Winning a District 3 Class AAAA title last year hasn't put any pressure on the Chambersburg boys basketball players, and there's one good reason why - they're fully confident they can repeat.
"We want the same thing as last year," Trojan senior Kellen Williams said. "We want another district championship. We're just coming out here working hard, every day, getting better and better, so there's no pressure right now."
Although the Trojans have the same lofty goals as last season, the makeup of the team is quite a bit different. Chambersburg graduated three of its starters in A.J. Maun, Andrew Plank and Quinn Oyler; not to mention, the Trojans have a brand-new coach at the helm.
Beau Gantz has a ton of experience, though, having coached at Harrisburg for a number of years and worked at the semi-pro level for the Harrisburg Horizon.
There are several new philosophies Gantz brings to the table - No. 1 being a defense-first mindset.
"We're going to bust 94 feet always," Gantz said. "We're going to try to choke people and run them out of the gym. Every square inch of the floor, we're going to play. No zones; we don't believe in that. We're going to make you play."
Because of the sheer talent level of the Trojans, they're happy to live with that philosophy.
"Offense wins games, but defense wins championships," Trojan center Mitch Stahl said. "This year, we're trying to win championships, and coach talks a lot about how we gotta get after it on defense and then rest on offense.
"We're a very talented team, so as long as we play hard on defense, we're going to get our shots and get our points. But that doesn't come unless we play full court and just keep our opponents off the glass."
Along with the full-court press defense, the Trojan offense will attempt to score more points in transition. With the likes of 6-foot-8 Stahl, 6-foot-6 Evason Ogbonna and 6-foot-5 Ryan Martin, Chambersburg should have no trouble with the inside game.
"We're fortunate to be big inside, but we can also play outside," Gantz said. "I don't think it really matters. We'd rather have somebody play defensively and try to make up with us man-to-man, but if not, we can shoot from the outside."
Perhaps the idea Gantz stresses the most is that the Trojans have depth, and he's not afraid to use it.
Returning starters include Williams, who was the Public Opinion Player of the Year in 2012, and Stahl, a Public Opinion Second Team all-star. Although there are just two returning starters, they are certainly ones the Trojans wanted back. Williams was the team's leading scorer, while Stahl was No. 1 in rebounds.
Also returning to the squad to take over the starting point guard position is Tay Charles, who Gantz said is his most improved player.
"He has really grown over the summer," Gantz said. "His role will be to make the other kids better around him, so he needs to know everything that's happening on the basketball court from both an offensive and defensive standpoint."
Charles played in all but three games last year. He averaged 5.5 points per game, totaling 126 points in 24 games, and hit some very clutch shots in big games.
"He was a scorer, but as a point guard, he needs to be the playmaker," Gantz said. "He has to set people up and get other people in more positions to score.
Although Charles played football in the fall, he never overlooked the upcoming basketball season. That's one reason why he feels he has improved so vastly, and he said he is ready to take on the new role.
"Even with football, I tried to do some ball handling drills, get some shots up and work on my defensive drills," Charles said. "I just gotta communicate better and just get everyone involved early. I want to make sure that we always start off better than our opponents."
The final two starting positions are still up for grabs, but Ogbonna, Sollenberger and Martin are the most likely candidates.
Coming off the bench, Gantz said he expects big things from seniors Kane Snider and Kyle Myers. Neither got significant playing time in the past, but that will change this year.
"We have some people that are starting to settle into some roles, but everyone's still competing for a starting position," Gantz said. "I've told the kids we don't have a second team. We're going to be 12 deep, and we're going to play everybody."
Just because the Trojans don't feel pressure that they must repeat the district title doesn't mean it's not their No. 1 goal.
"Of course we'd like to win the league; we'd like to win the district, and really, we'd like to win a state tile," Gantz said. "We have lofty goals, but it's OK, though. I really think with the kind of talent we have, we'll be knocking on one of those doors, if not all three of them."
Lizi Arbogast can be reached at 262-4788 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trojans at a glance
Coach: Beau Gantz, first year.
Last year: 18-10 (7-7 Mid Penn Commonwealth Division); won the District 3 Class AAAA championship over Harrisburg, 52-49; lost in the first round of the PIAA playoffs, 56-45 to Delaware Valley.
Starters lost: A.J. Maun (P.O. First Team); Andrew Plank (P.O. Second Team); Quinn Oyler (P.O. Honorable Mention).
Returning starters: Kellen Williams (sr., G/F, 6-1, 14.4 ppg, P.O. Player of the Year); Mitch Stahl (sr., F/C, 6-8, 7.8 ppg, P.O. Second Team).
Other top players: Tay Charles (sr., PG, 5-9, 5.5 ppg, P.O. HM); Aaron Sollenberger (sr., G/F, 6-2, 3.08 ppg); Evason Ogbonna (jr., C, 6-6, 2.29 ppg); Ryan Martin (jr., F, 6-5), Kane Snider (sr., F, 6-2), Kyle Meyers (sr., F, 6-2).
Opener: Friday, Franklin County Tip-Off Tournament, at Waynesboro vs. James Buchanan, 5:30.