South feeling confident as season begins
The Westerville South High School boys basketball team has a few reasons to be confident.
The Wildcats return all but four players to a team that was 22-1 last season and won the OCC-Cardinal Division at 14-0.
One of those starters is senior guard Traevon Jackson, a 6-foot-2 Wisconsin recruit who was an all-Ohio player last season. With Jackson back to lead a roster loaded with athletic players, the Wildcats expect to see positive results as long as the chemistry is there.
"(The team confidence is) pretty high right now," said Jackson, who averaged 19.6 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.1 steals last year. "In order for us to be successful it's about coming together and having cohesiveness."
South manhandled Beechcroft last Friday in a scrimmage that was part of the Phil Brown Rotary Classic, displaying a level of play that led to a perfect regular season record last year.
South came of age a year ago with a team that didn't have a player taller than 6-2, and although they've added a bit more height, the Wildcats are by no means big. They still need to put up a lot of 3-pointers with a fast-paced offense, and play a high-pressure defense.
"That much is not going to change with us," coach Ed Calo said. "We're still not that big of a team."
In addition to Jackson, South returns two other starters in senior guard Ben Jones (5-11) and junior guard Isaiah Rogers (5-7).
Rogers has played a major role on the team since his freshman year and his presence on the floor with Jackson essentially gives South two point guards. The combination of Jackson and Rogers as ball-handlers should make South a tough team to trap.
"We certainly feel comfortable with those two guys handling the ball," Calo said. "You're not going to be able to keep the ball out of both of their hands. You can take the ball out of one person's hands. For us if you take away one of them, we can get it to the other one."
Jones and sophomore forward Marcus Ball (6-2) missed a large chunk of the preseason as key members of the football team. Ball and senior guard Damarkeo Lyshe (5-9) were two of the first players off the bench last season. Last year, Ball started to develop into an inside presence for a team full of guards. Ball and freshman forward Darryl Long (6-3) are being counted on to help fill a gap left by 2010 graduates Vincent Calo and Brandon Jennings, who, along with Jackson, were South's leading rebounders last season.
The other forwards are juniors David Asiedu (6-2 1 /2), Ellis Byers (6-3) and sophomore Matt Chellis (6-4). The other guards are seniors Donnie Fitzgerald (6-1) and Jaren Edwards (6-1) and junior Stephen O'Daniel (6-0). All play with the same message in mind.
"We have to pressure the ball and run the floor hard no matter what," Fitzgerald said.
South was the No. 3 seed in last year's district tournament. The Wildcats lost to eighth-seeded Marion-Franklin 66-57 in a district semifinal. The Red Devils used their size advantage to force South into an uncharacteristically poor shooting performance.
South won the OCC-Cardinal ahead of Westerville Central (16-4), Westerville North (16-4), Olentangy Liberty (7-7), Olentangy (4-10), Dublin Jerome (4-10), Marysville (3-11) and Dublin Scioto (2-12).