With the return of several key players and the addition of three transfers, the Westland High School boys basketball team has high hopes this season.

With the return of several key players and the addition of three transfers, the Westland High School boys basketball team has high hopes this season.

Coach Todd Parker believes the Cougars should at least snap a string of four consecutive losing seasons. They went 4-17 last season, losing to fourth-seeded Gahanna 90-59 in the first round of the Division I district tournament.

The Cougars were 2-12 in the OCC-Central Division.

Westland was 10-10 in 2006-07 and hasn't had a winning season since 2004-05, when it was 21-4 and lost to Cincinnati Moeller 76-73 in a Division I regional semifinal.

"I think we have a product that we can sell this year," said Parker, who is in his ninth season. "I don't want to set the bar too high because we have to learn how to win, but I do think we have a good team to put out there and it should be fun to watch. If we do learn how to win quickly, perhaps we can compete for a league title. I do think we'll win our share of games this year."

The Cougars open at home against Whetstone on Friday, Dec. 2.

The team's optimism begins with the return of junior guard/forward J.J. Smith, who led the Cougars in scoring (11.8 points per game) and rebounding (7.4) last season and was honorable mention all-league.

Smith has reached double figures in points and rebounds 11 times in his prep career.

"We're looking good so far," Smith said. "We're practicing hard and we have dedication. Everybody is happy. Everybody is up for the season."

Also back is 6-foot-7 senior center Kris Carius, who should give the Cougars a strong presence inside.

"Kris is much more physical than he was last year, so we're looking like we can be pretty solid," Parker said.

Other returning players are senior guard/forward Chase Blankenship and senior guards Lineurys Sanchez and Will White.
Parker expects three transfers to make a difference.

Junior point guard KyJuan Grace and 6-5 junior forward/center Devan Williamson have transferred from Central Crossing. Grace should run the team's offense and Williamson is being counted on to help Carius in the post.

Shooting guard Kersey Long, who transferred from Columbus West, was first-team all-City League-South last season and should also see time at point guard.

Senior forward Gulaid Hassan, junior guard Cory Beesler and junior center Steven Gonzalez played on junior varsity last season.

Also returning is senior guard Deshone Davis, who played as a freshman and sophomore but decided not to play last season.

"We're guard heavy, so we shouldn't have problems handling the ball like we've had in the past couple of years," Parker said. "We should be able to handle pressure."

Last season in the OCC-Central, Westland tied Central Crossing for seventh behind co-champions Upper Arlington and Dublin Coffman (13-1), Thomas Worthington (9-5), Hilliard Davidson (7-7) and Worthington Kilbourne and Hilliard Darby (5-9).

Westland beat Central Crossing 60-50 at home and 47-38 on the road.