The banners are scattered around the “Panther Den,” the nickname for Bradenton Christian’s gym, to highlight various achievements.
But one banner noticeably missing is something that happened recently.
The 2016 boys basketball team’s Class 2A state runner-up finish, along with other accolades from the year, haven’t gone up yet.
And just as that season on the boys basketball achievement banner is missing, seven core players from that team aren’t around this winter, either.
“You don’t really realize it until you get to the preseason, I don’t have one guy that had ever started a varsity game,” BCS head coach Scott Townsend said.
The Panthers haven’t missed a beat, even with a new group at Townsend’s disposal.
Through Saturday’s game, Bradenton Christian is 5-2 overall, 4-1 in Class 2A, District 9, and the Panthers are poised to contend in their annual holiday tournament, the Smoothie King Classic, at the end of December.
They possess size and athleticism.
“I’ve got seven, eight guys that can dunk,” Townsend said.
In addition, this year’s team has a nucleus in place. The trip to the Class 2A state title game last winter was built off a core group with guys such as Ryan Leunk, Jake Lister, Vince Rehfeldt, Trent Bell and J.T. Noellert. Last season’s sixth-man, Justin Aracena, transferred in prior to last year’s run to states. Alex Telfair was another senior that played a pivotal role to last year’s success.
This year’s team is young, but possesses a similar cohesiveness to the 2015-16 group. Many played junior varsity basketball together last season, and they understand the Panthers’ system that Townsend employs at the varsity level.
The latest core features a strong junior class with A.J. Schewe, Kevin Etienne, Dayton Modderman, Eli Johnson, Brett Gerber and others. Schewe is a 6-foot-5 shooting guard, and Johnson transferred in from Miami. Etienne received a varsity promotion last season, while Modderman, the tallest player on the team at 6-foot-7, also played varsity ball last winter.
Dominick Otteni, though, is the team’s lone senior, and the only player to receive valuable playing time in the 2A state runner-up season.
“I know how to be a leader on and off the court,” Otteni said. “I know they’re young, so just working on things. ... athletically, we all play above the rim when we can and I think if we just work on teamwork, we’ll be as good as last year eventually.”
Despite having just one senior with Otteni, Townsend said this year’s team has lots of potential.
“They’re all basketball guys,” Townsend said. “They want to work hard.”
That work has resulted in a quick start. But it’s a long road to the postseason in the next couple of months. First, the Panthers are taking a short break until they play host to their annual holiday tournament. There will be something different in the gym by that point, too.
The 2016 season will find its spot on the banner next week, officially closing that chapter as this year’s group will prepare to leave their mark on a Bradenton Christian basketball program gripped with tradition.
Just as how Etienne felt when he received his varsity promotion in 2016.
“I was real hungry. I wanted it bad,” he said.