Height will be a factor for the Olentangy High School boys basketball team this winter.

Height will be a factor for the Olentangy High School boys basketball team this winter.

The Braves return one of the top post players in the area in Stephen Walczak, but the 6-foot-9 senior is one of only a few frontcourt players on a roster that has no other player taller than 6-4.

"Stephen is a nice defensive advantage, but teams outsize us in the other positions," ninth-year coach Chris Kelly said. "He has worked extremely hard to improve every year, and we expect that to really pay off for him this season. We believe that he will be one of the best big men in central Ohio."

Olentangy finished 6-15 overall last season, losing to Hamilton Township 71-54 in the opening round of Division II district tournament play.

Walczak averaged 11.1 points and 8.3 rebounds last year.

"Being a senior center, a lot of the weight is on my shoulders," Walczak said. "I need to rely on my teammates and we need to communicate on the court. Team communication is always an important thing."

The other returning starter is point guard Seth Clark, a 6-1 junior who averaged nine points last season.

"Seth did a very good job running the point for us and he has grown three inches and gained 30 pounds," Kelly said. "That will definitely help him in his battles against the excellent guards in our (league). I believe he will be one of the top junior guards in the area."

The Braves will be without 6-4 senior Joshua Perry, a two-year starter at forward who will graduate early so he can participate in spring football practice at Ohio State.

Seniors include Zach Caudill (5-10, guard), Jordan Gingery (6-0, forward), Andrew Harris (6-1, forward), Eric MacKay (6-0, guard), Ryan Shaffer (5-9, guard) and Walczak.

"We have pretty good team chemistry and we have a lot of guys who can shoot the ball," Gingery said. "We have to hit our open shots."

Juniors include Brett Boggs (6-3, forward), Eric Brandt (5-9, guard), Clark, Andrew Horstman (6-4, center), Joe Morycz (6-3, forward) and Tyler Sobieray (5-9, guard). Craig Matthews, a 6-1 junior forward, moved from Flint, Mich.

Jimmy Gundling, a 5-9 guard, is a freshman.

"We believe that we will be very good offensively," said Kelly, whose team opens Friday, Dec. 2, at Marion Pleasant. "We have a strong group of guards and an excellent inside presence in Stephen Walczak.

"We don't have a lot of size with the exception of Stephen, which could lead to some matchup problems on the defensive end and in the rebounding department."

The Braves finished seventh in the OCC-Cardinal Division last season at 3-11, behind champion Westerville South (13-1). Olentangy Liberty, Westerville Central and Westerville North tied for second at 10-4. Dublin Jerome and Dublin Scioto tied for fifth at 4-10, followed by the Braves and Marysville (2-12).

MacKay said defense has been a focus during the preseason.

"Defense is always something you need to improve," MacKay said. "It's something we work on every day in practice and it's something that you can depend on even when you're shots are off."