Coming off a sophomore season in which he excelled at 3-point shooting for Groveport's varsity and junior varsity teams, Jayden Lewis wasn't sure what to expect when he joined one of the Cruisers' OCC-Capital Division rivals.
Although Lewis has had to alter his game by taking more mid-range jump shots and even playing point guard on occasion, he seems to have fit in nicely with the rebuilding New Albany High School boys team.
The 6-foot-1 junior guard is averaging a team-high 15.2 points. The Eagles are 4-8 overall and 1-4 in the league entering a Friday, Jan. 18, home game against Newark.
"Last year, I was a pretty good 3-point shooter; that was my main role," Lewis said. "This year, I converted to more mid-ranges and layups so I'm trying to get (my 3-point form) back. At Groveport, I was one of the best shooters on the team but here, we have a lot of good shooters. I look to get other guys more 3s, and I shoot (fewer) 3s.
"I have great teammates. I look to give them the ball, and they look to give me the ball. None of them have any issues with the shots I take."
Lewis started on junior varsity as a sophomore and occasionally played varsity. He moved to New Albany last summer and, according to coach Sam Davis and teammate Keegan Schaub, fit into the team almost immediately.
"I like that Jayden has come in and fit right into what we want to do," said Schaub, the Eagles' only returning starter from last year. "We are all jelling around him. I am not saying we need to get it to him on every possession, but he's not selfish. He'll kick it out, we pass it around and get some good shots.
"(Between Lewis, Dillon Masters and Schaub), I figured we'd be the three leading scorers. We have a lot of options."
Masters is averaging 9.9 points and Schaub is averaging 9.5.
Lewis has started every game at shooting guard, although he frequently brings the ball up the court.
"He's a scorer and a young man who is willing to share the ball, so his teammates really like him. Plus, he gets after it defensively. He has been a great addition," Davis said. "When we run motion, he's coming off a lot of curls and he does a lot of penetrating because spacing is one of our biggest offensive concepts. He is able to break some players down, get to the middle of the floor and make a decision whether to kick it, shoot it or continue driving.
"He's been really good at it. There are things on tape we've seen where he needs to improve but overall, he is really very good at that. He has worked hard on his short-range jumper. He is just doing what we've asked him to do."
Lewis scored a career-high 24 points in a 60-49 loss to Licking Heights on Dec. 5 and has totaled at least 20 points on two other occasions, but Davis said Lewis' best game might have been in a 58-44 win over Mifflin on Jan. 5 in which he scored 17 points but also held the Punchers' Ayub Mohamed to two points, more than eight below his average.
"So many other things (Lewis) does besides scoring stand out," Davis said. "That's what I think of when I think about his best game."
The Eagles' game against Newark is the first of five in 12 days, a stretch during which Lewis hopes his team can continue to demonstrate its improvement. New Albany is coming off its first league win, 56-45 over Franklin Heights on Jan. 11.
"We're going to be really good next year, maybe later this year," Lewis said. "We're slowly starting to develop our game and get a better chemistry together. Moving forward, we should improve a lot."
Wrestlers out to solid start
The wrestling team performed well in each of its first three invitationals as well as its OCC-Capital opener, continuing the track coach Larry Reichard was hoping for.
"Everybody is on pace," Reichard said. "They've pushed themselves and had some good matches. We've gone up against some different styles and every level of competition. We've seen Division I, II and III teams. The next couple of weeks, we're going to see a lot of Division I teams, the teams we'll see again in the (postseason). It'll let us know where we stand."
After 13 New Albany wrestlers placed in the top eight during the season-opening Tony Pizzurro Memorial Tournament on Dec. 1 at DeSales, five of the six wrestlers Reichard took to the Licking Valley Invitational on Jan. 5 earned top-eight finishes. Zach Rutledge was third at 220 pounds to lead the Eagles, who scored 64 points and placed 14th of 16 teams as Minerva won (221.5).
Peter Ackley (182), Colin Swincicki (120) and Jack Wilson (195) were sixth and Billy Lee finished eighth at heavyweight.
Ackley has a team-best 18-8 record, coming off a fifth-place finish in the Comet Classic on Jan. 12 at Central Crossing. Swincicki is 16-8, followed by Rutledge (15-6) and Lee (13-10).
New Albany finished 12th (90) in the 19-team Comet Classic as Mount Orab Western Brown won (257). Rutledge and Wilson both placed fifth.
The Eagles began OCC-Capital action with a 41-33 win at Franklin Heights on Jan. 10.
"A league title is important to us and we have talked about it in the respect that it's our seniors' last chance to win one," Reichard said. "We'd love to win the league, but we don't want to peak right now. We want to make sure we're all prepared, every one of us, for the postseason."
Hockey team prepares for trip
The hockey team will try to gather momentum heading into a key league stretch when it participates in the Meadville Bulldog Invitational Tournament from Friday, Jan. 18, to Sunday, Jan. 20, in Pennsylvania.
New Albany is 13-4-1-4 overall and 5-2-1-2 with 13 points in the Capital Hockey Conference. The Eagles won their only game last weekend, 5-1 over Springboro on Jan. 12.
Through Jan. 12, New Albany was in third place in the CHC-Red, behind Olentangy Liberty (18, 9-2) and Dublin Jerome (14, 7-1).
The Eagles play Liberty on Jan. 25 at Chiller North and Jerome on Jan. 27 at Chiller Easton.
"We're learning how to win. We're still a little up and down, a little inconsistent, and we want to follow our great games with great efforts the next day," coach Luke Pavlas said. "We like our capacity (for talent). It's playing at that level 100 percent of the time that we're working on right now."
Below are the coming schedules for the New Albany boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, hockey, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 18 -- Home vs. Newark. The Eagles lost to the Wildcats 62-47 on Dec. 17.
Jan. 22 -- At Gahanna
*Jan. 18 -- At Newark. The Eagles lost to the Wildcats 83-21 on Dec. 7.
Jan. 22 -- Home vs. Gahanna
*Jan. 18 -- Westerville North at Gahanna Lanes
Jan. 19 -- Central District Preview at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
*Jan. 22 -- Westerville South at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
Jan. 18 -- McMurray (Pa.) Peters Township in Meadville (Pa.) Bulldog Invitational Tournament at Meadville Area Recreation Complex
Jan. 19 -- Cleveland St. Ignatius and Erie (Pa.) Cathedral Prep in Meadville Bulldog Invitational Tournament at Meadville Area Recreation Complex
Jan. 20 -- TBD in Meadville Bulldog Invitational Tournament at Meadville Area Recreation Complex
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 17 -- Home vs. Hilliard Davidson
Jan. 22 -- Home vs. Olentangy
*Jan. 17 -- At Newark
Jan. 19 -- Panther Invitational at Pickerington North