HANNAHVILLE - The Hannahville boys are in the midst of a learning curve as they enter this basketball season.
Gone from last year's 11-5 team are six of its top seven players, including Anakwud McCullough, Parker Trudeau and defensive leader Greg Williams.
McCullough averaged nearly 23.5points last season, followed by Trudeau at 14.9.
Hannahville, with no seniors, opens this weekend at Beaver Island.
"Beaver Island will be a tough team," said coach third-year coach Seth Miller. "They were second to last in our (Northern Lights) league last year, which is very uncharacteristic for their program. Since we're very young ourselves this season, we're looking at the Beaver Island series as a learning experience."
The Soaring Eagles are led by sophomore Alec Wandahsega and Marvin Mercier.
"We have a great core together," said Miller. "We should still be pretty tough this year. This is by far the most disciplined and dedicated team I've had. We've had guys working out through the off-season."
Also among those who trained all summer were freshmen Seth Williams and Steve Keezer and eighth-grader Troy Teeple.
"We're fast," said Miller. "We're going to pressure the ball and hopefully get some turnovers and fast-break points. The one thing I'm curious to see is how our younger guys progress."
The uptempo style is a necessity for the Soaring Eagles, who lack height.
"Most of our kids range from 5-4 to 5-9," said Miller. "But they're in pretty good shape. I'm really surprised with the stamina they've shown so far. I'm expecting big things from everybody. The way our team structure is right now, I'm anticipating a balanced attack."
Besides their uptempo offense, the Soaring Eagles plan to use a man-to-man defense.
"Every guy has to know every position, which is tough for them to learn," said Miller. "But we have a super smart group. The kids are learning fast. They've been super pleasant in terms of grades and have shown great behavior in school. Wins and losses really don't matter as much as academics and character."
One thing Miller is stressing to the Soaring Eagles is mental toughness.
"I think most of our kids are mentally tougher than in the past," he said. "I'm interested is seeing how we respond when we're down by 12 points in the first quarter. Many of the kids understand defense is the key to everything, and they're putting their heart and soul into it."
Miller is also stressing patience on offense. "Being patient in a half-court offense is one thing we definitely need to work on," he added. "Once we get the basics down on that, we'll be pretty tough."
Besides their opening opponent, Miller expects Mackinac Island to also be among the league's contenders.
"Mackinac Island and Beaver Island are probably the frontrunners because of their experience," he said. "In our conference, experience means a lot. Although, we're going to assume everybody's going to be tough. We're looking forward to this season. This could be a very interesting season in terms of pretty even games."
This season will mark the first time Hannahville has fielded a junior high team, which is coached by Matt Gregory.
"This means having to split part of the team because junior high guys can only play 12 games at that level," said Miller. "But this will also help our program down the road."
Dec. 4-5 - at Beaver Island
Dec. 18-19 - Paradise
Jan. 8-9 - at Mackinac Island
Jan. 15-16 - at Grand Marais
Jan. 22-23 - Beaver Island
Jan. 29-30 - at Paradise
Feb. 5-6 - Bay Mills Ojibwe Charter
Feb. 12-13 - Mackinac Island
Feb. 19-20 - Grand Marais
Feb. 26-27 - Northern Lights League tournament.