There is an air of uncertainty surrounding the Delaware Hayes High School boys basketball program.

There is an air of uncertainty surrounding the Delaware Hayes High School boys basketball program.

The Pacers return just three letterwinners and have just one senior on the roster for first-time head coach Jordan Blackburn, who was an assistant the past four seasons for Larry Eberst.

Eberst, who died on July 14 in a single-engine aircraft in Centerburg, led the Pacers for 15 seasons.

"Five of our top eight players are either sophomores or have never played organized basketball in high school," Blackburn said. "We have athleticism, but we're starting from square one in terms of fundamentals. But I am happy that the boys have been working their tails off."

Delaware finished 12-9 last season, including 6-6 in the OCC-Capital Division. It was their third winning record in the past four seasons.

Playing without two starters, including three-year point guard Pat Kenney, who was injured, the Pacers lost to Olentangy Liberty 69-39 in the first round of the Division I district tournament. They had defeated Liberty 55-45 near midseason.

In league play, Delaware tied Big Walnut for fourth place, behind champion Olentangy Orange (9-3), Mount Vernon and Franklin Heights (both 8-4). New Albany (5-7) and Watkins Memorial (0-12) rounded out the standings.

The three returnees are senior Nick Caudill (6-foot-1, shooting guard), junior Nick Potter (6-3, forward) and sophomore Jacob Bosiokovic (6-5, forward).

Potter averaged 7.3 ppg and 7.1 rebounds as a starter and was honorable mention all-District 11.

"Potter has a real nice inside-outside game," Blackburn said. "He's athletic and tough. He'll take a charge from anybody. He'll do whatever you ask him to do."

Caudill, a part-time starter, averaged 5.3 ppg early last season, but saw decreasing time as the season progressed and scored in just two games in the second half of the season.

Bosiokovic, whose nickname is "Yogi", was a part-time starter as a freshman, averaging 2.6 ppg.

"Caudill is an exceptional leader and has been a tremendous asset to our coaching staff this entire off season," Blackburn said. "He has helped immensely in keeping the boys focused in the weight room, in open gyms and in conditioning. He is our unquestioned leader.

"Yogi is a leader as a sophomore. The kids respect him, and he always does the right things. He knows everybody's positions and can help coach on the floor. Plus, he's got game. He's a 6-5 kid who can shoot from the outside, can post up and can score off the dribble. He's multi-talented and we want to use as much of his talent as we can."

In addition to Kennedy, the Pacers also lost post player Sean Rothermel, shooting guard Kyle Eberst and guard Sean McIntire. Rothermel (16.9 points and school-record 11.2 rebounds per game) was third-team all-district and Player of the Year in the OCC-Capital. Kennedy (11.5 points, 3.2 assists) and Kyle Eberst (5.6 points) were starters. Kennedy was second-team all-league and Eberst was honorable mention. McIntire (2.1 points) came off the bench to provide a defensive spark.

Expected to fill in the holes are juniors Keith Butts (6-1, forward), Braxton Coleman (6-4, center) and Chase Pennington (5-7, point guard/shooting guard), as well as sophomores Matty Bingaya (6-3, point guard) and Zach Parsons (5-11, shooting guard).

"Bingaya is very athletic and has tons of potential, but we have to do our best to be catalysts to help his game improve as he learns," Blackburn said. "Coleman is as strong as an ox, with good footwork and soft hands. He'll be an enforcer for us, but he also has plenty to learn. Parsons shoots well, handles the ball well and has great floor vision. He has really matured and is a real gym rat."

Also expected to contribute are junior Dalton Hartley (6-1, forward), sophomore Tyler Miller (5-10, point guard) and freshmen Jordan Carlson (6-0, shooting guard) and Griffin Kinney (6-1, forward).

"We need to carry on the program in a manner which makes Larry happy," Blackburn said. "That is why the importance of defense will always remain a staple here. You can have bad shooting days or whatever, but you have to have the heart and energy to play defense.

"Another of Larry's favorites was his theme of finding a way to do things. He wouldn't accept 'I can't do it because' ... just find a way to do it."

The Pacers will wear wristbands donated by Refuel, which sells chocolate milk -- the official drink of the OHSAA. They will have MTXE embroidered on them, which is an acronym for Larry Eberst's motto of Mental Toughness, Extra Effort.

Joining Blackburn on the staff are assistants Dave Hale and Scott Morrison.

Schedule

Dec. 4 at Marysville *Dec. 8 vs. Franklin Heights *Dec. 11 at Mount Vernon Dec. 12 at Dublin Coffman Dec. 15 at Olentangy *Dec. 18 at Watkins Memorial *Dec. 22 vs. Big Walnut Dec. 28 vs. Olentangy Liberty (8 p.m.) in Delaware County Invitational Dec. 29 vs. Pickerington Central *Jan. 5 at Hilliard Bradley *Jan. 8 at New Albany *Jan. 15 vs. Olentangy Orange Jan. 16 vs. Pleasant *Jan. 22 at Franklin Heights *Jan. 26 vs. Mount Vernon *Jan. 29 vs. Watkins Memorial *Feb. 2 at Big Walnut *Feb. 5 vs. Hilliard Bradley *Feb. 12 vs. New Albany *Feb. 19 at Olentangy Orange

*OCC-Capital game