First-year Worthington Kilbourne High School girls basketball coach Jim Strode sees a lot of potential in his team.
The Wolves, who opened Nov. 23 with a 61-43 loss to Ready, return three starters, including 5-foot-7 senior shooting guard Kayla Pack.
"Our team goals are to compete for the title in our new league (OCC-Capital Division) and to advance to a (Division I) district semifinal," said Strode, who entered the season with a 73-120 career record over nine seasons in stints with Centennial and Bexley. "We are quick and athletic. In the past, the team lacked an inside presence, but I think we'll have that this season."
Pack averaged 14.1 points and 6.4 rebounds last season and was named second-team all-OCC-Cardinal and special mention all-district, as the Wolves finished 5-18 overall, placed last in the OCC-Cardinal at 0-14 and lost to Westerville North 58-33 in the first round of the district tournament.
"(Pack) could be one of the top players in the (entire OCC)," Strode said. "She is our engine. She's a solid outside shooter with a quick first step. She has a knack for finding a way to the basket and sets the tone with her work ethic."
Kilbourne began play in the OCC-Capital on Nov. 25 against defending champion Olentangy Orange, which went 14-0 in league play a year ago to finish ahead of Olentangy (12-2), New Albany (10-4), Delaware (7-7), Big Walnut (6-8), Mount Vernon (4-10), Watkins Memorial (3-11) and Franklin Heights (0-14).
The Wolves travel to Dublin Scioto on Tuesday, Dec. 3, before returning to league play Dec. 5 at home against Delaware.
"We're really excited about all the changes," Pack said. "We've got a new coach, new uniforms and we're competing in a new league. Plus, we lost five players to graduation, so this is almost a new team. It's a new beginning and we're all excited.
"We're a lanky team and we're going to play with a quicker tempo, but we also have two young post players (6-1 sophomore Hailee Wilhelm and 6-0 freshman Jordyn Wilson) who have been great so far."
The other returning starters are 6-1 sophomore guard Carli Taute and 5-6 sophomore point guard Annie Mosca. Last season, Taute averaged 7.0 points and Mosca averaged 2.3 points and 2.0 assists.
"Taute is a gifted athlete who can cause matchup issues and be disruptive on defense," said Strode, a Worthington resident who was hired last spring to replace Steve Palmer after Palmer left to become the coach at Big Walnut. "She is a long, athletic guard and a natural basketball player.
"Mosca is a strong, physical and smart point guard who gained great leadership skills on a successful Kilbourne soccer squad. She sustained a hand injury in the district final (Oct. 26), but we expect to get her back for (the game against Scioto)."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Tylar Pruiksma (5-7, forward) and Allison Wirt (5-6, guard) and sophomores Julia Tout (5-7, forward) and Kylie Kott (5-5, guard).
"Tout is a physical rebounder and Kott is a decent outside shooter," Strode said. "Wilson is a physical, athletic post player with a great mid-range game and full arsenal of low block moves, and Wilhelm is long and lanky with solid footwork. I think this squad may surprise some people."