The Hilliard Darby High School boys basketball team has some obstacles to overcome this season.

The Hilliard Darby High School boys basketball team has some obstacles to overcome this season.

The Panthers, who finished 7-16 overall last season, anticipated returning one starter after losing five players to graduation.

However, 6-foot-4 senior forward Isaiah Wheeler was lost for the season when he tore an ACL in September during an open gym workout.

"It was a huge loss for us," said third-year coach Chris Maul, whose team opened Dec. 2 with a 50-49 loss at Marysville and played host to Central Crossing on Dec. 6. "He had a great summer and had really changed his body. We now have five new starters."

Wheeler averaged a team-high 9.8 points and 4.6 rebounds and was named honorable mention all-league last season, as the Panthers went 4-10 in the OCC-Cardinal Division to place seventh, behind Westerville South (13-1), Dublin Jerome (12-2), Bradley (11-3), Westerville North (6-8) and Dublin Scioto and Westerville Central (both 5-9) and ahead of Canal Winchester (0-14).

As part of OCC realignment, Delaware, Thomas Worthington and Worthington Kilbourne have replaced Canal Winchester, Central, North and South in the OCC-Cardinal. Darby opens league play Friday, Dec. 9, at home against Delaware.

Among the 2016 graduates were Antonio McGary, who averaged 8.4 points and 2.7 assists, and Braeden Hook, who averaged 7.1 points and a team-high 5.4 rebounds.

Three letterwinners have returned in seniors Kip Burmeister (6-2, forward) and Jose DeLeon (6-1, guard) and junior Brice Stultz (6-4, forward). DeLeon averaged 6.6 points and was a team-best 31-for-86 on 3-point attempts (36.0 percent) last season.

All three are starters, along with juniors Ben Gbur (6-4, forward) and Josh Govine (6-1, guard).

Junior Chandler Barlow (6-0, forward) also is contending for a starting position.

Against Marysville, Gbur had 16 points and DeLeon and Stultz both scored 13.

"DeLeon is a scorer with good (ball-handling skills) and a solid jump shot," Maul said. "He's our leading returning scorer and the returnee with the most minutes played.

"Govine is the best shooter in our program. Gbur scores off the dribble and is a slasher, and Stultz is our leading rebounder and interior scorer. We have some good pieces."

Rounding out the roster are juniors Jack Gearhiser (6-0, guard), C.J. Jasper (6-0, forward), Brian Pettit (5-9, guard) and Colton Wood (5-11, guard) and sophomore Jaeln Benjamin (5-9, guard).

"With five new starters, we have lots of learning to do," Maul said. "We need to improve in every practice every week. We are limited in depth and we have just two players over 6-3. Plus, we have average speed or quickness compared to teams in our league.

"We will need to execute in all phases, push the ball in transition and play strong halfcourt defense. We have to stay out of foul trouble and play fast with good ball movement."

bemerine@thisweeknews.com

@Brad_ThisWeek

Schedules

BOYS BASKETBALL

Dec. 2 -- at Marysville

Dec. 6 -- vs. Central Crossing

*Dec. 9 -- vs. Delaware

Dec. 10 -- at Groveport

Dec. 13 -- vs. Olentangy Orange

*Dec. 16 -- at Worthington Kilbourne

Dec. 17 -- at Grove City

*Dec. 20 -- vs. Dublin Scioto

*Dec. 23 -- at Bradley

Dec. 28 -- at Franklin Heights

*Jan. 6 -- vs. Dublin Jerome

*Jan. 10 -- at Thomas Worthington

*Jan. 13 -- vs. Bradley

Jan. 17 -- vs. Jonathan Alder

*Jan. 20 -- at Delaware

Jan. 21 -- vs. Davidson

*Jan. 24 -- at Dublin Scioto

*Jan. 27 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne

Jan. 31 -- at Canal Winchester

*Feb. 3 -- at Dublin Jerome

*Feb. 10 -- vs. Thomas Worthington

Feb. 14 -- at Mount Vernon

*League contest

Below are the coming schedules for the Darby girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:

GIRLS BASKETBALL

*Dec. 9 -- At Delaware

Dec. 10 -- At Groveport

Dec. 13 -- At Olentangy Orange

BOWLING

*Dec. 9 -- Olentangy Orange at Capri Lanes

GYMNASTICS

Dec. 10 -- At Upper Arlington with Bradley and Davidson

SWIMMING & DIVING

Dec. 10 -- Gahanna at Hilliard YMCA

WRESTLING

Dec. 10 -- Kilted Classic at Sparta Highland

*League contest