The Saint Mary's College basketball team used its tall frontcourt and balance on offense to win the West Coast Conference tournament and advance to the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16 in March.
Now the Gaels probably will have to adjust their style of play.
Saint Mary's has a talented stable of guards and small forwards but, for the first time since the 2001-02 season, will be without a player taller than 6-foot-9. As a result, the Gaels likely will be more up-tempo on offense and feature a pressure-style defense.
Gone are 6-11 seniors Omar Samhan and Ben Allen and swingman Wayne Hunter, who suffered a torn ACL just seven games into last season.
New to the rotation will be center-forward Kenton Walker II, a transfer from Creighton who redshirted last season, freshman Brad Waldow, forward and San Diego transfer Rob Jones and freshman guard Stephen Holt — one of coach Randy Bennett's most heralded recruits.
Chances are Walker, Waldow, Tim Williams and Mitch Young — who are all 6-9 — and 6-8 Phil Benson will share the responsibility of defending opposing centers and power forwards in the half-court. Kyle Rowley, a 7-footer, is transferring to Saint Mary's from Northwestern but will have to sit out a season.
"There's an opportunity for those guys. We need them to come through," Bennett said. "But I think it's going to sort itself out."
Less of a question mark for the Gaels is their depth at guard and small forward.
Expected to remain in their starting roles are Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova, who were both on the floor for nearly every minute of the Gaels' postseason run. But Bennett is excited about the potential of Holt, who was rated as one of the top point guards on the West Coast as a senior at Jesuit High in Portland, Ore.
"He's got all the things he needs to have to be a very successful player," Bennett said of Holt. "I think we're going to need him to help us right away, and I think he can help us right away. He understands the things that make you win."
At small forward, the Gaels have returning starter Clint Steindl, Beau Levesque and Jones, who redshirted last season. Bennett sees the 6-6 Jones splitting time between small forward and power forward.
"I like his versatility. He's had a really good redshirt year, probably as good as any redshirt we've had," Bennett said. "He's been focused on doing what he's supposed to be doing, and I would imagine that he'll be ready to play next year. He should be hungry."
Bennett said his team's success in March has helped with recruiting, but he is still having trouble getting home games against major nonconference opponents. The Gaels have confirmed away games against Vanderbilt, San Diego State, New Mexico State and Cal Poly.