NORTH READING — With just seven players returning with varsity experience and implementing a new system, the Hornets will face some challenges this season.

Even with these new challenges, boys’ basketball coach Joe Casey has been pleased this preseason. “We really are very young and we are putting in a new system. The kids have really embraced the new philosophy. We held our own against state power Danvers and more than held our own against Wakefield in our scrimmages,” he said, adding, “Our defense has been very good and we have embraced a sort of blue collar scrappy mentality.”

The seven returning players will be relied upon for their scoring and experience. Junior Justin Dorosh, a starter last season, has the most experience at guard. Senior Derek Hogan also logged serious minutes in the back court last season and will be counted on along with Dorosh.

Senior Tommy Lewis will provide size inside and bring energy to the court. Junior Nic O’Connell is a tremendous worker who will be counted on to log big minutes.

At 6’ 3,” junior forward Adam Goldstein returns to the lineup and will provide some offensive punch. Goldstein has the potential to have some big games offensively. “He has the ability to play inside and out. We need him to step up and provide us some leadership on and off the court if we are to be successful,” Casey said.

Senior Peter Walsh is one of the best shooters on the team and senior Shane Bartlett will be a key defender.

There will be a few newcomers jumping up from last season’s JV squad. Juniors Sean Castro, Nate Dionne, Patrick Riley and Billy Brandano will be contributors off the bench for the Hornets.

Casey has been really impressed with sophomore Anthony Eldridge. “Anthony Eldridge, our lone sophomore, has emerged in the preseason as a potential starter for us at the point guard position. He’s a good athlete with a tremendous head on his shoulders and very mature for his age. It’s not easy playing varsity as a sophomore, but so far he has really stepped up to the challenge,” Casey said.

Despite the team’s inexperience Casey still expects a return to the state tournament. “Our goal every year is to qualify for the state tournament. We pride ourselves on being a mainstay in the tournament and that is always our goal,” he said.

Season opener Tuesday

The Hornets open the season on the road against the always formidable Newburyport Clippers on Tuesday, Dec. 16. Tip off is 7 p.m. The team’s home opener is set for Friday, Dec. 19 against Hamilton-Wenham, also at 7 p.m.