The Thomas Worthington High School boys basketball team is searching for its identity after losing four starters from last season to graduation.
Tyrrell Stewart, a 6-foot-3 senior forward, is the lone returning starter for the Cardinals, who opened Nov. 29 with a 54-35 win over visiting Hilliard Darby and will play host to Upper Arlington in their OCC-Central Division opener Friday, Dec. 6.
The only other player with significant varsity experience is 6-5 senior forward Yemi Sholesi.
The starters who graduated were guards Will Hill and Lance Leslie, center Jesse Greene and forward Jay Smallwood. Last season, Hill was named first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district and Leslie was second-team all-league, as the Cardinals finished 14-9 overall.
"We were more guard-oriented last year with Lance and Will doing most of our ball-handling and scoring," 31st-year coach Bob Miller said. "We're still a work in progress at the moment. We were hot and cold in the preseason, playing really well in one game and not so well in the next.
"With so many new players, we're still struggling to find our identity, but I really like this team because our players get along extremely well and enjoy each other's company. We just need to become more consistent. Once we do that, we'll do well."
In addition to Stewart and Sholesi, 6-5 junior center Alex Baughman and 5-9 sophomore point guard Jaret Gerber are expected to be regular starters.
Rounding out the roster are seniors Isaiah Boyd (6-0, guard) and Daniel Crease (6-1, guard) and juniors Andy Burpee (5-10, guard), Luke Porteus (6-4, forward), Brady Roesch (6-3, forward), Tarik Sapp (5-10, guard), Cameron Senek (5-9, guard), Grant Smith (6-4, post player) and Nick Veal (6-3, guard).
"We're bigger than we've been in a while with both Yemi and Alex in our starting lineup," Miller said. "Yemi's a good athlete and a great student, and Alex may be our most improved player. Most of our guards graduated, but Jaret is a very good athlete who has a lot of potential and Isaiah is our most improved perimeter shooter."
Thomas is looking to move up in the OCC-Central standings after going 8-6 in league play last season to tie UA for fourth behind Olentangy Liberty (13-1), Dublin Coffman (12-2) and Westland (9-5).
The Cardinals won 11 of their first 14 games last season but lost six of their last nine, including a 43-42 loss to Westerville Central in the first round of the Division I district tournament.
"The teams that are usually at the top of (the OCC-Central) are still strong," Miller said. "Olentangy Liberty has some huge players and Dublin Coffman is always good. ... Upper Arlington will be very strong again, as they usually are, and Hilliard Davidson should be an improved team.
"I think we have the potential to be very good, too. We just need to be more consistent while we figure out what our biggest strengths are."