Bill Robinson knew last year was going to be a trying year for his youth-laden Hurricanes. It was, but it he believes it did more good than bad.
"You can see a little confidence in them this year. They understand the system a little bit," he said. "We got the four juniors that really took the pounding last year and understand that they don't want it to happen again this year."
He's set up a tough December schedule for the Hurricanes. It features games against Commerce, Putnam, Sabis and Amherst.
"The competition we set forth in front of us right now is probably a little bit too much than what we should be playing," he said. "But on the other hand, it's going to help us down the road and that's what we're really building for."
Robinson has already seen a drastic improvement from last season, citing his team's ability to break Commerce's press in the season opener. It devastated them last year.
Seeing the improvement is allowing Robinson to step up his coaching, too.
"We tend to at times over-complicate things and that's just the way it is. We've had success with it, so we're going to maintain it," he said. "This crew just hadn't grasped it, so we backed off last year and stayed more one-dimensional. I'd say we're to the second degree of dimensions here."
The Hurricanes feature three seniors, four juniors, two sophomore and three freshman. Two of those seniors (Andrew Milesi and Corey Puccio) will be in the starting five. Milesi will anchor the No. 5 spot, while Puccio will be counted on at the No. 3 slot.
Then it's a handful of juniors to round out the starting lineup. Trevor Alibozek will play at the No. 4 spot, while Matt Braman (No. 2) and Sean Ryan-Kut (point guard) will man the perimeter.
"He brings a little savvy up top. He's shifty with the ball," Robinson said of Ryan-Kut. "He's just got to learn the intricacies of the point, and the intricacies of a distributor and when to move that ball ... He's going to learn that right now and he got a little bit of a taste of it last year."
Senior Jake Hall, sophomores Austin Milesi and Nate Tomkiewicz and freshmen Jameson Coughlin and Matt Koperniak complete the roster.
The whole team will still be learning as the season moves along. The coaching staff is altering the systems a little, but feels comfortable doing so because everyone is a year older with another year of experience.
"We just kept it really vanilla last year and I told them that," Robinson said. "I said this year we're going to try to amp things up a bit both offensively and defensively and so far, they're grasping it."
The sooner the Hurricanes fully grasp everything, the sooner they will know exactly where they stand. The goal is to be in the top half of the North nearing the end of the year with a chance to qualify for the Western Massachusetts tournament.
"This is a team that is young in nature, but has some experience behind them," Robinson said. "They may be a year away, but also could surprise this year and make a heck of a run.
"It's interesting because I've had teams like this before where you didn't think much of and they surprise you because the light comes on and bang, you're on the bus in March headed down to the Cage."