A self-proclaimed eternal optimist, even Mike Jarvis, George Washington University's enthusiastic first-year coach, is not above asking for a bit of divine intervention this season.
"I have no idea what type of season we will have," said Jarvis, who inherits a team that was 15-44 the past two seasons.
"I won't promise a lot of wins but you will see a team that will give their all. We have to dive for loose balls, rebound better, shoot better and play sound defense. Realistically, we can change only so much, but we're working every day to improve. I'm not looking for a quick fix for this program; it'll take time."
The Colonials did improve from a dismal 1-27 mark to 14-17 overall, 6-12 in the Atlantic 10 last year, but Jarvis faces many of the same problems John Kuester had before he was dismissed after last season.
Start with shooting.
"We are not a good shooting team now. We'll shoot some threes, but if we shoot an abundance of them, we'll die by them," Jarvis said. "And if we are going to die, we want to do it playing to our strength and I don't know what that is yet."
Jarvis's early season strategies will mean going inside more to 6-foot-7 Sonni Holland, who averaged 11.4 points and five rebounds and was named Atlantic 10 freshman of the year. Glen Sitney, a 6-6 senior who scored most of his 12.9 points from the perimeter, also will have to help close in.
Byron Hopkins, a 6-9, 180-pound senior, will start at center. He averaged only three points and 2.7 rebounds last year.
"Byron is going to fool a lot of people," Jarvis said. "He's got ability he's never been able to use. I've seen a lot of good things in practice. Sonni is a very good player and he and Sitney will have to help Byron on the boards."
Matt Nordmann, a 6-6 swing player (8.4 points, 2.8 rebounds), will alternate between small forward and shooting guard. Shooting guard Dirkk Surles, a 6-2 sophomore whose play sometimes is erratic, could beat out Ellis McKennie, the team's most consistent player -- when he played -- the last three seasons. The at-times troubled McKennie, a 6-3 senior, is the best defender -- he's the school's all-time leader in steals -- and led last year's team in scoring (16.3) and assists (5.8).
"I may come off the bench, I don't mind. I just want to help the team win games," McKennie said.
Jarvis may go at point guard with his first freshman recruit, 5-10 Alvin Pearsall. Rodney Patterson, a 6-1 sophomore who showed marked improvement the latter half of last season, will share time with Pearsall.
J.J. Hudock, a 6-8 sophomore and probably the team's best three-point shooter; Peter Young, a 6-6 senior forward, and Mark Karver, a 6-7 senior guard, also should get plenty of playing time.
"We have to have a number of players who will play 20 to 25 minutes for us to be successful," Jarvis said. "Guys playing 35 minutes won't work for us."