Ask any high school boys basketball coach, and he'll tell you relying on a strong defense is the steadiest path toward victory. Press him, and he'll eventally admit since shuouts are not possible in the sport -- beyond a few spurts of shutdown `D' here and there -- finding players who can score reliably is nearly as important in securing a win.
In the offseason, veteran Notre Dame-Fairfield boys basketball coach Vinny Laczkoski fielded most of his questions concerning his 2013-14 team that were directed on the Lancers' offense. Who is going to pick up the scoring slack for the graduated All-Staters Danny Upchurch and Earl Coleman?
Upchurch, attending Putnam Science Academy and who signed a national letter of intent to play at Charleston Southern in 2014-15, scored 1,587 points as a Lancer. Coleman, also in prep school, chipped in a mere 1,288 points.
That's a lot of baskets and free throws to replace.
Luckily for Laczkoski and this season's Lancers, Notre Dame doesn't subscribe to the philosophy of outscoring its oppostion in a shootout. The defense-first framework is still firmly entrenched with this year's team, and Laczkoski has enough confidence in the returning players that they will pick up the slack -- and not all of their points needs to be duplicated because of the Lancers' tight defense.
"The only way to replace that is by committee," Laczkoski said about the scoring void from Upchurch and Coleman's graduations.
So the solution also lies in relying on what else can work.
"We're going to run and press the whole game," said Laczkoski, bringing in a 250-128 career record (114-55 at Notre Dame) for his eighth year with the Lancers.
"If at the end of the game, we've had 32 minutes of a track meet, we're going to be very, very happy."
The lone returning starter, senior co-captain Jaylen Jennings, averaged 11 points and 10 rebounds a game last year. The 6-foot-4 inch forward was an all-conference player. The other co-captain, and a likely starter, is 6-2 senior forward Raphael Torres.
Two returning juniors started some games in 2012-13 -- 6-foot swingman Jake Heaton, who averaged six points a game a year ago, and 5-9 guard Clinton Davidson, an honorable mention All-SWC player, who threw in eight points a game.
Laczkoski sees the likelihood of another five players in the rotation, including a ninth-grader. Sophomore Jordan Pettway, a 5-9 guard, experienced some varsity minutes last winter. Jesse McIntosh averaged close to three points a game last year as a freshman. He is a 6-1 swingman.
Sophomore Justin Federici is a 6-4 forward with some varsity time last year, and 5-9 sophomore guard Joe Cantey played some as well. Freshman forward Anthony Gadsen, who is 6-1, might see some significant varsity minutes this season as well.
The Lancers were 15-5 in the regular season a year ago before winning a SWC quarterfinal, then losing in the semifnals. They were the No. 8 seed in Class M, beat Hyde Leadership of New Haven in the first round before being eliminated in overtime in the second round by Bloomfield. Notre Dame finished 17-7.