Of the 14 players on the Harvest Preparatory School boys basketball team's roster, 10 played a role last season when the Warriors put together a perfect regular season and advanced to a Division III state semifinal.
The Warriors lost their two tallest players to graduation, but they believe they've figured out a way to compensate for having a slightly shorter roster.
"We don't have the big guys anymore, so we'll run and press," coach David Dennis said. "We'll run a lot more. I'm excited. They're motivated and hungry."
Harvest Prep, which finished 28-1 overall and 14-0 in the MSL-Cardinal Division last season, was 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the league after beating Fairfield Christian 89-35 on Dec. 14 and before playing Berne Union on Dec. 18.
The Warriors opened Dec. 1 with an 82-78 victory over Northland -- a Division I program that happens to be Dennis' alma mater -- in the All-Ohio Nike Hoops Showcase at Pickerington North.
For 6-foot junior guard Christopher Anthony, who scored 34 points against the Vikings, it marked the continuation of a breakout season last winter when he averaged 20 points and was named first-team all-state and all-district.
Anthony followed with a 22-point performance in an 81-22 victory over Wellington on Dec. 8. The Jaguars were MSL-Cardinal runners-up last season at 12-2.
Seniors Soul Hines (6-4, forward), Brandon Beavers (6-2, wing player) and Elijah Glenn (6-5, post player) are other returning starters from last season when the Warriors lost to Africentric 54-52 in a state semifinal.
Seniors Ralph Robinson (6-1, guard) and Avonti Duncan (5-9, guard) also saw action in the state semifinal and seniors Bryce Beavers (6-1, guard), Jamaree Doe (6-1, forward), Raymond Robertson (6-3, forward) and Andrew Tate (6-5, forward) are other returnees.
"We're got a good team and the same chemistry," Glenn said. "We're just trying to finish what we did last year. We're definitely smaller this year, so we've got to be way quicker to make up for the (loss of) height.
"(Last year) definitely made us hungrier and motivated us to work harder. It's nice because we're deep and have a lot of options."
Rounding out the roster are juniors Malachi Henry (6-3, forward) and Kenneth Sykes (5-10, guard) and sophomores Brian Beavers (6-2, wing player) and Mario Davis (5-7, guard).
The Warriors lost four players to graduation, including first-team all-district selection Claudio Penha, who averaged 19.5 points and is playing for Taylor University. He and classmate Isaiah Cumberland both are 6-6.
Dennis is hopeful that competing in events such as the Joe Machens Great 8 Classic from Dec. 27-29 in Jefferson City, Missouri, as well as games Jan. 2 and 3 in Hammond, Indiana, and against Middletown Madison on Jan. 21 in Flyin' to the Hoop at Kettering Fairmont will help prepare his team for the postseason.
"(Playing Northland was) very good for us," Dennis said. "I graduated from Northland, so it's emotional, and they've got a great coach in coach Taylor.
"(Anthony) had a great season last year and we're expecting him to do a lot of things people haven't seen. I've also got nine seniors. To have nine seniors that are experienced, and we went through a lot last year, to have all that coming back and with all the work we've put in, it's exciting. We've still got to play and get better and have got to keep working."