Jordan Chambers of the Pickerington High School North boys basketball team panted almost all the way through an interview after a late November practice.
According to him and coach Jerry Groves, that might be all one needs to know about how this year's Panthers hope to be different from their predecessors.
Groves plans to implement a fast-paced style in his first season succeeding former coach Pete Liptrap, who retired in June after 10 seasons at North and 30 seasons dating to the original Pickerington High School.
"He has a different style," Chambers, a 5-foot-11 senior point guard, said of Groves. "He's a little more upbeat. Last year, we brought it down and got into the offense slower. This year, we'll never be standing around. This motion offense will keep the players moving."
Groves, who played for Liptrap at Pickerington and took over the Panthers in July, sought to clarify that North won't go full bore up and down the court on every possession.
"I don't know that we'll play at a super-fast pace," said Groves, who previously coached at Mount Vernon (1998-2005) and Pickerington Central (2005-10). "We're looking to get the first good available open shot. Sometimes, that can be quick. Sometimes, it'll take some time. But our kids are adapting."
North went 10-13 overall and 4-10 in the OCC-Ohio Division last year. The Panthers, who opened Nov. 29 with a 41-34 loss at Canal Winchester, played their home opener Dec. 3 against Teays Valley and begin league play Friday, Dec. 6, at Newark.
After losing nine players from a year ago to graduation and honorable mention all-league point guard Dajon Moore to Pickerington Central, North has returned only 5.6 points per game. Moore averaged 7.6 last season, while Chambers scored 4.1 per game and two bench players -- 6-5 junior center Andrew Butt and 6-4 senior center/forward Clay Ebbrecht -- combined for 1.5.
The rest of the senior class consists of 6-4 forward Justin Anderson, 6-2 guard Daveyon Bailey and 5-10 guard Mykus Hall. North has seven juniors -- Butt and guards Zach Carlisle (6-2), Devin Davie (6-2), Nate Flowers (5-10), Nigel Harris (5-9), Bryce Montes (6-2) and Trevon Potts (5-9).
Harris is a move-in from Licking Heights and Potts transferred from Africentric.
Butt and Davie each had eight points to lead the Panthers in their opener.
"We don't have that bona fide scorer where we know this guy is the guy opponents are going to have to stop or who will get us 18 to 20 (points) a night," Groves said. "It's going to be more by committee. Maybe somebody will emerge this year as that guy. But we have a lot of guys who are capable of double figures, and the offense we run allows for different guys to get different looks. It'll be interesting to see where those points come from."
According to Ebbrecht, such uncertainty is part of setting a foundation under a new coach.
"We need some younger guys to step up. I just have to try to be tough on the court and be a leader," Ebbrecht said. "It definitely feels good setting a new foundation with coach Groves, and that's what we're doing this year."