Last season, head coach John Patton stressed the importance of finding chemistry.
This year, Marian simply needs to find a way.
...And it won't be easy.
The Colts (20-6 last year and coming off back-to-back District 11 Championships) need to find a way to replace 87-percent of their scoring from last year, including the loss of four starters and their top six scorers.
They also need to find a way to replenish 68-percent of their three-point shooting, 84-percent of their rebounding and 97-percent of their blocked shots from a season ago.
"Even though we lost a lot going into last season, we also had the luxury of having some guys coming back that had significant playing time and made significant contributions that we could build around," stated Patton. "This year, we're basically starting from scratch and looking for who we can build around. We're going to have a new offensive look, we'll do things defensively that we haven't done before, and we're going to throw a lot of kids in the mix and see what happens."
The lone returning starter is sophomore Anthony Agosti (1.35 ppg), who transitions from a defensive stopper last year to the field general of the offense this year as Marian's point guard.
"Last year, Anthony primarily played defense and now he's leading our offense," said Patton. "We didn't need him to score, we just needed him to defend the other team's best player. This year, he's going to play point and he's going to be our defensive guy, so we just need to be smart with how we handle him."
Agosti will fill the shoes of three-year starter and TIMES NEWS Player of the Year Chris Barletta, who led the Colts with 16.56 points per game, 139 assists and a team-leading 20 three-pointers.
"You don't just replace someone like Chris Barletta," added Patton. "He had the ball in his hands 99-percent of the time, not only creating plays for himself, but also creating opportunities for other people. Now we need to find out who we can put the ball in the hands of and what we're going to do with it once we get up court."
Joining Agosti at guard with be senior Anthony Pilla and junior Ryan Karnish, the only other returnees on the roster to see substantial varsity playing time last season.
Karnish (2.30 ppg), who is currently hobbled with an ankle injury, figures to be the team's top three-point shooter, while Pilla (2.08 ppg) is a versatile presence in the lineup.
"You very rarely see a kid who is the center on the football team and the shooting guard on the basketball team, but that's the versatility Pilla brings to the table. We're going to look for him to contribue in a lot of ways for us."
Down low, the Colts appear to be a work in progress and they try to fill the voids left by the departures of 6-6 center Dominic Richiard and 6-1 forward Ryan Gimbi. Collectively, Richards (7.29 ppg) and Gimbi (12.81 ppg) combined for 485 rebounds and 66 block shots last year.
Stepping in will be 6-2 junior forward Eric Swankoski (currently on the shelf with a hand injury sustained during football season) and 6-3 junior Alden Whah. The duo played in a combined eight games last year, accumulating six points and one rebound.
Coming off the bench will be guards John Julian, Justin Bilka and Nick Kweder, along with forwards Jordan Weber, Damian Richards, Lucan Damian and Zach Motil.
"Last year, we got a lot from two or three guys," concluded Patton. "This year, we need to get a little from a lot of people."
Hopefully, the Colts will find a way.