Alex Radkiewicz is in an unfamiliar situation with the Olentangy Liberty High School boys basketball team.
The 6-foot-4 senior post player is the lone starter back from a squad that finished 21-3 overall a year ago, setting a program record for victories in a season. The Patriots also won the program's first league and district titles.
After relying on others to lead the team in the past, Radkiewicz is ready to step into that role.
"Because I'm the only returning starter, now I have to be more of a leader and captain," said Radkiewicz, whose team lost to eventual state champion Pickerington Central 60-58 in a Division I regional semifinal. "I have to make sure that we work hard and that we're doing what we need to do in practice."
Following a first-round bye in the district tournament, the third-seeded Patriots beat Dublin Scioto 60-40, 11th-seeded Gahanna 53-50 and second-seeded Walnut Ridge 58-55 in overtime in a final.
Liberty won the OCC-Cardinal Division, going 12-2 to finish ahead of Westerville North (11-3), Westerville South (11-3), Westerville Central (7-7), Scioto (6-8), Olentangy (6-8), Dublin Jerome (2-12) and Marysville (1-13).
The Patriots and Marysville have moved to the OCC-Central, joining Central Crossing, Dublin Coffman, Hilliard Davidson, Thomas Worthington, Upper Arlington and Westland.
"I like what I see from this group, and they have been working hard since April, lifting and playing," said coach Greg Nossaman, who is in his fifth season. "They had a great summer and that led into the preseason and how we played in our scrimmages."
The Patriots opened Dec. 1 with a 47-39 win at New Albany. They begin OCC-Central play Friday, Dec. 7, at Central Crossing.
Radkiewicz was honorable mention all-league last season, when he averaged 5.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists.
Other returnees are senior point guard Nick Nossaman (6-0) and senior guards Sam DeRoy (5-11), Matt Muntean (5-11) and Tyler Welch (5-11). Senior guard Bo Scheper (6-3) missed last season with a knee injury.
Key losses to graduation include post player Nick Archer, guard Jake Bischoff, forward Alec Charbonneau and guard A.J. Motika. Archer was first-team all-district and the OCC-Cardinal Player of the Year last season after averaging 14.6 points and 9.3 rebounds, and Bischoff averaged 14.8 points and was first-team all-league.
"This senior class is hungry," coach Nossaman said. "They would have loved to have played more in the past, but they had players who were three, four or five inches taller than them out on the floor."
Junior forwards Mike DeLeon and Zach Nice, both 6-5, also saw varsity action a year ago.
"Even though we may be undersized, we get the most out of ourselves," Radkiewicz said. "We have a lot of talent and athleticism. We're all quick, and we play hard."
Rounding out the roster are junior guards Cam Cook (6-3), Marshal Davis (6-0) and Law Jones (6-2) and 6-4 sophomore post player Nate Wilke.
"Our j.v. team went 19-1 last season and we have five of those guys in the mix this year," coach Nossaman said. "We want to get as many guys as possible on the court and then things will settle in by Christmastime."