SHADYSIDE - It's been a long road back for Shadyside.
After reaching the regional final in 2010, the Tigers have been in rebuild mode as youth has prevailed most of the last two seasons.
A season after finishing 4-17, veteran coach Ed Andes welcomes back nearly every player from last season, which has greatly enhanced the early season progress.
''We didn't lose anyone to graduation and this is a nice group of young men,'' Andes said. ''We just hope they continue to get better.''
Shadyside, which qualified for the OVAC 2A Tournament last winter, made a lot of progress despite the lack of victories and it welcomes back a player who missed nearly the entire campaign due to injury, which is a big bonus for Andes' squad.
''We had things happen that really took a toll on us,'' Andes said. ''We had injuries and I think we were down to like 10 or 12 kids toward the end of the season. We finally got some back for the tournament game, but it just wasn't enough. Obviously, avoiding injuries is big for any team.''
For the first time since he can remember, Andes had his entire team early in November. Shadyside's postseason run in football was one week long, so basketball practice got under way nearly on time.
''The kids are working hard and improving,'' Andes said. ''From a basketball standpoint, it was good having one early. It's more time to get their legs, play together and prepare for the season. I think that will help this group a lot.''
If you examine Andes' teams through the course of his first 15 seasons at the helm, there's always one common thread. The units play well together and he believes that is his team's biggest strength.
''We have to play well together for us to have success,'' Andes said. ''We're going to share the basketball, no one is selfish.''
That's a big plus for a Tigers outfit, which Andes doesn't think has that one player who can go for more than 20-plus points a night. Instead, he'd love to see balanced scoring across the boxscore each time out.
''We're hoping we have many kids who can score,'' Andes said. ''Last year, I think we had two guys average double figures. This year we need more than two kids. We stressed that last year, but we didn't get it. It would be great if we can get four or five kids in double figures.''
Andes likes his depth, experience and ability to be balanced in the scoring column, but he still sees a team that will make steady improvement once the games get started.
The Tigers boast a roster of 16 players despite there being nary a junior on the squad. Also included are six freshmen and Andes didn't rule out some of them helping at some point during the course of the season.
Shadyside will feature a starting lineup that has a combined eight letters, including a trio of players seeking their third award.
Senior guard Adam Stupak (6-foot-1) leads the way. He was the Tigers' top perimeter player last season. He'll be joined in the backcourt by fellow senior Ryan Richardson (6-1), who is a basketball only player who Andes is extremely high on.
Senior Skyler Gibson (6-3) is an adept 3-point shooter and is also in search of his third letter. Senior Jared Brooks (5-10) missed much of last season because of injury, but Andes expects him to step right back into the lineup.
Manning the paint for the Tigers will be sophomore Austin Dorris (6-5). He started last year as a freshman and is expected to make a bigger contribution this winter.
''These guys are all a year older, which is a big plus,'' Andes said. ''We had some kids play a lot in the offseason.''
Developing depth has been a focus during scrimmages for the Tigers.
Sophomores Zach Frizzi (6-2) and Luke Nardo (5-10) are expected to be the top players off the bench. Seniors Cullen Dalton (6-5) and Nathan Edgar (6-2). Sophomore Jake Gregan (5-10) is also in the mix.
The freshmen group is Logan Cline (5-10), Mark Fahey (6-2), Travis Fulton (6-2), Shane Johnson (6-2), Josh McFarland (5-11) and John Michael Schuetz (5-9).