Solanco's boys basketball team (3-19 last season) is determined to establish a new identity under first-year head coach David Long.
"The big thing is we want to change our identity from what we've been," said Long, who took over from his brother, Scott Long, now the school's principal. "We want to have an identity that shows who we are and what we do. The idea is to be the toughest team on the court every game. I think we can be competitive with everyone we play."
Solanco will be bolstered by an experienced backcourt. Returning starter Zed Baker is the Mules' most experienced player. "Zed kind of does everything," said Long. "He can play point guard if necessary. He's a really solid guy, a good decision-maker."
Jalen Henry, who saw a lot of varsity action last season, assumes the point guard duties following the graduation of the team's leading scorer, Dawson Kreider. "Jalen played off the ball last year, more of a wing player," Long said. "With Dawson graduating, he will slide over and take the point guard responsibilities. Last year, Jalen's strength was slashing to the basket but his jumper has improved and he's a threat to score either way."
Wing player Ryan Smith is another Mule with varsity experience. "Ryan is a guy who brings a lot of energy," Long said. "His leadership has been amazing. He holds team events at his house. Ryan is a football player and he brings that culture to basketball. He brings that toughness. He can knock shots down and guard the post. He can do a lot of things."
Colesen Sheaffer brings experience and an outstanding outside shot. "Colesen is a knock-down shooter," said Long. "He has worked on his game to be able to make plays, create shots for others, and get to the rim. His reputation as a good shooter opens things up for him."
Austin Woods, a 6-1 senior, is back with the program after not playing last season. "Austin has been looking very good," said Long. "He brings toughness and has been our best rebounder. He is able to keep taller opponents off the boards. One of my assistants compared him to Dennis Rodman. He can also step out and hit a jumper."
Off-ball guard Marty Grawe and guard/wing player Ethan Clary, who played primarily on the JV last year, will be Solanco's top reserves to start the season.
"If we're going to succeed, Marty is going to have to come in and make an impact defensively," said Long. "He can also create offense for other guys. He's a big help. Ethan is one of our hardest workers," said Long. "He's a good athlete who will help us on the wing."
Two key reserves – Dom Messano and Luke Brown – have been out because of injury and illness. "We've had some injuries but it's a chance for others to step up," said Long. "If there's someone on JV playing his butt off, he will get a chance to play varsity. Our numbers are low so losing two seniors to injuries makes us thin at some positions."
Long has high hopes. "The guys we have are very confident in their abilities," he said. "It's a matter of being mentally strong enough to carry that confidence through the entire season."