The Thomas Worthington High School boys basketball team has a lot of pieces that could aid its hopes of having a turnaround season.

The Cardinals are seeking to improve on last season, when they finished 5-18 overall and 2-10 in the OCC-Cardinal Division.

"For us to have a successful season, we must find great leadership, face adversity better than in the past, dominate on the boards and limit our turnovers," fifth-year coach Sean Luzader said. "We are solid athletically and very long. Our bigs can run the floor as well as any bigs in the area. We could potentially start a lineup of 6-(foot)-4, 6-3, 6-5, 6-6 and 6-9."

Thomas returns an experienced lineup and should be led by three returning senior starters in 6-6 forward Kyler Block, 6-3 guard Charlie Mamlin and 6-9 forward Ben Wight.

Wight, an Ohio University commit, averaged 12.1 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks last season and was named first-team all-league. Mamlin, a Haverford College commit, averaged 6.1 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists and was honorable mention all-league, and Block averaged 4.8 points and 3.2 rebounds.

"Ben is expected to be our team's leading scorer and rebounder," Luzader said. "He's a great athlete who runs and moves very well at his size. He has extended his shooting range this season and I think he could be one of the area's top overall players.

"Charlie is a great 3-point shooter and I expect him to be one of the top shooters in the area. Kyler is our leader and our 'glue guy' and he can score inside and out. He's a good rebounder and defender and is being pursued by Division II and Division III colleges."

Also returning are sophomores Maurice Collins (6-4, guard), Isaac Settles (6-5, guard) and Jalen Sullinger (5-9, guard).

Last season, 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.

"We are fairly deep. We have seven seniors, three returning sophomores that were on varsity last season as freshmen and a sold junior group. There aren't many teams who can say they had three freshman lettermen. I think the experience they gained last year will show up this year. They're going to be special in the future."

Thomas defeated Whetstone 72-44 in its opener Dec. 1. The Cardinals, who played Westland on Dec. 4, open league play Friday, Dec. 7, at Hilliard Bradley, which won the league title last year with a 12-0 record.

Against Whetstone, Collins had 21 points, Settles and Wight both scored 11 and Mamlin scored eight.

Also expected to play a key role is 6-2 senior guard Jamare Razor.

Completing the roster are seniors Tanner Hunt (6-0, guard), John Tchounguen (5-10, guard) and James Waltermyer (6-1, forward), juniors Ama Akatobi (5-9, guard), Jeff Beck (6-0, guard), Ibrahim Conteh (6-3, forward), Zach Mansaray (5-7, guard), Jacob Suncire (6-4, center) and Landon Ward (6-2, forward).

"I like this group a lot, but we need to focus on our daily goals," Luzader said. "We want to defend tough as a unit, rebound everything on both ends of the floor, sprint the floor at all times and play unselfishly."

Gates expected to lead wrestling team

The wrestling team returns one of its four Division I district qualifiers from a year ago in sophomore Mason Gates.

Gates is back at 220 pounds after going 0-2 at district last season to finish 11-14 overall.

"Mason set the bar higher for this year's freshmen," fifth-year coach Brad Todd said. "We hadn't had a freshman district qualifier in many years. We expect him to be a leader. We're excited to have him back. He keeps improving and working hard and we expect a big season out of him."

The other three district qualifiers were 2018 graduates Chase Haimerl (145), Josh Keese (170) and Charlie Kneessi (182).

Gates is one of five returning letterwinners, along with senior Adam Craft (182) and sophomores Mason Earliwine (126), Joe Rhodes (160) and Ajae Sullivan (132).

The other returnees are juniors Nick Harris (138) and John Reed (170) and sophomore Majed Ahmad (195/182).

"We have a small upperclass group with Adam, Nick and John, but they have shown to be good leaders in the room and it's their turn to shine on the varsity level," Todd said. "We do have a great freshman class and many of them will have a chance to step right into the varsity role. They will take some lumps along the way, but the important thing is for them to keep learning, growing and staying positive."

The freshmen include Gabe Baker, Michael Blaine, Xavier Brandon, Wayne Chen, Gael Cruz, Chris Earliwine, Charlie Erickson, Jacob Hall, Brayden Jamison, Xavier Thomas and Channing Thorton.

While Todd was still figuring out where the freshmen will fit in the lineup, he said all of them are working hard and challenging themselves.

"We're a very young, inexperienced team, but the growth is there as shown in our freshman class," Todd said. "That stems from our efforts on the youth and middle-school level to really grow the program.

"These freshmen have a bright future and just have to stick with the process. If we can stay healthy, we should fill just about every weight class but 106, which hasn't happened in a long time."

The Cardinals opened Dec. 1 by finishing eighth (132.5 points) in the 15-team Tony Pizzurro Memorial Tournament at DeSales behind champion Grove City (295.5). Gates placed third, Blaine (126), Jamison (160) and Ahmad (195) all placed fourth and Harris was sixth (145).

Thomas begins OCC-Cardinal competition Thursday, Dec. 6, at Dublin Jerome. The Cardinals went 0-6 in the league last season.

bemerine@thisweeknews.com

@Brad_ThisWeek

Schedules

BOYS BASKETBALL

Dec. 1 -- at Whetstone

Dec. 4 -- vs. Westland

*Dec. 7 -- at Hilliard Bradley

*Dec. 14 -- vs. Dublin Jerome

*Dec. 17 -- at Delaware

*Dec. 21 -- vs. Dublin Scioto

Dec. 28 -- vs. Melbourne (Australia) Ringwood in Thomas Holiday Tournament

Dec. 29 -- vs. Brunswick in Thomas Holiday Tournament

*Jan. 4 -- vs. Olentangy Berlin

Jan. 5 -- at Africentric in OCC-City Challenge

*Jan. 8 -- vs. Hilliard Darby

*Jan. 11 -- at Kilbourne

*Jan. 18 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley

*Jan. 22 -- vs. Delaware

*Jan. 25 -- at Dublin Jerome

Jan. 26 -- vs. Northland at Pickerington Central

Jan. 29 -- vs. New Albany

*Feb. 1 -- at Olentangy Berlin

*Feb. 5 -- at Dublin Scioto

*Feb. 8 -- at Hilliard Darby

*Feb. 15 -- vs. Kilbourne

Feb. 19 -- at Westerville South

WRESTLING

Dec. 1 -- Tony Pizzurro Memorial Tournament at DeSales

*Dec. 6 -- at Dublin Jerome

Dec. 8 -- Jeremy Ammons Kilted Klassic at Sparta Highland

Dec. 12 -- at Westerville North

*Dec. 13 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley

Dec. 28-29 -- Marion Harding Classic

*Jan. 10 -- vs. Olentangy Berlin

*Jan. 17 -- vs. Delaware

*Jan. 24 -- at Hilliard Darby

*Feb. 7 -- vs. Dublin Scioto

Feb. 9 -- at Utica with Granville

Feb. 12 -- at Columbus Academy with New Albany and Whetstone

*Feb. 14 -- at Kilbourne

Feb. 16 -- Nye Cardinal Classic at St. Charles

*League contest

Below are the coming schedules for the Thomas girls basketball, bowling, hockey and swimming & diving teams:

GIRLS BASKETBALL

*Dec. 7 -- Home vs. Hilliard Bradley

*Dec. 11 -- Home vs. Kilbourne

BOWLING

*Dec. 10 -- Gahanna at Capri Lanes

*Dec. 11 -- Olentangy Berlin at Capri Lanes

HOCKEY

*Dec. 8 -- Olentangy Berlin at Chiller North

SWIMMING & DIVING

Dec. 11 -- Home vs. Bloom-Carroll with Kilbourne

*League contest