All last season, George Washington Coach John Kuester watched his team get outrebounded and make the mistakes that led to a less than inspiring 10-19 record and first-round loss in the Atlantic 10 playoffs.
"It was a year of frustration. In a lot of games, we were right there in the last three minutes but couldn't quite get over the hump," Kuester said. "We lost three key veterans, so our younger players will have to come through for us. Our three priorities this season are: We have to make our free throws, cut down on turnovers and stop people on defense."
That might be too much to expect from a team with a serious lack of height, no depth at center or forward and no big scorer. Kuester knows he has problems and has declared every position open.
Last season, the Colonials finished in eighth place with a 6-12 conference record. They lost eight of their final nine games, including a 77-69 defeat to Temple in the playoffs.
GW shot 46 percent from the field -- 41 percent from three-point range -- and averaged 77.6 points and 41.4 rebounds per game. But GW averaged 17 turnovers per game and allowed opponents to shoot 46 percent. In addition, the defense wasn't able to shut down opponents when it counted.
Several of the teams in the conference are improved, and the Colonials' early-season games against South Carolina, Michigan State and Georgia Tech might not do much to inspire confidence among the young players. Nonetheless, Kuester is hoping his slow, methodical practices will pay off.
"Our conference is tough and the pre-conference season games will provide us a good learning period," Kuester said. "This is the slowest we've put in things and maybe in the long run, the patience will benefit us. I can't predict how we'll do but the future is bright here."
Kuester hasn't decided on a lineup.
"We have some strength in the back court but we do need help underneath," the third-year coach said. "We will have to ask our guards to help us out with rebounding. We have better athletes than we've had in the past and I've been pleased with what we've done thus far. But it will be a challenging year for us."
Six-foot-4 senior Gerald Jackson, the only returning player who averaged double figures (13.7), will be asked to be more consistent. 6-2 senior Joe Dooley (7.7), 6-1 Ellis McKinney and 6-5 Kenny Barer (6.2) are the other experienced back court players.
Max Blank, a 6-9 junior (7.7, 5.9 rebounds), performed well in spots last season but must get some help inside from 6-6 sophomore Mike Jones (3.3, 2.5), 6-6 Brian Royal (2.3, 2.2) and 6-11 redshirt freshman Art Connell. Kuester is also hoping for major contributions from 6-6 freshman Glenson Sitney and 6-6 redshirt Peter Young.
"I think Glen will be a very good player for us," Kuester said, referring to the former two-time all-Met from High Point High School. "He is making the normal adjustments and will probably play the small forward spot for us. Mike Jones will get a chance to start and we think he will help us."
November: 21, Greek National Team, 7:30; 28, at Yale, 7:30; 30, South Carolina, 7:30.
December: 2, Bloomsburg, 7:30; 5, at Michigan State, 8; 8, George Mason, 7:30; 12, Monmouth, 7:30; 15, at American, 7:30; 23, at Rutgers, 7:30; 30, Indiana (Pa.), 7:30.
January: 2, at Georgia Tech, 7:30; 6, at Duquesne, 7:30; 9, Temple, 7:30; 16, at Penn State, 8:10; 18, Rhode Island, 1:30; 21, at St. Bonaventure, 7:30; 24, West Virginia, 4; 28, at Rhode Island, 8; 30, at Massachusetts, 2.
February: 4, St. Joseph's, 7:30; 6, Duquesne, 7:30; 11, Massachusetts, 7:30; 14, at Temple, 4; 18, at West Virginia, 7:30; 20, St. Bonaventure, 4; 25, Rutgers, 7:30; 27, at St. Joseph's, 3:05.
March: 2, Penn State, 7:30; 5-9, Atlantic 10 Tournament at West Virginia, tba.