To kick off the start of the MIAA basketball season, ESPNBoston.com is spending this first week of practices counting down and previewing the top 25 teams in the state.
The Thursday preview includes perennial powers in St. John's (Shrewsbury) and New Mission, two deep and talented squads in St. John's Prep and Brookline, as well as Springfield Central, which boasts the MIAA's top college prospect in 6-foot-8 junior Chris Baldwin.
For a refresher on how the final 2012-13 poll ended up, CLICK HERE.
Be sure to check back on Friday for the conclusion of the top 25 boys basketball countdown.
10. SPRINGFIELD CENTRAL
Coach: Jack O’Brien
2012-13 results: 18-5, Division 1 West finalists
Key players: Jr. F/C Chris Baldwin, Sr. G Cody Williams, Sr. G Ju'an Williams, Soph. G Zavia Williams
Analysis: It isn't exactly a secret anymore what a talent Chris Baldwin is, and one of the biggest storylines of this season will be how well he can mesh with new coach Jack O'Brien, one of the most renowned coaches in the state's history. The early returns suggest the Eagles have responded fondly to O'Brien, who will push his trademark frenetic tempo as usual. The Golden Eagles graduated two-time ESPN Boston All-Stater Kamari Robinson, but the return of star quarterback Cody Williams, as well as his cousin Ju'an, reinforces the backcourt both ends of the floor. Keep an eye on sophomore newcomer Zavia Williams, a sophomore transfer from Sabis Charter, who could make an immediate impact.
Coach: Luke Day
2012-13 results: 14-9, Division 1 South semifinals
Key players: Sr. G Elijah Rogers, Sr. C Obi Obiora
Analysis: Brookline senior point guard Elijah Rogers may have more buzz surrounding his name than any other player in the state, especially given his progression over the summer and in the Beantown Slam Fall League. To complement Rogers, the Warriors also bring long-armed center Obi Obiorah, who should be an early candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.
8. ST. JOHN'S PREP
Coach: John Dullea
2012-13 results: 19-3, Division 1 North quarterfinals
Key players: Jr. G/F Ben Judson, Jr. G Kareem Davis, Sr. F Max Butterbrodt, Sr. G Max Burt
Analysis: Prep coach John Dullea will have plenty of talent to work with in his first year at the helm for the Eagles. Bruising forward Max Butterbrodt, and Max Burt -- who has appeared to take on the role of the Eagles' "glue guy" -- will bring some much-needed experience and leadership to the court. Lowell transfer Kareem Davis looks like a lock to get major minutes at point guard immediately, while the Eagles also have a scholarship-level wing prospect in 6-foot-5 junior Ben Judson.
7. NEW MISSION
Coach: Cory McCarthy
2012-13 results: 12-6, Division 2 North quarterfinals
Key players: Sr. G Asante Sandiford, Sr. G Shaquan Murray, Jr. G Randy Glenn, Sr. F Fred Rivers
Analysis: The Titans came up just short of the Boston City League championship last year, but Cory McCarthy's squad appears to be deeper and even more talented this year. Franklin Pierce commit Asante Sandiford will get a lot of headlines, but senior Shaquan Murray is a lethal shooting threat, Randy Glenn embraces the role of facilitator, and Fred Rivers can match up with seemingly any other big man in the state.
6. ST. JOHN'S (SHREWSBURY)
Coach: Bob Foley
2012-13 results: 16-7, Division 1 Central finalists
Key players: Jr. G Davon Jones, Soph. G Adham Floyd, Sr. F T.J. Kelley, Sr. F Alex Fisher, Sr. F Charlie Murray, Jr. F Drew Vittum
Analysis: This Pioneers squad is one of Bob Foley's deepest in recent memory -- particularly in the front line, where junior Drew Vittum and seniors T.J. Kelley, Charlie Murray, and Alex Fisher will all split time at the forward spots. Two-sport star Davon Jones has as much experience under his belt as any point guard in the state, while promising sophomore Adham Floyd showed to be a major contributor at the two-guard last year.