River boys' basketball coach Mark Romick is in the exact opposite position he was entering last season.
Following a Division IV sectional title in 2010-11, the veteran Pilots court boss found himself with only one returning starter for the 2011-12 campaign.
No problem, as River flowed to a second straight sectional crown behind a superb junior class.
Now, with those juniors being seniors, Romick has all kinds of players - seven to be exact - returning for another season on the hardwood.
"This is a different season with different expectations," the 15-year head coach said. "You set your goals according to what you have coming back and everything like that."
With that said, the Pilots should have some lofty goals for the 2012-13 season, which gets under way Saturday at Frontier.
In addition to capturing back-to-back sectional crowns, the Pilots also advanced to the OVAC/Wheeling Hospital Class-AA Championship game where they dropped a heartbreaker in overtime to a talented Linsly squad at Ohio University Eastern.
"Last year we kind of snuck up on some people," Romick admitted. "I told people that we were going to be pretty decent, and I knew we would be decent.
"This year we won't surprise anyone. Everyone on our schedule will be ready for us," he warned. "We've got a really nice team and the kids have worked hard over the summer. So we hope to reap some of the benefits of that hard work."
Leading the Pilots is a talented senior class that has really meshed together as a unit, on and off the court.
"This is a great class. Great kids who work really hard, and they like each other. That is really important. That's the biggest thing. There are no 'I's' on the team. No head cases. It's a joy to be around them."
Those seniors are Brett Price (6'3), Jordan Indermuhle (6'6), Cody Caldwell (6'2), Kam Brown (5'10), Chad Isaly (5'10), Matt Marconi (5'9), and Evan Eggleston (6'5).
Price is the team's leading scorer, averaging 17 points a game last winter. He is a deadly outside shooter who also is very good at the stripe.
"Brett really honed his skills over the summer. He snuck up on some teams last year, but he's a known commodity this season," Romick allowed. "He's getting some interest from some different colleges. He has developed himself into a big-time scorer. He has a good all-around game and does a lot of little things well." Price was named to the all-OVAC and all-Eastern District last season.
Indermuhle is the veteran of the squad, starting his third season in the paint. He netted 11.4 points per game last season and just under 11 rebounds in an outing year.
"Jordan is a tremendous rebounder and defensive player," Romick noted. "He should be a real presence for us in the middle this season."
Caldwell is the Pilots' third leading scorer returning this year, with an 11.3 clip in 2011-12.
"Cody has a very good outside shot," Romick assessed. "He is a leader and an athlete. He was the quarterback on the football team, so you know he is an athletic kid."
Brown, Isaly, and Marconi will do most of the ballhandling, along with Price. "Kam is an ultra-quick kid," Romick pointed out. "He's another one of those athletic kids that had a great football season. He's a tremendous defender."
Brown scored a little under three points a game last winter. "Chad is a hard-nosed kid who does a lot of the little things that don't show up in the boxscore, like diving for loose balls," the coach added. "He brings a lot of pluses to the game."
Isaly chipped in 3.7 points per contest a year ago. "Matt will be our point guard," Romick said. "I think people are going to really be surprised with him this season. At times last year he scored well, but he has really developed his game over the summer. We expect to see some big things from him."
Marconi added 7.1 points per game last season. Eggleston, who weighs in at 230, will lend some much-needed force on the inside. He scored three points a game last year. "Evan is another one of those kids that will do anything and everything asked of him," Romick said. "He works really hard and should be a banger underneath."
Rounding out the varsity roster are junior Eric Dierkes (6'0), and sophomores Ryan Indermuhle (6'3) and Matt Gauding (6'4).
"Eric has looked really good in the early going," Romick noted. "He fits several roles for us off the bench. Matt and Ryan will see mostly junior varsity action, but can spell the big guys, as well."
Romick firmly believes that to be the best, you've got to play the best. River's schedule has been vastly upgraded with the addition of Division IV perennial state powerhouse Berlin Hiland and D-2 Athens High.
"We always play them in the district tournament, so why not play them in the regular season?" Romick said of the Berlin Hiland game scheduled for Dec. 22. Hiland ended last year's dream season in the district semifinals at Meadowbrook High School in Byesville. "They are a good team year-in and year-out. It's better to go out and play good teams if you want to be successful. I think we've definitely upgraded our schedule this year." The Pilots and Athens will meet in an event in Marietta on Dec. 28.
As far as goals, Romick admitted, "We've talked about some goals and the kids have set some really high ones for themselves. We want to get back to the OVAC tournament, and take a shot at winning it. But, it won't be easy because we've moved up to 3-A this year. That will be a tough division with us, with Magnolia, Fort Frye, and Linsly, as well. Those are some good teams. It will be a dogfight.
"As far as the post-season, the kids want to win the sectional again and then set our sights on the district. They want to go further than last year."