First-year Groveport Madison High School boys basketball coach Ryan Grashel understands the challenge that his team is facing this season and he knows what it will take to meet that challenge.
Last season under former coach Terrance Holliman, the Cruisers finished 1-20 overall and went 0-14 in the OCC-Ohio Division to finish eighth, behind Pickerington Central (13-1), Newark (11-3), Gahanna (8-6), Grove City (8-6), Reynoldsburg (7-7), Pickerington North (7-7) and Lancaster (0-14).
Groveport lost to fourth-seeded Pickerington Central 71-34 in the second round of the Division I district tournament a year ago after having a first-round bye.
Holliman coached the Cruisers for only one season.
"The vision for Groveport Madison basketball is progress," said Grashel, who was a freshman coach for the Cruisers last season. "This progress will occur in the school, classrooms, community and athletic environments. These are not four separate parts, rather four parts working together for one common goal. It will take the efforts of student-athletes, parents, coaches, teachers and community members.
"The team goal is to become competitive within our division of the OCC and develop a respectable program within central Ohio."
Groveport opened Dec. 1 with a 66-61 loss to Columbus South and played Westerville Central on Dec. 4. It begins OCC-Ohio play Friday, Dec. 7, at Gahanna.
The Cruisers return one starter from last season in 5-foot-11 junior guard C.J. Crowder. The only other returnee is 6-2 senior forward Mohamadou Ba, who didn't join the varsity roster until the postseason.
Crowder expects to get scoring help from 5-9 freshman point guard Tyus Ferguson and 5-11 sophomore guard Tyrone Cherry.
"I think we've got a good game plan right now," Crowder said. "We don't have a lot of size, but we're going to use our speed on offense and defense. We've got a lot of guys who can drive it, kick it out and shoot it. Tyus and Tyrone are going to get their points."
Grashel is counting heavily on what he believes is a strong group of guards. Other guards are seniors Larry Adams (5-7) and Mark Johnson-Reed (6-0) and juniors Kylan Hicks (5-11) and Zavon Rivers (5-9).
Against South, Ferguson had a team-high 17 points, Cherry scored 16 and Crowder scored 11.
"(Crowder) can stretch the defense and create for teammates," Grashel said. "Ferguson will step in and run the point and score. He has a great basketball IQ and will be pivotal for the turnaround of this program."
Rounding out the roster are senior Dareyl Hamlet (6-2, forward), juniors Jake Seipel (6-4, forward) and DeShawn Sowell (5-11, forward) and sophomores Markel Davis (6-1, forward) and Carmearl Thomas (6-6, center).
"We're mainly working on defense and transition offense," Seipel said. "We know we're not going to go from 1-20 to 15-5 this year, but we're trying to improve, be competitive and build for the future. (Grashel) is giving us a lift and I think we will be improved."
Groveport's only win last season came against Whetstone, 40-38. The Cruisers, who play host to the Braves on Jan. 22, lost four games by six or fewer points, including a pair of two-point losses.
"We are athletic at all positions and have great depth coming off the bench at our guard position," Grashel said. "We want to be the best defensive team within (the OCC-Ohio). Defense leads to offense.
"We lack size and strength in the post area. We are going to get out and run in the open court, pushing the basketball up our wings and hoping for our playmakers to create."