SOUTH HOLLAND | There are a lot of things different about the Seton Academy boys basketball team this year. But on the first day of practice, guard Eron Evans said the goals are the same as they were the last three seasons under former coach Brandon Thomas.
"That's getting downstate and coming home with a trophy," Evans said.
The irony is Seton got downstate last season, and won a trophy. But the Sting didn't come home with their second-place bauble after Thomas, infuriated over what his players said were racial taunts from the opposition and officiating that saw his star player ejected in the second quarter, refused to accept it.
The trophy has yet to make its way to Seton.
Banned in April from postseason play for two seasons, Thomas resigned in May, the job going to Leo alum Justin Domingo. Domingo, on St. Rita's staff last year, fielded all questions about Seton's 2012-13 season.
"What happened last year, that's in the past," he said. "Right now, we're worried about the present and the future."
For Domingo, that means "keeping the buzz going" about Seton basketball. The Sting went 71-25 in three seasons under Thomas, placing fourth in Class 2A in 2012 along with last season's runner-up finish.
Evans and Christopher Seaton are the only two players back who played any significant time last season. The roster will have four seniors, seven juniors, two sophomores and a freshman.
The Sting will try to carry on without last year's leading scorer, Mark Weems Jr., and big man Alex Foster, now at Texas Tech. They won't have a replacement for Foster's size (6-foot-8).
"We're not big at all," Domingo said. "But we're long and we're quick."
They weren't very quick by the end of Monday's second practice, which wound down around 6 p.m. The Sting's first practice got underway at 6 a.m.
"Getting up at 4 in the morning was kind of tough," said Seaton, the Sting's leading returning scorer at 7.2 points per game last season. "But it went good."
Seaton, citing "defense and speed," likes Seton's chances to enjoy continued success.
"We've got talented guys who can play all kinds of positions," he said. "We've got versatility."
And they've got toughness. Evans showed up for practice despite having two of his front teeth snapped off in a face-first fall to the hardwood in a Saturday pickup game.
"I just wanted to come and be here with the guys," he said. "It's the first day."
At Bloom Township, coach Ron Ashlaw was excited about the big turnout he had on the first day of tryouts.
"We had 66 candidates try out for the varsity and 60 for the sophomore team," Ashlaw said. "Part of it is this school has a lot of tradition and sometimes with a new coach, more kids will try out."
Ashlaw moves from one legendary program at Waukegan to Bloom, where he succeeds Jasper Williams, who retired. The Blazing Trojans were fourth in Class 4A in 2011-12 and lost to Marian Catholic in the Class 4A Thornton Sectional final last year.
"There is no lack for talent," Ashlaw said. "I certainly excited to be a part of this great tradition and you can tell with the kids that they are excited to be a part of Bloom basketball."