"Last year's team was Jon Schmidt's team," Pace said. "It wasn't my team. When he caught the ball, we all stood around and watched."

In Schmidt's absence, Mason will be a key ingredient to Friends' success.

His soft shooting touch could be invaluable. Mason, who transferred from Gilman after his sophomore year, missed significant time last year with a concussion.

"He is primarily a basketball guy," said Pace, noting Mason is looking into playing college basketball. "He has a nice back-to-the basket game and jump hook. He can shoot it all the way out to the three-point line."

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Mason and Orrson are the only returning varsity players. Pace will lean on them to guide the Quakers' glut of younger players.

"Paul and Warner had some starts last year," Pace said. "They each started five or six games."

Some of the burden in the backcourt will fall on junior floor leader Brandon Jones (5-8), a transfer from Carver A&T and freshman combo guard Donavin Tilley (5-11).

"He (Donavin) is one of the most versatile players we have, but he is just young," Pace said.

Four juniors brought up from last year's junior varsity — point guard Dan Warren (5-9), power forward Jamal Gross (6-3), shooting guard Avert Filer (6-1) and guard/forward Kamil Essein (6-3) — are competing for playing time.

"They bring a different type of intensity to the team," said Pace, a second-year coach."Friends has always been at the bottom and we are sick and tired at being at the bottom. But we will try harder to get out of the cellar."


2011 record: 13-18

Returning starters: Senior guard Cyrus Jones (5-11) and senior forward Ryan Ripken (6-5).

Breakdown: After slipping from an 18-4 record to 13-win season, some significant changes are in order for the Greyhounds.

Gilman coach Owen Daly shortened the team's schedule to 25 games afterlosing seven games last year by four or less points.

"I think it will be a good thing," Daly said. "Hopefully, it will bring us together having that added practice time. A lot (of last year's struggles) had to do with continuity. We had a lot of guys that were in and out with obligations for other sports."

The return of Jones and Ripken and the addition of junior guard Ben Grace (5-9), a transfer from Cardinal Gibbons, give the Greyhounds a more positive outlook.

"With Cyrus and Ripken in their fourth year, it could be a special year for us," Daly said.

Ripken, a four-year starter, is a good bet to outscore most opposing big men.

He averaged 17.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game last year and will play baseball for the two-time defending national champion, the University of South Carolina, next year.