The Northern Essex Community College men’s basketball team is going to be smaller in numbers and small in size this fall.

And, after last year’s 4-19 season, that’s fine with head coach Joe Tardif.

It wasn’t just the losses that bothered Tardif last year but the general atmosphere.

“What I don’t want to repeat is the lack of commitment, the excuses, the academic problems, all the uncertainty,” said Tardif. “It just wasn’t fun.”

Those negatives, as well as less talent in the areas Tardif stresses, resulted in a losing culture. With eight new faces on a smaller-than-usual 10-man squad, he believes there should be a turnaround in 2017-18.

“I like this squad,” said Tardif. “We’ve got more quickness and better shooters and we have kids who want to play.”

“I have more talent — more guys who can handle the ball and more guys who can shoot the 3-pointer, and those are the kind of players I’m looking for. I want guys who can shoot the ball.”

The lone two returnees, Haverhill guard Eddie Cardona and North Reading forward Adam Goldstein, were productive scorers last year and should be even more prolific as sophomores.

Cardona averaged 16.9 points as a freshman while the 6-foot-4 Goldstein came in at 12.8 and also averaged 8.4 rebounds.

Among those joining them in the starting will be Dracut’s 6-4 DJ Greenlaugh, who has not played competitively in a couple of years but Tardif is extremely high on, and Alexis Greenhalgh, a hot-shooting guard who played for Dan Habib at Greater Lawrence three years ago.

Also likely to start is 6-2 point guard Emir Alagoz, one of two players on the squad from Istanbul, Turkey. The other is Guney Kilitcioglu, who can play several positions.

Others on the squad include Amesbury freshman Kyle Martin, who Tardif says has been a pleasant surprise, Dracut’s Kyle Scott, North Andover’s Robert Quinlan and Trey Sanford from Salem, N.H. 

“I don’t expect to have a consistent 20-point scorer, but I have three or four guys who could average 14-15 points,” said Tardif. “And every guy on the squad can shoot the three, which I like.”

Still, with no one on the team taller than 6-4, Tardif understands the challenge ahead of the Knights.

“Rebounding and defending the big man are the keys for us,” said Tardif. “We need our guards and everyone on the team to rebound if we are to be successful.”

The Knights open their season this weekend at the NHTI Tournament in Concord, N.H.

*************************NECC schedule in box*********

NECC schedule

Nov. 3-4 — at NHTI tournament

Nov. 7 -- Ven Franklin, 6 p.m.

Nov. 11 -- Massasoit, 1 p.m.

Nov. 16 -- at Bunker Hill, 6 p.m.

Nov. 18 -- at Gateway, 1 p.m.

Nov. 21 -- at Roxbury, 6 p.m.

Nov. 28 -- Mass Bay CC, 6 p.m.

Nov. 30 -- at Holyoke, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 2 -- Springfield Tech, 1 p.m.

Dec. 5 -- Quinsigamond, 6 p.m.

Dec. 7 -- at Bristol CC, 7 p.m.

Dec. 9 -- UConn-Avery Point, 1 p.m.

Dec. 11 -- at Quincy College, 6 p.m.

Jan. 16 -- at Ben Franklin, TBA

Jan. 18 -- Quincy College, 6 p.m.

Jan. 20 -- at Massasoit, 3 p.m.

Jan. 23 -- at CCRI, 6 p.m.

Jan. 25 -- at Bunker Hill, 7 p.m.

Jan. 27 -- Gateway, 1 p.m.

Jan. 30 -- Roxbury, 6 p.m.

Feb. 1 -- at Mass Bay, 7 p.m.

Feb. 3 -- at Springfield Tech, 1 p.m.

Feb. 6 -- Holyoke CC, 6 p.m.

Feb. 8 -- at Quinsigamond, 5 p.m.

Feb. 10 -- at UConn Avery Point

Feb. 17 -- Bristol CC, 1 p.m.