Thomas ready to step up tempo
Thomas' Jay Smallwood (left) and Kilbourne's Jared Kortsen battle for a rebound Dec. 1 during the Cardinals' 52-43 victory. Thomas returns to action Friday, Dec. 7, at Upper Arlington. The Wolves travel to Westerville South that same night. Buy This Photo
The departure of 2012 graduate Jordan Cowgill led Thomas Worthington High School boys basketball coach Bob Miller to make changes to his team's offensive strategy this season.
Last season, Cowgill was the centerpiece of the Cardinals' motion offense. A 6-foot-10, 265-pound center, he averaged a team-high 15.4 points and a team-high 10.5 rebounds last season and was named first-team all-league and second-team all-district. He now plays for Ohio Dominican University.
With Cowgill leading the way a year ago, the Cardinals finished 11-10 overall and tied for second in the OCC-Central Division.
This season, Thomas features a smaller but faster lineup and, as a result, it is looking to play up-tempo and score more points in transition.
The Cardinals opened Dec. 1 with a 53-42 win over visiting Worthington Kilbourne and begin league play Friday, Nov. 7, at Upper Arlington.
"We're not a half-court team anymore," 5-9 senior point guard Will Hill said. "Our big men can run the floor well, so we run a lot more and we're more of a fast-break team now. We should be good because we're getting better in practice every day."
Thomas, which lost to Hilliard Davidson 54-47 in the first round of the Division I district tournament last season, returns three starters in Hill, 5-9 senior guard Lance Leslie and 6-0 senior forward Jay Smallwood.
Last season, Hill averaged 12.7 points and was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
Leslie averaged 4.1 points and, according to Miller, Smallwood was the team's top defender.
Thomas lost another key player from a year ago to graduation in forward Julian Henderson, who averaged 11.7 points and was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
Tyrrell Stewart, a 6-1 junior, is taking Henderson's spot in the lineup and 6-5 senior Jesse Greene has replaced Cowgill.
Also on the roster are seniors Jamie Burpee (5-9, guard) and Mario Hanna (5-8, guard), juniors Isaiah Boyd (6-0, forward), Keion Bruce (5-8, point guard), Daniel Crease (5-11, guard), Yemi Sholesi (6-4, center) and Rick Washington (6-2, forward) and sophomores Alex Baughman (6-4, center) and Nick Veal (6-2, guard).
"We have a combination of quick guards and some size, and we feel like we have good depth at every position," said Miller, who is in his 30th season leading the program. "We're a fast team, so we're putting a lot of emphasis on running the floor."
Against Kilbourne, Hill had 14 points and Leslie scored 10.
The Cardinals, who swept the Wolves a year ago in OCC-Central play, lead the all-time series 10-2. They will meet again Feb. 2 at Kilbourne.
Last season, Thomas went 9-5 in the OCC-Central to tie Dublin Coffman and finish behind UA (12-2) and ahead of Kilbourne (8-6), Westland (8-6), 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.
Last season, Liberty went 21-3 and lost to eventual state champion Pickerington Central 60-58 in a regional semifinal.
"I think the OCC-Central will be stronger this year because we still have to contend with Upper Arlington, Dublin Coffman and Hilliard Davidson, and now we have a district champion moving in in Olentangy Liberty," said Miller, whose team went 4-10 last season in games decided by seven points or fewer. "We'll need to defend well to compete in this division of the OCC because there are a lot of talented teams there."