WHEELING - Linsly faces a big task as the OVAC Class AA champions move up a class - and do so without Akil Blount, one of the team's leading scorers last season at 19 points and 10 rebounds per game.
Still, don't expect Cadets coach James Wallace to lower expectations one bit. In fact, the third-year coach has one of his most talented rosters yet and will be looking to add another OVAC championship banner to Stifel Field House.
''Our expectation is to always win the OVAC title,'' Wallace said. ''We beefed up our schedule with the move to Class AAA so we had to make sure we have the points to qualify for the playoffs. We always carry championship expectations around here. We feel, no matter who we have, that if you carry less than that, that's what you'll get.
''We have guys back last year that started 0-3 and people worried about us even winning games. They learned how to handle adversity and how to handle to success. They ended up turning it around and won a heckuva game against River (in the Class AA title game). I think they are hungry to build off that. They don't want it to be a one-year thing. We have guys that want to leave with a legacy and leave the program as high as we can be.''
Wallace will look heavily on a talented threesome of junior Anthony Wallace, and sophomores Jibri Blount and Toddy Goodwin-Rowe.
''Anthony, a lot of people saw in the championship game score 31,'' Coach Wallace said. ''They took Akil away and forced someone to step up and beat them. Anthony did that. There is so many games before that where he really, really improved his game. He has really committed himself and is really maturing into our leader.
''Jibri plays with his elbows at the rim and Toddy is even quicker and making better decisions than last year. We are really going to depend on them to, not just be great players, but take the bull by the horns and make sure everyone is moving in the right direction.''
Anthony Wallace is a 6-foot-2 guard, while Goodwin-Rowe is a 6-foot guard and Blount, the team's tallest player at 6-6, is also a guard.
Wallace was the team's leading scorer last season at 20.8 points per game. He also led the Cadets in 3-pointers (31), free-throw percentage (70.2), and steals (56). He was a first team All-Valley selection.
The rest of the starting lineup is wide open as Coach Wallace tries to find the right mix.
The Cadets have four seniors on the team - Derin Fasipe, Michael Hammond, Robert Idowu, and Rashad Johnson - but none have earned a letter.
''We are looking for guys like Colton Coss (6-0, sophomore, guard), Quinton Hamilton (6-5, sophomore., forward), freshmen like Logan Goodnight (6-0, guard) and Malik Merrick (5-11, guard) and some seniors that have waited a long time, earned their stripes, stuck with it and put the time in Rashard Johnson (5-10, guard) and Robert Idowu (6-2, forward), to step and up,'' Coach Wallace said.
''We have a group of unknown entities. We will be excited to see who plays early in the season and in scrimmages to see who's who.
''The nice thing about having that group of six or seven kids trying to fight for those spots, is that our practices are really competitive. We have really worked hard and had guys really going at each other. No one is backing down from each other.''
The Linsly roster is rounded out with juniors Regan Chen (5-11, guard), Arien Seymour (5-11, guard), and Austin Whipkey (6-2, forward), sophomores Jae Wook Ahn (6-1, forward), Jacob Caimano (5-11, guard), Mackenzie Hammond (forward), Jake Steed (5-10, guard) and Tyson West (6-1, guard), and freshmen Corey Collette (5-5, guard), Nick Aprea (5-8, forward), Corey Cunningham (5-8, guard), Charlie Dodd (6-0, forward), Sam Doe (5-11, forward), Cole Griffin (5-9, guard), Matthew Hurley (6-0, forward), Allen Lin (5-8, guard), and Michael Reed (5-10, guard).
Wallace is assisted by James Cowart and Colin McWilliams.