Jalen Bethel is serving notice to opponents: Get ready for a physical game.
The 6-foot-6 post player for the Olentangy Orange High School boys basketball team will be going hard to the basket for his points, so brace for contact or stay out of the way.
"(Assistant) coach (Danny) Mount has been coaching me since middle school, and he has definitely pushed me to use my body," Bethel said. "He wants me to use my size to get into the defender and use them to shield the ball and get buckets.
"He wants everything strong, nothing weak. Whenever you get the ball, meet the ball and come into it strong, grab it strong, pass it strong, go to the bucket strong."
Bethel has been strong in the paint in his senior season. He led the Pioneers in scoring (14.4 points) and rebounding (8.3) through 12 games, and was shooting an impressive 73.0 percent (65-for-89) from the field.
"Jalen is just starting to understand how strong he really is," said Mount, whose team was 9-3 overall before playing Hilliard Davidson on Jan. 9 and is 2-2 in the OCC-Buckeye Division. "I think a lot of big guys are told their whole lives when they are really young that they have to be gentle because they're bigger than everybody.
"Whether it's against siblings or in elementary school, they are told, 'Be careful because you're bigger, and you don't want to hurt anyone.' I think that gets ingrained in their minds, and when they get to this level, they aren't as tough because of that mindset. Sometimes they need to be more aggressive."
Coach Anthony Calo has seen a major change in Bethel's game a season after he averaged 8.8 points and 4.8 rebounds and was named special mention all-league.
"Jalen is a completely different kid than last year," Calo said. "He looks better physically. He's more coachable. He's better mentally.
"He really committed himself to the weight room in the offseason and that has helped. He's doing a great job in the low post, which goes without saying when he's shooting over 70 percent."
Bethel said that success comes from taking advantage of opposing defenses and running the team's motion offense to perfection.
"I have been able to score a lot of ways, especially down low," Bethel said. "I have been able to draw some fouls and make teams play through me with their defense, which opens up a lot of our (perimeter) guys on offense.
"I love being able to run our motion offense and get what we want. We want to get the game to flow the way we want it and to get baskets the way we want to. We don't want the other defense to dictate how we play. With me being able to score down low and being able to kick the ball back out, it's fun to see our offense move cohesively like that."
Guards Matt McCollum (11.3 points) and Luke Ballinger (10.5) also average in double figures.
"We have good perimeter shooters so that plays a part in it, but Jalen has been able to kick the ball out to them a lot," Mount said. "That's huge to the team's success.
"Since eighth grade, he and I have been talking about catching (the ball) high, keeping it high and not bringing it down so the little guards can strip it away from you. His willingness to be coachable with that has really helped us be successful because of our perimeter shooting."
Hockey team preps for tournament
For the fifth consecutive season, the hockey team will be the host program for the Pioneer Classic on Friday, Jan. 12, through Sunday, Jan. 14.
The Pioneers are 13-9-1 overall. They open the tournament Jan. 12 against the Newark Generals at Chiller North.
"It's always something that the kids look forward to," coach Tim Chugh said. "They get to stay home, sleep in their own bed and have fun. The parents and kids work hard every year to put this together."
Orange went 3-1 in the Northwest Ohio Holly-Daze Tournament held Dec. 28-30 at The Cube in Findlay. Zach Miller had hat tricks in each of the three victories, as the Pioneers defeated Oregon Clay 5-3 on Dec. 28, Bowling Green 6-3 on Dec. 28 and Whitehouse Anthony Wayne 6-2 on Dec. 30. They lost to Findlay 6-1 on Dec. 29.
Jack Wander scored as Orange lost to Olentangy 3-1 on Jan. 7 to fall to 4-6-1 in the Capital Hockey Conference-White.
Girls basketball team wins second contest
After three consecutive close losses, the girls basketball team picked up its second win of the season, defeating Watterson 43-41 on Jan. 6.
McKenna Ford had 13 points with three 3-pointers to lead the Pioneers, who were 2-10 overall before playing Davidson on Jan. 9.
Orange had four-point setbacks in both of its games in the Jeff Sheets Holiday Classic at Teays Valley, losing to Lancaster 35-31 on Dec. 29 and Logan 49-45 on Dec. 30.
The Pioneers lost to Olentangy 56-50 on Jan. 5 to fall to 0-5 in the OCC-Buckeye. Taylor Myers scored 19 points and Alyssa Feeley added 12.
Below are the coming schedules for the Orange boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, hockey, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 12 -- At Westerville North
*Jan. 12 -- Home vs. North. The Pioneers lost to the Warriors 51-40 on Dec. 5.
*Jan. 12 -- Marysville at Marysville Lanes
Jan. 13 -- Central District Preview at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
Jan. 16 -- Worthington Kilbourne at Capri Lanes
*Jan. 12 -- Olentangy Liberty and Westerville Central at Central Ohio Gymnastics and Cheerleading
Jan. 15 -- At *Olentangy with Big Walnut and Liberty
Jan. 12 -- Newark in Pioneer Classic at Chiller North
Jan. 13 -- Mentor at Chiller Ice Works and Springboro at Chiller North in Pioneer Classic
Jan. 14 -- TBD in Pioneer Classic at Chiller North
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 13 -- Hilliard/Olentangy Challenge at Hilliard YMCA and Northeast Classic at Branin Natatorium in Canton
*Jan. 11 -- Home vs. Liberty
Jan. 12-13 -- Mike Casey-Maumee Bay Classic at Oregon Clay