CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- No boys basketball program in any class has had the kind of success that Charleston Catholic has accomplished in this millennium.
The Irish have made eight appearances in the Class A state championship game since 2000, winning four of those, including last season's 40-34 victory over St. Marys.
Nick George, a 6-foot-3 junior post player, led the team in scoring last year and may have to increase his production even more to get Catholic back to its usual lofty perch. David Godwin, a 5-9 senior shooting guard, is the team's only other returning starter.
Seniors Zach Casto (6-2 guard/forward), Keifer Hovorka (6-0 guard/forward), Andy Hoyer (6-4 forward), as well as Michael Tupta and Nelson McKown, will all be looked upon to add leadership.
"We're very senior-oriented and not necessarily from a playing perspective or points perspective but from a leadership perspective," Irish coach Bill McClanahan said. "We've been blessed with strong senior leadership the entire time I've been here. We have a phrase in our program, 'It's their turn.' Now for these seniors, it is their turn and they know what that means."
The journey back to the Civic Center figures to be a little tougher for Catholic this time around after defending Class AA champion Tug Valley and AA tournament team Magnolia dropped down in classification this season.
Still, 12th-year coach McClanahan is confident and said his players, having been there before, know what it takes to lengthen the Irish's reign atop the Class A field.
"We remind them that they have that experience and they know what it takes and they know what to expect," McClanahan said. "They know the effort and the work it takes to get there."
McClanahan added that 5-9 junior guard Garrett McCarty will also be in the mix for significant playing time.
Catholic begins the 2012-2013 campaign at Poca on Dec. 18.
A look at two other state tournament teams from last season:
After all, GW has made two straight Class AAA title-game appearances, winning the championship in 2011.
Luke Eddy, a 6-0 senior guard and Elon recruit, is back to help the cause after averaging a team-best 16 points last season, but will be one of few sources of experience for Greene.
Tino diTrapano, Thomas Francke and Darian Williams, all starters from last year, graduated. GW's other starter, Dustin Crouser, will miss the season due to a football injury, as will role player Cole Salmons. Add in Ryan Switzer's decision not to play and GW is facing a lot of uncertainty.
"We're in a little bit of a transition," admitted Greene. "We've been on a good run. We're not making any excuses but we may need to regroup a little bit."
That's not to say the Patriots won't be talented. Senior guard/forward Austin Breeden (6-1), junior forward/center Chris Kay (6-2) and junior guard/forward Dominik King (6-3) all bring some playing experience to the table.
Greene, who is entering his 20th season at the helm, said 6-6 senior post player Lucas Mullenix and 5-10 sophomore guard Alex Lewis have also shown promise.
But the Patriots are quite likely to go how Eddy goes, and that may be a good thing.
"He's already doing it in practice," Greene said of Eddy's leadership. "He's not out there jacking up shots everywhere, he's passing and trying to make everybody else better."
GW opens Dec. 12 at Capital.