O'FALLON — For the reloading O'Fallon Panthers, it's not just results on the court that matter the most.
"Early in the season, we're not necessarily looking at wins and losses, but wins and learning. That's the attitude we have," said seventh-year coach Rick Gibson, whose Panthers were 17-11 overall and 6-8 in the Southwestern Conference last season.
"Sometimes we'll have to understand that we just got beat by a better team," he said. "We can live with that if we play hard and do what we need to do. And if we learn from that, when we play that team a second time, we'll be better."
The Panthers, who open the season at 6 p.m. Monday against Jacksonville in the Alton Tip-Off Classic, graduated four starters in leading scorer Roy Bullock, Michael Jackson, Isaac Bouquet and Elijah Kinmon. They accounted for 50 points a game.
O'Fallon's other starter, senior Darius Mosely, will not play basketball. Mosely will graduate at mid-semester, then leave for the University of Illinois, where he has a football scholarship.
"He played with us for most of the summer," Gibson said. "We thought he had made up his mind that he was going to stay, but we knew (leaving) was an option. Illinois really wanted him up there if at all possible."
With players battling for starting roles, Gibson said practices have been "very competitive" in the first two weeks.
For the time being, Gibson has settled on a top five of 6-foot-3 senior forward Todd Porter, 6-6 senior center Charlie Harmon, 6-4 sophomore forward Parker Roustio, 6-0 junior point guard Jalen Beverly and 6-2 senior shooting guard Tyus Berry.
Porter, coming off a stellar season as the Panthers' quarterback in football, also is O'Fallon's most established player on the hardwood, although he played in just 13 games last season and averaged 7.1 points per game.
"He can do a lot," Gibson said. "We're trying to get him to play within himself. He's a strong kid, athletic. He can get a lot done in the post because he is so athletic and is so strong.
"Todd can score in a lot of ways. Todd's capable of scoring in the post. He also shoots the ball well out on the perimeter."
Roustio didn't provide much offense as a freshman last season, something Gibson expects to change this year.
"He has really worked on his game," Gibson said. "He's shooting the ball pretty well and is kind of a zone-buster. He's worked in the off-season at getting stronger. He's developed his all-around game."
Gibson also expects Harmon to be more productive in the post, along with 6-6 senior Logan Domina in a reserve role.
"Logan's a guy who right now is probably in the mix to come in and play some minutes off the bench, subbing in for those guys," Gibson said. "Between the three of them, we feel like we've got some athletic post players who have a little size and a little bit of muscle. We're bigger than we have been in the past down there in the post."
Beverly is a transfer from Cardinal Ritter High in St. Louis, and Gibson is confident he will join Berry to form a strong backcourt.
"He's got the tools," Gibson said of Beverly. "He handles (the ball) well, he sees the floor well, he plays hard and he's a really good kid. We're high on him right now.
"Tyus Berry is an extremely athletic kid. Toward the end of last year, he saw a few minutes at the varsity level. We're hoping he's able to step in and do some things."
Other players are 6-5 sophomore Donovan Franklin, 5-10 senior Robert Guithues, 6-4 junior Jacob Lochmann, 6-2 junior Isaiah Armstrong, 5-11 junior Taylor Enright, 5-10 junior Naason Cook, 6-0 sophomore Caleb Wegner and 5-6 sophomore Darien McClain.
"Donovan played a little bit as a freshman," Gibson said. "He's kind of like Parker. We think they're both going to be really good players, but we need them to be good players for us this year. They're going to hopefully be guys who continue to improve and develop, then build off that for their junior and senior years."
Gibson expects Edwardsville, Belleville East, East St. Louis and Belleville West to be the conference front-runners.
"At the start of the year, those teams are a little ahead of us," he said. "Luckily, the postseason is not played in November. It's played a lot later than that. We're going to continue to do what we need to do to get to that point.
"It's definitely a challenge. We're not really sure what we have. We're excited. We're definitely not throwing in the towel. There may not be the expectations, but on the front of our jerseys, it says 'O'Fallon.' As long as it says O'Fallon, people still expect us to be a good team."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.