Last season, District 9-6A sported some of the top boys basketball teams in the Metroplex, including two in Allen and Jesuit that spent the majority of the season ranked among the state’s top 10 teams.
The result was a wildly competitive year on the hardwood and the 2020 edition of conference play doesn’t promise any let-up. As non-district action winds down, Allen and Prosper find themselves ranked among the Class 6A elite, while numerous other teams in the league — including Plano West, McKinney and reigning district champ Jesuit — have had to call upon plenty of varsity newcomers to contribute in the early going.
As teams gear up for Friday’s first slate of district ballgames, Star Local Media collaborated to project the district’s final standings when all is said and done.
Matt Welch: Despite some of the most successful seasons in program history over the past decade, a district championship has eluded the Eagles, and often at the expense of another state juggernaut. Allen enters 9-6A in the poll position following an impressive non-district slate that recently concluded with a second-place finish in its host tournament, the In-N-Burger Holiday Invitational.
The Eagles have already matched their total number of losses last season — albeit with four setbacks against teams ranked in the state’s top 10 — but sport an athletic, fast roster that has meshed nicely despite the graduation of sharp-shooter Isaiah Stevens. Picking up the slack has been the trio of seniors Thailand Elder and Bryce Kennedy, plus junior Manny Obaseki, who’s on track to become the most highly recruited prospect in program history.
With juniors Mason Gibson and Ian Motta thriving as role players, plus an athletic bench, Allen is poised for another big year on the district hardwood.
Bryan Murphy:The favorite to take the 9-6A crown is undoubtedly Allen, but don’t sleep on Prosper this season.
The Eagles are off to a blazing start through the non-district slate and various preseason tournaments and have fared well against teams not named Richardson and Lancaster.
Prosper enters district play with an impressive 16-3 record and fresh off of a strong showing in the Dallas ISD Holiday Invitational in which the Eagles gave Lancaster, the No. 1-ranked team in Class 5A, all it could handle in an 82-70 loss.
This year’s squad features a well-balanced lineup with decent size in senior forward Mondo Battle and strong guard play with senior Ammon Allen and junior point guard Grant Shaw, who has been with the varsity program since his freshman campaign.
Matt Welch: There might not be a team in the district, save for maybe Plano West, that was hit harder by graduation than the Rangers. Jesuit is without four starters from last season’s 9-6A title team, including co-MVP Max Abmas and Defensive Player of the Year Julius Marble. In total, Jesuit’s graduated starters accounted for nearly 75% of the team’s scoring last year.
There’s still talent there, no doubt, with crafty guard Gavin Perryman leading the backcourt while post Darryl Brown is averaging in double figures after thriving in a backup role to Marble last season.
The Rangers remain lethal from beyond the arc, hosting more than 20 3-pointers per game this season, and will at times deploy five-man lineups all capable of spacing the floor.
The results have been a bit inconsistent so far at just 7-10, but Jesuit’s pedigree and defined home-court advantage should ensure it remains in the playoff mix.
Kendrick E. Johnson: After not making the playoffs for the first time in two years last season, McKinney has a very talented but young roster, which includes a core of four underclassmen.
As a result, McKinney’s success in district will depend on how sophomores Alex Anamekwe and Devin Vincent, along with freshmen Ja’Kobe Walter and Jacovey Campbell, play in big games. If McKinney is able to win more games that go down to the wire than they lose, the Lions will be in a prime position to grab a playoff spot.
5. Plano West
Matt Welch: The Wolves have a very different look from last season after graduating three starters from a squad that placed third in 9-6A, and a couple key returners in Alec Zambie (John Paul II) and Christian Green (San Antonio Cornerstone Christian) transferring from the program.
The result was left head coach Anthony Morgan and Co. a relatively young roster that’s chalked with players acclimating to the varsity limelight for the very first time. Senior Grant Pressly and junior Chase Ross have helped steady the ship for the Wolves, with West procuring some encouraging results through an up-and-down non-district campaign, highlighted by a win over state-ranked Frisco Memorial.
The Wolves are going to have to grow up quickly if they hope to crack the top four in district, however.
6. McKinney Boyd
Kendrick E. Johnson: The Broncos enter district play winners of four of their last five games after a very solid showing at The Colony’s Tommy Thomas Cougar Classic tournament.
After struggling to consistently compete at times in recent seasons, Boyd enters district play with a balanced, athletic roster that plays hard-nosed defense and competes every game.
If Boyd can get high-end production from Colin O’Brien, Kendall Alexander and Jhi Jackson, the Broncos could find their way into postseason for the first time in a while.
7. Plano Senior
Matt Welch: The Wildcats remain in search of their first playoff berth since 2014, and halting that skid in 2020 likely won’t come easy. Plano has a more even mix between its seniors and non-seniors than in years past, and younger players like junior Jackson Hamilton and sophomores Makhi Dorsey, Dre’lyn Hall and Xavier Williams have stepped up as complements to returners like seniors Dillan Walker and Bryce Bristow — the latter fresh off a strong run in the Tommy Thomas Cougar Classic.
The Wildcats have a depth edge over most teams in the district — a staple of head coach Dean Christian’s tenure with the program — and have shown the ability to hang with upper-echelon opponents, evidenced in a non-district win over state-ranked DeSoto, but channeling that level of consistency in district is easier said than done.
8. Plano East
Matt Welch: It’s been an odd non-district schedule for the Panthers, who spent the majority of the preseason without its projected starting lineup intact. In fact, it wasn’t until the team’s Dec. 20 meeting with Flower Mound that East managed to field a full rotation for the first time all season.
Losing all-district performer Evan Williams for the bulk of non-district set back East, no doubt, with Williams projected to take on a much greater offensive role this season.
As he grows into that role, the Panthers haven’t been bashful about giving their bench heavy minutes this season, with head coach Matt Webster noting that the team will do so until a steady five emerge. Whether the Panthers have fortified their identity in time for the district gauntlet remains to be seen.