Olentangy Valley News

Basketball

Liberty boys set to face challenge

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Greg Nossaman will test the success of the system he has put in place with the Olentangy Liberty High School boys basketball program.

The sixth-year coach lost six players from last season to graduation and returns only one starter from a team that finished 23-2 overall with a 52-48 loss to Northland in a Division I district final.

"Every year brings challenges," said Nossaman, whose program has won consecutive league titles -- the OCC-Central Division last season and the OCC-Cardinal in 2011-12. "One thing we have developed is team chemistry, which is important. Every year it proves to be important. It's what we do.

"We have a 'Liberty way.' The kids sit in the locker room and talk for 15 or 20 minutes after practices, and they know they have to bring it every night in practice. They are learning to adapt to varsity basketball, which is the biggest thing. As this team grows, I think it will get better and better."

The Patriots have three seniors, including last year's leading scorer in Mike DeLeon, a 6-foot-6 post player who averaged 12.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists and was honorable mention all-district and first-team all-league.

Forwards Law Jones (6-3) and Zach Nice (6-5) averaged 3.2 and 2.6 points, respectively, last season.

"We have three seniors after graduating six from last season," Nossaman said. "One of our seniors (DeLeon) started and the others came off the bench. We have three seniors, seven juniors and one freshman. We're more inexperienced than young."

Rounding out the roster are juniors Sam Chickerella (6-0, guard), Jack Cook (6-0, guard), Sam Fowler (5-11, guard), A.J. Kullman (6-8, post player), Brad Smith (6-0, guard), Nate Wilke (6-4, forward) and Jacob Wiseman (6-1, guard) and freshman Brenden White (6-1, guard).

"I honestly think we're just as talented as last year and we're taller," said DeLeon, who has signed with Ohio Dominican University. "We're still working on chemistry. We're still having to work hard on plays that came easily last year."

The Patriots originally were scheduled to open Dec. 3 at home against New Albany, but the game was moved to Jan. 11 because of the length of the Eagles' football season. Liberty now opens Friday, Dec. 6, at home against Central Crossing in a league game.

Liberty went 13-1 in the OCC-Central last season to edge Dublin Coffman (12-2) for the title.

Among the Patriots' losses to graduation was league Player of the Year Alex Radkiewicz, who averaged 11.2 points and 7.5 rebounds.

"Things are going OK," Nossaman said. "We're not going to blow by people and we'll do things in a lot of different ways. We'll need to be more of a ball-control offense and play great defense.

"We probably won't be scoring 66 points per game like we did last year. We only gave up 52 points per game last year, and we're not sure if we can score 50 or 52 points a game. We'll have to be patient on offense."

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