Last year: 23-6, 10-2 Upstate Eight River (1st)
Coach: Deryn Carter, fifth season (44-67)
Top returnees: seniors Taylor Boley (6-0, G), Drew Jones (6-6, F), Kendale McCullum (6-0, G), Brayden Royse (6-5, F), Derrick Streety (5-10, G)
Top newcomers: juniors Tanner Gardone (6-6, F/C), Keyvon Kyles (5-8, G), Dmontrelle Mardis (5-10, G), Charles Sanders (6-0, G), freshman Christian Negron (6-6, F/C)
Outlook: The Royals won more games last year (23) than coach Deryn Carter's first three Larkin teams combined (21). Larkin could be in line for even greater success than a regional championship this season with nine seniors back and an attack more balanced between the perimeter and the post. Last year the Royals played a three-guard offense, sometimes four. With 6-foot-6 senior Drew Jones once again healthy, 6-5 multisport athlete Brayden Royse back in the fold and freshman phenom Christian Negron (6-6) emerging as a force, coach Deryn Carter can go with a big lineup if he likes. All-Area guard Kendale McCullum and third-year varsity guard Derrick Streety will be lineup mainstays, too, but Carter can also go small with a three-guard lineup that could include senior 3-point specialist Taylor Boley or a junior like Keyvon Kyles, who played well over the summer when the Royals went 29-2. McCullum is a key. His 5 assists per game were the second-highest total in the area last season, when he averaged 11.2 points per game. One of the area's best defenders, he led Larkin last year with 108 steals and grabbed 131 rebounds. Mostly a slasher, McCullum got to the free-throw line 168 times last year and made 68.9 percent of his shots, a total that should rise precipitously considering the NFHS mandate to more closely enforce existing hand check violations. He is not the team's only leader, however. "There are nine seniors and I think all of them are leading in their own right," Carter said. "What's different this year is we will have a bigger presence on the glass for sure."