It's tough to know what to expect from Chambersburg's boys basketball program.
The Mid Penn Commonwealth Division is not an easy league, and the Trojans are coming off back-to-back losing records. That being said, Chambersburg seems confident.
"This year will continue to be a growing year for us and for our program," Chambersburg coach Shawn Shreffler said. "But getting to the playoffs is a realistic goal for this group of guys. It's something they really want to achieve, and they've worked hard so far to get there. No matter what happens, we want to get better as the year goes on."
Although the Trojans return most of their key players, there are two that will surprisingly not be starting the season. Forward Austin Suders did not come out for the team, instead deciding to focus solely on baseball. Meanwhile, starting point guard Carlin Christian must have surgery on an undisclosed injury, and there is no timetable for his return, according to Shreffler.
Even so, Chambersburg seems confident.
"Honestly, we've improved on almost everything," Chambersburg junior Cole Christian said. "We got smaller, maybe, but size doesn't change us. We've got a lot more hustle; we're going after the ball a lot more than last year, and that has changed our game a lot."
Cole Christian is a returning starter, and was the Trojans' leading scorer a year ago with 10.1 points per game. ByShawn Mincie, who averaged 5.0 ppg last year, also returns to a guard position and is expected to start.
"Cole and ByShawn are probably going to be two of our top scorers this year," said John Shupp, a co-captain.
Shupp and Cade Whitfield will try to replace some of the size that Chambersburg lost in Suders. Whitfield did not play the first 12 games of the 2014-15 season, but came on especially strong in the later half of the season. He averaged 5.5 ppg as a sophomore.
"We really feed off of Cade's effort and what he brings to the team," Shreffler said. "He's worked hard to get stronger and become more skilled, but he's still really good around the basket. Cade, John and a couple of JV players that will dress (Tyron Williams and Joel Torres) will provide us with some solid post players that have some nice size both in height and in girth."
That leaves the last projected starting position open for Jacob Brouse, who will run the point in place of Carlin Christian. Brouse is a 6-foot junior who played on the JV team last season.
"Since Carlin will be out for the beginning of the season, Brouse is going to have to step up," Cole Christian said. "He's the next man up, and he improved a lot over the summer."
Shreffler said, "Brouse had a really great summer for us, and really grew a lot as a player. Jacob is someone that you can see grow as his confidence grows. From the beginning of the summer to where he is now, he has really made some great gains. We have a lot of confidence in him being able to do the job."
Senior Brady Hunt played the point at times last year, but this season, the Trojans plan to put him on the wing.
"He's a tremendous slasher and can really shoot the ball well," Shreffler said. "He's a very explosive athlete, so we're going to try to let him get out on the wing and let him do some things from that position. It's always good to have multiple guys on the floor that can handle the basketball."
There may be some other key pieces that emerge as the season progress. Shreffler said senior Ezechiel Cadet brings a lot of the communication skills that Suders provided, and Shreffler's son, Evan, is now playing for the varsity squad. Chambersburg is also bringing up freshman Tyler Collier, who is a 6-foot-6 freshman.
"Tyler will have some growing pains as a freshman, but you can see the potential there," Shreffler said. "He works hard and wants to be really good. As he grows, I think we'll grow right along with him."
Shreffler said he is looking to be a well-balanced offense, and defensively, they're trying to implement more and more hustle plays.
"We're going to have to play really hard," Shreffler said. "Hustle plays are something that we've been really good at, and rebounding collectively will be important. We're not going to have that one guy that can get every rebound."
While the confidence in Chambersburg remains high, there are still improvements the Trojans need to make as the season begins.
"We missed a lot of open layups in our scrimmage (Monday), so we'll definitely need to make layups," Shupp said. "Boxing out will be a big thing for us. We need to grab the defensive boards and not give other teams second-chance opportunities. We still need to get better at running our offense, rather than running around aimlessly. We want to actually run plays and get in our sets."
It is Shreffler's second year back in action, so he's hoping that some of those inconsistencies won't manifest themselves this season.
"I think last year there were so many growing pains, trying to implement a new system and a new culture, that created a lot of those ups and downs," Shreffler said. "We put a big emphasis in the off-season on trying to do things that make our guys uncomfortable. In the process, they learn how to overcome a situation and it provides them with some ways to be mentally tougher.
"Going into a season where we don't have to instill a system because we have so many guys who went through it, we can work on some of those other areas that will continue to help us grow."
Trojans at a glance
Coach: Shawn Shreffler, 2nd year, 17th season overall, 249-164 (.603)
Last year: 8-14 (4-10 Mid Penn Commonwealth Division)
Starters lost: Stanley Flores, Boaz Pogue, Austin Suders
Returning starters: Cole Christian (jr., 6-1, G, 10.1 ppg, P.O. First Team), Carlin Christian (sr., 5-9, G, 7.5 ppg, P.O. Second Team), ByShawn Mincie (jr., 5-11, G, 5.0 ppg), John Shupp (sr., 6-1, F, 2.8 ppg), Cade Whitfield (jr., 6-1, F, 5.5 ppg)
Other top players: Reggie Adams (jr., 5-10, G), Cade Brindle (so., 6-1, G), Jacob Brouse (jr., 6-0, G), Tyler Collier (fr., 6-6, F), Brady Hunt (sr., 5-11, G, 2.3 ppg), Evan Shreffler (so., 5-11, G)
Season opener: Friday, in Franklin County Tip-Off Tournament, at James Buchanan, 8:30