For the Drury boys' basketball team, much of this year's success will rely heavily on the shoulders of senior Nolan Bird.
He was a major part of last year's team, but with just two returning starters, he'll be vital.
"I think Bird's the key to our team, for sure," coach Jack Racette said. "Then we got to put some pieces around him."
Who are those pieces? That answer still lies in the gray.
"We haven't played yet and I haven't really thought about a starting five," Racette said.
Aside from Bird, that's where the Blue Devils' strength lies -- they have numbers. The 12-man roster consists of six seniors, two juniors and four sophomores.
Isiah Pantoja is the only other senior who saw significant varsity minutes last year. Alex Boulger saw limited time, Cam Parrino blew out his knee, and Alex Bush and Jose Melendez didn't play.
Boulger, Parrino, Bush and Melendez will help to compliment Bird in the paint, especially when the opposition defends him with a big, which will force Bird to play on the perimeter.
"Having the numbers that we got, it gives me a little more flexibility," Racette said. "If we have to bring Bird out, we do have some complimentary bigs, so it won't be that he's got to play inside. I think we can get some rebounding from some other people."
That's an area Racette always stresses, and this year is no different. He calls it a key to the game.
While the Blue Devils may not
"[Slayter] Aubin was 6-feet, but he played 6-5. He was just an animal on the boards," he said. "You can't say that it's going to be the big guy's fault if we don't rebound. It's going to be the guard's fault too."
With the seniors locking down the inside positions, the juniors seem to be on track for the guard spots. Tyler Briggs and Isiah Clark will likely play in the No. 2 and 3 spots. Racette called them "shooters."
The Blue Devils have had three full weeks to prepare for their first game, which is Tuesday, Dec. 18 at home against an athletic Mount Greylock team. That time has given Drury opportunity to explore many schemes, but Racette still isn't sure what will work best.
He knows the fast-paced game didn't work well last year against more athletic teams, but it did against those that weren't as athletic. He anticipated the same type of philosophy this season.
"I always like to be able to play fast," he said. "I don't know if we can athletically hang with Pittsfield, Taconic, Greylock. They got some great athletes. I think we'll find out early as our schedule's really tough.
"I think after Game Seven you'll know where we're at"
Four of the team's first six games are against Mount Greylock (twice), Pittsfield and Taconic. But with just three games in December, there's ample time to smooth out all the wrinkles.