McMECHEN - The Bishop Donahue boys' team returns six players who saw time last season, but there will only be three seniors dotting the roster. Coach Tom Wise, who is entering his 13th season, says that won't stop the Bishops from playing their usual up-tempo style.
''I expect that most people will think we lost way to much to graduation and that this will be a down year,'' Wise said in reference to the departed D.T. Meeker, Austin Ghaphery, Chad Riedel, Kyle Gillis, Garrett Yurisko, Marshall Reager, Andrew Beveridge and Wylie Koontz.
''Though lacking experience, I like the makeup of this team,'' Wise said. ''They are just a bunch of tough gym rats.
''Though young, once they gain some game time they will be very competitive.''
With all that inexperience, there were several battles going on during the preseason. So much so in fact, that Wise said the only guy penciled in as a starter is junior Bryce Jones at the two-guard.
''He has the most minutes of any returning starter and has outstanding shooting range,'' the coach said.
Also in the mix are seniors Saquan Hill, a cat-quick, athletic player, and Austin Yannerella, as well as juniors Jared Yates and Gabe Mickey.
Meanwhile, Jesse Padlow and Brett Moore, both sophomores, were fighting it out to be the Bishops point guard.
''Jesse was the QB on the football team and had a great year. Hopefully this will carry over,'' Wise said. ''Brett is smaller but has a great basketball IQ.''
Lavonte Hampton, ''a very good athlete who had a great year in football,'' is the leading candidate to play small forward. In the mix are junior Hunter Kaschke and sophomores Matt Vucelik and Steven Gretchen.
At power forward and center fans could see any combination of senior Nick Fallova, ''though small, provides some inside toughness,'' according to Wise. ''Sophomores Josh Miller, Chaice Truex and junior Lane LeMasters will also provide toughness and talent in the middle.''
Additional help will be provided by five freshmen who will play only junior varsity. They are Coleton Berletch, Will Robinson, Andrew Rush, Zach McCoy and Dylan Druschel.
''Our section includes Magnolia, Madonna, (Wheeling) Central, Cameron and Hundred. I would dare to say that it is the toughest section in the state,'' Wise said. ''The other half of our region includes Trinity and St. Marys, just to name a couple.
''In 10 of the past 11 seasons a team from our region has played in the state championship game. Our schedule has also been upgraded, perhaps the toughest we have played.''
The Bishops are coming off a 14-10 season and a loss to St. Marys in the regional.
Wise is assisted by Shawn Martin and Curt Mele.