MOUNT Gambier's Castec Rural Pioneers will launch their assault on the 2013 South East Australian Basketball League season tomorrow night when it hits the road to face the Ballarat Miners.
It has been a long off-season for the Pioneers with some familiar faces parting ways, others returning, along with a host of fresh faces.
This has provided challenges for returning coach Richard Hill with four rostered NBL players and the imported Titus Robinson joining from America's Buffalo University making their way into the side, but the Pioneers' shot-caller has remained focused on developing his squad for the season ahead.
"It has been a little awkward with a number of the guys involved in NBL programs, it has been tough compared to last year and we have had to approach it (pre-season) a little differently," Hill said.
"We've still held camps and we have brought in some other players to make sure the numbers are always there for a good hit out," he said.
"There has also been a lot of work done individually with the players including early morning gym sessions."
While Hill conceded he had not had the number of team sessions he would have liked over the past month, he believes the Pioneers are as well-prepared as they could be.
"I don't think we could be in a better position given the circumstances, only time will tell," Hill said.
With several recruits still fulfilling NBL requirements, the Pioneers squad for Saturday night will feature all but one player who have taken part in all eight of the Pioneers pre-season games.
The only player not to feature in all eight that will take to the court is Jan Warbout who played in two pre-season games.
Warbout will play in Cairns on Friday night before flying down to join the team on Saturday.
"More guys will be brought in, but I have been impressed with the guys here already who have really been working their butts off," Hill said.
"Our import (Robinson) has shown he is a good guy, and he works extremely hard as well," he said.
Now taking on his second year at the helm, Hill said there was a better chemistry between him and the players.
"The guys that have been here for more than 12 months know what I expect," Hill said.
For the Pioneers, it will be their second look at Ballarat in 2013 having won a practice match in convincing fashion three weeks ago, however Hill is not reading too much into that result.
“They were very undermanned, but so were we,” Hill said.
“They have since added an import who I think will give them a fair bit of firepower,” he said.
“He is only arriving today (yesterday) so it could be a bit tough for him.”
Hill said he believed the Pioneers could win their opening stoush.
“We are good enough if we play well, it’s just a matter of going over there and giving it our best to bring back the points,” Hill said.
“We are looking forward to a really good weekend,” he said.
“We are in good shape, and we will have a full squad soon enough.
“It’s up to the rest of the guys to hold down the fort for the first few weeks.”
The Pioneers’ first home game will be held on April 5 against the Knox Raiders.