You don't have to tell Lehighton boys basketball coach Michael O'Brien what the true heart of a competitor is. He witnessed that a year ago.
Last season, his squad saw modest gaines each time out but none of the efforts resulted in a win. Yet, the team went out and played hard in each and every game.
This season looks to be a "turn-the-corner" season for the Indians as the youth and inexperience of the past has produced players with seasoning. Despite that experience, the Indians only have two seniors on the roster.
"We are still young," O'Brien said. "I could have five juniors on the court at one time."
In the previous two seasons, the Indians relied on underclassmen to compete at a level they were not ready for.
Now, the Indians will have three players in their third year of varsity competition in senior Aaron Szacska and juniors D.J. Rossino and Nate Kresge.
The offense will rely on Rossino, in his third season at point guard.
"As a returning two-year starter, I am looking to him for leadership," O'Brien said.
Combined with Szacska's shooting ability and Kresge's steadiness, the Indians can find leadership from three key players.
"We have three good leaders on this team and we didn't have that last year," O'Brien said.
O'Brien is faced with two huge losses in Ty Hill (baseball) and JT Keer (transfer). Although their experience could be used this season, It may not be as bad as one would think as 6'5" power forward Cordell Wall will wear maroon and white this season.
"Losing Tyler Hill hurt us a little bit at the power forward spot, but we have a new guy in Cordell Wall. He's a big, power forward. I think he's going to do some good things for us," O'Brien said.
Combined with 6'4" center Josiah Evans, the Indian's are going to have strength in something they lacked last season rebounding.
Brandon Edgar and Ryan Scott, whose strength is defense, will play key roles off the bench.
Moderate depth allows younger players to stay on the bench and be used in spots or as needed. Three freshman, Anthony Rossino, who will fill in for brother D.J. at point guard, James Farano, and Khalil Jones will find their spots on the court this season..
"We're were 0-22 last year and everyone knows that," O'Brien said. "We're looking to do a lot better this year,"
Despite the lack of wins, the team is still excited and working hard to turn the program around.
"These are Lehighton kids, these kids don't give up," said O'Brien. "We're at the point now where every time we go out, were are going to compete. We're not going to be a pushover anymore, those days are over."
This year, the Indians have a favorable non-league schedule that could open the door for improvement.
"I'd like to see us get off to a good start. I think our first couple of games are winnable," said O'Brien. "I think it could be a 'turn-the-corner' year. I'd be very disappointed if it's not.
"We have nine freshman playing JV, so we have some building blocks in place. Once we get past this stage we will be successful."