Hartley High School boys basketball coach Randy Kortokrax believes he's got the necessary size, speed and skill among a large returning group to create a dynamic offense.
He just isn't sure when things will come together to the extent he's expecting.
"We're putting in a new offense," Kortokrax said. "We usually keep things spread and attack, but it doesn't look real good right now. It takes a lot of motion versus dribble penetration.
"I'll say this: They get along well. The seniors are all pretty good friends, and I like that."
Kortokrax has been pleased with the growth he's seen in Morgan Safford, a 6-foot-5 senior who should see time at point guard as well as at other positions after being one of the main playmakers last year along with 2018 graduate Garrett Tipton.
In a Division II district final last season, Safford scored 29 points but Hartley lost to Beechcroft 70-56 to finish 19-6 overall.
Safford averaged 14 points and should form one of central Ohio's top duos with senior Payton Collins, a 6-7 post player who also averaged 14 points last season and had 20 points and 19 rebounds in the Hawks' 71-44 victory over Columbus East in a district semifinal.
Hartley opened what should be a challenging schedule Dec. 1 with a 65-50 loss to Columbus South in the All-Ohio Tipoff Classic at Gahanna, getting 21 points from Safford. The Bulldogs were Division II district champions last season.
Others on the Hawks' non-league schedule include Upper Arlington (Jan. 15) and Westerville North (Jan. 26), both of which were Division I district runners-up last season, as well as Johnstown (Feb. 20), which was a Division III district runner-up.
The Hawks, who went 6-2 in the CCL to tie Ready and Watterson for the league title, also return seniors Chase Albanese (6-0, forward), Ryan Heuser (6-3, forward) and Braylon Mitchell (6-0, guard/forward), junior Andrew Trainer (5-10, guard) and sophomore P.J. Daniels (6-1, guard).
Senior Jordan Kirkbride, a 6-6 forward who has committed to play football for Dartmouth, has joined the program after not playing the past two seasons.
Juniors Kylan Kortrokrax (6-3, forward) and Colby Rankin (5-10, guard) are others who should be key contributors.
Also on the roster are sophomores Braden Blanchard (6-1, guard), Elijah English (6-2, forward/center) and Will Miller (6-3, forward).
Garrett Tipton, a guard who finished with 1,078 career points, averaged 16 points last season and is playing for Bellarmine University, led a 2018 senior class that also included guards Major Lowe (3.5 points per game) and Mac Wieging (6 ppg).
The Hawks made it two rounds further in the district tournament and won three more games last season than they did in 2016-17.
"We've got to learn this offense and get some people in shape," coach Kortokrax said. "It's always a work in progress here. We've picked up a pretty good schedule this year. We could play well and lose a lot of games."
Young talent to lead girls basketball team
The girls basketball team was 1-2 after beating the Cincinnati Trailblazers 56-28 on Dec. 1.
The Hawks opened Nov. 23 with a 54-41 loss to Xenia Legacy Christian, a Division IV district runner-up last season, and fell 72-48 to Westerville South, a Division I regional runner-up last winter, on Nov. 27.
"We're going to be inexperienced," fourth-year coach Donald Dennis said. "This is the youngest team I've had in my years coaching the varsity, but we're going to be athletic and get up and down the floor. We'll play up-tempo."
Hartley is coming off a 17-5 season in which it was a Division I district semifinalist.
The Hawks have the lowest actual enrollment number of any team in the state in Division I and compete in the division because of their adjusted enrollment due to competitive balance.
Seniors Chiamaka Nwokolo (6-1, forward) and Israel Strickland (5-3, guard), juniors Sa'Haia Clark-Lee (5-10, forward) and Abby Rhodes (5-7, guard) and sophomores Kami Kortokrax (5-9, guard/forward) and Milayna Williams (5-7, guard) are the top returnees.
Nwokolo, a Pittsburgh recruit in women's volleyball, scored 12 points in a 56-53 loss to eventual district champion Gahanna in a district semifinal last season.
She averaged 10 points and was honorable mention all-district.
Strickland also averaged 10 points a year ago, while Kortokrax and Williams were key contributors.
The only other senior is Abby Gischel, a 5-8 forward.
Also on the team are junior Julia Cashwell (5-6, guard), sophomores Shania Davis (5-6, guard) and Lily Lindemann (5-11, forward) and freshmen Lexi Cashwell (5-9, guard), Bella Parker (5-4, guard) and Makailah Walker (5-3, guard).
Nwokolo had 18 points and Williams scored 12 against Legacy Christian and Parker had 14 points against South. Strickland had 12 points and Clark-Lee scored 10 against the Trailblazers.
Hartley, which won the CCL at 6-1 last season, lost a 2018 senior class that featured Kennedy Taylor, Amaiah Jones and Jordan Kaylor. Taylor averaged 15 points, was third-team all-district and is playing for Miami University. Jones averaged 6.5 points and is playing for Wilberforce, and Kaylor averaged six points.
"We're excited about the future, but we just don't have a lot of kids with experience playing varsity," Dennis said. "Hopefully, they'll get comfortable early in the year. We're playing some good teams early on."
Dec. 1 – Columbus South in All-Ohio Nike Hoops Showcase at Gahanna
Dec. 4 – at Wellington
*Dec. 7 – at Watterson
*Dec. 14 – at Ready
Dec. 15 – at Mansfield St. Peter’s
*Dec. 21 – vs. DeSales
Dec. 28 – Dayton Chaminade Julienne at Toledo Central Catholic Shootout
Dec. 29 – Middletown Fenwick at Toledo Central Catholic Shootout
*Jan. 4 – vs. St. Charles
Jan. 10 – at Linden-McKinley
Jan. 15 – at Upper Arlington
*Jan. 18 – vs. Watterson
Jan. 20 – Logan in Route 40 Classic at Zanesville West Muskingum
*Jan. 25 – vs. Ready
Jan. 26 – at Westerville North in The Challenge
Jan. 28 – vs. Grove City Christian
*Feb. 1 – at DeSales
Feb. 2 – vs. Toledo Woodward
*Feb. 8 – at St. Charles
Feb. 9 – vs. Circleville New Hope Christian
Feb. 15 – at Whitehall
Feb. 20 – vs. Johnstown
Nov. 23 – Xenia Legacy Christian at Waynesville
Nov. 27 – at Westerville South
Dec. 1 – vs. Cincinnati Trailblazers
Dec. 5 – vs. Gahanna
Dec. 8 – at Lancaster
Dec. 13 – vs. Amanda-Clearcreek
Dec. 15 – vs. Canal Winchester
Dec. 19 – vs. Independence
Dec. 28 – at Teays Valley in Lady Viking Holiday Classic
Dec. 29 – at Dresden Tri-Valley
*Jan. 5 – at Ready
Jan. 7 – vs. Whitehall
*Jan. 10 – vs. Watterson
Jan. 14 – at Bexley
*Jan. 17 – vs. DeSales
*Jan. 24 – vs Ready
Jan. 26 – Pickerington North in Nubian Classic at Africentric
*Jan. 29 – at Columbus School for Girls
*Jan. 31 – at Watterson
*Feb. 7 – at DeSales
Feb. 9 – vs. Trotwood-Madison
Below are the coming schedules for the Hartley bowling, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 6 – Watterson at Sawmill Lanes
*Dec. 10 – DeSales at Holiday Lanes
*Dec. 12 – St. Charles at HP Lanes
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 8 – Ned Reeb Memorial Invitational at Ohio State
Dec. 8 – Dan Gartner Duals at Whitehall