Pearl River forward Kevin Degnan began to emerge as a standout for the Pirates as his sophomore season went on, and he continued to show his development over the summer.
Now the versatile, 6-foot-7 junior will take on a much larger role as one of only two starters returning for Pearl River along with senior forward Tom Davis.
That is a major change for Pearl River, which often features guard-oriented teams.
"It is a little different," said Pearl River Head Coach Jerry Houston, Jr. "Our experience is at the four and five man as opposed tot he guards. Usually, we've been bringing back perimeter players."
Degnan, who can play on the wing and shoot from the outside as well as score inside, will be a focal point for the Pirates and for opposing defenses.
"He is very different. In practice he is more vocal. He is in more of a leadership role," Houston said. "The improvement he showed last year, that continued in the summer. This is going to be a big challenge for him. It is a learning process to develop into a team's No. 1 option."
Houston said Degnan has gotten stronger and continues to learn to use his skills inside better.
Davis, on the other had, is purely an inside player despite his relative lack of size at 6-0.
"He's around the basket a lot, but he's not a big kid," Houston said. "But he is effective around the basket. He's got long arms and good anticipation. He has great desire for the ball. He's a unique player in that regard. You'd expect someone who has his success around the basket to be bigger.
"He is working on coming away from the basket a bit so he can make a 15-foot jump shot. He gets so many loose balls. He is a really good offensive rebounder. Smart kid, too."
In addition to losing all of their starting guard, most of the Pirates' top reserves from a year ago are gone. Senior Rich Masley is one of the few with experience.
"Any time he played last year, he did okay with it," Houston said. "He was not overwhelmed being in the game. We will rely on him to handle and distribute and take care of the ball. It's a very different role, but one he has been up to so far."
Junior Chris Flood and sophomore Thomas Armour are two more candidates to start at guard. Junior Brian Chiarello, a smaller player with good quickness, is also in the mix. Another sophomore, Jack Byrnes, could also provide some offense.
James Linane, a 6-1 junior, is a likely contributor off the bench at forward.
Houston is hoping some of the new additions to the lineup can provide some of the offense lost to the graduation of Joey Clinton and Austin O'Toole.
"We need to get some diversity in our scoring," Houston said. "So much attention will be given to Kevin, it will open things up for other people. Any success we have this year is tied to developing other people to score. That has been a major theme for us from the beginning of practice.
"That, and taking care of the ball. We can't afford the turnovers. We are not skilled enough to turn it over 14 or 15 times a game and give away possessions and win."
The new pieces will not have much time to fit together with Pearl River facing six road games to start the season. Pearl River opens 6 p.m. Tuesday at Suffern, then goes to Clarkstown South Saturday.
"It can't be a crutch for us," Houston said of the team's inexperience. "(Losing) can't be something we are okay with. We are trying to walk a fine line of being patient, but (knowing) people have to step it up from the beginning. There are only 18 games. It goes really fast."
2012-13 Pearl River Boys Basketball Roster
- Dylan Faller, 6-2, F
- Tom Davis, 6-0, F
- Rich Masley, 5-10, G
- Kevin Duffy, 5-10, G
- Kevin Degnan, 6-7, F
- John Carty, 6-0, F
- Brian Chiarello, 5-6, G
- Chris Flood, 5-8, G
- Kevin Mathai, 5-10, G
- Ronan Curry, 6-1, F
- James Linnane, 6-1, F
- Thomas Armour, 6-0, G
- Jack Byrnes, 6-2, G