The experience of playing in the Division I regional tournament last season was something Reynoldsburg High School boys basketball player Mykel Traylor-Bennett said he will never forget.
So the 6-foot-3 senior forward decided to come out for the team again even though he could have skipped the season as he prepares to play college football for the University of Cincinnati.
"My goal is to go to state in something," said Traylor-Bennett, one of six seniors hoping to build on the program's second district championship run. "I wanted to do it in basketball last year. I like basketball a lot and I think we have a shot to go all the way this year."
The Raiders opened Nov. 30 by beating Westerville South 56-39. They begin OCC-Ohio Division play Friday, Dec. 7, at Grove City.
One of the reasons Traylor-Bennett is hopeful is he expects new Raiders coach Scott Davis to "let us run more this year."
Having a talent like 6-4 senior forward Wendell Davis back to lead the way is another reason for optimism.
Davis has signed with Ashland University after making first-team all-league, honorable mention all-district and the ThisWeek Super 12 last season. He has been a key player since his sophomore season and is coming off a season in which he averaged 14.1 points and eight rebounds.
Davis scored 17 points, including the winning basket as time expired, during a 53-51 victory over top-seeded Northland in a district final last season. He then had 28 points in a 57-49 regional semifinal loss to Canton McKinley as Reynoldsburg finished 14-10 overall.
The Raiders, who were seeded 15th for the district tournament and opened the postseason with wins over Olentangy Orange (45-37) and Hilliard Davidson (57-47), have two other key returnees in 5-11 senior guard Jaylen Givens and 5-8 junior guard Travis Gleason.
Traylor-Bennett is the second-leading returning scorer after averaging 4.8 points last season, and Gleason and Givens averaged 4.0 and 3.3, respectively.
The other seniors are 6-2 forward Boris Koprivica, 6-4 forward Mike Smith and 6-2 forward Nate Wallace.
Juniors Romello Barker (5-10, guard), Josh McCoy (6-2, forward), Chiante Palm (6-1, guard) and Tyreke Pugh (5-9, guard) and sophomore Lloyd Chatman (5-8, guard) also are looking to contribute.
Pugh, who averaged 5.3 points for coach Davis two years ago when Beechcroft went 12-9, spent last season on the Raiders' junior varsity.
Davis took over last June after going 51-37 in four seasons at Beechcroft. He replaced Chris Rider, who stepped down May 11 after going 217-120 in 15 seasons, with district championships in 2006 and last season.
Reynoldsburg tied Pickerington North for fifth (7-7) in the OCC-Ohio last season, behind Pickerington Central (13-1), Newark (11-3) and Gahanna and Grove City (8-6 each), while Lancaster (2-12) and Groveport (0-14) rounded out the standings.
The Raiders lost six players from a year ago to graduation, including Ryan Carter (6.8 points per game), Spencer Kirksey (8 ppg), Chris Lee (3.5 ppg) and R.J. Raglin (5 ppg).
"Like a lot of my teams, we'll try to have a balance of everything," coach Davis said.
"We want to excel in all areas and we feel like the roster we've got can provide that. Wendell's very excited for his senior year and he's as good as there is in central Ohio."