University of Washington, and De Angelo Jones, a smooth guard who missed most of last season and will play at New Mexico State. Bethea is raving about junior Michael Ladd, who was injured last year but opened Beach's jamboree by nailing his first three three-pointers. Beach has two newcomers, junior 6-2 guard Reggie Moore from O'Dea and 6-9 David Gebru from Ballard. Bethea said seven players in the Beach program transferred to other schools.
2. Bainbridge: The Spartans are led by Steven Gray, a 6-4 senior guard who averaged 24 points last season and committed to Gonzaga before his junior season. The supporting cast includes 6-9 senior Coby Gibler. Seventy-five percent of the scoring is back from a team that led the Metro League in scoring, went 19-7, but didn't get to state.
3. O'Dea: The Irish have the "quarterback" in point guard Jamelle McMillan, who will play at Arizona State. They also have guard Chris Banchero, who can score baskets in bunches. In Phil Lumpkin, they have a coach who has won four state titles.
4. Meadowdale: The Mavericks have dropped down from 4A and have returning talent and coach Chad McGuire, who gets the most out of whatever he has.
5. Southridge of Kennewick: The two leading scorers, Brigham Young quarterback recruit Jason Munns (14 ppg) and Travis Mattair (13 ppg), return from a team that played in the 4A tournament.
6. Chief Sealth: The Seahawks just might be the quickest team in the Metro and were a force in summer basketball. Guard Melvin Jones returns with a 13.2 average.
7. Clover Park: The Warriors have three quality guards and an inside game, too.
8. Mercer Island: The Islanders have the state's winningest coach in Ed Pepple and a quality point guard in junior Leroy Lutu.
9. Seattle Prep: OK, Spencer Hawes is now a Husky, but this team knows how to play defense and could surprise.
10. Mount Rainier: The Rams start slowly sometimes, but they are around in March.
Others: Auburn, Cleveland, Columbia River of Vancouver, Hanford, Kennedy, Kennewick, Lakes, North Thurston, Peninsula, Port Angeles, Renton, Squalicum of Bellingham, West Valley of Yakima.
Craig Smith: 206-464-8279 or firstname.lastname@example.org