The New Albany High School boys basketball team got pushed around and turned the ball over more last year than the players care to remember.
So 13th-year coach Sam Davis, buoyed by the optimism of a five-game winning streak to end the regular season, made strength training and ball handling the top
priorities for offseason work.
“Anyone who watched our games last year knows the teams that really put a lot of defensive pressure on us and were really physical, we struggled (against them),” Davis said. “So we wanted to make sure we got into the weight room. We worked extremely hard on our ball handling. Kudos to the kids. They did most of the work.”
Davis hopes the frontcourt of 6-foot-8 senior Jack Serbin and 6-2 senior Devon Pitts, both of whom have put on an estimated 15 pounds, coupled with 6-2 senior point guard Jalen Rhea can take the Eagles to a league championship and beyond.
Rhea is an American University signee who averaged 14.4 points and was first-team all-OCC-Capital Division and honorable mention all-district.
Serbin displayed some outside shooting prowess last year and has grown two inches since, as did 6-2 senior Jonathan Tolber, an expected starter and honorable mention all-league selection last year.
“Our outside shooting is probably our biggest strength,” Rhea said. “We’ve always been good shooting outside, but I think one of our strengths too is our inside and our height this year.”
Pitts scored 12 points and Rhea had 10 in the Eagles’ opener, a 47-39 home loss to Olentangy Liberty on Dec. 1.
New Albany finished 12-9 overall and 10-4 in the league last year, losing to Dublin Scioto 54-44 in a first-round Division I district tournament game. That broke the winning streak that powered the Eagles into a third-place finish in the OCC-Capital behind co-champions Mount Vernon and Olentangy Orange (11-3 each) and ahead of Delaware (7-7), Big Walnut (7-7), Hilliard Bradley (6-8), Franklin Heights (3-11) and Watkins Memorial (1-13).
New Albany lost three players from a year ago to graduation, two of them all-league selections – guards Jay Marshall (second team) and Chris Scott and forward Evan Schneider (special mention).
This year’s other expected starter is 6-4 junior shooting guard Avery Schneider.
The rest of the roster consists of juniors Michael Buchan (6-1, guard), Tanner Cline (6-3, forward), Darrell Miller (5-11, guard), Trey Quillin (6-1, forward) and Alex Savikinas (5-9, guard), sophomores Chris London (6-3, forward), John Miller (6-7, forward) and Alex Sparks (5-10, guard) and freshmen Bryson London (6-3, guard) and Joey Rolwing (6-1, forward).
New Albany’s league opener is Friday, Dec. 7, at Orange. As part of OCC realignment last summer, Bradley moved to the OCC-Cardinal and was replaced by Olentangy.
In addition to Liberty, the Eagles’ non-league schedule includes defending OCC-Central champion Upper Arlington on Dec. 15 and Division II district semifinalist DeSales on Jan. 22.
“Our non-conference schedule is ridiculous,” Davis said. “It’s not necessarily about winning and losing, it’s about getting better, and you have to play teams like that to find out what you are.”