STEWART - Ask any boys basketball player at Federal Hocking if things are easier this year than last under now second-year head coach Howie Caldwell and the answers will be about the same.
Easier? Yes, in terms of actually knowing what's going on and what's expected at practice.
But, most definitely not easier when it comes to the demands of what coach Caldwell expects on a day-to-day basis.
"We just expect 100 percent and I don't think that's wrong," said Caldwell, whose team features six returning lettermen and that includes all-Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division selections Max Carney in the post and Shawn Parsons on the wing.
Carney and Parsons, both 12th-graders, are joined as letter winners from a year ago by fellow seniors Corey Rex (point guard) and Terrance Mayle (post) along with junior wings Pete Crum and Alfy Nichols.
"One of the things we wanted to do from day one, and I told the kids I got a notebook with 82 pages, is to make sure we have 82 practices on the year and we'll be out of the sectionals and possibly playing in the district," quipped Caldwell, whose team went 12-9 overall last winter and 10-6 in the TVC Hocking to finish third behind Belpre and Southern.
Coach Caldwell knows the Lancers are more than capable of making a run at the TVC Hocking title, but things are going to have to fall in place and that includes staying healthy as Rex has been sidelined in the preseason with a wrist injury.
"We've always had the philosophy that you only go as far as your seniors will take you," added the coach.
"We've leaned on them pretty hard and they want to get better."
Having had one year with this current group, coach Caldwell admits things are going a little smoother this year.
"Last year we were doing a tremendous amount of coaching and not getting a lot done," he said.
"Last year we might get an hour or an hour and 15 minutes of practice in. This year we can go a full two hours."
Looking to help the likes of Carney and Mayle in the post will be seniors Clayton Steele, Brenden Hart and 11th-graders Peyton Seel and Jon Rose. Senior Zach Engle is the only other point guard listed on the roster behind Rex and the other wing for the Lancers this season is junior Cliff Bonner.
"I've got a veteran club coming back. We want to get better as each day goes by and continue to improve," added Caldwell, whose assistants are Chris Lyons, Jeremy Tolson, Kelly Winebrenner and Devon Baum.
As far as playing time goes, that's likely to depend on the opponent and what best gives the Lancers a chance at victory.
"Ideally, we would like to play all 12 of them," Caldwell admitted.
"Someone told me a long time ago basketball isn't a democracy and everyone is not going to get the same number of minutes."