Longhorn basketball coach Mike Loutzenheiser and his players spent preseason struggling to adjust to the loss of one of school's finest all-around athletes.
Mike Barr -- a 6-foot, 7-inch, 230-pound stalwart -- graduated last spring after earning four varsity basketball letters and numerous postseason awards.
With him in the lineup, the Horns had a proven rebounder, defender and go-to scorer.
Now that he's gone, the team no longer has a player with the size and skills of Barr to call upon during crunch time.
Because players like Barr rarely show up in small-school programs, Loutzenheiser's focus this year will be to mold his charges into a well-oiled machine. Each athlete will be asked to compliment his talents with those of his teammates.
After a summer of camps, tournaments, open gym and three weeks of preseason training, Loutzenheiser settled on his starters Nov. 22 in a season-opening 55-45 loss to a vastly improved Notre Dame prep team.
The starting nod at No. 1 or point guard position went to senior, Wellington Cassuto, who will be asked to engineer the Longhorns' four offenses.
Senior Andy Sargent assumed the starting role at the No. 2 shooting guard slot and responded with 16 points against Notre Dame. Sargent, Arizona Sports Camps' Most Valuable Player last summer, is a multi-talented athlete who has the potential to be among the finer players in the Grand Canyon region.
At No. 3 or small forward, Darren Daniels earned starting honors.
Senior Donnie Wilbanks continues to rehabilitate a knee injury suffered in football, but started at the No. 4 power forward slot against the Saints.
Junior Bryan Schwind tied Sargent for scoring honors with 16 points while holding down the No. 5 center slot among the starters. Known for his leaping ability, Schwind will have to take up some of the rebounding and defensive slack.
Off the bench, Loutzenheiser brought in multi-talented Brandon Buckner who can play the Nos. 1 through 4 positions. Probably the most coachable athlete in the program, Buckner can be counted on to do whatever it takes to help the team.
Reserve Robert Neumann can play the Nos. 1, 2 or 3 slots and hard-nosed Tommy Ashby can relieve at either the Nos. 4 or 5 positions.
In the loss to the Saints, Loutzenheiser said the players misfired on too many easy shots, didn't run their offenses as designed and were beaten up inside by the bigger players.
Also, he said, the team needs players other than Sargent and Schwind to contribute offensively.
"Those two scored 32 of our 45 points," he said.
Only days prior to the loss to Notre Dame, the Longhorns tuned up for the campaign at a preseason scrimmage in Lakeside against Blue Ridge. Although AIA rules disallow an official score being kept, one parent tallied the points at 71-45 with Payson winning.
The Longhorns will continue their quest to improve for the Grand Canyon stretch run during Nov. 30 (at Coronado). and Dec. 2 (at Show Low) non-region games. Region play will begin Jan. 4 when the Horns travel to Flagstaff Coconino.
On the lower levels, Loutzenheiser tapped Max Foster to coach the junior varsity and Kenny Hayes to coach the freshman.
Against Notre Dame, the junior varsity survived a thriller, winning 41-39 on a last-second rebound and put back by Miles Huff.
The freshmen rode 23 points from Robert Walker and 16 from Levi Neal to whip the Saints 67-46.