A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT — basketball season has a different vibe to it than the fall sports. And when it comes to hoops in December, it’s not about winning out of the gate, not about how good just one player might be. For five teams with five marquee players, this first month of play is about trying to pick up the pieces from February and March of last season. It’s about shaking off rust, redeveloping or bettering the chemistry these five teams led by these five unique athletes had in 2015-2016. When it comes to the ‘16-’17 campaign, whether it’s Sam Brunelle at William Monroe, Brianna Tinsley at St. Anne’s-Belfield, Austin Katstra at Albemarle, Ryan Ingram at Western Albemarle or Aamir Simms at Blue Ridge, the bottom line is simple — these five lead the pack of teams with great expectations considering just how good they were, their teams were, last year. All five of them are veterans, yes even the sophomore in Brunelle. They all know that process of getting better as players on an individual level, helping their respective teams take that next step as strong programs, that’s something that happens over time. It’s a process that does not happen overnight, does not happen without relentless work on and off the court. For these five athletes, these five programs, December is just a window into January before the nitty-gritty of February rolls around. As such, the emphasis for both these athletes and their respective programs is about getting things started off on the right foot, finding that perfect composition that makes a great team. All the elements are there, now it’s just about being passionate about the moment, working things out in the gym and reconfiguring all the things that made last year so great for these players and their teams to make this year even more special. This season starts slowly, and it snowballs into something greater.