After losing in the second round of the Division I district tournament in three consecutive seasons, the Brookhaven High School boys basketball team found a more comfortable fit in Division II last winter.
The Bearcats, who won seven consecutive Division I district championships from 2000-06, captured a Division II title last season before losing to Sandusky Perkins 67-61 in a regional semifinal to finish 19-6 overall.
With the return of seniors Randal Clarkson and Kevin Greenhow and the addition of a Division I college signee in senior Deiondray Martin, Brookhaven is looking to make another title run this season.
Last season, Clarkson (5-foot-10, guard) averaged 14 points and was named first-team all-league and second-team all-district and Greenhow (6-5, forward) averaged 12.5 points and was honorable mention all-league and all-district.
Martin, a 6-5 post player, is a move-in from Detroit who has signed with Eastern Michigan University.
Coach Hali Robinson, who is in his 10th season leading the program, is excited about his team's potential and believes Martin could be the impact inside player the Bearcats lacked last season.
"There are a lot of good teams out there," said Robinson, who entered the season with a 159-55 record at Brookhaven. "They're coming along. We'll continue to work on those areas that we need to work on."
The Bearcats opened Dec. 4 against Westerville South and begin City League-North Division play Friday, Dec. 7, at Centennial.
Also back are seniors Malik Bush (6-4, forward) and Blake McEwen (5-8, guard), junior Ronnie Williams (6-2, guard) and sophomore J-Saun Davis (6-3, forward).
Senior Rahman Clay (5-10, guard), junior DeVante Wilson and sophomores Robert Banks, Shaderick Kimble and Tauheed Williams are others looking to contribute.
Last season, Brookhaven went 12-2 in the City-North to place second, behind Northland (14-0) and ahead of Centennial (9-5), Beechcroft (6-8), Mifflin (6-8), Columbus East (5-9), Whetstone (3-11) and Linden-McKinley (1-13).
Seeded second in the district tournament, Brookhaven beat Hamilton Township (82-22), Bexley (68-45), Beechcroft (88-51) and fourth-seeded Watterson (57-43) to win a district title.
The Bearcats lost five players from last season to graduation, including Khalid King, who is playing for North Carolina A&T after averaging 15.7 points and making first-team all-league and all-district.
Franklin, Hale back to lead Beechcroft boys
The Beechcroft boys basketball team is hoping the combination of a strong group of returnees and a talented newcomer leads to more wins.
Seniors Khaleed Franklin (6-3, guard/forward) and Maurice Hale (6-3, forward) are the top returnees from last season, when the Cougars finished 8-15 overall but reached a Division II district semifinal.
Franklin averaged 19 points and was second-team all- district.
The Cougars have added Patrick Ngene-Igwe to their lineup. Ngene-Igwe is a 6-3 senior forward who averaged 17 points and 12 rebounds for Linden last season.
Beechcroft opened Dec. 1 with a 65-39 loss to Olentangy Orange and begins City-North play Friday, Dec. 7, at home against Mifflin.
The Cougars went 6-8 in the City-North last season to tie Mifflin for fourth.
"Khaleed has been playing varsity since his freshman year and Maurice since his sophomore year," first-year coach Humphrey Simmons said. "They're great leaders and they've got a lot of expectations."
The other seniors are Michael Odogwu (6-6, forward) and Daniel Yeboah (guard).
Junior Tarik Woods and sophomore Robert Martin both are expected to see playing time at point guard. Others looking to contribute include junior Darius Ford (guard) and sophomores Dante Burt (guard), Tolliver Cunningham (guard) and Anthony McClendonn (guard).
Against Orange, Martin had 17 points and Franklin scored 14.
Last season, Beechcroft lost its first six games and was just 3-11 before splitting its final six regular-season contests.
Then, in the district tournament, the Cougars beat Independence (54-53) and Marion-Franklin (69-65) before losing to Brookhaven in a semifinal.
Simmons coached the Berwick Middle School boys team for two seasons before serving as an assistant coach for Beechcroft under coach Scott Davis the past two seasons. Davis resigned last June to become the coach at Reynoldsburg.
In four seasons under Davis, the Cougars had a 51-37 record and reached a district semifinal twice.
Northland boys hope for quick rebuild
The Northland boys basketball team will have a new look this season after losing a trio of Division I college recruits to graduation.
Senior Armani Towns (6-3, forward) and juniors Derek McKeiten (6-3, forward) and Jaylen Tucker (6-6, post player) are the top returnees from last season, when Northland finished 22-2 overall and was a Division I district runner-up.
Last season, Towns averaged 7.1 points and Tucker and McKeiten averaged 3.9 and 3.2 points, respectively.
The Vikings are hoping to get a boost from the addition of junior Shemar Waugh (5-10, guard), who averaged 12.4 points, 3.5 assists and two steals last season for Canal Winchester and was honorable mention all-district.
Senior Ty Hairston also was expected to be a key returnee after averaging 6.1 points last season, but his status was uncertain heading into the regular season.
Northland opened Dec. 1 with a 71-69 win over Toledo Rogers in the Clark Kellogg Tipoff Classic at Pickerington Central. The Vikings begin City-North play Friday, Dec. 7, at Linden.
"I like what I'm seeing," second-year coach Sean Taylor said. "They're working hard and they're listening. We're going to try to be the hardest-working team out there every night."
Others looking to contribute are juniors Jhustus Cornley (6-0, guard), Octavius Luke (5-11, guard), Kenny Sloan (5-11, guard) and Dante Smith (5-8, guard), sophomore Doug Taylor (6-7, post player) and freshman Seth Towns (6-7, post player).
Against Rogers, Seth Towns had a team-high 21 points. McKeiten had 18 points and Tucker scored 13.
Last season, Northland went 14-0 to win the City-North and defeated Walnut Ridge 66-55 in the City Championship game. The Vikings have won 89 consecutive league games, including the last six City titles.
The top seed in the district tournament, Northland beat Central Crossing (87-31), Columbus West (103-49) and Zanesville (73-34) before losing to Reynoldsburg 53-51 in a district final.
The Vikings lost four key players to graduation in Jalen Robinson (18.6 points per game), Devon Scott (16.9 ppg), Jordan Potts (15.7 ppg) and Ke'Chaun Lewis (11.0 ppg).
Robinson was district Player of the Year. Scott also was first-team all-district and Potts was second-team all-district.
Robinson and Scott both are playing for Dayton and Potts is at UNC-Greensboro.