Brett Macy doesn't try to make a habit out of setting goals for his Bluffton High School boys basketball team in the first month of the season.
The only one -- thanks in part to Ken Cribb -- is to survive.
"With the success of football, I'm not sure we have a goal in December besides just worry about us," Macy said. " ... Let's just be playing well by January."
Macy knows that's hard to do considering the limited practice time his team has before the season begins. Last year, as Cribb's football team advanced to the state championship game, Macy was able to hold just one day of practice before the season opener. It was a similar situation the year before, when the Bobcats advanced to the Lower State final.
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"You can't get too high or too low when you lose a couple games in December when you've had five practices," Macy said.
Another late postseason run on the gridiron came to an end last Friday, giving Macy eight days of work with his new roster. And the fourth-year coach has plenty of topics to address.
First and foremost: how to fill the void left in the paint by do-everything center Bryson Bell, last year's Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette Player of the Year.
"There's not going to be one particular guy that's going to take Bryson's spot," Macy said. "We're hoping, by committee, three or four guys can soak up his rebounding numbers and points per game."
A pair of players have drawn the early task of replacing Bell's 14 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks per game. Senior Harlan Kendrick (5.1 ppg, 5 rpg) -- a good rebounder and overall consistent player -- is expected to start the season opener next Tuesday against Battery Creek. Chance Murphy, a 6-foot-5 transfer, is expected to progress in the post as the year goes along and 6-3 football guard Austin Chittum may decide to join the team as well.
They'll need to emulate Bell's ability to run the floor hard in order to be successful, Macy said.
"The key is for our post to go from rim to rim, and then that sucks in the defenders so we can push it up the wing and get our shots in transition," he said. "I think the post will be able to do that. They're still plenty athletic to get from rim to rim like Bryson did, especially by committee."
Bell's presence in the paint isn't the only one missing from this year's roster, however. The Bobcats also must replace veteran post player Michael Grant (7 ppg, 8 rpg), and they'll do so with senior Marquis Webber moving to power forward. He was behind several others at the guard position, and this move helps get his athleticism on the floor for more minutes.
"That gives us some athletic ability in the post to do what we want to do anyway and run," Macy said. "We'll get him out in transition on the floor."
The guard play will set the tone for the Bobcats as they transition into Class 4-A. B.J. Hill and Jeremy Scott return at the point while C.J. Frazier and Demetrius Smalls are back on the wing. Anthony Smalls, meanwhile, has returned to the program following a one-year hiatus. The group should do more than enough to make up for the loss of Dimitri Lowry, who was the only other starter aside from Bell to average double-figure scoring last season.
"We lost some size and rebounding with Dimitri, but other than that the guards are the same," Macy said.
The group, which expects to provide the same depth and transition offense that helped wear down teams in Class 3-A a year ago, will need to be at its best as it heads to the state's highest classification.
Macy said he expects Summerville to be the favorite in Region 8-AAAA with Ashley Ridge and Colleton County as darkhorse candidates.
But don't count out Bluffton, which rattled off a number of firsts during last season's 19-4 campaign.
"We don't want to win five games one year and 15 the next and six the next," Macy said. "When we're bad, we want to be around .500; When we're good, we want to play for championships. I just think the consistency on the offensive side of the ball and the guys being in our program for three or four years has been the foundation of that."
BASKETBALL TEAM PREVIEWS
Coach: Antoine Youmans (Third season, 15-31)
2011-12 results: 4-19 overall, 1-9 Region 7-AAA
Notable losses: F Justice Oliver (18.3 ppg); G Michael Robinson (7.3 ppg); F Leroy Jennette (7.5 ppg)
Top returning players: F Devontae Wilson, Soph.; F Yuneek Crittendon, Jr.; F Clevland Hampton, Jr.
Key newcomer: C Eric Freeman, Soph.
Coach's prognosis: "I hesitate to predict anything," Youmans said. "We're going to be unpredictable this season, that's the only thing I can say. I'm optimistic, but we can go from zero to 100 if we play like we're supposed to. We should at least have a .500 record. We've got a fairly young team. We only have two seniors on the team. We don't have a senior in the starting lineup. We've played really well in our scrimmages. We were competitive in all."
SCISAA Region 1-AA
Coach: Chip Dinkins (11th season, 116-143)
2011-12 results: 12-11 overall
Notable losses: C Michael Bible (9 ppg, 7.3 rpg)
Top returning players: Preston Suber (16 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 2.4 spg)
Key newcomers: Jack Dailey, Tucker Trask
Coach's prognosis: "Our regon has changed up a little bit," Dinkins said. "We feel pretty good about chances. Charleston Collegiate will be the team to beat. The rest of the teams will be pretty competitive. I feel good about our chances. We'll have some stiff competition."
Coach: Bruce Beasley (22nd season, 282-265)
2011-12 results: 12-10 overall, 4-4 Region 8-AAAA
Notable losses: F Jordan Broussard (11 ppg, 7 rpg), G Joey Chaplin (9.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.8 apg), F Henry Jenkins (5.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg), F Tyron Holmes (11.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg)
Top returning players: G Keion Marshall, F Thomas Parker, Adonis Grant, Shykeem Gardner, Rafael Guevara
Key newcomers: Jawan Mack, Kendrick Colvin, Anthony White, Otis McClain, Carlton Johnson
Coach's prognosis: "This will be a year where we're really very inexperienced," Beasley said. "That's a heck of a combination, being inexperienced and young. Hopefully we can continue to improve and develop and play at the highest level that they're capable of playing. Our expectations will be to be competitive and compete every night and have an opportunity to win. We have some potential. Our success will be determined and will be a reflection of how well we pick up fundamentals, how well we pick up the system and learn our responsibilities, offensively and also defensively. Right now, my biggest concern is execution and playing with a high level of energy and intensity."
Coach: Brett Macy (Fourth year, 35-32)
2011-12 results: 19-4 overall, 8-2 Region 7-AAA, lost in first round to Socastee
Notable losses: C Bryson Bell (14 ppg, 10 rpg, 2 bpg), G Dimitri Lowry (10 ppg, 5 rpg, 4 apg), F Michael Grant (7 ppg, 8 rpg, 1 apg), F Bo Strimpfel (4.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg).
Top returning players: G C.J. Frazier, Sr. (9.8 ppg, 2.1 apg); PG B.J. Hill, Jr. (5.7 ppg, 4 apg); PG Jeremy Scott, Sr. (4.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg); G Demetrius Smalls, Sr. (6.5 ppg, 2.1 rpg); C Harlan Kendrick, Sr. (5.1 ppg, 5 rpg); F Ahdonus Cofer, Sr. (3.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg); G Anthony Smith, Sr.; PF Marquis Webber, Sr.
Key newcomers: C Chance Murphy
Coach's prognosis: "Depth-wise, we're pretty good," Macy said. "Can we take Bryson's spot? And (in Region 8-AAAA) it's just going to be more competitive from a top-to-bottom standpoint on a night in and night out basis."
Hilton Head Christian Academy
SCISAA Region 3-AAA
Coach: Mac Tamminen (First year, 0-0)
2011-12 results: 14-13 overall, 5-5 region
Notable losses: F Taylor MacDonald (15.5 ppg), F Zach Reynolds (8.9 ppg), C Kyle Weaver (6.7 ppg), G Conner Millen (3.5 ppg)
Top returning players: G Brad Meccariello, Jr. (11 ppg, 4 rpg, 5 apg); G C.J. Evankofski, Sr. (10 ppg, 4 rpg, 2 spg); G J.D. Lehman, Sr.; F Caleb Lewis, Soph.
Key newcomers: F Zach Polk, Jr. (Hawken School, Cleveland, Ohio); F Josh Polk, Fr. (Hawken School, Cleveland, Ohio); G Ryan Barrett, Soph.; Ryan Frey, Sr. (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Coach's prognosis: "We have a solid nucleus returning, but we are lacking numbers," Tamminen said. "The quicker the kids pick up the new system, the more competitive we'll be."
Hilton Head Island High
Coach: Ken Updike (Fourth year, 31-40)
2011-12 results: 11-14, 5-5 Region 7-AAA, lost in first round to Wilson
Notable losses: C Alex MacDonald (10.4 ppg, 5 rpg)
Top returning players: G Michael Julian, Sr. (14.7 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 4.7 bpg); F Chris MacMurray, Sr. (2.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg); F James Sanders, Sr. (2.6 ppg, 3 rpg); G Jacob Coltrane, Jr. (7.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.7 apg); C Elliot Florencio, Sr.; F Matt Pollard, Sr.; G Chris O'Donnell, Sr.
Key newcomers: G Aaron Frazier, Soph.; C Craig Ryan, Jr.; F Troy Clifford, Fr.
Hilton Head Prep
SCISAA Region 3-AAA
Coach: Jerry Faulkner (first year)
Top returning players: Shaun Topper, Jr.; Randy Young, Jr.; Charlie Wilmot, Sr.; John Sheehan, Jr.
Coach: Jeremiah Faber (29th year, 417-229)
2011-12 record: 15-10 overall, 11-4 Region 6-A
Notable losses: Torray Amlett, Tyji Mikell, Xavier Capers, Hamilton Harris, Jeremiah Nelson, Derrick Solomon, Maurice Dargan
Top returning players: SG Terrance Frazier (13 ppg, 5 spg, 4.4 apg); F Charles Mitchell (11 ppg, 3 rpg); G Anthony Polite (4.3 ppg, 2.2 spg, 3.5rpg)
Key newcomers: F Richard Garvin; G De'Vantae Waiters, PG Nazair Wilson, F Gaylus Bailey, PG Kevon Williams (transfer)
Coach's prognosis: "We're very athletic, with a lot of new faces," Faber said. "We're looking to play up-tempo on both ends of the floor."
Thomas Heyward Academy
SCISAA Region 1-AA
Coach: Buzz Bonds (first year)
Coach: Linc Lyles (3rd year, 21-24)
2011-12 record: 15-9 overall, 2nd place Region 5-A; Lost to Burke in first round of playoffs
Notable losses: F Leroy Perry (12 ppg, 9 rpg; first team all-region, Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette first team)
Top returning players: Dee Delaney (10 ppg, 6 rpg, 2.7 spg; 1st team all-region); Charles Jiles (9 ppg, 4 rpg, 2.1 spg; 1st team all-region)
Coach's prognosis: "Plenty of new faces on the varsity this year," Lyles said. "Key players are Simeon Middleton, Mike Middleton, Dee Delaney, Charles Jiles and Justin Rhode. The Warriors continue to build their program on pressure defense, weight training and strict fundamentals."