It's a huge understatement when Longhorn boys basketball coach Mike Loutzenheiser deadpans, "we lost a lot last year."
What the coach is referring to is not games lost, but rather the seven seniors who graduated last spring. Those former players formed the nucleus of a team that posted a 19-8 record, built a 13-game winning streak in Wilson dome, won the East region championship and advanced to the state quarterfinals before being eliminated by a heartbreaking two-point loss.
It was no secret to those who know Loutzenheiser that the graduated players hold a special place in his heart. At the season-ending awards banquet, the coach's eyes misted as a spoke fondly of the seniors.
"They will always be special to me," he said following their graduation.
The only returning starters the coach has to build his new team on are Mike Barr and Kyle Hubbard.
Cort Connolly and Wellington Cassuto lettered last season, but saw only limited playing time.
On the current roster, six players are newcomers who have no varsity playing experience.
"We are very young and inexperienced," Loutzenheiser said. "Couple that with our move to the 4A conference and it could be a challenging year for our young men."
If the Longhorns are to succeed in the highly competitive 4A Grand Canyon region, some of the younger players will have turn up their games several notches. Those players include Andy Sargent, Donnie Wilbanks, Darren Daniels, Troy Marrs and Sean Graziano. All were contributing members of last season's junior varsity team.
The only newcomer this season is 6-foot, 7-inch senior Brandon Gordon. Although he has little playing experience, Gordon has the size to help out in the low blocks both offensively and defensively. The good news in Gordon's decision to play basketball is that he should report in decent physical condition having played the entire football season.
"A lot of our success will depend on how well the young players pick up the system," the coach predicts, in assessing the roster.
He also expects the team to mature as the season wears on.
"We should be better in regional play than we are at the start of the season," he said.