Whitehall-Yearling High School boys basketball coach Mike Barcus realizes his team will be road-tested this season, and he believes the Rams are ready for the challenge.
Because of a renovation project at the high school, Whitehall is practicing at Old Rosemore and New Rosemore middle schools and will play its home games at neutral sites.
"I told the kids it is what it is," Barcus said. "There's nothing we can do about it. We can make excuses, but that isn't going to do us any good."
The Rams received their first road test Nov. 30, as they opened the season with a 55-54 loss at Worthington Christian.
Whitehall led 48-43 after three quarters.
Senior guard Demetrius Carr (5-foot-9) led the Rams with a game-high 21 points.
Last season, Carr was first-team all-MSL-Ohio Division and third-team all-district in Division II after leading the team in scoring at 16.8 points per game.
"I believe we will be better this year," said Carr, who has received interest to play at the collegiate level. "We get up and down the floor better and our defense is better than last year."
Junior guard D.A. Sanders (5-8) scored 11 points against Worthington Christian.
The Rams begin league play Saturday, Dec. 8, at Lakewood.
Last season, Whitehall finished 4-17 overall after losing to Lakewood 49-42 in the first round of the district tournament. The Rams were 2-12 in the league.
"We have to play better defense and that would include rebounding," said Barcus, who is in his fourth season.
Also back is 5-8 junior point guard R.J. Mims, who was honorable mention all-league last season.
Senior forward Marcus Pearce (6-1) is the other returning player.
Other players are seniors Davetti Krug (6-0, forward), Paulus Thomas (5-8, guard) and Mohamed Toure (5-11, forward) and juniors Troy Bennett (6-0, forward), Chris Declouet (5-11, forward) and Fred Weaver (6-1, forward).
Krug is a transfer from Centennial.
"These guys work hard, they're enthusiastic and they're taking coaching pretty good," Barcus said. "They're a good group of kids."
Whitehall will play home games at St. Charles and Capital, Denison and Otterbein universities.
The Rams will play both league games against Bexley and Columbus Academy at those schools, and they will play Buckeye Valley at Ohio Wesleyan on Jan. 5.
In preparation for the school renovation project, Whitehall played all its games on the road during the second half of last season.
Last season in the MSL-Ohio, Whitehall tied Lakewood for seventh behind Academy and Newark Catholic, which tied for first at 12-2, Licking Valley (9-5), Granville (9-5), Heath (6-8) and Bexley (4-10).
Barcus expects Newark Catholic, Licking Valley, Academy and Granville to be top contenders in the league.
"Newark Catholic should be pretty good. They have everybody back from a real good team from last year," Barcus said.
"Licking Valley has a lot of seniors, so they should be decent. Academy has three or four starters back and Granville is usually decent. It's a pretty competitive league."