COLLINSVILLE — One year after sharing the Southwestern Conference championship with Edwardsville, the Collinsville Kahoks have a lot of moving parts.
"Too many," fourth-year coach Darin Lee said.
The Kahoks, who finished 23-6 overall and 11-3 in the conference, graduated four starters in leading scorer Daryn Foster, Jaris Wellmaker, J'Vaughn Williams and Devonta Crochrell. Top reserve Caleb Johnson also graduated.
Collinsville's other starter, meanwhile, senior Jason Kusnerick, has opted to focus on soccer instead of basketball.
What does it leave Lee? Plenty of question marks and keen competition for available playing time.
"We're not as talented as we were last year, obviously," Lee said. "(Senior guard) Falando Wilkinson was our best scorer this summer. (Senior forward) Chris Mathes played a little varsity (last season). Other than that, none of them played."
The 6-foot-2 Wilkinson will play both guard spots and will represent the Kahoks' main scoring threat. Lee said Collinsville will lean heavily on his athleticism and experience.
"He can probably play the point in college," Lee said. "But we certainly need him to score as much as possible. We're going to have to see whether we're going to be able to get entered in our offense or not, and where that takes us."
The Kahoks hope 6-2 freshman Zeke Moore can handle the point, thus allowing Wilkinson to focus on scoring.
"His basketball IQ is pretty high and he's got some point-guard instincts we're really looking for," Lee said. "A point guard is hard to find. If I want to get Falando off the ball, somebody's got to (handle it). Falando can't do everything.
"Moore is long and he can shoot it. Right now, he's very frail; he's got a freshman body. But he's growing, his instincts are good and he's got a good shooting stroke."
The Kahoks will open the season at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday against Salem in the Pyramid Plus Tournament at Marion High School. Other opponents in the tourney will be Herrin, Mount Vernon and the host Wildcats.
Lee hasn't yet decided on his starting lineup, but he's leaning toward the 6-3 Mathes, 6-2 senior Briley Kellison and 6-6 sophomore Sean Davis joining Wilkinson and Moore. Kellison was sidelined with a knee injury last season, but is a promising shooter.
"Hopefully, he can help us some," Lee said.
Mathes also is capable of scoring, but Lee said that's not the immediate priority.
"I want him to continue to improve his defense, because he can make open shots," Lee said. "He can catch and shoot the ball."
Lee said Davis projects as a quality post player, but acknowledges there will be growing pains.
"He's got a good chance to play," Lee said. "The game's probably going to move pretty fast for him at times. If he gets himself down the floor and gets established in the post, he has improved and he has the skill to score."
Lee said another center, 6-7 Emondre Rickman, has advanced defensive skills for being so inexperienced.
"Right now, he's much better on the defensive end than the offensive end," Lee said. "When it comes to blocking shots and rebounding the basketball, he's not bad. He's very long and he runs well. Offensively, skill-wise, he has a ways to go in that area. But right now, he is a factor in practice on the defensive end."
Juniors Tanner Houck and Matt Chambers both stand 6-4 and will offer depth in paint. Other guards are 5-9 sophomore Jamal Wellmaker, 5-10 sophomore Nic Gonet and 5-11 junior Jacob Shaffer. Completing the roster are 6-2 sophomore Harrison Wethers and 6-4 senior Travis Dunnette.
Lee had little to say about the absence of the 6-1 Kusnerick, who averaged 8.3 points and led the team with 32 3-pointers.
"Any time you lose a returning starter, it makes it tough. We don't have any," Lee said.
"But it opens the door. That's the way kids look at it. They're like, 'Hey, more playing time for me --maybe.' We've got a few young kids we'll audition and see how they do."
Lee firmly believes the Kahoks will be an improved team in the second half of the season. How they will fare against the likes of Edwardsville, Belleville East and East St. Louis is unknown.
"In our conference, we're not going to out-talent people," Lee said. "But you can outexecute people. That's what we've got to try to do. That's hard to do in our conference. We've got a lot of good coaches.
"When we go up against teams in our conference, we've got to try to compete. This was our JV team last year, and what were they, 8-8? That's what we've got, with no returning starters. It is what it is. Hopefully, the guys have improved. It's a tall order for us."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.