Upper Arlington News

Boys Basketball

UA out to defend OCC title

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John Hulkenberg/ThisWeek
Dany Hummer (left) is one of two returning starters for the Golden Bears. Hummer also is one of three captains this season along with Austin Ping and Kevin Vannatta.

Austin Ping knows that he is being counted on to be a leader as the only senior on the Upper Arlington High School boys basketball team, but the 6-foot-3 forward doesn't think that provides any extra pressure.

Ping and junior guards Danny Hummer (6-0) and Kevin Vannatta (6-3) are serving as team captains.

"I just try to be a leader at all times," Ping said. "I don't really feel like I'm the only senior. We have a lot of young guys, but that doesn't mean they're not leaders. Every single guy understands their role and leads in their own way. I just have to do my best to compete at all times. I take being the only senior as a huge role."

Hummer and Vannatta are the only returning starters for UA, which finished 16-6 overall last season and won its third consecutive OCC-Central Division championship.

Vannatta averaged 11.5 points and was named second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district and Hummer was honorable mention all-league.

"We definitely have athleticism," Vannatta said. "Austin Ping is an unbelievable rebounder, and we have a bunch of other young guys who can step up."

The Golden Bears open Friday, Dec. 7, at home against Thomas Worthington in a league game.

"We know we have a target on our back since we've won (the league) the last couple of years," Hummer said

UA lost five players from a year ago to graduation, including guards Carter Smith and Connor Casey and forward Cameron Hood.

Last season, Smith averaged 13.9 points and was first-team all-league and third-team all-district and Casey averaged 8.3 points and was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district. Hood averaged 8.5 points and was special mention all-league.

"You have a veteran backcourt with Danny and Kevin, even though they're only juniors," 12th-year coach Tim Casey said. "They've played a lot of basketball in key situations. We'll lean on them in a lot of respects as far as effort, intensity and leadership and their ability to mentor some of our younger players."

Hummer, Ping, Vannatta, 6-5 junior forward Logan Richter and 6-0 sophomore forward Griffin Caldwell are the projected starters.

Also on the roster are juniors Corbin Dennis (6-1, forward), Harrison Heath (6-2, guard) and Matt Skidmore (6-4, forward), sophomores Gabe Akins (6-1, guard), Chris Allocco (5-9, guard), Carter Casey (5-7, guard), Spencer Pinnick (5-10, guard), Austin Heath (5-10, guard), Michael McGovern (6-3, forward) and Wynn Brown (6-0, forward) and Polish exchange student Oscar Malinowski (6-8, forward).

Last season, the Bears were seeded seventh in the Division I district tournament and defeated Briggs 55-42 in the first round before losing to 12th-seeded Mount Vernon 53-42 in the second round.

UA went 12-2 in the OCC-Central, followed by Dublin Coffman (9-5), Thomas Worthington (9-5), Westland (8-6), Worthington Kilbourne (8-6), Hilliard Davidson (7-7), Hilliard Darby (3-11) and Central Crossing (0-14).

As part of OCC realignment last summer, Darby and Kilbourne moved to the OCC-Cardinal and were replaced by Marysville and Olentangy Liberty, both of which had been in the OCC-Cardinal. Last season, Liberty went 21-3 and lost to eventual state champion Pickerington Central 60-58 in a regional semifinal.

"Our league is as good as it's been," coach Casey said. "Getting off to a good start is really important."