The Newark High School boys basketball team is not blessed with size or dominant post players.

The Newark High School boys basketball team is not blessed with size or dominant post players.

Thus, when the Wildcats open Friday, Dec. 2, at Independence, they will be relying on fundamentals and team rebounding.

"We play some very athletic teams in our league and in our non-league schedule as well, and we're not very big compared to the teams we'll face," 13th-year coach Jeff Quackenbush said. "We're going to need to concentrate on boxing out and playing good defense."

Newark finished 14-8 overall last season, losing to New Albany 65-58 in four overtimes in the second round of the Division I district tournament. The Wildcats beat Worthington Kilbourne 57-43 in the first round.

"We haven't been to the (district-semifinal round) the past two years, and I definitely don't want to go through high school without playing in the (Fairgrounds) Coliseum, so that's a goal we have this year," said senior Christian Keller, a third-year starter at point guard. "We also want to win the league and we think we have a chance."

Newark went 8-6 to tie Pickerington Central for third place in the OCC-Ohio Division last season, as Gahanna and Pickerington North shared the title at 13-1.
Reynoldsburg (7-7), Grove City (5-9) and Groveport and Lancaster (both 1-13) followed.

The Wildcats open league play Dec. 6 at home against Gahanna.

Other returnees for Newark include seniors Daniel Logan (guard) and Ben Barnhart (6-foot-6, post player), as well as junior Jalen Dartis (guard).

Keller was second-team all-league last season.
"It is a plus to have a third-year starting point guard and we've got some other pieces, too," Quackenbush said. "Daniel Logan is a scrappy leader and Jalen Dartis had some strong shooting games last season."

Barnhart and 6-6 sophomore Teddy Metzen are the only post players on the 10-player roster.

"Ben plays aggressive and hard in the post and his role is to stay in the paint, rebound, keep rebounds alive and maybe alter a few shots on defense," Keller said.

"We need to play together and be strong defensively. I think Daniel plays hard and takes charges and he's very scrappy. He is also always the first one on the floor."

Rounding out the roster are juniors Ryan Burton, Willy Henderson and Brandon Jefferson, sophomore Grant Russell and freshman Jordan Dartis.

Russell and Jordan Dartis have looked strong in scrimmages, according to Keller.
"Grant has a solid shot when he gets his feet set, a lot like Jalen," Keller said. "Jordan seems to be a strong on-ball defender who is capable of hitting jumpers and getting to the basket."

Quackenbush plans to mix and match defenses based on the opponent and wants to use at least eight players in his rotation.

"Our strengths are the three returning guards and having four shooters on the floor most of the time," Quackenbush said. "Obviously, being able to run a half-court offense and playing good half-court defense as a team are the things we're working on hard in our scrimmages.

"We've got to be able to play good team defense and rebound as a team to be successful. We also have to limit our turnovers, especially when we get into our half-court offense."

•Heath was the only boys basketball team in the county to win a district championship last season.

The Bulldogs defeated Columbus Academy 62-57 in double overtime in a Division III district final before losing to Cincinnati Summit Country Day 67-51 in a regional semifinal to finish 18-6 overall.

Heath returns just two players with varsity experience in seniors Jalen Daniels (6-3, guard) and Rodney Porter (6-4, forward). However, both will be in their third seasons on varsity.

Porter was first-team all-district and first-team all-MSL-Ohio. Daniels was second-team all-district and second-team all-league.

"Porter and Daniels are our go-to players," said third-year coach Devin Fulk, whose team opens Friday, Dec. 2, at home against Northridge.

"They both averaged double figures (in scoring) last year on a team with five seniors. I think our fate will be determined by how well and how quickly our new guys adapt to the speed of the varsity game."

Hoping to fill in around the returnees are senior Nick Allen (6-4, forward), juniors Ethan Langley (6-4, forward), Marc Manning (5-10, guard) and Donyelle Simpson (5-10, guard) and sophomores Evan Barrett (5-10, guard) and Jake Geller (6-2, guard).

Fulk said Simpson, Langley and Geller have looked good in the preseason.

"I could see our length and quickness being an advantage on the defensive end of the floor," Fulk said.

"We need to take better care of the ball and we need to learn how to compete harder and be tougher. Ultimately, I think that our toughness will be a determining factor in what kind of season we have."

Last season, Heath shared the league title with Granville, as both went 11-3.
Academy (10-4), Newark Catholic (8-6), Bexley (6-8), Licking Valley and Whitehall (both 5-9) and Lakewood (0-14) followed.

Fulk thinks Academy and Newark Catholic will be the top teams this season.

•Newark Catholic reached a Division IV district final last season before losing to Harvest Prep 56-35.

The OHSAA has banned Harvest Prep from postseason play this season and next for non-compliance of rules, so the Green Wave should have an easier time in district competition.

Newark Catholic, under new coach Ed Scheck, opens Dec. 5 at Whitehall.

•OTHER OPENERS - On Friday, Dec. 2, Licking Valley is at Watkins Memorial and Utica is at Cardington.

Granville, under new coach Joe Rinkes, opens Dec. 6 at Licking Heights.

Lakewood opens Dec. 8 at Whitehall before playing host to Liberty Union on Dec. 9.

Johnstown's schedule is in flux as the football team continued to win and played in a Division IV state semifinal Nov. 26.