TURLOCK -- Yes, every college basketball team, every year, has to deal with changing personnel, but the men's team at CSU Stanislaus is reaching a whole new level of roster rewrite.
The Warriors began official practices on Monday, and it wasn't just the absence of Reggie Jones that was most notable.
Sure, Jones stands alone as the best player in school history. He's the lone basketball first-team All-American man or woman at Stanislaus since it went Division II in 1989.
But he was far from the only senior on a squad that went 16-11, including 12-10 in conference play, for the school's best record since 2002-03.
"Obviously we'll miss Reggie, but we had six other seniors and all of them contributed a lot to the team," said fourth-year head coach Larry Reynolds. "We'll have to teach new guys and I think we have good enough athletes who are good enough basketball players where they can come in and pick up what we do and put it together pretty quickly."
No, they won't replace Jones' presence. He was the top performer on the team at 19.1 points and 6.9 rebounds and there's no one on this squad who appears ready to assume that role. But leaders can be replaced, as long as there's someone willing and able to assume that role.
Sam Marcus, a junior guard who far-and-away is the team's most experienced player, wants the role.
"In talking with coach about it, we agreed that I need to be more of a vocal leader this year and help steer most of these young guys," Marcus said. "They're not familiar with being on a team like this and that's why I need to step that up more this year."
At first glance, it will be difficult for Marcus to take over any roles from Jones. Jones is 6-feet, 9-inches, is very outgoing and exudes confidence.
Marcus is more than a foot shorter, and while confidence is not an issue, he's generally very quiet. It didn't stop him from averaging 6.3 points and 2.7 assists last season.
"It's not my personality to be real vocal, unless I'm with my family and other people I'm close to," Marcus said. "So that will take me a little out of my comfort zone, but I'm hoping I can do it.
Big shoes to fill
After moving into the starting lineup midway through the season Marcus averaged 9.5 points and reached double figures in Stanislaus' last four games of the season, including an 11-point, five-assist effort in its two-point loss at Cal Poly Pomona in a first-round California Collegiate Athletic Association playoff game.
The Warriors open play Nov. 10 at Dominican and host UC Merced on Nov. 14 before diving right into conference play Nov. 30 at home against Humboldt State.
That's not a lot of time to build a team, and Marcus will have help in the leadership role. Clinton Tremelling, a sophomore from Amador High, averaged 10 minutes per game last year and junior guard Kenny Mashinchi from Central Catholic is poised to contribute. Marcus Walters the lone senior on the team with CCAA experience is back after missing the second half of the 2011-12 season to academics.
"Sam's a quiet leader, but he's the one guy coming back who has a lot of experience and we'll count on him to be the veteran out there, along with Kenny and Clint," Reynolds said. "Those guys have played in the conference enough to where they can feel comfortable."
On a strategic level, losing Jones could decimate the Warriors' inside game. Newcomers Phil Ward, a 6-7 junior forward from College of the Sequoias, and Nick Hodge, a 6-6 senior from Mendocino College, should get the most time in the post.
"We have a couple guys we think can score inside and be very effective in this conference," Reynolds said. "They're not 6-9, but they're good-sized kids.
"Our strength will be on the perimeter and we'll be able to shoot the ball and get it to the basket, which will take the pressure off the guys trying to fill Reggie's shoes."
Locals in the mix
Three local newcomers will be battling for playing time, and the first thing striking about all three is the evidence of how much time they've spent in the weight room since high school.
Turlock High's Alek Carlson (6-6, 215, freshman) looks capable of playing another season on the Bulldogs' football team, Taylor Thompson (6-9, 215, freshman) said he's added about 20 pounds since graduating from Sonora High, and former Pitman marksman Amarpreet Randhawa (6-6, 215) comes in as a bulked-up junior after two seasons at San Joaquin Delta.
But like so many of their teammates, that local trio needs to make the major adjustment to CCAA play. In short, you can't take plays off, and you have to get used to the conference's fast, physical style.
Marcus will be right there at all times to keep his teammates focused.
"We're a lot smaller," Marcus said. "It hurts losing a guy like Reggie, but we'll make up for it with a lot of speed and a lot of heart. It should be interesting to see how we come together as a team this year."