With 10 players lost to graduation from last year’s 29-6 bi-district championship squad, and the first new head coach for the program in more than a decade, the Brownwood Lions basketball program is full of changes.

The new coach is a familiar face, however, as Charles Pattillo returns to the Brownwood bench after gracing the sideline for the Lions from 1989-93. Pattillo left Brownwood to coach at Howard Payne and, after a brief retirement, returned to take over the Lion program this season.

“I inherited a really good team the first time. They were something like 30-3 and ranked third in the state most of the year,” Pattillo said. “This time we’re basically starting a new program from scratch, with a new style of play.”

Only two players return from last year’s squad, and neither will be able to join the team until after football season ends for Brownwood — if not longer. Derek Longoria and Graylon Brown, who is recovering from a broken leg, are the only members of the team to have played in a varsity contest.

“They had a really good basketball team last year and that’s going to be real hard to match, especially with a lot of guys that don’t have varsity experience,” Pattillo said. “Eventually, before the year’s over, I think we’re going to be pretty good. I think we’ll get quite a bit of help from football.”

Newcomers to keep an eye on this season include Greg Jefferson, Marcus Barnes, Christian Lang and Marcus Sterling.

“Greg Jefferson is a good shooter, he plays hard and he wants to be a leader,” Pattillo said. “Marcus Barnes is a 6-6 sophomore with a world of talent, but he needs to work a little on his shot. His shots go in, but he could be a much better shooter with some work.

“Christian Lang is also 6-6, but he doesn’t have much experience at all. He does have a long reach and could be a real weapon blocking shots and rebounding. Marcus Sterling is another sophomore that has some real potential to be a good basketball player.”

Gaining experience during the early portion of the schedule is the main objective for the Lions, according to Pattillo. The Lions’ only scrimmage was slated for Saturday at Joshua, and Brownwood will tip off the regular season Friday at Llano.

“The scrimmage should do us a world of good because we’ll find out where we are and what we need to work on,” Pattillo said. “They’re working hard, which is a plus, and they want to be good. They just don’t realize what it takes to get to that point right now.”

Prior to the District 2-3A opener against Abilene Wylie on Jan. 15, Pattillo wants to see considerable improvement from the Lions in terms of executing the fundamentals of the game, along with shooting and ball handling.

“We’ve got to get the fundamentals down and execute them,” Pattillo said. “They have to pay a lot of attention and do some work on their own. They can’t expect to have an hour and a half workout every day and get as good as they need to be.

“We also need to work on our shooting and ball handling. We do ball handling drills every day, and the bottom line in basketball is putting the ball in the hole. We just need a little experience, and I think we’ll wind up having a good season, but we still have a whole lot of work to do.”

The Lions’ pre-district schedule includes contests against Llano, San Angelo Lake View, Jim Ned, Stephenville, Abilene Cooper, Burnet and Glen Rose. Brownwood will also take part in the Ballinger tournament, as well as hosting the annual Underwood’s Christmas Classic.

Brownwood’s first home game will not occur until Dec. 15 when Lake View visits. The Lions’ first four games and a tournament will be on the road before Brownwood plays at Warren Gym for the first time this season.

“We’ll get a lot of road experience, and I’d rather we be playing at home, but that’s something we’ll have to overcome,” Pattillo said.

As for the district race, Pattillo feels Wylie and Graham are the teams to beat in 2-3A, while the third playoff spot could be up for grabs.

“Just from what I’ve seen in the past, Wylie is probably going to be the class of the district and Graham should be good because they have a lot of athletes,” Pattillo said. “Beyond that, I really don’t know what to expect. Sweetwater hasn’t been real good recently, but Snyder has been. Breckenridge has been mediocre in the past. Wylie and Graham are the two we’re going to have contend with as an early guess.”