The Whetstone High School boys basketball team is looking to get off to a better start than it did last season.
The Braves, who opened Nov. 29 with a 74-48 loss to Columbus West, finished 6-17 overall a year ago, posting half of their wins in their final six games.
"I think we're a pretty good team, and I think we'll be more competitive," said 6-foot point guard Aaron Adair, a starter who averaged 5.2 points last season. "It'd be nice to win 10 games or go .500 or better."
Adair is one of three starters to return for Whetstone, which has had two winning seasons under seventh-year coach Kevin Arway, going 13-9 in 2010-11 and 15-8 in 2008-09. The other two are 6-1 senior forward Darius Bester and 5-11 senior guard Brian Scott, who averaged 5.3 points last season.
"Aaron Adair is a veteran point guard who will direct traffic and help control the tempo of the game," Arway said. "Brian Scott epitomizes the toughness, hard work and hustle mantras of our team. We have good speed and I think we're going to have good guard play. I think we'll be able to execute our sets and take good care of the basketball.
"Darius Bester has developed into a strong basketball player who often is the fastest player on the court."
Rounding out the roster are junior guards Ike Boateng (6-0), Jordan Frazier (6-0) and Lemont Williams (6-0), sophomore forward Dexter Kowalski (6-4), sophomore guards Damarius Bradley (5-11), Shamari Jacobs (5-11) and Tommy Lee (6-0) and freshman forward Jack Staggs (6-2).
Kowalski and Staggs are the only players taller than 6-1.
"We're small and one person can't do it all inside," Bester said. "We're going to have to rebound as a team. We want to play great defense and get some turnovers up top and get some easy scores that way."
"Dexter is our only true big," Adair said. "Jack has a big responsibility for a freshman because he'll be in there when Dexter needs a blow. But we're all going to play good defense and box out to limit the second chances. Hopefully, our press and run-and-jump will work and help us get easy points."
According to Arway, Boateng will be out until mid-December because of an injury.
The Braves lost two starters from last season to graduation in forward Gary Hoover and guard Claude Bogan. Hoover averaged a team-high 14 points and a team-high nine rebounds and Bogan averaged 12 points and 2.7 assists.
"We lack size and consistent experience," Arway said. "We're going to apply pressure and play hard-nosed defense. To have success, we must focus on doing all the little things right."
Whetstone begins City League-North Division play Friday, Dec. 6, at Columbus East. The Braves finished 3-11 in the league last season to place seventh behind champion Northland (14-0).
With Columbus International joining the City-North this season, Whetstone will face Beechcroft, Centennial, East, International, Mifflin and Northland twice each in league play and Brookhaven and Linden once each for a total of 14 league games.
"I would definitely consider Northland as the favorite in our league," Arway said. "After that, though, the rest of the City-North is fairly wide open."