Certain he would play an integral role this season for the Pickerington High School Central boys basketball team, Coleton Landis set about, in his words, transforming "baby fat into muscle."

That went for both his weight -- the 6-foot-7 junior center/forward still weighs 210 pounds but is more muscular than he was as a sophomore -- and his responsibilities.

Limited largely to spot minutes behind 2017 graduate Sterling Manley, who now plays for the University of North Carolina, Landis has become the Tigers' primary center. He was averaging 10.1 points and 8.0 rebounds through 16 games for Central, which was 8-8 overall before playing Groveport on Jan. 30 and is 5-2 in the OCC-Ohio Division entering a Friday, Feb. 2, game at Reynoldsburg.

"I am just trying to play my role and do what I have to do," Landis said. "I knew I had big shoes to fill. I had to lift a lot, I played AAU and worked out a lot every day. I ran every day so I would do a better job of getting up and down the floor. I am a little undersized, so I had to run well."

Although he is a natural forward, Landis is a center by default as Central's tallest player who plays regularly. He has the wherewithal to shoot from any distance, as evidenced by his occasional 3-pointers, one of which gave the Tigers a 39-33 lead halfway through the fourth quarter Jan. 19 at Pickerington North before the Panthers made a late run to win 45-40.

"We need him more down low, but he has the ability to step out and shoot. Ultimately, he will be a (power forward) in college," coach Eric Krueger said. "He's doing well. We encourage him to set a screen, pop open and knock (a shot) down. He is progressing. He's doing a good job overall. I just told him to defend and rebound, get down there and be a force under the basket on both sides of the ball.

"We continue to ask him to keep on improving and be a presence offensively and defensively."

Landis, who wants to play in college and expects to be a forward at that level, downplayed any differences between playing that and center as well as any potential difficulties adjusting.

"It's not a huge adjustment because you're already down there (in the paint). It's just a matter of what the offense dictates, whether it's four-out and one-in or three-out and two-in," Landis said. "I am used to playing a stretch (forward) and shooting it. That isn't what (Central) needed. As long as I do what I have to do, I am allowed to shoot 3s as much as I want as long as I am doing what I have to do in the paint. With the way basketball is played now, how the game is, if you're big and you can't shoot, you won't have as many chances unless you are very, very good with everything else you do."

Landis alternated between junior varsity and varsity as a freshman and played varsity exclusively last season. He appeared in 22 of Central's 29 games, totaling 52 points and 38 rebounds as the Tigers advanced to a Division I state semifinal.

"Every day, Sterling and I went at it (in practice)," Landis said. "I played hard every day and tried to get his spot, which was hard to do. He taught me a lot of things."

Basketball is not all that Landis and Manley have in common. Both have a pronounced interest in shoes, and Manley has dated Landis' older sister, Ireland, for more than two years.

Coleton Landis and Manley still text on a daily basis and occasionally FaceTime.

"At the house, we talk basketball, but we're both really into shoes. We have an obsession with shoes," Landis said, adding that while Nike is his preferred brand on the court, he wore Under Armour shoes last summer during AAU play and Jordan Brand shoes are his choice for everyday wear. "Shoes and basketball."

Eberhardt, Larson lead swimmers in OCC meet

Nathen Eberhardt of the boys swimming team placed second in the 500-yard freestyle (5 minutes, 2.07 seconds) and third in the 200 individual medley (2:04.79) in the OCC-Ohio meet Jan. 27 at Thomas Worthington, leading Central to sixth place overall.

Brett Eberhardt finished eighth in the 50 free (24.11) as the Tigers scored 113.5 points to finish behind Gahanna (297), Lancaster (238), Reynoldsburg (200.5), North (178) and Grove City (172).

The 200 medley relay (1:50.88) finished fifth.

"I'm a little tired, but I was racing my friends in the 200 IM, so that was friendly competition and 2:04 was pretty good," Nathen Eberhardt said. "Right now, I'm where I want to be for this point in the season. I believe in my training. It was an all-right meet. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't my best, either."

On the girls side, Kolya Larson placed third in the 100 breaststroke (1:13.7) and the 200 medley relay was third (2:03.58) as Central finished fourth (133) behind North (389), Gahanna (249) and Lancaster (229) and ahead of Grove City (116) and Reynoldsburg (77).

The 200 free relay finished fourth (1:55.27), and placing fifth were Paige Christy in the 100 backstroke (1:05.58) and the 400 free relay (4:29.38).

"This is a great meet to know where we are standing going into (a Division I) sectional (Feb. 10 at Upper Arlington), to tell where we are in our training," Nathen Eberhardt said. "I know what I need to improve on to get a better seed for sectional and district, and, of course, the state meet is the goal."

Girls basketball team nearing league title

The girls basketball team visits Reynoldsburg on Friday, Feb. 2, needing a win to clinch its third consecutive OCC-Ohio championship.

Central is 17-1 overall and 8-0 in the league, a game ahead of second-place Reynoldsburg (7-1). The Raiders are the only team in the division that still has a chance to catch the Tigers, who were ranked third in last week's Division I state poll.

Central, which concludes OCC-Ohio play Feb. 9 at Grove City, recorded its 16th consecutive win Jan. 26 with a 65-24 rout of host Lancaster. Maliya Perry's game-high 13 points led 13 Central players who scored.

On Jan. 23, the Tigers closed out their regular-season home schedule with a 64-22 rout of Westerville Central. Kyla Whitehead had a game-high 12 points.

Reynoldsburg took Central to overtime on Dec. 22 before the Tigers won 56-50.

Perry had 21 points, eight rebounds and three steals that night and Madison Greene added 13 points, five rebounds and four assists.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Central boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:

BOYS BASKETBALL

*Feb. 2 -- At Reynoldsburg. The Tigers defeated the Raiders 72-57 on Dec. 22.

GIRLS BASKETBALL

*Feb. 2 -- At Reynoldsburg. The Tigers defeated the Raiders 56-50 (OT) on Dec. 22.

Feb. 6 -- At New Albany

BOWLING

*Feb. 2 -- Hilliard Bradley at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl

SWIMMING & DIVING

Feb. 2 -- Pickerington North and Reynoldsburg at Robert K. Fox Family YMCA

WRESTLING

Feb. 3 -- Washington Court House Bracket Tournament

*League contest