Shan Trusley has inherited a Westerville North High School boys basketball team that's short on experience but not on leadership.
The Warriors return only three letterwinners and one starter from last year's team, which finished 23-2 overall after losing to Newark 59-55 in a Division I district semifinal and won the OCC-Cardinal Division title at 14-0.
Trusley, who had been a varsity assistant since 1993, was promoted in April after 18-year coach Kevin Thuman retired.
"The kids and the coaching staff have been having a lot of fun," Trusley said. "We have an outstanding group of eight seniors who have always been good teammates.
"For a lot of them, this is their first experience with varsity basketball, but they are hard-working and have been good leaders. They were a fantastic group last year and have waited patiently to be able to take the reins."
Alex Stewart, a 6-foot-5 senior center, was honorable mention all-district and second-team all-league last season after averaging 10.8 points and 5.0 rebounds in a starting role.
Also back are 6-5 senior guard Isaiah Keene and 6-7 senior forward R.J. Hutcherson (3.0 points, 3.5 rebounds). Hutcherson has signed with Fairmont State in West Virginia.
"The biggest thing I learned (from last year's seniors) was what I needed to do," Keene said. "That left a big mark on me. I learned what you need to do to keep the team together and that everyone needs to stay together as a unit and not as individuals. We are one team ... one family, with the same goals."
The Warriors lost seven players from a year ago to graduation. Jack Gibbs, who now plays at Davidson College in North Carolina, led North in points (15.2), assists (3.4) and steals (3.9) per game and free-throw shooting (79-for-95, 83.2 percent) while earning Player of the Year honors in the district and league.
Also lost to graduation were Jaylen Benton (14.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 3.2 steals) and Adrian Cook (11 points, 3.1 assists, 2.1 steals). They were honorable mention all-district and first-team all-league.
Rounding out this year's roster are seniors Justin Bennett (6-4, forward), Amaal Brown (5-11, guard), Brian Chaney (5-10, guard), Jalen Hearn (5-11, guard) and Connor Roldan (5-11, guard), juniors Austin Armwood (6-0, guard), Morgan Billups (6-2, forward), Tanner Jefferies (6-1, forward), Alex Lawrence (6-0, guard) and Bobby Murgas (6-0, guard) and sophomore Corey Benton (5-11, guard).
"We have a lot of people and perimeter play will be key for us," said Trusley, whose team opened Dec. 3 against Eastmoor Academy. "We basically will be four guards and a post (player). Isaiah and R.J. are big, but they play on the perimeter with Alex on the inside."
The Warriors begin league play Friday, Dec. 6, at Hilliard Darby.
"Good basketball teams need to play two different speeds and we have to be able to do that," Trusley said. "When we talk about how to play, it's not running up and down the court, we talk about two speeds -- both full court and half court. It's easier to slow a game down than it is to speed it up."