A lack of size and replacing two starters will be the challenge for the Fairfield Warde boys basketball team this winter, but the Mustangs will be helped by sporting a deep bench and boasting sufficient experience with three returning starters.

Brian Kerrigan, who is 6-foot-5 inches tall, returns as a senior captain. He will be joined as captains by senior guard/forward Nick Cotto and senior guard Mike Pehota. Senior guard Terrance Walden earned significant minutes last winter for coach Ryan Swaller, in his fourth year with Warde. Pehota missed much training in the offseason because of shoulder surgery.

Also expected to contribute are senior swingman Tommy Luckner, junior swingmen Brandon Bisack and Dylan Reilly, junior guard Kavon Polk as well as sophomore guards Giacomo Brancato and Chris Smaldone.

"We are loaded at the guard and small forward positions, which will allow us to play a faster paced game this year," Swaller said.

"Defense, especially man(-to-man), will be one of our strengths this year. We will need to rebound as a team to be successful.

"We will have a deep bench and will need to use it for the up-and-down style this year since we will be undersized many nights," Swaller said.

The Mustangs finished sixth of seven teams in the FCIAC East with a 4-14 division record in 2012-13. They missed the CIAC Class L state tournament last winter for the second time in the last four years. Swaller expects St. Joseph to be the team to beat in the division this year.

After scrimmages this week with Shelton and Foran, the Mustangs will open the season Dec. 18 at Bridgeport Central, one of the top teams in the FCIAC, Swaller said.

Warde plays host to Ludlowe at 7:45 p.m. on Feb. 11, a Tuesday. On Dec. 26 and Dec. 28, Warde joins Ludlowe and Notre Dame-Fairfield in a tournament at Fairfield Prep. The Mustangs play the Jesuits on Dec. 26 at 8 p.m. at Fairfield University's Alumni Hall.