One of the Fairfield Warde boys basketball program's most successful classes departed when the 2011-12 season ended.
The Mustangs won a school-best 11 games a season ago, but will have to overcome seven departed regulars, most notably three-year player Sal Siciliano and leading-scorer Michael Wright.
"Losing their leadership and varsity experience hurts us," Warde head coach Ryan Swaller. "We'll have to grow up quickly."
Still, Max Garrett returns as one of the Mustangs' four captains. Garrett's a three-year player and guard and will be joined with senior guards TJ Tracey and Hunter Smaldone.
Junior big man Brian Kerrigan also has earned captain honors, thanks, according to Swaller, to his budding leadership potential.
"He's willing to lead by example and do what's best for the team," Swaller said. "He wants the team to do well."
What the Mustangs lack in experience, Swaller believes, they make up for in chemistry.
"The attitude's been up beat," he said. "They're here, they're enjoying it, and at the same time we're getting better."
But the Mustangs will be forced to grow up quickly, with games against Bassick, Harding, Greenwich and Trumbull before Christmas, then the Prep Holiday Classic.
"We have to go into our first game knowing what we're doing," Swaller said. "We're not going to have the luxury of giving games away and stay in the hunt for states."
Warde's reached states two of the last three seasons, and the Mustangs are hopeful 2012-13 will be the third trip there in four tries and go from there.
"We're going to try to get our eight wins, then focus on FCIACs," Swaller said. "Our conference tournament is competitive to get into, but if you figure 12 wins is what it'll take, eight wins isn't that far from that."