Despite losing several key players to graduation, the Westerville South High School boys basketball team has not changed its expectations.

Despite losing several key players to graduation, the Westerville South High School boys basketball team has not changed its expectations.

The Wildcats are seeking their third consecutive OCC-Cardinal Division championship as well as continued postseason success. Last season, they finished 24-2 overall, reached a Division I regional final before losing to Northland 80-62 and went 13-1 in the league.

"That reputation is a nice thing to have as long as it's a positive thing," said 25th-year coach Ed Calo, whose team opens Friday, Dec. 2, at home against Reynoldsburg and begins league play Tuesday, Dec. 6, at Westerville Central. "It reflects well on the kids that we've had in the program, which we're pretty proud of. The only way we can keep that reputation is if we play at a high level and continue to do some of the things that we talk about."

Among the players South lost to graduation was guard Traevon Jackson, who averaged 18.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 3.3 steals last season and was named OCC-Cardinal Player of the Year, first-team all-district and second-team all-state. He is playing for the University of Wisconsin.

Leading the list of returnees is 5-foot-9 senior point guard Isiah Rogers, who averaged 9.4 points, 2.8 assists and 1.9 steals last season and was second-team all-league.

Also back are seniors David Asiedu (6-3, post player), Ellis Byers (6-4, forward) and Stephen O'Daniel (6-0, guard), juniors Marcus Ball (6-2, wing player) and Matt Chellis (6-5, forward) and sophomore Darryl Long (6-5, forward).

Last season, Ball averaged 8.8 points and 9.6 rebounds and was special mention all-league, and O'Daniel averaged 5.9 points and shot 47 percent from 3-point range.

"I definitely like the way things are going," Ball said. "With a great coach like coach Calo, there's no way possible that we'll fail.

"We lost a lot of people last year. We lost a big contributor in Traevon Jackson, but it's definitely going to pick up. This year it's a little slower than usual because there's a different type of leadership and some different players, but this is a program that with the excellent coaches we have will never fail."

Also on the team are seniors Korey Brown (5-11, wing player) and Daniel Byers (6-1, forward), juniors Anthony Dixon (5-7, guard) and Julian Wade (6-3, wing player) and sophomore Trey Harden (5-11, wing player).

Harden is a transfer from Hilliard Bradley.

"We're just finding our way right now," Calo said. "I like the fact that the kids are willing to work. We have three really experienced kids in Isiah, Stephen and Marcus. Those guys are going to have to make clear the expectations to our younger kids. I like the new challenge."

Last season in the OCC-Cardinal, Central, Westerville North and Olentangy Liberty tied for second behind South at 10-4, followed by Dublin Jerome (4-10), Dublin Scioto (4-10), Olentangy (3-11) and Marysville (2-12).

The Wildcats' lone league loss came to Liberty, 66-64.

South won its second district championship in four seasons a year ago. The top seed in the district, the Wildcats defeated Lancaster (70-24), Watkins Memorial (99-34), Pickerington Central (71-49) and eighth-seeded New Albany (69-54) in district play and Liberty Township Lakota East 64-58 in a regional semifinal before losing to Northland.

"We do realize that last year is last year, so this is a new opportunity," Calo said. "We lost a lot of good kids. You keep them in your hearts, but you have to put them out of your mind because it's a whole new ballgame. We're just trying to do what we can with this group. It's a new beginning and that's a refreshing thing."