The Dublin Jerome High School boys basketball team is looking for players to step up on the offensive end this season given that its top two scorers from a year ago graduated and its third-leading scorer won't be playing the entire season.
The Celtics are 1-1 heading into their OCC-Cardinal Division opener Friday, Dec. 7, at home against Hilliard Bradley. They opened Nov. 30 with a 59-55 loss to Watterson but defeated Olentangy 68-66 in double overtime Dec. 1.
Last season, Jerome finished 4-17 overall, placed seventh in the OCC-Cardinal and lost to eventual state champion Pickerington Central 66-35 in the opening round of the Division I district tournament.
"Teamwork will really be important for us because we lost a lot of scoring," 5-foot-10 senior point guard John Laufersweiler said. "We're looking to play team ball and getting everyone involved. We need to be balanced so our opponents just can't focus on one player."
Jerome lost four players from a year ago to graduation, including forward Nick Neale and guard Cam Wilson. Last season, Neale averaged a team-high 12.3 points and 4.4 rebounds and was named honorable mention all-district and special mention all-league. Wilson averaged 10.3 points and 5.1 rebounds and was honorable mention all-league.
Jerome also lost guard Nate Axelrod, who transferred to Dublin Coffman.
Donovan Wilson, a 6-foot senior forward, averaged 7.9 points and 3.7 rebounds last season but only will be available for the first month of the season. A Georgia Tech recruit for football, he will graduate early and enroll at Georgia Tech in January so that he can participate in spring football practice.
Other returnees are 6-6 senior post players Kyle Christian and Austin Sherman. Christian averaged 6.5 points and 3.1 rebounds last season and Sherman averaged 3.7 rebounds.
Christman, Laufersweiler and Sherman are the team captains.
"My role this year is to try to be more of a leader and lead by example," Laufersweiler said. "As you get older, your role has to grow and you have to be a good example for the team and work hard."
Also on the team are seniors Danny Callahan (6-4, guard), Matt Holden (5-10, guard) and Kyle Moser (6-1, guard), juniors Connor Kerns (6-2, guard) and Thomas Menker (6-2, forward) and freshmen Mason Baich (6-1, guard/forward) and Seve Stavroff (5-10, guard).
"The big thing we have to do is work as a team in order to score," third-year coach Dave Hale said.
"We have to identify who will be the scorers for us. We have to work the ball around to get the best shot, and then make that shot."
Against Watterson, Christman had 20 points and Baich scored 11. Christman also led the Celtics in scoring against Olentangy with 15 points, as Kerns (12), Stavroff (12) and Baich (11) also scored in double figures.
Last season, Jerome went 2-12 in the OCC-Cardinal to finish behind Olentangy Liberty (12-2), Westerville North (11-3), Westerville South (11-3), Westerville Central (7-7), Dublin Scioto (6-8) and Olentangy (6-8) and ahead of Marysville (1-13).
As part of OCC realignment last summer, Liberty and Marysville moved to the OCC-Central and Olentangy moved to the OCC-Capital. They were replaced by Bradley, Hilliard Darby and Worthington Kilbourne. Bradley had been in the OCC-Capital and Darby and Kilbourne had been in the OCC-Central.
"This team really put in the hard work in the offseason," Hale said. "This is the hardest-working group I've had at Jerome in terms of the amount of time they have put in to get better.
"This is also their third year with me. They understand what we want to accomplish and we don't have to teach things anymore like it's brand new. Now they understand the system a lot better and it's becoming second nature when they do things."