After losing nine players to graduation, the Destin Marlins are basically "starting over" on the hardwood this season.
"We have 12 kids and nine of them are eighth graders. So you would think we'd have a little experience, but we don't," said Destin boys basketball coach Ron Griffiths at practice last week.
Of the nine eighth graders only three are returning players — Chase Hurt at post, along with Nick Sherer and Nathan Sheppard at guard.
"They got in sporadically last year … not a whole lot of playing time. But then again it was one of the better squads to ever come through here," Griffiths said.
Last year the Marlins finished the regular season 6-3 and went into the county tournament as the No. 4 seed.
"When you graduate that many guys you need to start rebuilding," he said.
As for the rest of the players, most of them have been part of the basketball program for a couple of years, just not on the varsity team.
"They were all part of the system except for two move-ins," Griffiths said.
Brady Ooten, who was the Marlins quarterback, is trying his hand at basketball as well as receiver Ryan Romair.
For the first-time ever, Destin also has a sixth grader on the varsity squad, Jamison Brundidge.
"We haven't had one before," Griffiths said. "He's young, but he's talented. It's just a matter of getting him caught up where he thinks he can have a little confidence with these eighth graders and play."
After a couple of weeks of practice and few scrimmages, Griffiths says, "we do have some team quickness. We went over and scrimmaged Lewis and created a lot of turnovers off a press and a half-court defense. The guys like to fly around," he said.
In addition to a lack of experience, the Marlins face another shortcoming.
"There is absolutely no size," he said.
The tallest players on the team are the three post players, Trevor Thompson, Callahan Phillips and Hurt with the biggest one topping out at around 5-foot-10 or 5-foot-11.
"I went from having four 6-footers or above to having nobody reach 6-foot. The good news is we should be strong in the back court with guards and we're guard heavy," he added.
As for shooters, "we can shoot it," Griffith said. "The problem is getting it inside, other than creating turnovers and being able to attack the basket that way."
Thus, the Marlins will be relying a lot on outside shots.
"We need to be on, on game nights, because we are going to get outrebounded on most nights. So we need to get to the free-throw line and give ourselves some opportunities to turn those into easy baskets … because it's not going to come from a post," he said.
Basically, "We're starting over," Griffiths said.
And for now, the Marlins are concentrating on the fundamentals and just getting better as a team.
"We're trying to find out what guys work well together out there on the floor, and once we get to that point, it's about building team chemistry and starting to improve as the season goes along."
The Marlins tip off their season at home with a 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 3 against the Pryor Pirates.
ON THE ROSTER
Eighth graders: Chase Hurt, Jacob Edelman, Trevor Thompson, Nathan Sheppard, Jordan Johnson, Callahan Phillips, Nick Sherer, Brady Ooten and Ryan Romair.
Seventh graders: Matt Pierce and Jackson Stanford.
Sixth grader: Jamison Brundidge.