CROSS RIVER, N.Y. – John Jay is coming off a 15-8 season in which the Indians were stopped one game short of a Final Four appearance at the County Center in the Section 1 tournament.

But the 2019-2020 season will not have the benefit of cashing in on all that experience, said Head Coach Patrick Heaton.

“We lost five of our six top players, so we’re going to be a different team,” Heaton said.

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As a result, the coach will be first counting on returning four-year starter Shane Martinsen. Strong at forward, said Heaton, “He can go inside and outside.”

After that, Heaton is pinning his hopes on the players from the end of last year’s bench. On the boards, Ryan Brennan and James Loeb hopefully can take in their share of the haul, and Jack McLoughlin and Ben Cohen can turn the workload into points with their sharp shooting.

“We have a better shooting team then we have had in the past,” Heaton said.

On the other hand, a lot of scoring went off the board at graduation. So, Heaton anticipates that it will be a challenge for Ben Konak to establish chemistry at the point, and hopefully Ryan Corelli can assist the duty in his first year on varsity.

On the other side of the ball, defense is a work in progress.

“We need to work on that. We’re not as strong as we have been in the past. But the guys are coming along, and I think we’ll be alright,” Heaton said.

This year’s team will have Luke Mercer and Stephen Ingersoll leading the way joined by JV promotion Owen Walsh to round out the help defense.

Also, Heaton welcomes 6-foot-3 forward Andy Kote and a similar skillset might have John Jay fans doing double-takes as he suits up next to Martinsen.

“He can also play inside and out,” said Heaton.

Nicholas DeVincenzo is the final call up, and a long offseason playing in spring and summer leagues for the foursome, has Heaton feeling pretty good about the readiness of his underclassmen.

But either way, John Jay knows what nights to circle on their calendars.

“Lakeland is going to be the class of our league,” Heaton said.

The early returns look promising nonetheless.

“The team camaraderie is very strong, and the fact that we have 13 guys who can play is a big plus,” Heaton said.

This leaves the finishing touch as a high priority.

“We’re just going to focus on being a little more established at the end of games and closing out,” he said.

And the overall goal is right in line with last year’s finish.

“We’re hoping to take a step forward this year and advance past the quarterfinals to see if we can make it to the County Center,” Heaton said.

The Indians open their season Thursday against Horace Greeley.