HONESDALE — Last year's boys varsity hoops team was something of an enigma.
The Hornets were blessed with several players of undeniable physical talent who sent the Red Palace into paroxysms of pleasure at least once every game.
Sadly, however, all those rim-rattling dunks and highlight reel fastbreaks didn't translate into as many wins as Coach Tim Wood might have liked.
While the team was long on talent and fan appeal, it was short on leadership, chemistry and cohesion. These deficiencies were reflected in the Hornets' season-ending numbers.
Honesdale went 11-13 overall and scraped out just five wins in Lackawanna League action.
On the heels of what can only be described as a frustrating campaign, Coach Wood is oozing enthusiasm for a young, but highly motivated squad.
"I'm extremely pleased with how things are going so far this season," he said. "I haven't seen this level of effort, focus and team chemistry in quite a few years."
Honesdale has already survived two brutally physical scrimmages with Dunmore and Old Forge, a fact that bodes well for life in a brand new division.
"The boys are champing at the bit to play a game that counts," Coach Wood said with a smile. "And, to be honest, so am I. This should be a very interesting year."
When the Hornets hit the hardwood on Opening Night January 4, they'll do so as denizens of a newly re-organized circuit.
Honesdale is now a part of the Lackawanna League's Division II. The Red & Black will compete on a weekly basis against North Pocono, Delaware Valley, Wallepaupack Area and Western Wayne.
They'll face each of those opponents twice each in the regular season, then cross over for single games with the members of Division I.
Page 2 of 3 - This newly re-structured loop includes Abington Heights, Scranton Prep, West Scranton, Valley View and Scranton High.
"We'll play whoever they want us to play," said Coach Wood. "My boys are competitors and they want to play the best the area has to offer. Personally, I like the fact that we'll be seeing more of our old traditional rivals. I think that's good for the fans especially."
In the days leading up to this winter's regular season, Honesdale will face top-flight competition in both stand-along games and tournament settings.
The Hornets tip-off their slate Sunday night against West Scranton in the Finan Memorial Tourney. This semifinal contest is slated for a 5:30 p.m. start at Carbondale Area.
A trio of veteran players will lead the Red & Black attack this winter.
According to Coach Wood, Kevin Miller, Chris Nagel and Jon Gillow have been named team captains for the 2012-'13 season.
Miller has been a fixture in Honesdale's starting line-up since he burst upon the scene as a freshman. Kevin is one the Lackawanna League's best point guards and a fearless defender.
"Kevin will be our floor general again this year," Coach Wood said. "He's a very heady ballplayer. Kevin does all the little things on a court that don't necessarily show up in the box score."
Nagel isn't the tallest, fastest or strongest kid on the court. However, he's a versatile player who can leap out of the gym and hurt opposition defenses at either guard or forward.
"Chris is a tough, intense defensive player and he's quick to get off his feet and help on the boards," Coach Wood said. "Chris is a tremendous athlete who can play inside or outside."
Gillow just closed out his senior football season where he excelled at both the offensive and defensive end positions. At 6'4", he'll be an imposing presence in the paint.
Page 3 of 3 - "Jon brings passion and physical toughness to our team," said Coach Wood. "He's not afraid to mix it up inside and he always gives us 100 percent effort."
Over & Out
Honesdale fans should be in for a treat this winter.
The Hornets boast an intriguing mix of younger players and experienced veterans. The recipe for success, according to Coach Wood, is dictating an up-tempo pace.
"We're young and we're small, but we have very good team quickness and we're definitely deep," he said.
"We need to run the floor. It's pretty much that simple. I think we're going to be very exciting to watch. We may take some lumps early, but I'm confident we'll be right there at the end of the season."