One would be hard pressed to find a team in the state that lost more to graduation than the Prairie City-Monroe boys basketball team.
After losing 12 seniors, four whom were starters and one who now is playing Division I ball, it wouldn't be out of line to say the Mustangs could be in for a rebuilding year.
Unless you ask the Mustangs, that is.
With another large senior class moving in and a cast of players looking forward to making their own name, the Mustangs have no plans of letting up this season in their quest for a fourth-straight Heart of Iowa Conference title.
"We've got a good group of seniors coming back who, for the most part, have been playing behind the seniors we had a year ago," PCM coach Fred Lorensen said. "We think they're a nice group of players so our expectations are already high."
For now, Lorensen said the seven-player rotation of seniors Alex DeWitte, Ethan Kain, Michael Neff and Hunter Van Veen, juniors Dillon Bruxvoort and Zach Uhlenhopp and freshman Logan Gilman will see the most minutes. Once he recovers from a foot injury he suffered during football season, senior Nate Vande Wall will also make his way into that rotation.
Also expected to see the court are Devon Woody, Ryan Jennings and Ricky Reeve, who have little or no varsity experience, but have impressed early in practice.
"We feel good about them because they've been playing in practice against (the graduated seniors) for a year or two now and that's made them better players," Lorensen said. "They know the system really well and we don't expect to have a dropoff. We'll be tough on defense, we've got good size and we've got kids who can shoot the ball, so we should have some real balanced scoring."
While the Mustangs have plenty of options, it's still unclear as to who will be the go-to scorer. Last season, Scott Bruxvoort dominated that category with his 22.2 points per game and Jordan Van Roekel averaged 13.9 of his own. But without those players on this year's squad, things should even out quite a bit in the points category.
"Right now we don't know for sure who will take the lead in the scoring area, but we do think our top seven can all score," Lorensen said. "I think a couple of them might step up above the others to do more of that, but I don't know if I could tell you for sure who I think will do that."
Much like football season, Lorensen said this year's team is eager to get out and show it was more than just the backups to last year's seniors that propelled the team to a state tournament appearance. Although it could be a tall task playing in a deep conference, this year's Mustangs are apparently embracing the challenge.
"They've definitely been in the shadow and they're definitely glad to be out of it," Lorensen said. "These kids like to play and they're all good athletes. We think they can be really competitive and they're looking forward to the season starting, no question about it."
The Mustangs will open their season at Gilbert on Tuesday.