According to Worthington Kilbourne High School boys basketball coach Tom Souder, for the first time in seven seasons his team features several players who play the sport competitively year-round.
Senior wing player Tyler Stern-Tucker, who signed with the University of Findlay last month, believes that extra experience will help the Wolves build on what they achieved last season.
Kilbourne finished 12-10 overall last season, representing the second-most wins in program history. The program record was set in the 2005-06 season when the Wolves finished 13-9.
The Wolves opened Dec. 1 with a 53-42 loss to Thomas Worthington and begin OCC-Cardinal Division play Friday, Dec. 7, at Westerville South.
"We have a lot more basketball players this year instead of multiple-sport athletes who are just playing basketball," said Stern-Tucker, who had a team-high nine points against Thomas. "We're more talented at basketball and our knowledge of the game is better this year because basketball is the only thing we do. Most of us play AAU basketball, so our basketball I.Q. is higher because we've been in hard situations and we know what to do since we've been there before."
Kilbourne returns four letterwinners in Stern-Tucker (6-foot-8), seniors Ryan Adolph (6-5, wing player) and Jared Kortsen (6-1, wing player) and junior Seth Hill (5-9, guard).
Last season, Stern-Tucker averaged 10.7 points and seven rebounds and was named first-team all-OCC-Central and honorable-mention all-district. Hill averaged 4.9 points and was honorable mention all-league.
Rounding out the roster are senior Grant Hartman (6-3, post player), juniors Michael Chambers (6-5, post player), Will Good (6-1, post player), Hayden Shenefield (5-10, guard) and Connor Silva (5-10, wing player) and sophomores J.C. Bartok (6-5, post player) and Griffin Dahn (6-3, wing player).
"I really like this group of kids and I think they have a chance to be special," said Souder, who is in his 13th season leading the program. "This is the most basketball-only guys we've had here in a long time and they did a fantastic job of working extremely hard at it this past year."
Kilbourne matched its longest winning streak in program history last season by winning four consecutive games. Among the other highlights were sweeping Hilliard Davidson in league play (winning 52-36 at home and 51-50 at Davidson) for the first time during Souder's tenure, the program's first win at Dublin Coffman (55-44) and the program's first postseason win since 2006.
The Wolves went 8-6 in the OCC-Central to tie Westland for fourth, behind Upper Arlington (12-2), Coffman (9-5) and Thomas (9-5) and ahead of Davidson (7-7), Hilliard Darby (3-11) and Central Crossing (0-14).
Kilbourne defeated Darby 59-43 in the first round of the Division I district tournament before losing to second-seeded Walnut Ridge 43-21 in the second round.
As part of OCC realignment last summer, the Wolves and Darby moved to the OCC-Cardinal with Dublin Jerome, Dublin Scioto, Hilliard Bradley, Westerville Central, Westerville North and Westerville South.
"We just want to be good and get a championship banner to hang on our wall," Stern-Tucker said. "The Westerville teams are the ones we have to worry the most about in the OCC because they're talented."