Elgin Community College's men's basketball team is faced with a challenge -- no returning starters.
Or is it really even a challenge?
Coach Reed Nosbisch doesn't think so given his roster is filled with plenty of interchangeable depth.
The Spartans, who went 14-15 last year and advanced to the championship of the Region IV playoffs (which included a win over No. 2 Waubonsee), do return 4 players from last year's squad in Jacobs alum Jaras Vytautas (post), Kenny Hughes (shooting guard), Brandon Tyson (forward) and Westminster Christian alum Brandon Cork (guard).
Hampshire product Shyler Ralphs, who played two years ago for ECC, is back in the program and can play either a guard or forward position.
Newcomers to the team included Ryan Willing (Geneva, guard), Justin Fields (guard), Troy Gudino (St. Edward, guard), Brock Ralphs (Hampshire, guard), Alan Walker (Elgin, guard), Brent Buchanan (guard), Zach Cooper (Lake Park, F), Brandon Smith (F), Jon Leigeber (Bartlett, F) and Blake Grantham (Larkin, F).
And that is where the depth comes into play. Nosbisch, a Larkin graduate and longtime teacher at Jacobs High School, notes Willing, Fields and Walker can all man the point guard position.
"All three have different styles," he says. "One guy's a good passer, one's a good athlete and one is very defense-minded. We could be like the New York Jets and rotate (Tim) Tebow and (Mark) Sanchez out. All three of them have a very good chance of playing."
Buchanan is a product of the Hillcrest team that finished third in the state last year. "He has a lot of experience and will see a lot of time at shooting guard," Nosbisch says.
Nosbisch has been pleased with Ralph's adjustment to the college game and notes Cooper and Smith give the team two post presences. Leigeber and Grantham also give the Spartans inside options. Nosbich also is impressed with Gudino's athleticism.
"People ask me about us and I tell them our 15th guy is just as good as our third or fourth man," he says. "We don't have that superstar that is going to score 19 points a game. We have good depth and there is a lot of competition for playing minutes with that few players coming back."
Nosbisch feels his team will excel in the athleticism department this season. "Last year we went 6-7, 6-8 and 6-7," he says. "We're not nearly as big as last year. We have guys in the post who are athletic. This year, we'll be able to press and run more and we won't have any drop down in the lineup. It's going to be a matter of who is playing well at the time. That's who we will put out there."
Nosbisch says Moraine Valley, a nationally ranked team in the preseason, is the favorite in the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference. Moraine Valley ended ECC's season in the Region IV title game (leaving the Spartans one step short of a NJCAA national tournament bid). Waubonsee, he adds, also will be in that upper tier.
"There will be competition for those second, third and fourth spots," Nosbisch said.
ECC opens the 2012-2013 season Sunday at home in the Events Center against Columbia College.