With an undersized roster this season, Marshalltown boys' basketball coach Scott Smith hopes his team can run the floor and get some easy buckets.
That would be playing to the team's strengths as the Bobcats begin 2012-13 with plenty of speed, several good shooters and a much deeper roster than in year's past.
"We are going to be a senior-dominated team, and we have a good mix of guys who have experience and have logged significant minutes and guys who are hungry to get their shot and have been waiting for their turn to play."
The experienced part of the roster includes returning starters Blake Gimbel and Blake Judkins as well as part-time starter Luke Madsen and reserves Tyler Kluver and De'Quan McDowell, who missed most of last season with a broken hand. All five are seniors and will be expected to lead on and off the court.
Besides those five returning players with varsity experience, the Bobcats hungry for their chance to play include seniors Riley Wirth and Hunter Hillygus and juniors Mason McCarville and Connor Johnson.
Wirth and Hillygus both had some good scoring nights on the junior varsity team last year, and McCarville led the sophomore squad in scoring a year ago.
"We should be deeper this year, which also plays into me wanting to get the ball up and down the floor faster," Smith said. "We hope to get better every day and the goal is to ultimately be playing our best basketball at the end of the season."
Gimbel is the leading returning scorer after Austin Hauser graduated last year and took with him a team-leading 13.4 points per game. Hauser also led the team in assists and is currently playing at Central College.
Gimbel scored 11.8 points per game and was second on the team in rebounding and assists at five and 2.5 per contest, respectively.
Judkins averaged 5.2 points per tilt last year, but the Bobcats only scored 51 points per contest and graduated four of their top six scorers and lost four of their top five rebounders, including Kyle Carnahan's near double-double per night.
"The nice thing about this team is that when we went over our goals for the season, the guy's individual goals reflected the team goals," Smith said. "I am happy with how team-oriented we are."
The Bobcats finished 7-16 a season ago with three of those wins coming against Mason City. They also beat Indianola, Des Moines East, Fort Dodge and Ames.
The CIML this season features plenty of talent but not a clear-cut favorite, according to Smith.
"It will be fun to see how things pan out because I don't think there is a team that is far and away better than the others," Smith said. "They are some teams that are expected to do well and then are some teams who hope to be in that Cinderella-type mix. I think we can be one of those teams."
Smith said Ankeny, Urbandale and Wes Des Moines Valley are all expected to be outstanding. Ankeny features senior big man Ted Friedman, who will play at Northern Iowa, while Valley has future Iowa Hawkeye Peter Jok as well as Clint Boffeli. Urbandale will be led by Denny Agic and Austin Shappell.
"We won't be able to take nights off in this league, no one can," Smith said. "There will be stiff competition night in and night out."
Smith has identified through the first 15 practices that he expects the Bobcats to shoot the ball well this season. He also likes the team chemistry and the attitude and work ethic has been great.
"We should have plenty of balance this year as any set of five that I have on the floor should be able to score it well," Smith said. "We have good team speed so we should be able to play up-tempo and get shots up in transition."
On the flip side, with more speed than size, rebounding may be an issue at times. Smith said his team is going to have to be very fundamentally sound and box out on rebounds.
"If we can't rebound then we're not going to be able to run like we want," he said. "We are not very big so we'll have to block out well."
The Bobcats will begin the season tonight at Des Moines Hoover. The Bobcats lost to the Huskies by eight in the jamboree last weekend. Tip off is scheduled at 7:45 p.m.