If everything goes according to plan, the Reynoldsburg High School boys basketball team's depth will help it contend for a league championship and top-10 seed in the Division I district tournament.
There just might be a few rough moments early on as the Raiders continue adjusting to not having Wendell Davis, who coach Scott Davis believes was the district's best player a year ago.
Without the 6-foot-4 forward, who now is playing for Ashland University after averaging 19.8 points and making first-team all-district and the ThisWeek Super 12 last season, the Raiders will field a small lineup with inexperienced players in key roles.
Whether enough talent remains to help the Raiders succeed after they went 19-6 overall in coach Davis' first season isn't something he's concerned about.
The Raiders opened Nov. 29 with a 72-67 win at Westerville South. They begin league play Friday, Dec. 6, at home against Grove City.
"I really think this is a team that can see a tremendous amount of growth as the season goes on," Davis said. "The one thing that's different is that we don't have a clearcut guy like Wendell this year, but I do think we're deeper. We're bringing in guys off the bench that are as good as the people starting. ... I'm very excited about this group."
Senior guards Travis Gleason (5-8) and Tyrek Pugh (5-10), junior guard Lloyd Chatman (5-9) and sophomore forward Mark Fair (6-2) are the top returnees.
Gleason averaged 5.1 points last season to make special mention all-OCC-Ohio Division, and Pugh averaged 4.4 points and was honorable mention all-league. Chatman missed six games with an injury but averaged 7.4 points.
Fair spent most of last season on junior varsity but scored a team-best 14 points in a 42-38 loss to Gahanna in a district semifinal.
The Raiders have three other seniors in 6-4 post player Elijah Camara, 6-2 forward Josh McCoy and 6-2 forward Chiante Palm.
Junior forward Ashton Dulin (6-2), McCoy and Palm each spent most of last season on j.v.
Freshman Jarius Ward (6-2) is expected to be a starter at guard.
Two other freshmen, 6-5 forward Reece Strohm and 6-3 forward J.J. Cooper, also should be key contributors.
"We want to push the tempo and create some easy baskets, and we feel like we are very quick at every position," coach Davis said.
"With this being my second year and with a lot of the guys having been in the program in some capacity, we're further ahead of last year in terms of understanding offensive and defensive philosophies. We had to stop and do so much teaching last year."
In addition to Wendell Davis, who finished his prep career with 1,165 points, the Raiders lost Mykel Traylor-Bennett (6.9 points per game), Jaylen Givens (4.4 ppg) and Mike Smith (3.5 ppg) to graduation.
After his team tied Grove City, Newark and Pickerington Central for the league title at 10-4 and was seeded eighth for last season's district tournament, Gleason isn't buying into the perception that it might be a down season.
"Things are coming together great," he said. "Practices have been highly intense.
We're highly young, but the young guys are becoming more like young men. ... Everybody knows that we're the underdog, but there are going to be some upsets."