STEUBENVILE - With seven incoming players and a new and improved training program, the Franciscan University of Steubenville men's basketball team looks forward to the season, which begins tonight at Bethany College.
The Barons are hoping to build on last year's foundation and rise to a new level of competitiveness.
"A new team brings new talents and new abilities, and it's the coach's responsibility to take the strengths of each one of the student-athletes and place them in a position to be successful," second-year head coach John Lamanna said about his squad, which has only three returning players.
"We have a complete overhaul from what we did last year. This year is not even going to look the same, just in terms of what we're doing offensively and defensively, and due to new personnel."
Along with a change in roster, comes a change in training strategy, and among other things, Lamanna recently implemented special professional development session, or "pro-time," each morning in addition to scheduled practices. This, he said, gives the men a chance to spend time developing individual skills, something that Lamanna said is often difficult to fit into a team practice but essential to forming a good team of individually skilled athletes.
Lamanna said the team looks forward to an opportunity to "perform on a national stage" and continue to raise Baron Basketball to new heights.
"First and foremost, this year our goal is to continue moving the program to a higher competitive level, not just within our conference, but on a national level," Lamanna said. "But second, our goal as a program this season is to reach our potential. We don't quite know where that is yet, or what that means, and that's what we're working on a daily basis to try to discover."
Leading the team into this new phase of competition is the lone senior, three-year starter Frank Murray. A defensive standout, he was ranked in the top 15 of the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference last year in steals, and was second overall in the AMCC in minutes played.
"We're excited to see Frank play because he's our lone senior. He's also anxious to end his college playing career on a high note," Lamanna said.
As the men head into their first game, Lamanna expressed confidence in the program's new outlook.
"We're prepared for what to expect against Bethany and looking forward to getting the season kicked off and starting off with a great challenge that they're going to offer us," Lamanna said.
Former Buckeye Local standout Joe Rine (6-7) will patrol the middle.
A pair of Weir High products will suit up for the Barons this year in 6-1 Justin Horstman and 6-6 Paul Buffington, both freshmen.
Lamanna will also bank on sophomores Joseph Spears (6-0), Caleb Knorr (6-4) and Corey Henning (5-9), along with freshmen Derrick David (6-0), Christian Duke (6-3) and Tim Schenk (5-10).
The Barons hit the road for the weekend with games against University of Massachusetts-Boston and Gallaudet in the Hoopsville National Invitational Classic Tournament held at Stevenson College in Owings Mills, Md.