LEROY — It seems like yesterday, not three seasons ago, that Mitch McDonald was a freshman starter on the Pine River basketball team showing he could do just fine on the varsity level.

Now McDonald is a senior, hoping to help the Bucks have another successful season on the court.

The Bucks had three scrimmages during the preseason, and then proceeded to post wins over Harrison and Traverse City Christian to open the season.

“You could definitely tell we got better from the first scrimmage to (the third one),” he said,  prior to the start of the regular season. “Our defense has gotten a lot better. We’re starting to come into our own with scorers.”

Four seniors graduated from a Pine River squad last season that was undefeated in the Highland Conference.

“They’re going to be hard to replace,” McDonald said. “We’ve got the guys coming up in their first year and they’ll get better as they season goes on.”

The Bucks are expected to be Highland Conference contenders. But there are some differences.

“Last year’s team, I would say we were more deadly from the 3-point line,” McDonald said. “We had Skyler (Nelson) and Brandon (Hoaglund) and they were just lights out. I think we have the shooters. We’ll get better.”

His role, McDonald said, will be “different, but kind of the same,” he said. “I’m expecting the ball to be in my hands a lot. If it’s scoring then I’ll score and if it’s passing, then I’ll pass it. Any one of these guys can go for 20 in a night.”

McDonald indicated he feels more comfortable shooting the ball this season, including threes. That’s the area of his game he indicated that he’s improved upon the most.

McDonald is hoping the Bucks can repeat as league champs.