First, the good news.
Josh Wilson's Indians will be able to walk in the Fort Osage gymnasium this season and look at conference and district championship banners.
Now, the sobering reality – many of those players who had such a key role in last year's 22-5 overall and 11-0 conference marks are now displaying their talents at the collegiate level.
D'Vante Mosby, Austin Regier and Zach Adams have graduated after leading the Indians to their first state quarterfinal berth in school history, but the cupboard is far from bare for the coach who is establishing something special with the Indians basketball program.
“You can't worry about losing great players and kids like D'Vante, Austin and Zach,” Wilson said. “We wanted to have a special season last year, the type of season that establishes a foundation for a program, and we were able to do that.
“I don't know how many times those guys talked about wanting to come back to the gym and seeing that first district championship banner, and they accomplished that goal. Now, the kids on this year's team want to have the same type of success.
“We don't have the 6-6 and 6-5 guys this year like we had last year, but we have a lot of talented players and they know what it takes to have success. This program has a new attitude and we're all excited about this season.”
If there were a theme to the 2013-14 campaign, it might be called the season of change.
“There are going to be a lot of changes” Wilson said. “When you lose the players to graduation we lost after last year, you anticipate changes. Those guys were a part of the building process, they were a part of the program for four years.
“The younger guys watched them, and know how to conduct themselves in a game and in practice. The loss of height will hurt us early on, but our guards are going to be extremely quick and athletic.”
Those guards are returning starters Will Penamon and Skylar Thompson, the latter of whom quarterbacked the Indians’ 11-1 football team, and Brian Starr and Josh Alt.
“You are going to see the hard-nosed half-court defense we played last year,” Wilson said, “but we are going to expand it a lot more. Starr, Penamon and Thompson will have the opportunity to score and beat their defenders in one-on-one situations.”
The early part of the Indians’ schedule will be a challenge, and Wilson believes that is a good thing for a squad that will be a work in progress.
“Our kids are ready for a challenge,” he said. “There are no easy wins anywhere on our schedule. We're a new team, but I believe we can challenge for a conference title. We want to prove that last year was not a fluke and that we are here to stay as a basketball power.”
This could be an exciting season for Dawn Williams' Indians as they return a host of players off a 13-11 team that seemed to get stronger as last season went on.
“We have the ability to play 10 to 11 players and we have good team speed and athleticism,” Williams said. “That being said, we need to work on consistency. Last year, we had too many peaks and valleys from our primary scorers.
“To accomplish our goals this season, we need our scorers to be aggressive every game.”
One of those scorers is 5-foot-9 senior guard/forward Raven Bunn, who has the ability to light it up every night.
“Raven is an outstanding all-around player,” Williams said of Bunn, who recently signed with Northwest Missouri State University. “Of all our returning players, she is our leading scorer. She has the unique ability to play both the guard and forward positions. She really has the ability to play all five positions on the floor.”
Williams won't have to worry about Bunn playing the post when 6-footer Asia Cole is on the floor. The standout shot put and discus performer will give the Indians a real presence on the court.
“Asia will be asked to score in the paint and control the defensive glass,” the coach said. “Sarah Daubendiek will be called to play great post defense and rebound the ball and Siera Glassford is our best perimeter shooter. Our goal this year is get her in position to showcase her scoring ability beyond the arc.
“Lorena Reyes will be asked to run the point guard spot and we will rely on her leadership abilities to distribute the ball to her teammates. Sophomore Paige Bunn and junior Allison Stevens each have some varsity experience and have the ability to score.”
Williams believes this could be a special season if the Indians keep up the pace on the floor and display their athleticism.
“We have five seniors who know how to be leaders on the floor,” she said, “and they are great role models for our younger players.”
Coach Robert Caton could not be more excited about the upcoming wrestling season, as his Fort Osage team is coming off winning a share of the conference crown.
“We're a different team this year, that's for sure,' said Caton, who is entering his third season as the team’s head coach. “But I like what I've seen at practice from the kids. They're excited about the season, our assistant coaches are excited and we're trying to build something special at Fort Osage.”
And he's not just talking about a new wrestling room the coaches, parents and players helped construct before the start of the season.
“I can't say enough good things about my staff, our parents and our kids,” Caton said. “The kids on this team team deserve a place to call their own, so we built one in the multipurpose building. Now, they have their own room, and you can tell it's special to them.”
Returning from last year's squad are three state qualifiers: junior Carter Behler, sophomore Jesse Jeffries and senior Bryce Braughton.
“They're going to have the most experience on the team,” Caton said, “and you love to start a season with experienced kids who know what it's like to get to state. But we're excited about a strong group of freshmen and sophomores who could have a big impact on the team this season.
“We don't want to just have success one season, we want to build a program that will get on a roll and stay on a roll, like Coach (Ryan) Schartz has done with the football program. We were co-conference champions last year and we want to prove that we can challenge for a conference championship every year.”
Caton teaches at Valley View Alternative School in Blue Springs, but said the after-school trek to Fort Osage poses no problem because of his assistant coaches and the way he has built his practice schedule.
“We have in-house coaches who are there with the kids right after school,” Caton said, “and we start every practice with a study hall session. That way, the wrestlers can take care of all their studies and be ready when I get to the school to start practice.
“It's really worked out well for everyone. We call them student-athletes for a reason, and we're making sure that their studies are always a priority.”
Follow Bill Althaus on Twitter: @AlthausEJC