The Barnegat High School boys basketball team returns just one player from last season.
However, the Bengals' program as a whole is growing. Last year's 17-9 campaign, which included the team's first-ever playoff victory, has drawn attention to the team.
Erik Mazur has coached the Bengals since their inaugural varsity season began in 2006. The school opened in 2004.
Mazur and his staff have worked to build interest the team - last year's success and a 69-41 home win over West Deptford in the South Jersey Group II playoffs - seems to have done the trick.
Plenty of athletes came out for the team this winter.
Some - such as senior Pat Moran, a football standout - returned to the team after skipping a season.
"There's definitely interest in the school now," Mazur said. "We open (6:30 p.m. Friday against Jackson Liberty), and kids were talking about the game and trying to build a student section (for weeks)."
Senior forward Pat Zanzalari will lead the Bengals, who otherwise don't have much varsity experience.
Size and guard speed will be major assets, Mazur said.
Three Barnegat players are 6-foot-4 or taller. The Bengals guards are fast and push the ball well in transition. The entire team is defensively sound.
Barnegat hopes to be competitive in the Shore Conference B South Division.
"We're very young, but they're working very hard and they're doing good things," Mazur said.
Contact Brittany Grugan:
League: Shore Conference B South
Group: South Jersey Group II
Coach: Erik Mazur (51-91, six seasons)
2011-12 record: 17-9
2012-13 prediction: Rebuilding
Key returnees: Pat Zanzalari, Sr., 6-4, F.
Top newcomers: Bennie Bivens, Jr., G; Andrew Sauer, Sr., G; Ryan Ulrich, Jr., G; Ryan Morris, So., F; Xavier Young, So., F; Pat Moran, Sr., G.
Dec. 14: vs. Jackson Liberty, 6:30 p.m.
Dec. 17: at Lakewood, 6:30 p.m.
Dec. 20: vs. Monsignor Donovan, 6:30 p.m.
Dec. 23-29: WOBM Christmas Classic in Toms River
Jan. 4: vs. Point Pleasant Boro, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 7: vs. Manchester Township, 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 8: vs. Ocean Township, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 10: at Central Regional, 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 15: at Pinelands Regional, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 18: at Jackson Liberty, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 19: vs. Marlboro, 1 p.m.
Jan. 22: vs. Lakewood, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 24: at Monsignor Donovan, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 25: vs. Brick Township, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 28: vs. Point Pleasant Boro, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 30: at Toms River East, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 1: at Manchester Township, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 4: vs. Central Regional, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 7: vs. Pinelands Regional, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 9: at Academy Charter, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 14: vs. Lacey Township, TBD
Feb. 19: vs. Toms River North, TBD
Feb. 21: vs. Southern Regional, 6:30 p.m.