BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - As the Governor Livingston Highlanders boys basketball team nears the beginning of the 2016-2017 season, it’d be easy for many not to expect much from them based on last season’s record.

But second-year coach Chris Loeffler thinks otherwise. Despite returning just three players with varsity experience, Loeffler still believes this season will be a success.

“Last year was a good learning experience for all of us and one in which we spent a great deal of time building a foundation,” Loeffler said. “We will be more competitive this season and I honestly feel like we’ll have the opportunity to every game on our schedule.”

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Loeffler has raved about what he’s witnessed in preseason practices from his team, especially from the senior trio of guard Billy Pencek and forwards Chaz DeAngelis and Kevin Keegan.

Pencek, DeAngelis, and Keegan were a part of last year 6-17 season and have no intentions of going through another season like it. Loeffler said the three “really got after it” in the offseason and attended every workout session.

“The leadership of Billy, Chaz, and Kevin is a big reason why we’ll be more successful, especially in the competitive aspect,” Loeffler said. “Everyone has really off of their energy.”

This year’s team welcomes several underclassmen that Loeffler has high hopes for including junior center Liam Wolfe, junior forward Matt Schuman, and sophomore guard Ryan Davey. Wolfe will likely begin the season as the team’s starting center while Davey will provide the team with a viable scoring option.

Despite being a relatively young team, the Highlanders have shown the maturity of a veteran squad in their practice habits and how they jell with one another. Loeffler believes these habits will transfer to the games.

“Our team’s strength is that this is a group that is willing to put in the time and effort it takes to win at this level,” Loeffler said. “They will do whatever is asked of them.”

Loeffler did admit that the overall lack of varsity experience could potentially be a downfall but not a major one.

That lack of experience will be tested in the team’s first three games as the Highlanders will open up against Roselle at home followed by road games at Rahway and Johnson. How the Highlanders perform in those three games against some of the best Union County has to offer could be an indicator in how they’ll measure up the remainder of the way.

Wins and losses aside, Loeffler wants his team to show that same spirit they’ve displayed in the season’s early goings.

“My outlook is for this team to develop and get better each and every day,” Loeffler said.  “I expect them to compete in every single game on our schedule and to have the mentality that they can win every game on their schedule.”

The Highlanders open at home Friday, Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. against Roselle in the Blue gym..

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Delicious Heights Highlander Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Delicious Heights, a family restaurant with three locations; Berkeley Heights, Bedminster and Basking Ridge, where it is part of the Basking Ridge County Club operating a public restaurant with outdoor dining, and acting as the banquet caterer, boasting a facility with panoramic views of the sprawling golf course. Visit our website, www.deliciousheights.com for weekly specials including Happy Hour specials from 3-6pm and daily featured dinner and lunch specials. Delicious Heights....where our only limitations are yours!

Delicious Heights is located at 428 Springfield Avenue in Berkeley Heights. 908.464.3287; 285 Main Street in Bedminster. 908.234.1596; 185 Madisonville Road in Basking Ridge. 908.766.9499.