The Westland High School boys basketball team will look to bounce back from a disappointing season a year ago.

The Westland High School boys basketball team will look to bounce back from a disappointing season a year ago.

With six seniors and a talented sophomore on the roster, coach Todd Parker believes the Cougars have a chance for significant improvement.

The Cougars open the season Friday at Whetstone.

Last season, Westland finished

2-19 overall and eighth in the OCC-Central Division at 1-13.

Westland lost to league rival Dublin Coffman 67-30 in a Division I district tournament game.

Parker points to a limited offseason in 2009 as a key to his team's struggles. The offseason was abbreviated after extra-curricular activities were canceled in South-Western City Schools because of a failed levy in August 2009. Activities were restored after a separate levy request was approved by voters last November.

"Not passing the (August) levy really hurt us bad last year with six out of the top 10 kids leaving," said Parker, now in his eighth season as coach. "However, this year we had a much better selection as far as in the tryouts."

The team had little time to prepare for last season after the levy was approved last November.

"One thing that did happen with the levy was we had a lot of kids get a lot of experience last year that maybe wouldn't have played quite so much," Parker said. "We're looking pretty optimistic because we have quite a bit of experience and we're back to what Westland used to be as far as players."

Though experience should be a strong point, it's sophomore guard/forward J.J. Smith (6-foot-3, 185 pounds) whom Parker expects to emerge as the team's top performer.

"J.J. is a nice kid to build around," Parker said.

Senior post players James Wilson (6-6, 230) and Andrew Shepherd (6-2, 185), senior point guard Devin Norris (5-11, 150), senior guard Zac Buchwalter (6-1, 160), senior guard/forward Abdi Omer (6-0, 160) and senior forward Marqual Pressey (6-0, 170) are also expected to play key roles.

Junior guards Chase Blankenship (6-1, 170) and Lineurys Sanchez (5-6, 130), junior post player Kris Carius (6-7, 260) and junior forward Will White (6-1, 180) round out the team.

"We're looking to be a lot better this year," Buchwalter said. "We had the levy last year, so this year we're hoping to turn things around. We had a better offseason. Last offseason we couldn't do hardly anything at all. This year we had weightlifting and conditioning. The four years I've been here, this is the hardest conditioning we've done."

Last season, Westland finished behind Upper Arlington (14-0), Coffman (12-2), Hilliard Darby (8-5), Hilliard Davidson (8-6), Worthington Kilbourne (6-8), Thomas Worthington (4-9) and Central Crossing (2-12) in the league.

Parker expects UA and Coffman to again challenge for the top spot, but hopes his team also can contend.

"It's the usual suspects just due to the fact that they seem to have it going on," Parker said. "When you look at Arlington, you look at Coffman, they just do things right. They have a good youth program. It works into the junior high where they feed into the high school. They are a step or two ahead of the rest of us, but this year we'll be competitive and I think if we could sneak a win or two against those guys, who knows, maybe we could be up there in first, second or third."

The schedule also includes competing in the South-Western City Schools Winter Classic

on Dec. 27 and 29 at Central Crossing.

The Cougars will oppose Grove City on Dec. 27 and Franklin Heights on Dec. 29.

"We all have to play hard," Buchwalter said. "When the bench gets in they have to know their role. People can't play out of their position and take shots that they shouldn't be taking. They have to be smart."