LORETTO - The St. Francis men's and women's basketball coaches found a common ground during Tuesday afternoon's media day at the JFK Student Center.
Both Don Friday and Susan Robinson Fruchtl still have no clue what their respective lineups will be when the 2011-12 season officially tips off.
And in this case for each, that may not necessarily be a bad thing.
For the two-time defending Northeast Conference champions, the Red Flash women are in rare form, having a very deep roster with players that can fill more than one void.
"We have a lot of people between positions," said Robinson Fruchtl, who has 16 healthy players at her disposal this season. "I feel we can play a lot of different combinations, it's just finding those combinations that work. That's what we're working through right now.
"I'm not clear on who is starting. It's up for grabs right now, which is maybe a good thing."
Seniors Allison Smith and Shene Fleming were named the team's captains, replacing graduates Allison Daly and NEC Player of the Year Samantha Leach.
"We lost two great leaders," Robinson Fruchtl said of Daly and Leach. "I really try to get these guys to take ownership, and we're just working on developing that. I'm confident that it will be there. I don't ever have to worry about these guys trying their best and trying to work together. We've got that down. Now we can focus on the details."
Point guard Brittany Lilley is also back for her senior season, and she knows her role is key to helping the Red Flash keep their position at the top of the conference.
"Susan expects me to be even more of a leader than I was last year," said Lilley, who is one of the favorites for this year's Player of the Year honors. "We have weapons from every position on the floor this year, including our freshmen. We're very deep, and we're very talented. That's going to go a long way for us this year."
St. Francis, which was 22-12 overall and 14-4 in the NEC last season, once again has a demanding non-conference schedule with contests at Pitt, Syracuse, Akron, St. Joe's, Coppin State, Gonzaga and a holiday tournament at Seattle University.
The Red Flash sandwich NEC home games with Fairleigh Dickinson and Monmouth between clashes with Duquesne, Bucknell and Towson to help get them ready to attempt to make their fourth consecutive NEC title game appearance.
And everyone hopes the success isn't over.
"From my perspective, and hopefully theirs too, it's not finished," Robinson Fruchtl said. We're looking to even get better, and I think we can. I think we've brought in some more pieces to do that."
The Red Flash men are also looking to build off of what success they had last year after qualifying for the NEC Tournament.
"It's going back to when our season ended last year," said Friday, whose Flash finished 9-21 overall and 7-11 in the NEC a season ago. "There's been a lot of self-reflecting, a lot of looking on how to do things better and challenging our guys and putting them in a position to be much more successful."
But not only is everyone on the roster competing for the starting lineup and playing time, the fourth-year coach still hasn't named his captains.
"I'm looking for these guys to emerge and grow as leaders," he said. "It's not a popularity contest. It's a title that has responsibility. And we're getting there. We're just not there yet.
"They have to understand what it's going to take physically, they have to understand what it's going to take mentally in terms of what they have to work on."
Some of those key elements include taking care of the basketball, finding better shots and, most importantly, playing as a team.
But most of those skills come with experience and time, and the Red Flash are continuously growing.
"If we're going to be one-dimensional," explained Friday, "and focus on shooting jump shots, and we're not going to defend, we're not going to block out, we're not going to get physical - when you go against some of the top players in the league, we're setting these kids up for failure then."
Chris Johnson, Umar Shannon, Anthony Ervin and up-and-comer Scott Eatherton will each need to fulfill important roles to help guide the Flash through their traditionally bumpy non-conference schedule.
St. Francis travels to Virginia Commonwealth, Bucknell, Colgate, Lehigh, Pitt, St. Bonaventure and Drexel, and hosts Lafayette, Youngstown State, Niagara and American.
For Friday, it all begins with the basics.
"We're going to be fit," he assured. "We're going to be fundamental. We're going to be on the same page. We're going to play hard, smart basketball together."