BELLEVILLE — Belleville West might not have the firepower of Edwardsville, Belleville East and East St. Louis.
But ninth-year coach Joe Muniz sees no reason why his Maroons can't finish in the upper half of the Southwestern Conference.
"Our success this year is going to (depend on) us doing the little things," Muniz said. "We're going to have to guard, we're going to have to rebound, we're going to have to get the hustle points, we're going to have to scrap.
"We're not going to be physically bigger or stronger as other teams. We're not going to be as athletic as other teams. But I think what we do have is a bunch of hard-nosed individuals who will go out there and play hard every night."
The Maroons, who finished 17-12 overall and 7-7 in the SWC last year, open the season at 4 p.m. on Nov. 26 against Vianney in the Vianney Tournament in Kirkwood, Mo.
West graduated four starters: Kendall Smith, Michael Schmidt, Jaylon Owens and Jaret Jones. But senior Nick Van Osdale returns, and the Maroons expect big things from the 6-foot-1 point guard who missed 15 games last season with a broken right wrist.
"Nick's playing with extreme confidence right now," Muniz said. "He's able to score from every point on the floor. He's shooting the 3 well, he's shooting the ball off the dribble well. He's always been able to take the ball to the basket. He's got to develop that mid-range game, and that part of his game has really improved."
Van Osdale, who averaged 15.1 points and made 17 3-pointers last season, will need support, and Muniz believes he will get it from the rest of his lineup.
Markkies Goodwin, a 6-3 senior who missed 12 games last year with a dislocated elbow, will be an undersized center. D.J. Owens, a 5-8 shooting guard and tenacious defender, also will start along with 6-2 senior Donnie Foster and 5-10 senior Isaiah Lewis.
Muniz expects Goodwin to make dramatic progress.
"He was really playing well (before the injury)," Muniz said. "He was on his way to playing a lot of quality minutes, and then he got hurt. He's the one kid we have on our team who is as athletic as anybody in the conference. He's strong inside, jumps really well.
"The thing with him is we need to make sure we get him the ball in a position where he can be successful. By far, he's our best athlete."
Owens brings more than defense.
"He can shoot the basketball, too, and people are going to have to respect that," Muniz said. "D.J.'s going to take some of the pressure off Nick. He's a good 3-point shooter, and we're going to need him to do that this year."
Muniz called Foster a "little-things guy."
"He's going to rebound, he's going to set screens," he said. "At the same time, if they leave him open, he can shoot the outside shot. He's very good facing the basket."
Lewis will be the third guard in the Maroons' lineup.
"Isaiah is a quick little guard who can handle the ball," Muniz said "The other thing about Isaiah is he is a good shooter. He's a little gnat out there and he's a good on-the-ball defender."
Muniz expects to utilize a deep bench that will include 6-3 junior Cole Henke, 6-0 junior Kyle Sweeney, 6-0 sophomore Sherand Boyd, 6-1 senior LaDarcus Ford and 6-3 junior Cade Dibadj. Boyd still is recovering from a thigh bruise he suffered in football season.
"Cole Henke is just getting better and better every day in practice," Muniz said. "He's got soft hands and is an extremely bright kid, and he plays the game of basketball that way. He's very creative in the post for being undersized and maybe not as athletic. But he's very productive."
Nick Givins is a 6-4 sophomore who could help in the paint, and Muniz said 5-11 junior Steven Roberts could play a more significant role in the second half of the season.
"We've got about 10 guys we can interchange with everybody," Muniz said. "I tell them, 'Don't worry about who's starting, just worry about who's playing. Who starts may not play the whole game.' There is some balance between our first five and our next five. They're all pretty equal. That's why practices have been extremely competitive."
Even though Van Osdale is unquestionably West's leader, Muniz shudders to think what will happen if his other players aren't as good as he believes they are.
"Nick can't be the only reason why we win," Muniz said. "It's a team game, and it's a team game both offensively and defensively. Nick's going to need a lot of help. Those kids respect Nick, but at the same time, they know they're in there to do a job.
"It's a team game and it's about the team. Everybody's got to play their role. If everybody does their thing, I think we've got a chance to be successful. We're not going to be able to outscore people. We're going to have to be a blue-collar team."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.