Rob Hayes expects to see marked improvement in his second season as Westland High School boys basketball coach.
The Cougars went 2-21 overall a year ago in a season of growing pains.
"It's still a dream come true no matter what headaches you get or what adversity you face," Hayes said. "I get to coach basketball. I love the game and I love the kids. I really think we have a chance to improve this program and be something we haven't been for a while. Last year was a transition year."
Westland opened Nov. 29 at Groveport and begins OCC-Central Division play Friday, Dec. 7, at Marysville. Last season, the Cougars went 0-10 in the league to finish sixth behind champion Upper Arlington (10-0).
Hayes hopes his team progresses in what again is expected to be a competitive league.
"We're not looking to win two games. We don't want to win five or six games," Hayes said. "We want to come out and we want to be competitive against the best teams we play and we want to handle business against the teams we can handle and really start to open some people's eyes. It's hard. It's a tough league."
The top returnee is 6-foot senior guard Gaige Holbrook, who averaged a team-high 12.2 points last season and was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district in Division I.
Senior guard/forward DeShawn Evans (6-3) averaged 9.2 points and 3.6 rebounds and was honorable mention all-league.
"I like it so far," Evans said. "We're playing good defense. We're playing harder. You can tell the culture is switching here. Last year we were trying to build it and this year we're trying to put it into action, and we have to start winning games."
Also back are juniors Hunter Corwin (6-2, guard), Mickey Martinez (6-2, forward) and Eric Panning (6-6, forward).
Junior Kalil Camara (6-3, guard/forward) is a transfer from the Philadelphia area and should contribute, according to Hayes, once he becomes eligible.
Other players are senior Jacob Carpenter (6-1, guard), juniors Karim Coumbassa (6-1, guard/forward), Rece Evans (6-2, forward), Fallou McMath (5-9, guard) and Miguel Webb (6-3, forward), sophomore Derrick Bogay (6-1, guard/forward) and freshman Sohn McGee (6-1, guard).
"We have a lot of bodies that are interchangeable in terms of what we see as their best effort being," Hayes said. "We have kids who are really pushing to be in that varsity rotation. Once they put together their experience level on the court with their enthusiasm and effort then they can really start pushing and creating that nine-, 10-man rotation."
Girls basketball team loses key player
The girls basketball team is looking to replace its top player from a season ago as senior guard Trinity McClure has transferred back to Columbus South, where she began her prep career.
Led by McClure, the Cougars finished 5-18 last season, improving from 1-22 in coach Matt Jaynes' first season in 2016-17.
McClure averaged a team-high 25.7 points along with 4.9 rebounds and was named first-team all-league, second-team all-district and special mention all-state.
McClure scored 26 points in South's 61-20 win over Columbus East on Nov. 27.
"You have to deal with it and move forward," Jaynes said. "It's tough to lose 26 points a game, but it happens."
Westland opened the season on a positive note, defeating Marion-Franklin 52-36 on Nov. 27 as 5-2 senior forward Shukri Abdikadir led the Cougars with 13 points.
Abdikadir is being asked to pick up the scoring slack with McClure's departure.
"You have to have confidence," Abdikadir said. "We have good girls and we work hard. We want to win more games, keep pushing ourselves and don't give up even when we're losing."
Senior guard Halie Waddle (5-5) and freshman forward Hayden Kershaw (6-0) each added eight points in the opener.
Senior Atira Hoard, a 5-10 forward, averaged a team-high 12.6 rebounds and was honorable mention all-league last season. She had a program-record 33 rebounds in a 37-34 win at Whitehall a year ago, the eighth most in OHSAA history.
Other returnees are juniors Danielle Fout (5-6, guard) and Bailey Garner (5-5, guard) and sophomore Hannah Kershaw (6-0, forward).
Other players are seniors Emma Hutchinson (5-7, forward) and Marlene Sanchez (5-6, guard), junior Hannah Hoard (5-10, forward), sophomore Alexxus Phifer (5-7, guard) and freshman Rylea Bott (5-11, forward).
"We've jelled very well," Jaynes said. "Obviously, our talent level isn't as much as it could be, but we do have girls who have worked their butts off and really push forward every day. We have a good group of seniors who work really hard and we have a junior class that's pretty good, too."
Westland, which went 0-10 in the OCC-Central last season to finish sixth behind champion Dublin Coffman (10-0), opens league play Tuesday, Dec. 4, at Central Crossing.
Nov. 29 -- at Groveport
Dec. 3 -- at Columbus West
Dec. 4 -- at Thomas Worthington
*Dec. 7 -- at Marysville
Dec. 8 -- vs. St. Charles
Dec. 12 -- at Hamilton Township
*Dec. 14 -- vs. Dublin Coffman
Dec. 18 -- vs. Pickerington North
*Dec. 21 -- at Upper Arlington
*Jan. 4 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
Jan. 8 -- vs. Franklin Heights
*Jan. 11 -- at Central Crossing
Jan. 15 -- vs. Grandview
*Jan. 18 -- vs. Marysville
Jan. 19 -- vs. KIPP Columbus
Jan. 22 -- at Canal Winchester
*Jan. 25 -- at Dublin Coffman
*Feb. 1 -- vs. Upper Arlington
Feb. 5 -- at Grove City
*Feb. 8 -- at Hilliard Davidson
Feb. 12 -- vs. New Albany
*Feb. 15 -- vs. Central Crossing
Nov. 27 -- at Marion-Franklin
Nov. 30 -- vs. Whetstone
*Dec. 4 -- at Central Crossing
*Dec. 7 -- vs. Marysville
Dec. 12 -- vs. Centennial
*Dec. 14 -- at Dublin Coffman
Dec. 18 -- at Pickerington North
*Dec. 21 -- vs. Upper Arlington
Dec. 28 -- vs. Briggs in West Side Classic
Dec. 29 -- vs. Franklin Heights in West Side Classic
*Jan. 4 -- at Hilliard Davidson
Jan. 8 -- at Franklin Heights
*Jan. 11 -- vs. Central Crossing
Jan. 16 -- at Hamilton Township
*Jan. 18 -- at Marysville
Jan. 22 -- vs. Canal Winchester
*Jan. 24 -- vs. Dublin Coffman
Jan. 30 -- vs. Mifflin
*Feb. 1 -- at Upper Arlington
Feb. 5 -- vs. Grove City
*Feb. 8 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
Feb. 9 -- vs. Horizon Science
Below is the coming schedule for the Westland wrestling team:
Dec. 5 -- At Franklin Heights with Worthington Kilbourne
Dec. 8 -- Big Walnut Classic