After a 5-17 season in 2008-09, the West Springfield boys' varsity basketball team is looking to return to winning form in the 2009-10 season.
"We're trying to get back to where we were," said head coach Dick Wickline. "We're ready to take the next step up."
Three years ago, the Spartans went 20-7, but since then the team has fallen on hard times.
The Spartans are fielding a team consisting of six juniors and five sophomores and are without a single senior on the roster.
Wickline is preaching a "one game at a time" mentality, but believes the young 2009-10 squad has a chance to turn the program around.
Second-year starter Hyung Ju Kim, who was the Spartans' second leading rebounder in 2008-09 is returning and Wickline hopes he can help carry the load.
"He's gotten stronger," Wickline said. "I'm very impressed with how far he's come."
Another player expected to stand out for the Spartans is Lawrence Rouse who Wickline said has excellent athletic skills, great ball handling and was the third leading scorer on the team last season.
"I'm pleased with our progress [in the preseason]," Wickline said. "We're a relatively young team but we'll be ready."
Adding to the challenge of starting the season strong is that the team opens the season with a string of strong opponents.
The Spartans tipped-off on Dec. 2 against Centreville, followed by a Dec. 8 meeting with Westfield and a meeting with reigning Patriot District Champions T.C. Williams on Dec. 11.
"It's a tough schedule for sure," Wickline said. "There's no easy games, but you can't just look at other teams on your schedule. You have to worry about yourself."
Although Wickline is confident in his team's abilities, he said that hard work is going to be the main factor in reclaiming the Spartans' winning ways.
"There's no magic wand you can wave to make a team better," he said. "It's going to come from hard work. That's what we aim to do, work hard."