One of the challenges the Big Walnut High School boys basketball team faces in the early stages of the season is replacing the three starters from a year ago who were lost to graduation, particularly the Beam twins.
Grant Beam, a guard, averaged a team-high 12.4 points last season and was named first-team all-league and third-team all-district. Tyler Beam, also a guard, averaged 9.3 points and was honorable mention all-district and special mention all-league.
The other starter who graduated was forward Seth Wandling, who averaged 5.7 points.
"The biggest problem was replacing Grant and Tyler," second-year coach Eric Myers said. "They very rarely came off the floor and were very seasoned and very experienced.
"They both did a great job of not just executing our game plan, but understanding our game plan. They were an extension of the coaching staff on the floor."
Last season, the Golden Eagles finished 12-10 overall and went 7-7 in the OCC-Capital Division to tie Delaware Hayes for fourth, behind co-champions Mount Vernon (11-3) and Olentangy Orange (11-3) and New Albany (10-4) and ahead of Hilliard Bradley (6-8), Franklin Heights (3-11) and Watkins Memorial (1-13).
As part of OCC realignment, Bradley moved to the OCC-Cardinal and was replaced by Olentangy, which had been in the OCC-Cardinal.
Seeded 11th in the Division II district tournament last season, Big Walnut defeated Granville 55-50 in the first round before losing to fourth-seeded Watterson 48-41 in the second round.
"We've had such a different group of kids this year that we're working on this team's identity," Myers said.
"You can see the atmosphere changing in the program. The kids are working hard and getting after it."
Big Walnut returns two starters in 6-foot-6 senior forward Adam Shaheen and 6-1 senior guard Zach Laughman.
Last season, Shaheen averaged 8.6 points and was honorable mention all-league, and Laughman averaged 6.2 points.
"Adam has really progressed and improved immensely," Myers said. "Zach's done a lot to expand his game. He's spent a lot of hours in the gym working."
Also back are senior Carson Chatterton (6-1, forward) and juniors Logan Boyd (5-11, guard), Nick Herbert (5-11, guard) and Chase LaVeer (5-11, guard).
Rounding out the team are juniors Jeremy Bok (6-3, forward) and Grant Burks (5-9, guard) and sophomores Zachary Asher (6-4, forward), Michael Buckles (5-11, guard/forward) and Kyle Gose (5-7, guard).
Chatterton, who averaged 3.1 points last season coming off the bench, is out indefinitely with a lingering foot injury from football.
Big Walnut opened Nov. 30 with a 56-53 loss to Buckeye Valley but rebounded to beat Utica 68-32 on Dec. 3. The Golden Eagles were 1-1 before opening OCC-Capital play Dec. 7 against Olentangy.
The Golden Eagles face Olentangy again Jan. 18 on the road.
"It's always a big game," Chatterton said of the rivalry with the Braves. "Now that they're in the (league), it makes it even bigger. It's definitely exciting."
Against Buckeye Valley, Laughman had 21 points and Shaheen scored 15.
"We struggled a little bit at first with our youth," Myers said. "But I like how the kids responded to our game plan and executing that. (The game against) Buckeye Valley could have gone either way."
Against Utica, Laughman had 14 points and Shaheen scored 13.
"A sign for any team of how the season might look is how you do from week one to week two," Myers said. "That was a great turnaround."
Girls basketball team starts strong
The girls basketball team was 2-0 overall and 1-0 in the OCC-Capital before playing Olentangy on Dec. 7.
The Golden Eagles defeated Franklin Heights 61-27 in their season and league opener Nov. 30. Senior forward Emily Chucta had 14 points to lead the way, with senior post player Sara Petty scoring 11 and senior guard Kayleigh Hammond and junior post player Skylar Fleak each scoring nine.
Big Walnut beat Licking Heights 49-29 on Dec. 4, as Fleak had 12 points and senior guard Samantha Klinedinst and Petty scored 10 and nine points, respectively.