Perhaps not surprisingly for a team that lost 38 points per game from a year ago, the New Albany High School boys basketball team enters this season with more questions than answers.
Four seniors and five juniors will attempt to earn the Eagles' third OCC-Capital Division championship in four years. Fourteenth-year coach Sam Davis is hoping one or more of them will develop the scoring prowess of 2013 graduate Jalen Rhea -- who averaged 19 points last year and scored 26 or more nine times -- and compensate for the loss of 6-foot-9 center Jack Serbin, who was both an inside presence and 3-point shooting threat.
Rhea now is playing at American University, while Serbin is playing for Carnegie Mellon and guard Devon Pitts is at Denison.
"Replacing those kids is hard to do, but I like this group," Davis said. "I'm anxious to see what we can do when we put all the pieces together. I think we have the stuff to compete with a lot of teams."
New Albany was 22-3 overall and 14-0 in the OCC-Capital last year, but lost to league rival Olentangy Orange 46-45 in overtime in a Division I district semifinal.
Originally scheduled to open Dec. 3 at Olentangy Liberty, the Eagles instead will start Friday, Dec. 6, at Orange.
The Liberty game was moved to Jan. 11, largely so New Albany could have more practices with its players who also participated in the football team's run to the Division II, Region 5 final. New Albany lost to Zanesville 35-28 on Nov. 22.
Senior forward Avery Schneider (6-4) and 5-11 senior guard Trey Miller each started last year, the latter in place of 2013 graduate Jona-than Tolber when he missed several weeks because of a torn meniscus. Schneider averaged 7.4 points and was special mention all-league.
The rest of the senior class consists of 6-3 forward Tanner Cline and 5-10 guard Alex Savikinas. Cline was the football team's quarterback, and Savikinas was its punter.
Five juniors also will be on varsity -- 6-8 forward Jacob Budin, 6-3 forward Chris London, 6-10 center John Miller, 6-0 guard Austin Schaub and 5-11 guard Alex Sparks.
"We're deep this year. We're more even throughout the lineup, as opposed to having one or two guys who stick out above everybody else," Schneider said. "Jalen could score 25 a game and kind of carry us if we weren't playing as well. I think it'll be more even this year. Pretty much every spot is up for grabs. It could vary week to week (or at) any time."
Also on the roster are 6-3 sophomore guard Joey Rolwing and 6-4 sophomore guard/forward Bryson London. According to Davis, 6-4 freshman forward B.J. Duling might dress.
"We have a few kids who can really shoot the ball this year, but we want to hang our hat on defense," Davis said. "We're not a great passing team yet, so we have to continue to work on the fundamentals of our defensive package and work on our passing. But we can shoot a little bit and we can play with some energy."
Wrestling team hopes for steady improvement
District qualifier Matthew Jones returns at 195 pounds to lead the wrestling team, which has nine freshmen and sophomores on its roster and will start the season filling all but one class.
"I have a few kids coming back who got a lot of varsity experience," said 11th-year coach Marc Cofer, referring to Jones, a sophomore, and junior Jeffrey Kim. "It's a decent group of kids who got a lot of varsity matches under their belts last year. It'll be one of those seasons where it's a year-long process -- get them in the right type of matches, right tournaments, get them experience. By February, we'll be a lot better than we are right now.
"We'll take our lumps, but that's part of the sport."
Jones was fourth at 195 in a Division I sectional tournament last year and 0-2 at district.
New Albany, which does not have a heavyweight, has four seniors in A.J. Antolik (160), Josh Mormol (152), Luke Schroeder (160) and Harri Seward (138).
Also expected to compete are juniors Cameron Brooks (132), Hayden Estey (170) and Kim (182), sophomores Grant Adams (145), Alex Boffo (120/126), Lucas Ingram (120/126), Jones and Nate Swinconos (220) and freshmen Blake Atwell (120/126), Luke Estey (220), Justin Mormol (120/126) and Kaleb Peterhaensel (106).
The Eagles opened Nov. 30 in DeSales' Tony Pizzurro Memorial Tournament. They finished second (174) behind St. Charles (200) in the seven-team field.
OCC-Capital competition begins Wednesday, Dec. 11, at home against Worthington Kilbourne.
"We haven't talked a lot about expectations at this point," Jones said. "Everybody has their own individual goals. As a team, we'd like to compete in the OCC better than in past years. Without filling a lot of weight classes, we couldn't really compete giving up so many points."