Merrillville Pirates

Last season: 21-2, 14-0 in DAC, lost in Class 4A Sectional 2 title game to Valparaiso

Inside the Pirates

Leading returning scorer: Edward Seay, 10.6 ppg.

Leading returning rebounder: Seay, 7.0 rpg.

Newcomer to watch: Jacob Raspopovich, Jr., G. The quarterback might be the obvious answer after a successful junior varsity season last year. He'll be expected to handle all of the ball-handling duties and take on some of the toughest defenses in the state. He's not the only newcomer, though, and the Pirates coaching staff hopes to find diamonds in every rough part of the DAC schedule.

Breakdown

New faces in new spaces

The newest thing about Merrillville boys basketball this season isn't that it has a different coach for the first time in 32 years. The newness comes from the number of positions that have needed replacing since last season's two-loss team.

"We have a lot of questions about who will step forward under a lot of different conditions," first-year coach T.J. Lux said. "I'm new, and all of these guys are new, which makes this group pretty special. There are no egos, they're non-selfish and they like to compete and play basketball."

The Pirates expect a powerful season out of center Edward Seay, who has grown into his 6-foot-7 frame and become a presence under the basket. When Merrillville is looking for a leader, it need only look upward.

"We're pretty quick, we've got good guard play, but our strength is no doubt Ed Seay," Lux said. "He's got to be a focal point of our offense this season and he's got to get his touches on the ball. His all-around versatility is going to be a huge asset."

With quick guards on the perimeter, the new faces are hoping to make themselves into old names in time for the postseason.

"Everywhere we look is a fresh start," Lux said. !~ Hillary Smith