Jim VanWinkle is making the transition to being a head coach, even if the players on the Hilliard Darby High School boys basketball team haven't noticed a difference.

Jim VanWinkle is making the transition to being a head coach, even if the players on the Hilliard Darby High School boys basketball team haven't noticed a difference.

VanWinkle was approved by the school board in July to lead the Panthers program after spending six seasons as an assistant under Brett Norris.

"It's been a pretty smooth transition," said VanWinkle, whose team finished 7-13 overall last season after losing to Olentangy Liberty 65-43 in the opening round of the Division I district tournament. "I already had a relationship with the players after coaching with coach Norris over the past few years.

"Definitely being a head coach is different because you have to deal with organizational things like setting up practices and scrimmages. When you're an assistant, you don't deal with those things."

Senior Bryson Hook, a 6-foot guard, is the team's only returning starter and its top returning scorer, having averaged 6.4 points per contest last season.

"It's been pretty much the same since we have had 'Coach V' for a while," Hook said. "It's been pretty much the same as having coach Norris being there. There are some little things that are different because of just coaching styles, but it definitely has the same feel."

Juniors Cade Carter (6-0, guard) and Nic Baker (6-2, guard) return along with sophomore shooting guard Taylor VanWinkle, a 6-0 guard who is the son of the coach.

"Cade Carter and Nic Baker are back as juniors and we have a lot of inexperience after that," coach VanWinkle said. "But they are a bunch of good kids who work hard and get along well together.

"Bryson will be running the point with help from junior Kaleb Sislowski (6-0) and freshman David Dennis (5-7). I think our guard play will be the key. I think we can shoot the ball a little better (as a team) because Nic and Bryson both shoot the ball well."

Post players include seniors Steven Miles (6-5) and Tavish Wille (6-7) and juniors Jimi Booker (6-6) and Clay Smith (6-5). Wille is back after taking last season off but is battling a groin injury. Miles has been hampered by an injured toe.

"I think our strength is that we are a little more productive on offense than we were last year," Hook said. "Rebounds can be a challenge, but we definitely have some good shooters."

The Panthers open Saturday, Dec. 3, at Watterson and begin OCC-Central Division play Tuesday, Dec. 6, at Worthington Kilbourne.

Darby and Kilbourne tied for fifth in the league last season at 5-9, behind co-champions Dublin Coffman and Upper Arlington (both 13-1), as well as Thomas Worthington (9-5) and Hilliard Davidson (7-7). Central Crossing and Westland (both 2-12) rounded out the standings.

"The kids have good camaraderie, they work hard and they enjoy playing basketball," coach VanWinkle said. "We have some decent size once we get everyone healthy and back for us."