Thomas Worthington High School boys basketball coach Sean Luzader is very optimistic about his team's future.
That's because the Cardinals, who finished 5-18 overall after losing at 10th-seeded Reynoldsburg 55-40 in the first round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 24, should return a strong freshman class that gained valuable experience this year.
Thomas, which was seeded 40th, also should have great size next year.
"We are really excited moving forward," said Luzader, whose team won three of its final eight games. "We had three freshmen that got plenty of experience. How many teams can say that? They will be very, very good eventually.
"Junior forwards Ben Wight and Kyler Block will be outstanding next year and they bring us great height, at (6-foot-8) and 6-6, and athleticism. We also return (6-3 junior guard) Charlie Mamlin, who was selected honorable mention (all-OCC-Cardinal Division)."
Thomas is losing five seniors, including starting guard Julius Mallory and a strong contributor in guard Jamal Carter. Mallory averaged 3.1 points and Carter averaged 5.1 points.
"I'm very proud of our seniors," Luzader said. "Throughout a season in which we did not win as often as we would like, they continued to come and work hard at practice every single day. They had a positive attitude and were great role models for our younger guys."
The freshmen were guards Maurice Collins (6-2), Isaac Settles (6-4) and Jaylen Sullinger (5-7). Settles averaged 4.9 points and 1.7 assists and Collins averaged 3.1 points.
"Jalen Sullinger was hurt most of the year and he would have made a difference for us," Luzader said. "We're looking for big things from him in the future. I believe Isaac and Maurice improved dramatically from the beginning until the end of the season."
The Cardinals finished 2-10 in the OCC-Cardinal to place seventh, behind Hilliard Bradley (12-0), Hilliard Darby (7-5), Dublin Jerome and Kilbourne (both 6-6), Delaware (5-7) and Dublin Scioto (4-8).
Wight was named first-team all-league after averaging 12.1 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. Mamlin averaged 6.1 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists, and Block averaged 4.8 points and 3.2 rebounds.
"The key to our improvement was as simple as getting more experience and real game reps," Luzader said. "Next year, we'll continue the improvement because we will have more experience. You will also see a great improvement in strength and quickness."
Gymnastics team losing three seniors
The gymnastics team will need to replace three seniors next season, including two who competed in the all-around in the district meet Feb. 24 at Kilbourne, where the Cardinals finished 13th (125.3) of 24 teams and did not have any individual state qualifiers.
Freshman Audrey Maxwell had a team-best 31.6 in the all-around to place 37th of 93 competitors. Sophomore Regan Macerollo and senior Camryn Patton tied for 48th (30.8) and senior Vicky Gomez finished 60th (30.1).
Maxwell had a team-high 8.15 on vault to place 33rd and she and junior Emma Zedeker tied for 36th on balance beam with a team-high 8.35. Zedeker had a team-best 7.55 on uneven bars, placing 52nd, and Macerollo had a team-best 8.35 on floor exercise, finishing 44th.
Thomas finished sixth (10 points, 2-4 record) in the overall OCC-Cardinal standings, behind Darby (28, 6-0), Bradley (24, 5-1), Jerome (20, 4-2), Delaware (14, 3-3) and Kilbourne (12, 1-5) and ahead of Scioto (4, 0-6).
@Brad_ThisWeekAt a glance
*Record: 5-18 overall, 2-10 (fourth) in OCC-Cardinal
*Seniors lost: Jamal Carter, Grant Cross, Antwan Howell, Julius Mallory and Luke Wang
*Key returnees: Kyler Block, Maurice Collins, Isaac Settles, Jalen Sullinger and Ben Wight
*Finishes: Sixth in OCC-Cardinal, 13th at district
*Seniors lost: Vicky Gomez, Camryn Patton and Maddie Wilkin
*Key returnees: Regan Macerollo, Audrey Maxwell and Emma Zedeker