Regardless of whether the Pickerington North girls basketball team thrives off transition, long-range shooting or half-court sets this season, second-year coach Silas Williams thinks one thing is certain.
"We'll start everything off our defense," he said.
While the Panthers return a handful of players from last year's team that went 8-15 overall and 4-6 in the OCC-Ohio Division, including juniors Alsaysha Grant (5-foot-7, guard) and Dru Ultican (5-10, forward) and sophomore Adi Dorman (5-8, guard), they must replace the production lost when senior forward Saige Glover left for Northland.
Glover averaged 13.3 points and 8.5 rebounds, both team-highs, last season and was named third-team all-district.
Dorman moves into the point guard spot opened by the graduation of Mickale Bates, who now plays at Columbus State.
The Panthers opened Nov. 22 at home against Upper Arlington.
"We have some good shooters, some girls who know how to handle the ball and know how to handle pressure. That will help us," Grant said. "We're a small team and some of us are fast.
"They consider me a leader and girls look up to me, so I have to set a good example."
Ultican, who saw considerable playing time last year, will play anywhere from shooting guard to center.
"I can be anywhere, to be honest. I've even worked on my ball-handling since you never know when you're going to need it since we're a smaller team. We're going to do a lot of pressing," Ultican said. "We definitely want to be known for defense and really good transition play.
"I am expected to hustle, play good defense, get up and down the court and finish layups. That is one of my biggest roles considering I am one of the bigger players on the team. We don't have very many of those, so it's one of those roles we have to fill."
North has no players taller than 6-0.
The Panthers' tallest players are freshman Kayla Walton (6-0, forward), junior Jada Moultair (5-11, forward/center), Ultican and freshman Kylie Mizer (5-10, guard).
Rounding out the roster are senior Lindsi Filippi (5-6, guard), sophomores Mildred Belony (5-5, guard), Elle Burns (5-4, guard), Makenzie King (5-6, guard) and Jordan Maruskin (5-7, guard) and freshmen Taylor Hartman (5-6, guard), Caitlyn Pickering (5-7, guard) and Sophia Walton (5-6, guard).
"Those freshmen will be really good by the time they're upperclassmen," Williams said. "They have good basketball knowledge and they're dual-sport athletes, but they do play some in the summer, which helps. They will be very good. They just have to get used to the speed of the game coming in."
North begins OCC-Ohio play Tuesday, Dec. 3, at home against Grove City. The Panthers finished fourth in the league last year behind eventual Division I state runner-up Pickerington Central (10-0).
Below are the coming schedules for the North boys basketball, girls basketball and swimming & diving teams:
Nov. 30 -- Home vs. Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in All-Ohio High School Hoop Showcase
Dec. 3 -- At Linden-McKinley
*Dec. 3 -- Home vs. Grove City
SWIMMING & DIVING
Nov. 30 -- Mason Invitational