No one may be more eager for the 2021-22 basketball season to begin than Manhattan High senior guard Tate Brown.

“I’m very excited,” Brown, armed with a on his face, said before Tuesday’s practice Tuesday. “Friday’s the day, man. We’re here.”

Brown is one of three seniors for this Indians team, which saw its 2020-21 season end in the opening round of sub-state. Now the Indians are back, and they feel that with the improvements they’ve made over the offseason — along with several key pieces returning from injury — they can make a push at state this season.

“It’s hard to say right now, but one thing is I think we have a group that really likes to compete,” head coach Benji George said. “I think we have some competitive and tough-minded kids, and I think that starts with our seniors. Trey Holloway brings some toughness being a football guy, and (senior guard Cade Perkins) and Tate just love to compete.”

Holloway broke his foot midway through the season last year, and after a successful fall as a starting tight end and defensive lineman for the football team, he’s hoping to be a big factor in improving the basketball squad’s defensive intensity.

“I think we have more length and speed than last year,” Holloway said, “and we’ll do a lot of damage on the defensive side.”

George agreed that defense could be a strength this season.

But he’s not ready to say his team is there yet.

“I think we have it in us to be a great defensive team,” George said. “We have a ways to go yet, but I think that is there, and as long as the guys know that and buy into that, we can sustain some success.”

A big theme for the team has been continual improvement — both individually and as a whole.

Individually, George noted Brown has progressed offensively, evolving from a spot-up shooter to a more well-rounded guard who can hit from the outside and make plays off the drive.

“Last year, I had a role as a shooter, and I feel like this year, I’ve become a little more of a slasher,” Brown. “I’ve become more explosive in getting to the rim and making ideal passes rather than just being an ideal shooter.”

George also mentioned 6-foot-4 forward junior Collins Elumungo, versatile junior Cole Coonrod (now healthy after struggling with a broken arm last season) and junior point guard Dre Delort — who takes over for first team All-Centennial League point man Owen Braxmeyer who graduated last season — should be key contributors.

“Dre’s ready to take the reins as a point guard,” George said. “He’s going to be a true point guard who really wants to distribute the ball and is going to do a great job of it. And then Keenan Schartz I think really is another kid who loves to compete. You saw it on the football field. He also adds another element of toughness.”

As a team, flow of offense was identified as the main upgrade from last year’s campaign.

“Definitely passing,” Brown said on what’s improved from last season. “Last year, we were a lot more individual (focused). But this year I feel like we’re a lot more together and we really move the ball and get everyone a good opportunity and a good shot. I think it’ll help out.”

George and the Indians have their eye on competing for the Centennial League crown, and possibly making noise in the postseason.

But for now, it’s about making steady improvements in practice and focusing on what they can do to make themselves better.

“It starts with league,” George said. “We want to work our way up to the top third of the Centennial League and see what we get there. But really, it’s a matter of just investing in the process and getting better each day and then the goals will take care of themselves.”

The Indians open the season at home on Friday versus Topeka High. Tipoff is set for 7:45 p.m.