With a senior Division I recruit and a touted sophomore class, the Gahanna Lincoln High School boys basketball team isn't hiding its ultimate goal after finishing one step short of the state tournament a year ago.
However, there will be more to the regular season for the Lions than just preparing for the postseason.
Winning the OCC-Ohio Division championship, a goal that eluded the Lions a year ago, also is at the forefront as they begin league play Friday, Dec. 6, at Groveport.
The Lions, who were 22-6 overall last season, opened Nov. 29 by beating Brookhaven 54-47 at home.
"Basically everything about last season has driven us to do well this year," senior guard Javon Bess said. "There was a four-way tie for our (league title) last year and we weren't even one of those teams. We have some unfinished business. Our goals are to win the OCC championship and to win the state championship."
Bess has returned to lead a team that beat Newark 64-54 in a district final despite being the ninth seed in last year's tournament. Gahanna then defeated 2012 state champion Pickerington Central 53-50 before falling to Northland 62-53 in a regional final.
The 6-foot-5 Bess, who transferred from Pickerington Central before last season and signed with Michigan State in November, averaged 18.1 points and made second-team all-district and first-team all-league a year ago.
The other seniors are 5-11 guard Manny Powell, 6-5 center Keith Scowden and 5-11 guard Corey Howard. Powell averaged 8.6 points and Scowden averaged 4.1 points last season.
Also back is sophomore post player Nick Ward, who has grown three inches to 6-8 after averaging 3.6 points last season.
New to the program is sophomore Matt Moyer, a 6-7 guard who has scholarship offers from Dayton, Detroit, Ohio University and Wisconsin. He played at Whetstone last season before transferring in the offseason.
Sophomore Chad Barrick (6-5, guard) is expected to get increased playing time after playing sparingly on varsity a year ago.
Junior center Alonzo Campbell (6-11) has grown three inches since last season.
Also looking to contribute are junior guards Jenysis Battle (6-2) and Dezjuan Wright (6-0) and sophomore guards Junior Arrey (5-11) and Braden Foulke (5-10).
"One of our biggest strengths is our depth," said coach Tony Staib, who is 175-78 in 11 seasons. "All 12 players have strengths, so the thing about us is that we have a very versatile team.
"We have enough big guys that we can go big, or we can still go full-court pressure. This is probably one of the biggest teams Gahanna has ever had."
Gahanna, which has won three district titles in four seasons, lost a four-member 2013 senior class that included college recruits Aaron Jackson (Akron) and Ronnie Stokes Jr. (Walsh).
The Lions went 9-5 in the league last season but settled for fifth as Grove City, Newark, Pickerington Central and Reynoldsburg shared the title at 10-4.
"We want to win an OCC title, and we know how difficult that is in our league," Staib said. "It's been coming together little by little."