Last season: 16-8, 9-5 in DAC. Lost in Class 4A regional semifinal to Elkhart Memorial.
Inside the Pirates
Leading returning scorer: BJ Jenkins, 14.2 ppg
Leading returning rebounder: Jelani Pruitt, 4.5 rpg
Star power: Zoran Talley, Sr., F. The Pirates' best all-around player, which isn't an easy spot to earn with Division I talent at other positions. Talley can score inside and out and is tough to defend.
Newcomer to watch: DJ Wilkins, Fr., G. Coach TJ Lux said he's been receiving calls about Wilkins all summer from Big Ten schools from around the state. Wilkins plays like a senior, despite his youth. He'll spend a little time on the JV, proving his spot on the varsity, but should be appearing on Friday nights soon enough.
Pirates return power
Merrillville graduated three players, but only one starter from the team that won a sectional title last season. Jake Raspopovich is quarterbacking the football team into the semistate, but his scholarship to Texas-Pan American is in basketball. BJ Jenkins brings back his top-scoring acumen and Zoran Talley adds athletic prowess. "We have no choice but to come up to the bar that's been set," senior Jelani Pruitt said. "We expect it to be very high." In addition to the seniors that have played together for so many years, a talented sophomore class is waiting in the wings. Depth on the bench will help the Pirates immensely. "That's what I'm most excited about from last year to this year," coach TJ Lux said, "that after the first four guys, No.'s five through 12 have all gotten better." — Hillary Smith