As has been the case throughout most of coach Tony Staib's tenure, the Gahanna Lincoln High School boys basketball team is hoping a guard-oriented approach will cause problems for opposing defenses.
The Lions also believe chemistry will be a strength, even with the addition of a newcomer who likely will be a key player.
Senior Aaron Jackson leads a list of returnees that should get a boost from junior Javon Bess, who grew up in Gahanna and played in the district as a middle schooler before spending the last two years at Pickerington Central.
While Jackson is a 6-foot-7 guard who has verbally committed to the University of Akron, Bess is a 6-5 guard who has offers from Cleveland State and Kent State and "will get a lot more," according to Staib.
Gahanna opened Dec. 1 with a 102-59 win over Mifflin and plays its OCC-Ohio Division opener Friday, Dec. 7, at home against Groveport.
"We've got a lot of chemistry because we've got a few players back from last year, and we're used to playing with Javon," 6-0 senior guard Troy Mundy said. "He's a good addition to the team. We're not going to be selfish at all. I think our guards are going to be the strongest part of our team."
Jackson scored 21 points in a 53-50 loss to Olentangy Liberty in a Division I district semifinal that gave Gahanna a final record of 16-7 last season. He averaged 14 points, 5.5 rebounds, two assists and two steals and made first-team all-league, third-team all-district and the ThisWeek Super 12.
Bess played 19 minutes and scored three points in Pickerington Central's 45-40 victory over Toledo Whitmer in the Division I state championship game last March. He also had 10 points in 19 minutes in a 60-45 win over Fairfield in a state semifinal.
Also back are seniors Ronnie Stokes Jr. (5-11, guard), Jabari Latta (6-0, guard) and Deonte Williams (6-0, guard) and juniors Manny Powell (5-9, guard) and Keith Scowden (6-5, center).
Stokes averaged 7.0 points and was honorable mention all-league a year ago, and Mundy (3.5 points per game), Scowden (3.5 ppg) and Powell (2.6 ppg) also contributed.
Other juniors on the team are Corey Howard (5-11, guard) and Jimmer Ryan (6-0, guard).
Freshman Nick Ward (6-5) joins Scowden at center.
"We are so guard-heavy that we'll have numerous players running the point guard position," said Staib, who went 153-72 in his first 10 seasons at Gahanna, including 98-21 over the past five. "To me (Bess) is similar to (Jackson) in that he can guard all five positions and is a very good defender.
"Last year we had a lot of young players, so it's nice to bring back a lot of experience. We have a good mix of seniors and underclassmen and we're very deep at the guard position as we always are, plus we have some size this year and coming up as well."
The Lions won the league in 2009-10 and shared the title with Pickerington North in 2010-11.
Last season, Gahanna tied Grove City for third (8-6) in the OCC-Ohio behind Pickerington Central (13-1) and Newark (11-3). Reynoldsburg and Pickerington North tied for fifth (7-7), and Lancaster (2-12) and Groveport (0-14) rounded out the standings.
Reynoldsburg won a district title and Newark was a district runner-up a year ago.
The Lions opened the district tournament with wins over Lancaster (71-44) and Dublin Coffman (61-49). They lost five players to graduation, including second-team all-league selection Austin Rutherford (12.1 ppg) and Isaiah Israel (6.6 ppg).
"(The OCC-Ohio is) definitely a hard league to play in," Mundy said. "There are a lot of competitive teams, but I think we have a real good chance. This is my last year and I want to go out strong."