As it prepares for its opener Saturday, Dec. 3, at home against New Albany, the Olentangy Liberty High School boys basketball team faces a new obstacle.

As it prepares for its opener Saturday, Dec. 3, at home against New Albany, the Olentangy Liberty High School boys basketball team faces a new obstacle.

Returning many of their key players from last year's squad that earned a program-best 16-7 record, the Patriots are dealing with expectations.

"This is the first year our team has really had any expectations on it," senior guard Jake Bischoff said. "(Fourth-year coach Greg Nossaman) always says in the past we have been the hunters and we could sneak up on people. We're not going to sneak up on people anymore."

Liberty made its first Division I district semifinal appearance last season, but lost 59-52 to Northland.

Two key players - forward Frank Longhino (5.7 points per game) and guard Andy Yazrombek (12.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists) - graduated last spring. Yazrombek was first-team all-District 11, first-team all-OCC-Cardinal Division and honorable mention all-Central District last season. He is the program's all-time leading scorer (602 points) and set the program record for assists in a season last year with 99.

The Patriots currently are without senior guard A.J. Motika, who sustained a torn labrum in each shoulder during football season.

Liberty returns several key contributors and also has several players from last year's junior varsity team that went 18-2, so Nossaman remains confident. But he wants the Patriots to start strong.

"When kids are winning and playing well, it breeds confidence," he said. "But if they get themselves in a hole early on, then they start questioning what we're doing."

The Patriots return senior starters Nick Archer, a 6-foot-8 center who averaged 11.4 points and seven rebounds last season, and Bischoff, a 6-3 guard who averaged 12.1 points and made a team-high 46 3-pointers.

Bischoff was honorable mention all-league and all-District 11. Archer was second-team all-league and all-District 11 as well as honorable mention all-Central District.

Nossaman expects contributions from seniors Alec Charbonneau (6-6, guard/forward), Phil Cheesman (6-4, guard/forward), Josh Pollner (6-8 forward/center) and Tyler Shirey (6-8, forward/center) and juniors Sam DeRoy (5-11, guard), Matt Muntean (5-10, guard), Nick Nossaman (5-9, guard), Alex Radkiewicz (6-4, forward), Bo Scheper (6-1, guard) and Tyler Welch (5-10, guard).

"We expect a lot of leadership with seven seniors and six juniors," coach Nossaman said. "We've got some size and we shoot real well. ... We have to mix them together and develop some chemistry."

The Patriots are looking to continue their trend of moving up in the OCC-Cardinal standings. Liberty has improved each season under coach Nossaman, finishing fifth (6-8) in 2008-09, fourth (7-7) in 2009-10 and tying for second (10-4) last season with Westerville Central and Westerville North.

Westerville South (13-1) won the league title. Rounding out the standings were Dublin Jerome (4-10), Dublin Scioto (4-10), Olentangy (3-11) and Marysville (2-12).

"Our goal this year is to take that next step and win a league championship," coach Nossaman said.