Carson High has never been blessed with a lot of height on its boys' basketball team, and this year is no exception.
The Senators, who open the 2009-10 season Friday against Lodi (Calif.) at the South Tahoe Rotary Invitational, don't have a player over 6-foot-3 on the roster.
Four players top out at 6-3 - returnees Pat Smith and Uriel Duran plus newcomers Matt Cooper and Chris Steele, both up from the junior varsity team.
Smith, who will start in the middle, came on strong at the end of last season, and Barnes will be counting on him for defense and scoring in the middle. Duran suffered a knee injury during a scrimmage recently and will miss the first two weeks of the season.
What the Senators (14-12 last year) lack in height they make up for in depth, according to Carson coach Bruce Barnes.
"What we do have this year is depth. We're two deep at every spot," Barnes said. "We won't drop off as we have in the past. It's very competitive in practice. We've had a different starting lineup everyday in practice.
"I think we'll have 10 or 11 guys get a lot of minutes early and we'll see who steps up. I'm excited about some of the young guys coming up. We're versatile. I can throw a lot of different lineups out there. In the past, we didn't have that luxury."
The biggest hole Barnes will have to fill is at point guard. Three-year starter Matt Rutledge graduated last spring.
Sophomore Andrew Johnson and seniors Brennan Shaffer and Kevin Kurek are battling for the starting role. Shaffer missed most of last season with a foot injury.
"He (Johnson) is a good shooter," Barnes said. "He's played a lot of basketball. With the ball, he's the most athletic of the three. Without the ball he's not.
"Shaffer flies around and likes to play defense. He can do things that the other two have to be pushed to do. Kevin has to learn to play within himself; not force things. He got away with a lot on the JV level that you can't get away with at the varsity level."
Smith likes what he's seen of the ultra-quick Johnson.
"He's learning the offense really well," Smith said. "I think he'll be really good."
Brian Barnes returns at shooting guard. The all-Sierra performer, who averaged 15 a game last year, was the team's most reliable scorer last season. He is overcoming off-season back surgery and slowly rounding into shape.
"Physically from a doctor's standpoint he's ready to go," coach Barnes said of his son. "However he missed all summer (50 games) and he couldn't lift weights. He lost about 25 pounds, and he's just now getting it back."
Barnes will no doubt have a target on his back, being the team's top returning scorer.
"We have a lot of 6-1 and 6-2 guys that can shoot the ball," the elder Barnes said. "We won't have to rely on him as much.
"It (the injury) helped a lot of other guys (get playing time this summer). I think we traveled with 15 guys all summer."
Trey Jensen and Steele are battling for the small forward spot.
"Steele can play inside or outside," Barnes said. "A lot of his moves are unorthodox. He's very deceptive."
Barnes hopes the 5-foot-11 Jensen can bring the same toughness and athleticism to the basketball court that he showed on the football field this past fall.
Josh Peacock is the front-runner at the power forward spot vacated by Paul Cagle. With Duran expected to miss a minimum of two weeks, Peacock is expected to get the bulk of the minutes for now.
"He's a natural fit," Barnes said. "He played there a little last year. He's strong and anticipates well. Coming out of football, we're counting on him to play with the same aggressiveness."
Barnes said Bishop Manogue is the team to beat. The only player off the starting lineup that didn't return is Keith Feutsch, who is a reserve at the University of Nevada.
"Galena returns a lot of guys and they also have a couple of transfers," Barnes said. "Douglas will be young. I think it's kind of wide open."