Coach Anthony Calo is preaching patience and fundamentals in his second season leading the Olentangy Orange High School boys basketball team.
The Pioneers, who finished 15-10 overall last season after losing to Pickerington Central 62-55 in a Division I district final, have returned a roster with limited varsity experience.
"We have a very young team, so we have a lot more to teach," said Calo, whose team finished fourth (8-6) in the OCC-Capital Division a year ago behind champion New Albany (14-0) but upset the Eagles in a district semifinal, winning 46-45 in overtime. "We'll have to be more patient with this group. But even though we're young, we still have high expectations. We're still playing for championships."
Dave Dawson, a 6-foot-3 senior guard, has the most varsity experience. Sophomore forward Haydn Audsley (6-5) and sophomore center Grant Gossard (6-6) saw limited varsity action last season.
"Dave played in every game (a year ago) and Grant and Hayden were only in three varsity games," Calo said. "Dave only played about four minutes per game and now he's not going to come off of the court much. They kind of all have to figure things out together. They know the intensity and expectations that we have (on varsity)."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Taraji Hillard (6-5, forward) and Chase Mosher (5-11, guard), juniors Trey Brooks (5-8, guard) and T.J. McCabe (5-10, guard), sophomores Evan Lewis (6-4, forward), Nick Mosher (5-10, guard), Adam Rieger (5-8, guard), Colin Shepherd (5-10, guard) and Josh Smith (6-0, guard) and freshmen Jay Joseph (6-2, forward) and Will Phillis (6-3, forward).
"I think we definitely have good size, but not a lot of experience," Davis said. "But if we work hard and work together as a team, we can have a successful season."
The Pioneers opened Nov. 30 with a 74-51 loss at Licking Heights. Dawson had 17 points with three 3-pointers and Joseph scored eight points. Audsley and Shepherd both added six points.
Orange lost eight players from last year to graduation led by guard Nick Deitsch, who averaged a team-high 16.2 points and 3.5 assists and made 61 of 173 attempts from 3-point range (35.3 percent). He was honorable mention all-district and first-team all-league.
Other 2013 graduates included post player Brady Harris (9.6 points, 6.6 rebounds; second-team all-league), forward Tyler Dillard (9.2 points, 6.5 rebounds; special mention all-league), forward Declan Feery (7 points, 6.5 rebounds; honorable mention all-league) and point guard Brandon Blake (5 points, 3 assists).
However, making a district final last season with a senior-dominated group could pay off for his current players, according to Calo.
"(They) got to see how the process worked and what needs to be done to reach a district final," he said. "They know that they have to work hard every single day and work toward the payout at the end."