Canal Winchester High School boys basketball coach Lyndell Snyder's belief that this year's team will be a close-knit group as it tries to continue the program's recent improvement was reflected in how he has handled the roster.
Snyder kept eight players on varsity and will have another four who will swing between varsity and junior varsity as the Indians attempt to build on their first district semifinal appearance since 2010.
"Our guys are working extremely hard in practice and believing in each other. There isn't one guy who doesn't believe the next guy can't make the shot," said Snyder, whose fifth season began Nov. 30 with an 80-63 home win over Independence. "They're coachable kids. I didn't keep a lot of kids on the roster, but the ones who are here, I know I can work with. They will buy in. I'm proud of them for that."
Brady Snyder returns for his third season as starting point guard. The 6-foot-1 senior averaged a team-best 17.8 points last year as well as 5.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals as Canal Winchester went 13-11 overall and 5-5 in the OCC-Capital Division and lost to Westerville North 89-78 in a Division I district semifinal.
"I feel fantastic. It feels great when you're surrounded by guys you've played with your whole life and it's all coming together," said Brady Snyder, who has drawn interest from a pair of Division III colleges in Capital and Marietta as well as an NAIA school in Ohio Christian. "We were in the gym every day, in the weight room every single day, just shooting on the gun. I probably got 300 shots up every single day."
Other returnees include juniors Cole Metzler (6-5, forward/center) and Bilal Sow (6-4, forward). Metzler averaged 7.8 points and 6.0 rebounds last season, while Sow shot 56 percent from the field after playing the first half of the season on junior varsity.
Junior Jack Beeler (6-4), a natural guard, has moved to forward to help with depth.
Snyder scored a game-high 26 points against Independence. Sow added 16 points, 6-1 junior guard Avery Musick scored 15 and Metzler scored 13.
"Cole is better inside and he's working on his jump shot. Jack has been stepping up. He was a guard last year, but he's really becoming more of a post player," said Sow, who added that he has slimmed down to 218 pounds from 238 last year. "Last year, I didn't like my weight. I was too sluggish. I hit the weight room hard and I'm feeling pretty good."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Brennan Cook (5-11, guard) and Jake Howard (5-8, guard), juniors Abdoulaye Diallo (5-8, guard) and Zach Miles (6-6, guard/forward), sophomores Andre' Heglar (6-4, forward) and Graham Snider (5-9, guard) and freshman Andrew Miles (6-5, forward).
Diallo, Heglar, Miles and Snider will alternate between varsity and junior varsity.
"Familiarity with the offense is huge," coach Snyder said. "We haven't had to teach a lot. They know how to practice. They know what to do and that says a lot. Whether we win a bunch or lose a bunch, I wouldn't change a thing with the personnel that we have."
Canal Winchester begins OCC-Capital play Friday, Dec. 7, at Big Walnut. The Indians tied Big Walnut and New Albany for second place in the league last year behind Newark (10-0).
The Indians went 4-19 overall in 2015-16 and 12-11 two years ago.
"I am, personally, looking for a district title this year," Brady Snyder said. "I feel like we have the skill set to get there and to win one."
Wrestling team returns seven district qualifiers
The wrestling team returns seven of its program-record 10 Division I district qualifiers last season, including senior Brack Byorth (220 pounds) and juniors Chance Brown (160) and Michael Gallagher (132).
Brown went 31-17 last year and Gallagher was 30-17 to lead the team. Brown won two matches at district, half of the team's total at the event as its season came to an end, and had 24 pins a year ago to increase his career total to 59.
Canal Winchester opened Dec. 1 by winning the 11-team American Legion Post 81 Invitational at Jackson. Brown, junior Patrick Zamble (182) and sophomore Cian Rose (126) all won their respective classes as the Indians scored 318 points to finish 32 ahead of runner-up Greenfield McClain.
"Those guys who had a taste of the postseason are hungry for more. They want to get back and get a little farther," second-year coach Harrison Rosch said. "The older guys have shown a lot of leadership in the room. We have a lot of freshmen in the program and we need those returning guys to step up and help out. They know what I expect and it can be helpful if you hear a message from your teammates, your classmates, rather than from the coaches all the time."
The Indians' other returning district qualifiers are senior Cameron Cross (145), junior Jared Mattox (160), Zamble -- who also will wrestle at 170 -- and Rose.
In an example of the team's depth, Cross did not start the season at 145, having lost a wrestle-off to sophomore C.J. Taylor. Taylor did not wrestle as a freshman.
"Our middle weights are the strongest part of the lineup," Rosch said. "We have some depth. We have a senior and a returning district qualifier who's a backup (to start the season). Chance has had a ton of pins and I think he'll get a lot more. We might have a few holes in other areas of the team, but we'll have guys coming along throughout the season."
Rounding out the roster are junior Matthias Hodge (145), sophomore Cleveland Taylor (145) and freshmen Ethan McGlone (138), Evan McGlone (152), Gabe Sanfillipo (113), Calvin Trigg (106) and Connor Well (heavyweight).
Nov. 30 -- vs. Independence
*Dec. 7 -- at Big Walnut
Dec. 11 -- vs. Dublin Scioto
*Dec. 14 -- vs. Groveport
Dec. 15 -- at Briggs
Dec. 18 -- at Central Crossing
*Dec. 21 -- vs. Franklin Heights
Dec. 29 -- vs. Bloom-Carroll
*Jan. 4 -- at New Albany
Jan. 9 -- vs. Chillicothe
*Jan. 11 -- vs. Newark
Jan. 12 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne
Jan. 15 -- at Hamilton Township
*Jan. 18 -- vs. Big Walnut
Jan. 22 -- vs. Westland
*Jan. 25 -- at Groveport
Jan. 29 -- vs. Hilliard Darby
*Feb. 1 -- at Franklin Heights
Feb. 5 -- at Pickerington North
*Feb. 8 -- vs. New Albany
Feb. 12 -- at Teays Valley
*Feb. 15 -- at Newark
Dec. 1 -- American Legion Post 81 Invitational at Jackson
Dec. 6 -- at Hilliard Darby
Dec. 8 -- Harry Steel Invitational at London
Dec. 14-15 -- Liberty Classic at Olentangy Liberty
Jan. 5 -- Kevin Cleveland Invitational at Dublin Scioto
*Jan. 10 -- at Groveport
Jan. 11-12 -- Perrysburg Invitational
*Jan. 17 -- vs. Big Walnut
Jan. 19 -- Panther Invitational at Pickerington North
*Jan. 24 -- at New Albany
*Feb. 7 -- vs. Newark
Feb. 9 -- Canal Winchester Invitational
*Feb. 14 -- at Franklin Heights
Below are the coming schedules for the Canal Winchester girls basketball and swimming & diving teams:
*Dec. 7 -- Home vs. Big Walnut
Dec. 11 -- At Reynoldsburg
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 7-8 -- Ned Reeb Memorial Invitational at Ohio State