Most of the preseason plans for the Pickerington High School North boys basketball team were predicated on whether Jake Butt would play.
He will -- but only for the first three weeks of the season.
A 6-foot-6 senior forward who has verbally committed to play football for the University of Michigan, Butt helped the Panthers' football team reach a Division I state semifinal before losing to eventual champion Cincinnati Moeller 26-21 on Nov. 24. He joined the basketball team five days later but plans to enroll at Michigan for the winter semester, which begins Jan. 9.
Tenth-year coach Pete Liptrap said Butt will play in the Panthers' first six games, a stretch that began with their opener Dec. 4 against Teays Valley and ends Dec. 21 at Reynoldsburg.
"You're talking about a kid who was second-team all-district (and first-team all-league) as a junior and was our leading scorer," Liptrap said of Butt, who averaged 16.6 points last season as North finished 12-10 overall and 7-7 in the OCC-Ohio Division. "He was the best player on our roster."
The Panthers' roster was in flux for most of November, as seniors Mason Olszewski (6-2, guard) and Jamie Hence (6-2, guard) and junior Jordan Chambers (5-9, guard) also were on the football team.
DeVon Price, a 6-2 senior guard who was special mention all-league last season, is a projected starter along with Butt, Olszewski, 6-5 senior forward Desmond Palmer and either Hence or 6-2 sophomore Dajon Moore at point guard.
Also on the team are seniors Jeremiah Bonsu (6-0, guard), Marcus Chatman (6-0, guard), Andrew McSurley (5-11, guard) and Khalen Watson (6-2, post player) and juniors Justin Anderson (6-3, post player) and Clay Ebbrecht (6-4, post player).
"I think it'll be interesting seeing who starts and how the other guys compete," said Palmer, who averaged 7.3 rebounds and shot about 60 percent from the field last season. "You can't start everyone. We'll get the five guys who can compete the most and get the next three or four off the bench that will give us a good look."
Butt missed two weeks late last season with a shoulder injury, but returned to score a game-high 19 points in a 47-41 win over Dresden Tri-Valley in the first round of the Division I district tournament. The Panthers lost to Zanesville 45-30 in the second round.
North tied Reynoldsburg for fifth in the OCC-Ohio, behind Pickerington Central (13-1), Newark (11-3), Gahanna (8-6) and Grove City (8-6) and ahead of Lancaster (2-12) and Groveport (0-14). Central went on to win the state championship.
North lost three guards from last season to graduation in Seth Gamby, Bryan Jimenez and Joe Liptrap. Liptrap, the coach's son who now is playing at Muskingum College, was honorable mention all-league a year ago.
Because of the football team's playoff run, the Panthers moved their original opener against Canal Winchester from Nov. 30 to Monday, Dec. 10, at North. Their league opener is Friday, Dec. 7, at home against Newark.
"(Rescheduling the opener) will help everybody," Price said.