Even though eight of his players missed more than half of the preseason practices while playing for the football team, Worthington Kilbourne High School boys basketball coach Tom Souder believes it could pay dividends for his team.
The football team qualified for the Division II, Region 5 playoffs and advanced to the second round before falling to Zanesville 36-0 on Nov. 15 to finish 10-2. Basketball practice began Nov. 1.
"I like the fact that our football players are used to winning and they expect themselves to continue to win in basketball," said Souder, whose team finished 9-14 overall last season. "Eight of our top 11 players are part of our football team and I hope they can build on the success they had in the fall during our season."
Kilbourne has returned its starting point guard from last season in 5-foot-10 senior Seth Hill, who was named second-team all-OCC-Cardinal Division and honorable mention all-district.
Three other players who started multiple games a year ago are back in 6-5 senior post player Michael Chambers, 6-5 junior post player J.C. Bartok and 6-5 junior wing player Griffin Dahn.
"Seth Hill has matured and very few people we play are going to be as athletic as he is," Souder said. "Mike Chambers had a good fall and we're a little bigger than we've been in the past with J.C. at 6-5, 230 (pounds), Griffin at 6-5, 200 and Mike at 6-5, 190."
Rounding out the team are seniors Will Good (6-1, post player) and Connor Silva (5-10, wing player), juniors Grant Dierksheide (5-7, wing player), Luke Durbin (6-1, wing player), Brian Gevas (6-0, guard), Luke Hackathorne (6-2, post player) and Justin Souder (6-1, wing player), sophomores Josh Stoner (5-11, wing player), Jake Weirick (5-11, wing player) and Isaiah Young (5-10, guard) and freshman Carson Van Lynn (6-6, post player).
Kilbourne was scheduled to open Dec. 3 at Hilliard Davidson, but the contest was postponed and has yet to be rescheduled. Instead, the Wolves will open Friday, Dec. 6, with an OCC-Capital game at Delaware.
Kilbourne went 4-10 in the OCC-Cardinal last season to tie Dublin Jerome for sixth behind champion Westerville North (14-0) but has moved to the OCC-Capital this season.
New Albany won the OCC-Capital title last season, going 14-0 to finish ahead of Delaware (11-3), Olentangy (10-4), Olentangy Orange (8-6), Franklin Heights (5-9), Mount Vernon and Watkins Memorial (3-11) and Big Walnut (2-12). Watkins Memorial left to join the revived Licking County League.
"Delaware, Mount Vernon and New Albany are supposed to be good, so this looks like it's going to be a solid basketball conference," coach Souder said. "I haven't seen a lot of these teams outside of the (district) tournament the past several years, so we've got a lot of scouting to do."
Coach Souder said the Wolves will need to excel defensively if they are to challenge for the OCC-Capital title and make a run in the Division I district tournament.
"With the limited amount of practice time our players have had together, we need to approach this as a learning situation that we're going to grow from and get better," he said. "We have to figure out a way to create easy baskets and score off of our defense. We've done this in the past, but we have to do it even more with this group."