HANNIBAL - Last season at this time, Rick Isaly had trouble coming up with a starting five because of youth and inexperience.
Fast forward 365 days, and the tables are turned, somewhat, for the River girls' basketball coach.
The Pilots have a wealth of talent returning, and coming up, for the 2012-13 season, but they resemble the walking wounded as several key players are nursing injuries in the preseason.
"We are kind of banged up," Isaly said. "The first couple of weeks of practice we never had more than three or four girls able to go that will be in our top seven or eight. It's been tough to practice and get a good feel for what we have."
River returns four starters from the Division IV sectional tournament championship team, which defeated St. John Central and Bridgeport to head to district tournament action for the second straight season. Unfortunately, the Pilots were derailed by eventual state runnerup Berlin Hiland, 60-27.
"We're trying to find some consistency, but it's hard with all the injuries and such," Isaly added. "I'm very optimistic about the season because we have a lot of talent coming back."
River will be led by seniors Cassidy McCullough and Emilee Weaver. Both are returning starters, with McCullough now being a three-year starter and four-year letterwinner. Her athleticism allowed her to win the 300 meter hurdles at last spring's state track and field meet in Columbus.
"Cassidy's a fierce competitor who hates to lose," Isaly said. "She's a great asset to our program and one of the hardest workers I've ever been around.
The 5-foot-6 McCullough's versatility is reflected by her season norms of 11 ppg., five rebounds, three assists and three steals.
"Cassidy's just a well-rounded player in every respect," Isaly adds. "In addition to being a consistent offensive threat, she is also an effective defender. She can be as good as she wants to be."
Isaly said McCullough will play the point and some wing.
"She will also be utilized on the inside because of her jumping ability," he said.
Weaver, a 5-9 post player, is another 3-year starter for the Pilots.
"Emilee will play on the inside for us," Isaly said. "She's not big, but she finds a way to rebound the basketball. She's also a very good defensive player."
Weaver is one of those who didn't practiced much because she had her tonsils removed, but Isaly said she is quickly working back into shape.
Laken and Landyn Ramsay are back for the senior and junior seasons, respectively.
Laken, a 5-9 point guard, is a good outside shooter, according to Isaly.
"She is another one of those girls that are very athletic and can be as good as she wants to be," he said.
Laden, 5-4, is "very consistent. She is probably our most consistent 3-point shooter.''
Hannah Jones, a 5-5 senior, will serve as a role player, along wiht Haylee Bowers, a 5-5 sophomore.
Leslie Young, a 5-10 senior, will provide strength in the middle.
The rest of the roster is Myla Smith (5-4 senior), Darci Winkler (5-5 junior), Mikayla Cieszeski (5-11 junior), Monica Curtis (5-4 sophomore), Devyn Potts (5-5 sophomore), Mackenzie Marshall (5-6 sophomore), and freshmen Jensen Caretti (6-1) and Brielle Williams (5-9).