Westerville South High School boys basketball coach Ed Calo is optimistic about his team's potential this season despite having to replace two of his top three scorers from a year ago.
The Wildcats lost six players to graduation, including point guard Isiah Rogers and guard Stephen O'Daniel.
Rogers averaged a team-high 16.4 points last season and was named first-team all-league and second-team all-district. He is playing at Missouri State University-West Plains, a junior college.
O'Daniel averaged 13.7 points and was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
Last season, South finished 18-5 overall, tied for second in the OCC-Cardinal Division and reached a Division I district semifinal before losing to fourth-seeded Pickerington Central 72-55.
Seeded eighth, the Wildcats beat Teays Valley 62-38 in the first round and Westerville Central 67-65 in the second round before falling to the Tigers.
"There's going to be a little bit of a learning curve," said Calo, who is in his 26th season leading the program. "But once we realize what we're supposed to do, we're going to be fine."
South opened Nov. 30 with a 56-39 loss to Reynoldsburg and played Brookhaven on Dec. 4. It begins OCC-Cardinal play Friday, Dec. 7, at home against Worthington Kilbourne.
The Wildcats return six players in seniors Marcus Ball (6-foot-3, forward), Matt Chellis (6-4, forward), Anthony Dixon (5-6, guard), Trent Slade (6-4, forward) and Julian Wade (6-1, guard) and junior Trey Harden (6-0, guard).
Last season, Ball averaged 14.2 points and a team-high 8.3 rebounds and was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district. He has verbally committed to play football at the University of Wisconsin.
"We have a good team this year," Ball said. "I definitely have to be one of the leaders of this team, on and off the court. That's something I'm prepared for and I'm ready to take on that role."
Rounding out the team are senior Jalen Bell (5-11, guard), sophomores Chris Cook (6-1, guard) and John Edwards (5-11, guard) and freshmen Jordan Humphrey (5-11, guard), Kyran McClure (5-11, guard), Jelani Rogers (5-7, guard) and Andre Wesson (6-2, forward).
"It's early and we're still working on chemistry," Calo said. "That's a big thing. We've been blessed with having good chemistry and developing good chemistry."
Last season, South went 11-3 in the OCC-Cardinal to tie Westerville North and finish 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).
As part of OCC realignment last summer, Liberty and Marysville moved to the OCC-Central and Olentangy moved to the OCC-Capital. They were replaced by Hilliard Bradley, Hilliard Darby and Kilbourne. Bradley had been in the OCC-Capital and Darby and Kilbourne had been in the OCC-Central.
"Liberty has been very good for the last three years or so and we were excited about playing them," Calo said. "They're a good team and Olentangy and Marysville are as well, but I'm sure there are some new teams coming in who will be excited about playing us, too. We don't really worry about or think about the (league). We try to worry about what's right in front of us."