— Senior forward Omar Prewitt has come a long way from calling home to mom freshman year, afraid he might not even see the court for the William and Mary men's basketball team.
Note that Prewitt's mother is Lea Wise-Prewitt, who was an All-SEC player at Kentucky before coaching Centre College to the Division III NCAA Final Four and being inducted into the Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame.
Prewitt dialed back to his hometown of Mount Sterling, which is east of Lexington, because he stunk it up in his very first scrimmage for the Tribe against Navy.
"It was miserable for me," Prewitt said. "I was really upset after it."
Prewitt rose from the rut rather quickly and finished as Colonial Athletic Association Rookie of the Year. A preseason first team All-CAA selection after first-team honors last season, he enters this season 13th in William and Mary scoring history after averaging 17.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 2015-16.
"He can't just be a scorer," 14th-year coach Tony Shaver said. "He has to do other things for us to be successful. And he's also a senior, so he has to be a leader now."
At 6 feet 7 inches, Prewitt is the leading returning scorer in the league and one of three captains along with senior guard Daniel Dixon and junior point guard David Cohn for the Tribe, which opens the season 2 p.m. Saturday against Bridgewater College.
Here are a five things to watch this season from William and Mary, which boasts three consecutive 20-win seasons and looks to challenge for a CAA tourney title and subsequent NCAA berth that has forever eluded the program.
Replacing a veteran duo
For the past two seasons, William and Mary had to cope with the loss of invaluable forces. Last year, it was all-time leading scorer Marcus Thornton, and this season, it's Terry Tarpey.
Tarpey was one of five players nationally last season to average 10 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals per game and led the league in steals for the second straight year. He also led the Tribe in rebounding each of the last three seasons.
And then there was Tarpey's presence at the point of William and Mary's zone defense.
"We'll be fine with it and we've got some other guys that can play it," Shaver said. "He just was a multi-dimensional player that is very hard to replace."
Sheldon's numbers weren't as prolific in the post, but his contributions didn't always show up in the box score.
One of the leading candidates to replace Tarpey at forward is junior Greg Malinowski, who is just coming back from an injury, but has been steady off the bench the last two seasons with 7.7 points per game and 3.8 rebounds.
Redshirt sophomore Paul Rowley, freshman Justin Pierce and sharpshooting junior Connor Burchfield will also factor in.
Of the three, Prewitt said Cohn is primarily the vocal one.
Cohn, a lightning-quick former Colorado State transfer, averaged 9.6 points and 4.6 assists last season with a school-record assist-to-turnover ratio.
"It's hard to press us because of David Cohn," Shaver said. "When the shot clock is winding down and we're a little bit out of alignment, David has the ability to penetrate and score and get other people shots. That speed is something we haven't had a lot of here."
Meanwhile, Dixon has become one of the best 3-point shooters in W&M history and averaged 12.5 points last year.
"We have to see growth from Daniel in every phase of the game," Shaver said. "He needs to be our lockdown defender."
Jack Whitman, a 6-foot-9-inch junior, is the Tribe's leading returning player down low and Prewitt called him the most underrated player on the team. Shaver added that his work ethic has taken him to a new level.
Hunter Seacat, a 6-foot-9-inch sophomore, and 6-10 freshman Nathan Knight round out the group.
Seacat, who contributed last year as a reserve, will be suspended until at least December for violating a team rule.
Knight, a Syracuse, N.Y. product, has a 7-foot-2-inch wingspan and could make a big impact.
William and Mary's nonconference schedule includes tilts at Louisville (on Monday) and Duke (Nov. 23).
The Tribe also travels to Rhode Island, which is getting plenty of national preseason love, and instate rivals Hampton and Old Dominion.
William and Mary jumped from fourth in the league in attendance in 2013-14 to second last season behind preseason favorite UNC Wilmington, which features preseason player of the year Chris Flemmings.
The Tribe drew 3,063 per contest last season and Kaplan Arena has been particularly electric for Gold Rush Games.
"The interest level is so much higher," Shaver said. "That's the one thing I can gauge a little bit of: The fan base, the student interest, the community's interest has certainly grown rapidly in recent years. I think people really enjoy watching our kids play."
Holtzman can be reached by phone at 757-298-5830.