Two too many times, East had a shot at a championship and missed out. While the Aces fell to Topeka Highland Park in a midseason tournament title game, it was losing in a Class 6A sub-state championship that hurt most.
Southeast defeated East in the sub-state final, then finished second in 6A.
"We stood right in the competition with championships on the line, and neither time were we able to get it done," Aces coach Ron Allen said. "I was disappointed, (considering) the kind of kids we had."
East graduated Leon Flowers (15.3 points) and Marcus Adams (13.3), but returns Randall Rogers and Ja'ln Williams. Sophomores Nathan Jackson and Jalen Love will play key roles, as well.
"I think that we're capable of maybe being right here up top or it could take us a little time to come together as a team, but before it's all said and done, I'm banking on being right there with this group," Allen said. "I'm not going to be shocked and surprised when it happens. I've already visualized what this team can do."
Rogers, who is strong inside and can hit from the perimeter, could miss part of the season with a stress fracture in a leg, which would hurt because he's a presence inside. Jalen Carter is a tough, physical forward.
On the perimeter, Williams returns with experience in addition to his ballhandling skills.
"I think his ability to get to the basket off the dribble, that came from strength and power that added to his quickness," Allen said. "Defensively he may be one of the best defensive guards in the league."
Jackson has improved his play inside and on the perimeter, but Allen said it's his defensive skills that are most improved. Love, who along with Jackson is already getting looks from college coaches, is a shooter who also can run the point.