Coach Jay Blossom of Webster Groves searches for words to describe his thoughts on this season, and instead rattles off a few stats that barely do justice to the standard his team holds itself to.
"Nine straight conference titles and seven straight 20-win seasons," Blossoms explains, "we have a lot of work to do to uphold the standards of this program."
Coach Blossom's statistics inadequately explain his team's recent and long-term success because he leaves out the fact that two seasons ago Webster won the state championship, and last season compiled 27 wins while exiting in the quarterfinals of the state championship tournament.
The Statesmen are currently 3-0 and will host Eureka on Friday at 7 p.m. They last Saturday (Dec. 11) by defeating Lee's Summit, 61-43, to win the tourney championship for the sixth time in the past seven years.
While numerous area programs would view a state quarterfinal appearance as one of their better accomplishments, that result only makes the Webster players all that much hungrier to get back to the state championship game. Championship aspirations may just be in the air at Webster, as the school's football team recently played for the state title, falling short against Lee's Summit West.
"Actually several of our players are coming to practice now from the football team and in that sense we are just starting to get our full team together," explained Blossom right before the season began on Dec 9.
Those football players include junior guard Rayshawn Simmons, who quarterbacked the football team, and senior Jason Meehan, who was the 2009 Post-Dispatch defensive player of the year in football and is a forward for Webster Groves.
The Statesmen are also relying on senior guards Kendal Shell and James Kenner. Shell says the team is indeed hungry after last year's early exit in the state playoffs, but also understands the need to take it one game at a time.
"We want to stress defense and work on the new offensive plays coach Blossom is putting together so we can have a complete game and a chance at the state title," Shell commented.
Kenner leads Webster with 13.7 points per game this season, while Shell is secdond at 12.7.
Webster will participate in the GAC/Suburban Basketball Challenge at the Family Arena in St. Charles beginning Dec. 19, before moving on to the prestigious Meramec Holiday Tournament (Dec. 26-30), which it won last season by defeating Hazelwood Central, 62-56.
By the time the Statesmen reach the later stages of this season, they likely will have integrated the new European-style offensive plays Blossom is introducing this season. But perhaps the team's primary challenge is defense.
"Traditionally we have been a strong man-to-man defensive team and we have some work to do to improve defensively this season," explained Blossom.
Blossom, in his 12th season at Webster, said he is hoping young players such as junior forward Demetrius Robinson and junior guard Peter Fairbanks will become important role players.
Ahead of the beginning of the playoffs, Webster will conclude its regular season with games against Jackson on Feb. 15 and Parkway Central on Feb. 18. Blossom understands the pressure on his team from a combination of high expectations and a rigorous schedule.
"There is not a lot of margin for error," summarized Blossom.
Nonetheless, Webster Groves High School basketball fans should have confidence. With four returning starters, a veteran coach, and the energy of the school's recent football success flowing onto the practice court, hopes are high.
As Kenner pointed out, the challenge is lofty but simple. "We are here to win the state title."