In each of his first two seasons as head coach, Marian's John Patton was forced to oversee a rebuilding effort, which featured the replacement of four starters from the previous year.
In both seasons, Patton successfully guided his piecemealed teams to the playoffs.
This year, however, the third-year coach finds himself in a more stable situation, built on a solid foundation of experience, talent and high expectations.
Returning are six seniors, six players with starting experience, and five of the top six scorers from a team that finished 13-11 last season.
"Last year at this time, we were wondering how we were going to win games and who was going to step up. When we started out 4-8, we were certainly a young team that could have easily folded," stated Patton. "But the kids rallied and won seven of their next eight games to make the playoffs, and in the process, learned what it takes to win."
"This group of kids has been together for a couple of years now and they've experienced success together. This year, we have the pieces, now it's just a matter of fitting them all together."
Two years ago, this current crop of seniors, along with junior Anthony Agosti, were undefeated as a JV team.
Returning at point guard is 5-11 junior Anthony Agosti. Agosti, one of the team's defensive stalwarts averaged 8.78 points per game before a broken wrist curtailed his season after just nine games.
"Anthony was really maturing into the position before he got hurt, but I think he learned a lot just by watching on the bench because it gave him a different perspective of the game."
Joining Agosti in the backcourt are seniors Ryan Karnish (5-11) and Nick Kweder (5-8). Karnish was the team's leading scorer last year with 11.54 points per game, as well as the top perimeter shooter with 59 three-pointers. Kweder (2.36 ppg), who became a starter midway through last season, is considered one of the team's best on-the-ball defenders.
Down low will be 6-2 senior forward Eric Swankoski and 6-3 center Alden Whah. Whah came into his own last year, by averaging 8.10 points per game and 12.0 rebounds per game. Whah's 252 rebounds and 31 blocked shots were tops on the team. Swankoski, meanwhile, hauled in 103 rebounds (second on the team) while averaging 4.96 points per game.
Damian Richards (4.61 ppg), a 6-1 senior that started down the stretch last year, also figures to see significant minutes, as his versatility allows him to play every position and create mismatches. According to Patton, Richards (third on the team in rebounds, first in assists, and first is steals last year) is a jack-of-all-trades that can handle the ball, get the team into an offense, and then come back and guard the biggest guy on the floor.
Also figured to see playing time are junior forward Lukas Damian, senior guard Justin Bilka and junior guard Calvin Talbott.
One common theme permeating up and down the Marian roster this year is "defense," as Patton acknowledged every player as being a "good defender."
"We stress defense here," added Patton, as he referenced holding teams to 38 points or less in half of their games last year. "We do more defense than offense, because with nine guys, I think we can really put pressure on teams to get to their bench."
With plenty of defense, leadership and experience returning, it would seem to indicate that the Colts have all the right ingredients for a winning recipe.