Early in the season, starting with Friday's 7:30 p.m. tip-off, the Eagles might not light up the scoreboard, as they go in with the goal of shutting down their opponent.
"Really, we've been concentrating on getting our defense in order. Getting your offense ready to go in such a short time, that takes some time. So I think, more importantly, we need to get our defense going. We're looking at a couple different presses and mainly do the stuff we did last year," Marinelli said.
That's where the familiarity comes in. Marinelli has served as the assistant coach for the players who have been on varsity, and has been the coach for those coming up from the junior-varsity level.
"Most of the kids are coming back, and that's been a big thing, having a group of older kids that know what's going on. [Matt] Turner has stepped up a lot just from last off-season," Marinelli said.
Turner, a sophomore, will see a lot of time, along with a senior-loaded roster led by Corey Loftin, Nate Warren and Jason McCubbin, who all got significant playing time a season ago.
The Eagles will miss senior forward Nathan Bernhardt, who suffered a foot injury during the football season and will miss the early part of the year.
"Missing Bernhardt is going to be tough, obviously. Him being out is going to be a damper, but I think now we've got a good thing going. But we'll see Friday," Marinelli said. "Turner and Corey Loftin have the most experience from last year, and those two are going to be two big leaders. Turner only being a sophomore I think might surprise some people, hopefully. He's still got a little ways to go ... Tayon Farmer is out here. He's a transfer for us, hoping he can step up a little bit. Then my JV point guard from last year, T.K. [Tuggle]. But Loftin's been there. He's going to have to be that leader on the court for us. He's doing good things in practice."
The basketball playoff format will follow similarly to the one in football that may have held the gridiron Eagles out of the playoffs this year — power rankings. That means starting from Game 1, wins are important.
"Well, as you know from single-A football, the region games, unless we win the region, don't really mean much to us. All the games now become region games. Each one is just as important as those against Excel [Christian] or Southwest Atlanta [Christian] or Gordon Lee or Trion for us. Right now, just want to get off to a good start and get some momentum going into the year," Marinelli said.
Even though games played within Region 6-A and the Eagles' Region 6A-A sub-region won't count any more than other games, they will face each team twice and the games will come down the stretch of the year. With some new faces joining the old ones, there are a lot of questions surrounding the region.
"I don't know what to expect out of Christian Heritage, don't know a lot about Southwest Atlanta. But Gordon Lee and Trion are always good," Marinelli said. "Luckily, we've got some time to prepare for them. There are some tough teams. We've got six games before the Christmas tournament, then the tournament. So hopefully we can get eight to 10 games under our belt getting into that part of the season."
As for Marinelli, he has led the varsity squad before while filling in for former Eagle head coach Steve Lee. But in the first game with the team officially under his leadership, the only way to tell the progress is the performance his team puts on the court Friday night.
"I guess we'll see on Friday how ready I am. I'm excited about it and I've got confidence in my kids. They've been working hard, and I know they'll give it everything they've got on the court. That's one thing we've been preaching. Me and coach [Randy] Hill have been preaching that if you don't show up and give it everything you've got for 32 minutes, then there's no point being out there," Marinelli said.