The past three seasons, the one constant for the Delaware Hayes High School boys basketball team was the player who ran the show on the floor.
With point guard and 2013 graduate Mike Wells now at St. Thomas More Preparatory in Oakdale, Conn., preparing to play for the University at Albany in New York, the Pacers will have a different look this season.
"We'll use three guys primarily at point guard to replace Wells," said fifth-year coach Jordan Blackburn, whose team opened in the Kory Kirkpatrick Tip-Off Classic held Nov. 29 and 30 at Marion Harding. "We feel we have eight or nine guys who are interchangeable and can get things done to replace last year's talent."
Wells, a three-year starter, averaged 21.1 points, 5.3 assists and 2.9 steals last season and was named third-team all-state and first-team all-district each of the past two seasons. He also shared OCC-Capital Division Player of the Year honors with New Albany's Jalen Rhea last season after earning the honor outright as a junior.
Delaware, which went 16-7 overall last season, losing to eventual district champion Pickerington Central 66-53 in the first round of the Division I district tournament, returns three starters in senior Tyler Treese (6-foot-3, guard) and juniors Khalil Iverson (6-5, forward) and Noble Moore (6-2, shooting guard).
Iverson and Moore are third-year starters.
Last season, Iverson averaged 13.1 points and 11.6 rebounds -- setting the program record for rebounds in a season with 266 -- and shot 63.6 percent from the floor. He made second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
"Khalil is a Division I college prospect who has added dimensions to his game," said Blackburn, whose team opens OCC-Capital play Friday, Dec. 6, at home against Worthington Kilbourne after going 11-3 in the league last season to place second to New Albany (14-0). "He runs the floor well and is an outstanding athlete. We expect him to be our best defender and to be able to play and guard all positions on the floor."
Moore averaged 7.1 points and 2.7 assists last season and was honorable mention all-league, and Treese averaged 4.0 points and 3.0 assists.
"Moore has a great understanding for the game and has added strength and quickness," Blackburn said. "Treese is an excellent leader, one that everyone responds to. (Those two players) are among our best shooters and passers."
The Pacers return four other letterwinners in seniors Jamie Lahman (6-2, forward), Gaige Linville (6-2, forward), Alex Stevens (6-8, forward) and Jante Wright (6-1, guard). Stevens has committed to play for Ohio Dominican University.
Rounding out the roster are senior Philip Frentsos (6-5, guard) and junior Hayden Dunlap (6-4, forward).
Another key loss to graduation was post player Griffin Kinney, who averaged 10.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists last season and made second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
Kinney is attending Fork Union Military Academy, a prep school in Virginia.
"We will replace (the graduates) by being balanced on offense and being committed to rebounding and defense," Blackburn said. "I like the unselfishness and work ethic of this group. Right now, we need to focus on containing penetration and taking care of the ball because it gives the opponent higher-percentage shots."
McMillen back to lead girls basketball team
Senior point guard Kristen McMillen, a fourth-year starter, has returned to lead the girls basketball team.
McMillen averaged 15.0 points and 3.0 assists and was second-team all-league and special mention all-district last season, as Delaware finished 9-14 overall, went 7-7 in the OCC-Capital to place fourth behind champion Olentangy Orange (14-0) and lost to Northland 77-37 in the second round of the Division I district tournament.
McMillen had 19 points in a 60-39 win over Buckeye Valley in the opener Nov. 23 and scored 16 in a 53-33 win over Olentangy Liberty on Nov. 26.
"McMillen is our leader. The offense goes through her," first-year coach Peter Minardi said. "She will reach 1,000 career points this year."
Other key returnees include senior guard Julie Bauer, 5-8 senior forward Miriam Aburmaieleh and 5-9 junior forward Abbie Gore.
Last season, Bauer averaged 12.2 points and 3.2 assists and was special mention all-league and Aburmaieleh made honorable mention all-league. Gore missed half of last season with an injury.
Bauer had 16 points against Buckeye Valley.
"Julie Bauer brings leadership, work ethic and hustle," Minardi said.
Also back are seniors Maranda Merriman (guard) and Katie Ellis (5-9, forward) and sophomore Brandy Bauer (5-9, forward).
Merriman had 12 points against Buckeye Valley and scored 16 against Liberty.
Rounding out the roster are juniors Alexis Anderson (forward), Ausia Anderson (guard) and Sirya Banks (guard).
"On offense, we want to have a balanced attack," Minardi said. "We will work both sides of the floor and we need to get our posts involved in the game early to get our shooters some open looks at the basket. Defensively, we will look to establish our man-to-man defense while playing a little zone to switch it up. We want to pressure the ball and protect the gaps.
"We are young behind the seniors, so I think that will hurt our depth at the start of the season. We lack size, but attitude and effort will help us overcome that."
Delaware opens OCC-Capital play Tuesday, Dec. 3, at home against Olentangy, which was league runner-up a year ago.
"To have success, we need to stay healthy," Minardi said. "Last year, we struggled when we had some injuries to our post players, which left us more one-dimensional than we wanted to be. We need to trust that our teammates will be working hard and in a position to help us by knowing their roles and executing them."