Fourth-year Thomas Worthington High School boys basketball coach Sean Luzader isn't quite sure what to make of the start of the season.

The Cardinals defeated visiting Whetstone 43-34 in their opener Dec. 2. They open OCC-Cardinal Division play Friday, Dec. 8, at home against defending league champion Hilliard Bradley.

"We are playing through a ton of adversity right now," Luzader said. "We have five new starters and three freshmen on varsity. We are incredibly inexperienced.

"In the preseason, we had at least four players injured at all times. And to top it off, (6-foot-8 junior post player) Ben Wight was just diagnosed with (mononucleosis), missed the opener and will probably be out for a lengthy period."

Last season, the Cardinals finished 11-12 overall after losing to Gahanna 57-42 in the second round of the Division I district tournament and went 5-7 in the OCC-Cardinal to place fourth behind Bradley (12-0).

Thomas lost four players to graduation, including three starters in guard Christian Carter and forwards Jake Montgomery and Caleb Struewing. Montgomery averaged 9.6 points and 7.7 rebounds last season and was named first-team all-league. Carter averaged 11.4 points and was second-team all-league, and Struewing averaged 3.1 points and 4.0 rebounds and was honorable mention all-league.

In addition, seniors Jaedyn Carter and Curtis Clinger are not back with the team. Carter, a point guard who averaged 10.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.7 steals last season and was second-team all-league, is playing at Columbus South, while Clinger, a guard who averaged 6.6 points a year ago, is playing at Kingston Academy in Middletown.

Wight came on strong at the end of last season and, according to Luzader, was impressive over the summer, drawing the attention of college scouts and central Ohio competitors. He and 6-6 junior forward Kyler Block should give the Cardinals a formidable duo in the post.

"Ben has been offered by Ohio University," Luzader said. "He has great size, length and has an incredible motor. He's a great rebounder who brings energy to every possession.

"Kyler is great athlete and rebounder and he can score inside and out. He's coming back from a knee injury that had him out since the sixth game of last season."

When everyone is healthy, the Cardinals' lineup is expected to consist of Block, Wight, 6-3 senior guard Jamal Carter, 6-3 junior point guard Charlie Mamlin and 6-3 junior forward Antwan Howell.

"Charlie is a great 3-point shooter who can handle (the ball) and has shown ability to get to the rim and rebound well as a guard," Luzader said. "Jamal can play inside and out and he also rebounds really well for his size. He's coming back from a knee injury that had him out all last season."

Also seeking playing time are seniors Grant Cross (5-10, guard), Julius Mallory (6-0, guard) and Luke Wang (6-3, forward), juniors Tanner Hunt (5-11, guard), K.J. Jyan (6-1, forward) and James Waltermyer (6-0, forward) and freshmen Maurice Collins (6-2, guard), Isaac Settles (6-4, guard) and Jalen Sullinger (5-7, guard).

"This is definitely the first time I have had three freshmen on varsity and they will get thrown into the mix right away," Luzader said. "There will be a big learning curve for the freshmen and our inexperienced juniors, but the future is bright.

"We have decent depth when everyone is healthy. Any of the three freshmen will be able to run the point and we could have very good size, too. We could start a lineup of 6-8, 6-6 and three at 6-3. I also like our athleticism and quickness at Nos. 4 and 5 and we should have an advantage against our opponents' bigs in that department.

"We need to minimize turnovers, defend well consistently, play with relentless effort and hope our inexperienced players develop quicker than normally would be expected."

bemerine@thisweeknews.com

@Brad_ThisWeek

Schedules

BOYS BASKETBALL

Dec. 2 -- vs. Whetstone

*Dec. 8 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley

Dec. 9 -- at Olentangy Orange

*Dec. 15 -- at Dublin Jerome

*Dec. 19 -- vs. Delaware

*Dec. 22 -- vs. Dublin Scioto

Dec. 28 -- Toledo Woodward in Thomas Holiday Tournament

Dec. 29 -- Chillicothe in Thomas Holiday Tournament

Jan. 6 -- at Gahanna

*Jan. 9 -- at Hilliard Darby

*Jan. 12 -- vs. Kilbourne

Jan. 15 -- vs. Westerville Central

*Jan. 19 -- at Hilliard Bradley

*Jan. 23 -- at Delaware

*Jan. 26 -- vs. Dublin Jerome

Jan. 27 -- vs. Westerville South

Jan. 30 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson

Feb. 3 -- vs. Centennial

*Feb. 6 -- at Dublin Scioto

*Feb. 9 -- vs. Hilliard Darby

Feb. 10 -- at Olentangy

*Feb. 16 -- at Kilbourne

*League contest

Below are the coming schedules for the Thomas girls basketball, bowling, hockey, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:

GIRLS BASKETBALL

*Dec. 8 -- At Hilliard Bradley

BOWLING

*Dec. 7 -- Pickerington North at Capri Lanes

HOCKEY

*Dec. 9 -- DeSales at Chiller Easton

*Dec. 10 -- Cincinnati Moeller at Chiller North

*Dec. 16 -- Dublin Jerome at Chiller North

SWIMMING & DIVING

Dec. 8-9 -- Viking Invitational at Cleveland State University

WRESTLING

Dec. 9 -- Jeremy Ammons Kilted Klassic at Sparta Highland

*League contest