Last season, a senior-heavy Newman Catholic boys basketball roster that averaged 72 points per game claimed its second consecutive conference championship.
For a team anchored by five senior starters who scored over 1,300 combined points, losing 11 seniors in the off season could have been a concern for head coach Jerry Gatton.
"This is not a rebuilding season as I tell our players, its a reloading season, because I don't see it that way," Gatton said. "I could see it that way if I didn't think we had anything in the pot, but we do."
Acknowledging his top two returning scorers – seniors Sammy Kratz and Jacob Nelson – posted a combined 75 points last year, Gatton remained unfazed.
"Teams are going to have to worry about us because we are going give it our all and that's what we instill in all our kids," he said. "We are going to play some in your face defense and do what we have to do to score."
Two freshman – Max Burt and Douglas Taylor – will be key to this year's lineup, Gatton says. However, due to lingering football injuries, he is unsure of when they will be available.
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"I'm not going to lie, they were penciled in as opening day starters," Gatton said. "I know those boys, if they could right now, they'd be on the floor."
Having played with Burt and Taylor for baseball and football, Gatton said he expects Kratz to step into a leadership role.
"He knows that those guys could possibly be leaders, but I've asked him to understand that you're still a senior," Gatton said. "Don't just give that leadership away."
Rounding out the list of seniors expected to make contributions are Alec Frey, Braden Petree, Jack Lander and Grant Smith.
A mix of juniors and sophomores fill out the rest of the varsity squad, led by Tim Castle, Caden Rodning, Owen Casey, James Matthews and Eli Brinkley.
"They're gonna have to be some role players," Gatton said of his underclassmen. "Some have better abilities than others. In the locker room I stress if you're not on the floor, you're in the game just as much on the bench. They are going to be the guys that keep a team positive."
Gatton says his team could compete with other Top of Iowa Conference East foes like Osage and West Fork.
"I think we can battle for a conference championship, but it depends on how healthy we are, how the pieces all fall together," he said. "We are going to be young, but I still think we are going to be fun to watch."