DeSales High School boys basketball coach Joe Bills couldn't help but laugh when filling out information sheets about his team before the season.
"It was sort of comical," said Bills, who replaced eight-year coach Blair Albright in June after Albright left for Kettering Fairmont. "They'd ask how many returning starters, and I'd write in 'none.' They'd ask who were the top returners and how many points did they average, and it wasn't much. But you know what? I like the fact that we have a new identity. We have a new coaching staff and a new identity while holding our guys to the tradition DeSales has always had."
Bills spent the past two seasons at Fisher Catholic, where he compiled a 20-25 record. He was a four-year starter at Zanesville Rosecrans from 1995-99 and played at Wright State University from 1999-2003.
DeSales did not return any full-time starters from last season, in which it finished 13-12 overall and went 1-7 in the CCL to tie Ready for fourth behind champion Watterson (8-0) but advanced to a Division II district final before losing to Marion-Franklin 56-34. The Stallions' most experienced player, 5-foot-11 junior guard Josh DeLozier, mostly came off the bench as a backup shooting guard but started four games.
"It was mostly garbage plays, diving for loose balls, taking charges," DeLozier said of his role last season. "I'm honored to be able to step up as a leader for these guys. It's a good group of guys. Even the younger guys, the freshmen, are stepping in as leaders."
DeSales opened with a 73-70 overtime win over Centennial in its season opener Nov. 29 in the Grove City Tip-Off Classic.
Austin Herbst, a 6-3 senior forward, had a game-high 16 points against Centennial, with 6-5 sophomore forward Eric Fitz and 6-1 senior guard Justin Thompson scoring 14 and 10 points, respectively.
The Stallions then lost to Grove City 71-60 in the Tip-Off Classic's championship game Nov. 30, as Thompson had 17 points, Herbst scored 13 and 5-11 sophomore guard Shawn Snyder scored 10.
The starting five against Centennial were DeLozier, Fitz, Herbst, Thompson and 5-9 freshman point guard Ryan Peaks, but the Stallions' lineup fluctuated during the preseason and might do so throughout the regular season.
"We have a lot of guys competing for playing time," Bills said.
Also on the roster are 6-1 junior guard Emmanuel Golloh, 6-0 junior guard Myles McNeal, 6-4 junior forward Reed Norris, 5-10 sophomore guard Adrian Awuah, 5-10 sophomore guard Darren Hankins, 6-3 sophomore forward Josh Moyler, 5-11 sophomore guard Shawn Snyder and 6-7 freshman center Caden Sanchez.
"We're a more athletic group (than last season) and we plan to take advantage of that," DeLozier said. "We've changed a few of our defensive principles to hopefully get some more steals and contribute to the fast break and help us get more points."
DeSales begins CCL play Friday, Dec. 6, at home against St. Charles.
Wrestlers focusing on continued development
Second-year wrestling coach Nick Preston continues to focus on program development.
The Stallions, who began the season Nov. 30 by placing third (164 points) in their seven-team Tony Pizzurro Memorial Tournament behind champion St. Charles (200), have 13 wrestlers on varsity and 20 in the program. Three weight classes -- 160, 170 and 182 pounds -- were expected to be vacant, at least early in the season.
"I hope to get a few more guys out (for the team)," Preston said. "It's going to take a lot of work to get to where we want to be. This is a year where I hope we can make some strides."
DeSales' roster is comprised of seniors Jake Mulligan (138) and Nick Myers (145), juniors Adam Acquista (145), Bryan Dytko (220), James Prater (195) and Drew Selegue (285), sophomores Danny Barren (220), Connor Cua (126) and Gabe Slupski (152) and freshmen Domenic Carfagna (106), Cameron Cua (132), Collin Golden (120) and Codi Littler (113).
Connor Cua has the most varsity experience, having qualified for the Division II district tournament last season.
DeSales lost three wrestlers from last season to graduation, including Ian Ferguson, who went 39-7 and placed sixth at 160 at state last season. Ferguson was the program's first state placer since Payton Gutierrez finished seventh at 103 in 2011.
Carfagna, Connor Cua and Dytko won their respective weight classes in the Pizzurro tournament and Cameron Cua placed second at 132.
"We have a lot of freshmen who are going to be a great group," Preston said. "Our hope is we'll continue to add to the talent they already have."