The Bears won 13 games a season ago and were ousted in the opening round of the Class LL state tournament by FCIAC foe Westhill of Stamford. Norwalk has some strong returnees, led by captains Roy Kane, Steve Enoch and Justin Burnett.
Size is on the Bears' side. Enoch is 6-foot-7 and Kane is almost as towering a presence at 6-5. Norwalk stands to cause some problems down low for opponents as long as the team can stay out of foul trouble. Other key players include juniors Tommy Barret, Bryant Bracey and Zaire Wilson.
"I think we can be pretty good," said Norwalk coach Tom Keyes, but cautions that his teams is young overall.
The Bears lost six seniors from last year's team -- including Jabari Dear and Saeed Soulemane -- and have big shoes to fill. Just how strong Norwalk's depth will be depends on the emergence of younger players and some with limited varsity exposure.
After beginning the season on the road, the Bears finally get into their home gymnasium Jan. 10 when St. Joseph of Trumbull visits. Among other games to circle on the schedule are a Jan. 28 matchup with Westhill, a Feb. 4 clash with Trinity Catholic of Stamford, and a Feb. 24 battle with Brien McMahon.
Coming off a 5-15 campaign, the Senators are striving to get into the hunt for a postseason berth. Larry McKinney, the team's leading scorer last year, heads a list of returnees who represent most of the 2012-13 offensive production. So the Senators expect to put the ball in the basket.
"I'm hoping some other boys step up," said coach Ken Dustin, adding that he's liked the level of intensity displayed in preseason. "Practices have been pretty competitive so far, and the boys are hungry, so it's nice to see."
The Senators are craving the sweet taste of the playoff, but getting a place at the post-season table will be a challenge. The FCIAC boasts some of the top teams around. Last year Trinity Catholic was runner up in the Class LL state tourney, and several other teams, including St. Joseph of Trumbull and Bridgeport Central, have made noise in the playoffs in recent years.
"I think we can go far with the team. We're putting good pressure on each other -- making each other better in practice," McKinney said.
"I'm very excited. Everybody's working hard. We have big expectations this year," Howard said.