Westerville North boys plan to play up-tempo style
Jack Gibbs expects his senior season with the Westerville North High School boys basketball team to go fast on and off the court.
"We're a really guard-oriented team and we can really get up and down the court and pressure people," said Gibbs, a 5-foot-11 point guard who missed all but four games last season because of a right knee injury. "That's the type of game I like to play, and I can't wait to get back out there doing that because it's going to go quickly."
The Warriors opened Nov. 30 with a 57-42 win at Newark. They begin OCC-Cardinal Division play Friday, Dec. 7, at home against Hilliard Darby.
"We have to try to build on what we accomplished from last year and get a step or two further in the tournament," said coach Kevin Thuman, who is in his 18th season leading the program. "We had a solid season, but we want to extend it a little longer."
North finished 18-5 overall last season, losing to Newark 63-62 in overtime in a Division I district semifinal. The fifth-seeded Warriors defeated Watkins Memorial 68-39 in a first-round game and beat Franklin Heights 60-32 in the second round.
North went 11-3 in the OCC-Cardinal to tie Westerville South for second, behind Olentangy Liberty (12-2) and ahead of Westerville Central (7-7), Dublin Scioto (6-8), Olentangy (6-8), Dublin Jerome (2-12) and Marysville (1-13).
Hilliard Bradley, Darby and Worthington Kilbourne have joined the OCC-Cardinal. Liberty and Marysville left for the OCC-Central and Olentangy moved to the OCC-Capital.
Gibbs, a Davidson (N.C.) College signee, averaged 17 points in his first three games a year ago before suffering his season-ending knee injury. As a sophomore, he was second-team all-district and first-team all-league, leading North in scoring (18.1 points), assists (4.5) and steals (3.7) per game.
The Warriors return three other starters in seniors Jaylen Benton (6-2, guard), Adrian Cook (5-11, guard) and Caleb Ledford (6-0, forward). Benton averaged 12.8 points, 4.5 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 2.7 steals last season and was honorable mention all-district and second-team all-league. Cook averaged 10.8 points, 4.3 assists and 3.6 rebounds and was honorable mention all-district and second-team all-league.
"I think we're capable of playing fast and have a full-court game," Thuman said. "I like what I have seen when we play at that high tempo. Also, when we are playing well on defense, we can get points from that to help out our offense."
Also back is junior Alex Stewart, a 6-5 center who averaged 7.7 points and 3.9 rebounds and was honorable mention all-league last season.
Other seniors include guards Brett Durden (6-1), Davon Harris (5-10) and Darren Nettles (5-11).
Rounding out the roster are juniors Justin Bennett (6-2, center), Brian Chaney (5-10, forward), Jalen Hearn (5-10, guard), R.J. Hutcherson (6-5, center), Isaiah Keene (6-4, forward) and Connor Roldan (5-10, guard).
"There are plenty of things we need to work on," Thuman said. "We need more consistency shooting the basketball and to be more consistent with our positioning on defense and stop some needless fouling. Also, our roster is not extremely tall, so we're concerned with how we might match up against bigger teams."