Payton Collins showed off his skills in a limited role last season for the Hartley High School boys basketball team.
The growth the 6-foot-7 junior post player displayed during the offseason may have been a sign that he would take a step forward this winter, but it would have been tough to predict that he would emerge as one of central Ohio's top talents in the 2019 class.
"I knew he had a big AAU season, and he's a tough kid," coach Randy Kortokrax said. "He looks kind of wiry, but we knew last year (about his skills) and he probably could have played more."
With his older brother, 2017 graduate Conor Collins, no longer in the program after both played similar roles last season, Payton Collins has upped his scoring average from four points last winter to more than 16 through nine games this season.
Collins also was averaging 12 rebounds for the Hawks, who beat St. Charles 49-41 on Jan. 5 to improve to 3-1 in the CCL and were 7-3 overall after losing to Groveport 56-50 on Jan. 6 in The Challenge at Pickerington North and before playing Bloom-Carroll on Jan. 9.
In a 68-48 loss to Ready on Dec. 15, Collins was one of three starters out of the lineup because of illness or injury, along with junior forward Morgan Safford and senior wing player Mac Wieging.
"It's always a surprise when you (increase your scoring average by so much), but I just kept working hard (in the offseason) and (improved) my quickness and speed and jumping ability," Collins said. "I've gotten a lot stronger in the weight room. I probably grew an inch or two from last year and just keep working on my shot."
One potential obstacle was averted in late December.
During a 72-64 overtime win over Wellington on Dec. 11, Collins fell and cut his arm.
Although he temporarily hurt his elbow during the fall, it didn't cause a lingering problem, but the cut later became infected.
A dose of antibiotics produced significant nausea that kept him out of the Ready game before he was switched to a different medication that cured the infection.
Collins scored 18 points in a 59-55 win over DeSales on Dec. 22 for the Hawks, who lost to Gnadenhutten Indian Valley 56-54 on Dec. 29 but beat Dayton Chaminade Julienne on Dec. 30 in games in the Tuscarawas Central Catholic Shootout.
Collins had 19 points against Chaminade Julienne.
Through nine games, senior guard Garrett Tipton (16.5 points per game) and Safford (12.0 ppg) joined Collins as offensive leaders for the Hawks.
"It's been pretty cool transitioning into a leader," Collins said. "I love having the pressure and being there for my team, doing all the dirty stuff like getting the boards and setting screens. We've got a lot of great guys, but it's definitely a team effort."
Collins, like his older brother, has been a part of both the football and basketball programs at Hartley, although Payton didn't become a key player until this fall in football.
He gained his first varsity experience in basketball as a sophomore.
Collins scored 12 points against St. Charles and had 12 points and 18 rebounds against Groveport, which improved to 4-7.
"He's such a mismatch because he does shoot the 3-ball very well," Kortokrax said. "He grew (since last season) because I have to look up to him. He's a hard worker and a smart kid."
Swimmers confident entering second half
The boys and girls swimming and diving program had what it believed was a positive December.
The Hawks are hoping that continues over the coming weeks as they prepare for the CCL meet, which will be held Jan. 27 at St. Charles.
"Everyone seemed very pleased with their early-season times," coach Tony Phillips said. "We hope they (are) riding on a little confidence."
Leading the way for the girls team, according to Phillips, has been Deanne Archambeau, who swam a personal-best 57.67 seconds in the 100-yard butterfly in the Ned Reeb Memorial Invitational on Dec. 16 at Ohio State.
Also in that meet, Mia Phillips (100 breaststroke) and Maggie Phillips (500 freestyle) had strong performances, according to coach Phillips, who is their father.
There are seven boys in the program, and all posted season-best times in the Ned Reeb meet, according to coach Phillips.
Wrestling team making progress
With no seniors in his program, wrestling coach Kevin Petrella expected his team to go through early-season ups and downs.
The positive side of that is that he's started to see growth from inexperienced competitors such as sophomore Kenyon Davis, who competes at 182 pounds and was new to the sport last season.
Hartley, which beat Columbus South 42-30 and host Bexley 45-21 on Jan. 4, is preparing for the Catholic Invitational Tournament that will be held Saturday, Jan. 13, and Sunday, Jan. 14, at Cleveland St. Ignatius.
"We're young, but we're coming along," Petrella said.
On Dec. 27 and 28 in the GMVWA Holiday Tournament at Vandalia Butler, the Hawks finished 11th (55) of 21 teams in Division II-III, behind champion St. Paris Graham (230.5).
Griffin Rathburn placed third at 195, Michael Petrella finished fifth at 106 and Joe Petrella was seventh at 152 to lead Hartley. In addition, Nate Jackson won two matches at 220.
Below are the coming schedules for the Hartley boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
Jan. 15 -- Duncan Falls Philo in Route 40 Classic at Zanesville West Muskingum
*Jan. 11 -- At Watterson
Jan. 15 -- At Dresden Tri-Valley
*Jan. 12 -- Walnut Ridge at Holiday Lanes
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 11 -- At Columbus Academy with Wellington
Jan. 13 -- Northeast Classic at Branin Natatorium in Canton
Jan. 13-14 -- Catholic Invitational Tournament at Cleveland St. Ignatius
Jan. 17 -- At Galion Northmor with Mansfield Madison