The Transylvania men enter a new basketball season young, but deep.
With only two seniors and two juniors on the squad, and with only one of each likely to get much playing time, veteran coach Brian Lane knows his situation.
"We'll still be young," he said. "But I think we've got some guys coming off the bench that can really shoot it. Those freshmen are going to have to adapt to college basketball because I think we've got ... five of them probably in the top eight, top nine."
The Pioneers, who will play their first five games on the road, open Wednesday night at Centre.
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"I think it's a very skilled freshman class, which makes me pretty optimistic for the future," Lane said. "But we don't want to wait around for those guys to get older. We want to be able to get back in the mix in the conference this year."
Transy's starting lineup Wednesday is likely to include three freshmen with Sam Sergeant at point guard, Dillon Pulliam at small forward and Robert Dence in the post.
Sergeant, out of Apollo High School, is the prize of the lot thus far.
"He has the potential to be as good a point guard as I've coached since I've been at Transy," Lane said. "The guys, they'd better keep their eye on him because he delivers it to them when they're open when they don't know it."
Joining the three freshmen on the floor will be 6-foot-6 junior Parker Stansberry and 6-3 sophomore Alex Jones.
Stansberry earned all-conference honors last season. Jones played well when healthy, but twice suffered a collapsed lung.
Lane says Stansberry is more comfortable in a leadership role this year than he was as a sophomore.
"He's certainly one of our best scorers. He can play inside and out, and has the ability to shoot the three or post up really strong," Lane said. "He really worked hard in the off-season. He really bulked up. He was slowed a little bit — didn't play as much in the pre-season up in Canada because of shin splints. But since he's gotten back in and gotten more comfortable, I think he's getting back to where he's 100 percent."
Transy's trip to Canada, in October, helped Lane get through to his freshmen.
"When you don't have a bunch of guys in your junior and senior class, sometimes your practices aren't as competitive as they need to be. Just because until you get into the season, especially those freshmen, they don't know how hard you've got to play, especially defensively," Lane said. "I thought that the trip to Canada was eye-opening for us because we went up there and played four games in two days. I thought that really helped our freshmen probably more than anybody. Because we got popped a couple times pretty good, and they saw the level that we're going to have to go up against."