After watching his team fight through an injury-plagued season a year ago, Dublin Coffman High School boys basketball coach Jamey Collins is hoping this season will provide a fresh start.
The Shamrocks opened Dec. 1 with a 61-59 win over Centennial and begin OCC-Central Division play Friday, Dec. 7, at home against Hilliard Davidson.
Last season, Coffman finished 13-9 overall, tied for second in the OCC-Central and lost to 11th-seeded Gahanna 61-49 in the second round of the Division I district tournament after beating Hilliard Bradley 69-50 in the first round.
"Like any year, you just hope that your kids are playing to their best ability," said Collins, who is in his 11th season leading the program. "Toward the end of last year, despite not having the record that we wanted, I'll give our guys credit (because) we were playing up to the level we should have been playing at. We just didn't necessarily have the bodies that we thought we were going to have (because of injuries), but we were still playing at that level."
Coffman returns six players in seniors Hayden Dygert (6-foot-6, post player), Jason Hall (6-4, forward), Tyrel Jackson (6-1, guard), Kevin Marsh (6-6, forward) and Josh Morrow (6-2, guard) and sophomore Gage Hisey (6-4, forward).
Last season, Hall averaged 9.5 points and was named honorable mention all-district and second-team all-league but missed five games with a foot injury. Morrow averaged 6.6 points but missed the final seven games with a shoulder injury, and Dygert missed three games with a concussion.
Also missing time last season were 2012 graduates Kyle Molock and Eric Weisenbach.
Molock, a freshman guard at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia, missed the final 13 games with a knee injury. He was averaging a team-best 16.5 points and the Shamrocks were 7-1 when the injury occurred.
Weisenbach, a freshman forward at Tennessee Tech, missed the tournament opener with a concussion.
Last season, Marsh averaged 8.6 points and was honorable mention all-league. Because of injuries, Hisey was called up from junior varsity midway through last season and averaged 6.6 points in the final 13 games.
Also on the team are juniors Nate Axelrod (5-6, point guard) and Carter Leffler (5-8, guard), sophomores Shaun Rankin (5-8, guard) and C.J. Saunders (5-9, guard) and freshmen Seth Fuller (5-9, guard) and Luke Vargo (6-6, forward).
Axelrod is a transfer from Dublin Jerome.
"We've been working hard in the offseason," Dygert said. "We have to rebound well, we have to stay composed in the good and bad times and we have to make our shots. I think we're a good team this year, maybe even a little better than last year."
Against Centennial, Hall had a game-high 25 points. Marsh had nine points and Dygert and Morrow each scored seven, as the Shamrocks led 48-41 after three quarters and withstood a fourth-quarter rally by the Stars to get the win.
"We knew we were in for a challenge (against Centennial)," Collins said. "Opening night is a big deal to these kids and there's no doubt there were a lot of jitters. There were a lot of mental errors, which is a little bit frustrating, but we knew this was going to be a tough environment."
Last season in the OCC-Central, Coffman tied Thomas Worthington for second, behind Upper Arlington (12-2) and ahead of Westland (8-6), Worthington Kilbourne (8-6), Davidson (7-7), Hilliard Darby (3-11) and Central Crossing (0-14).
As part of OCC realignment last summer, Darby and Kilbourne moved to the OCC-Cardinal and were replaced by Marysville and Olentangy Liberty. Last season, Liberty won the OCC-Cardinal and finished 21-3, losing to eventual state champion Pickerington Central 60-58 in a regional semifinal.
"It's nice to have a group of kids who are continually committed to trying to get better," Collins said. "Our coaches realize how fortunate we are."