The last time Doug Kohler served in a coaching capacity before taking over the Whetstone High School girls basketball program last summer was during a two-year stint at Northland in the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 seasons.
He thinks he learned a lot those two years, particularly when it comes to having a winning attitude. Kohler worked under Elaine Boltz, who in 28 seasons coached the Vikings to 360 wins, including six City championships and the Division I state title in 1982.
Whetstone opens Dec. 5 at Watkins Memorial.
"I've got some high expectations from when I was coaching before," said Kohler, who is in his third year as a teacher at Whetstone. "We're all still getting to know each other, and part of it is about having confidence in each other and in knowing each other's roles. I definitely have some high expectations."
One returning player who should help the Braves approach Kohler's team goals is Asia Taylor. The 6-foot-1 senior was forced at times into the post in past seasons but is one of the team's best ball-handlers and likely will play at small forward. Taylor became the Braves' first ThisWeek Super 12 selection last year when she also made second-team all-district and honorable mention all-state in Division I after averaging 21.5 points, 13.0 rebounds, 5.0 blocked shots and 4.5 assists.
Earlier this month, she became the Braves' first Division I college signee since 1998 graduate LaTasha Gales (Morehead State) when she signed with Louisville. Taylor averaged 11.5 points as a freshman and 16.7 points and 12.5 rebounds as a sophomore, making honorable mention Super 12.
With Taylor in the fold, the Braves have improved from 4-17 in 2005-06 to 6-14 her sophomore year and 9-11 last year.
Kohler, who replaces Errole Rembert after he finished his second stint as coach last season, also has four other returning players. Junior Kasey Althouse and sophomores Haley Buskirk and Katie Fuller were other key players and sophomore Shelby Shaeffer saw some varsity action as well last season. Fuller is expected to play point guard when she is recovered from a recent car accident.
Senior Annie Koroma, who is 5-10, will play in the post. Junior Olivia Berry and freshmen Symiah Campbell and Chivia Jones are new to the team.
Overall, there are 19 players in the program after only nine played last year.
"We're trying to show some excitement and show that we have something to build on," Kohler said. "Slowly but surely we're implementing new part and players. We've been running pretty much standard plays where people are moving into the right spots. Sometimes it looks good and sometimes it doesn't. Defensively we're mixing up zone and man-to-man.
"It's nice (having Taylor), there's no doubt about that. Who wouldn't want her? She can play. Probably the worst part is that she continually has probably been playing out of position. But she makes it look good around her."
Whetstone finished sixth at 5-9 in the City League-North Division last year behind Brookhaven (13-1), Mifflin (12-2), Northland (10-3), Linden-McKinley (6-8) and East (5-8) and ahead of Beechcroft (4-10) and Centennial (0-14). The Braves lost to Marysville 61-44 in the first round of the Division I district tournament.
"I think Northland's got some experience coming back and Mifflin is always going to be tough," Brookhaven coach Reggie Lee said. "Asia Taylor of Whetstone is as good as any basketball player in central Ohio. The sky's the limit for her."