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AYER — After securing a post-season berth last season, the Ayer boys basketball team will feature a different look this time around. Graduation cost the services of Cliff Shultz, Kenny Rollins and Charlie Jones, and second-year coach John Rivett has just one starter returning.

But the Panthers’ mentor isn’t ready to throw in the towel, and is busily preparing for the season. He will build around senior captain Jon Minnich, who will start at power forward and easily be the team’s most experienced player.

“Jon provides a lot of experience and leadership for us,” said Rivett. “He is both a strong rebounder and an outside presence. He has an excellent mid-range jumper and I’m looking for his numbers to go up in all departments.”

Also starting up front for the Panthers will be senior captain D.J. Zagwyn, who came off the bench last year, and senior Anthony Raneri, who didn’t play last season.

“D.J. provides leadership and has good low post moves,” said Rivett. “He is also a solid rebounder and he will be our small forward. He needs to be able to complement Jon up front. Anthony will be our center and he provides strength and toughness and he figures to be a force off the boards. He is a perfect role player. He does what he is asked to do and even though he is learning the game he could become a leader of this team.”

Sophomore Scott Neuman is a small forward with a productive offensive game and he figures to get quality minutes after playing on the junior varsity team last season.

“Scott is strong, hard-working and has good instincts,” said Rivett. “He is a good shooter and he just continues to learn and get better.”

The starting guards figure to be senior Mike House at the point and junior Brian Wallace at shooting guard.

“”Mike came off the bench last season and is an important player for us,” said Rivett. “He made some big plays for us at crucial times last season. He plays tough defense and has a good jump shot. Brian was with the junior varsity team last season and he is vastly improved. He handles the ball well, has a nice jump shot and is working on his defense.”

Making strong pushes for time in the backcourt are junior Cody Januskiewicz and freshman DaShawn Taylor.

“Cody was with the junior varsity team last season,” said Rivett. “He is a fundamentally sound player who handles the ball well, runs well and has a great jump shot. He is just a basketball player. DaShawn is a true point guard who has great instincts and sees the floor well. He played middle school basketball last season and just needs experience at this level. Even though he is only a freshman, DaShawn has shown leadership and a solid work ethic.”

Adding depth and looking to work into the mix will be senior forward A.J. Hamilton, senior guard David Sauvita and sophomore guard Andrew Stiling.

“A.J. is strong and tough off the boards,” said Rivett. “David can play either guard position, handles the ball well and has a good jump shot. Andrew is a hard-working player who wants to get better and learn.”

“I think a strength of this team is that Jon Minnich and Mike House give us experience at important positions,” said Rivett. “We are big and strong up front and I like the effort the kids have shown and the attitude they have displayed. My concers entering the season are our overall varsity experience and the logjam we have at guard. We need someone to emerge there.

“I’m more excited this year than last year because we have 11 kids who are competing every day and they have shown the desire to get better,” said Rivett. “We will run and press and our goal is to get out and go. We will need to develop depth as the season progresses.”