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Offensively, Gilman isn’t blessed with ….

Offensively, Gilman isn’t blessed with a ton of size, but has a handful of players who can knock down shots. One of the keys, especially early in the season with the team’s relative inexperience, will be how well the Pirates can handle the basketball, particularly against pressure defenses.

“Ethan is a really good ball handler,” Hendricks said. “We’ll need him to step up because of the people we lost. He’ll play the point guard position most of the time. Andrew is pretty good. Peyton has good ball skills in the post. Connor is using his left hand more.”

The first week of practices showed some rough offensive edges that Hendricks said can be smoothed in time.

“We still struggle just with a lot of guys being new and then trusting and understanding what we’re doing,’ he said. “Guys will flow and cut and then all of sudden we’re unbalanced with three guys on one side of the court and nobody in the middle. That’s the kind of stuff we’re still working on and spacing the floor and figuring out where we need to be to get shots.”

The scrimmage Monday showed some of the early kinks to work out defensively, mainly remembering help responsibilities and backside rotations. Hendricks said he would like to use a mixture of man-to-man and zone defenses and install a couple of presses.

“I’ve been trying to put in some packline things a little bit, dropping below guys and then helping and doubling to try to get the ball out of the post,” he said. If it all comes together, the Pirates hope to make a run toward equaling their 9-6 ECC record of a year ago, which put them in fourth place in the nine-team league. Columbus Catholic won the conference last year with a 16-0 record and made it all the way to the WIAA Division 5 state championship game last March. The Dons, though, graduated five All-ECC award winners and will have some holes to plug.

Neillsville (13-3 last year) brings back two firstteam All-ECC players, senior Alex King, the 2018-19 Player of the Year, and junior point guard Braden Trunkel.

“King is tall and long and he can shoot,” Hendricks said. “Trunkel is a great point guard and shooter.”

Loyal was 10-6 in league play last and brings back All-ECC second-teamer Kole Bogdonovich. Spencer brings back second-teamer Austin Bacon, who scored 30 points in the Rockets’ early-season win over Gilman last December.

Hendricks said the Pirates proved some doubters wrong last year and he’s hoping this team can find ways to do that as well.

“It’d be nice to host a playoff game again, like we did last year for the first since 2012,” he said.