Several of the key faces associated with the Reynoldsburg girls basketball team when it was a Division I regional runner-up last winter aren't back this season.
Considering 2019 graduate Uju Ezeudu is among those who have moved on, the Raiders also had a different persona when they opened Nov. 24 against Springfield in the Journey to the Tourney at West Chester Lakota West.
With Ezeudu now playing for the University of Denver after serving as the Raiders' top inside force the past three seasons, many of the team's top players are in the backcourt.
That doesn't necessarily equal a step back after Reynoldsburg won its eighth district title in 11 seasons, but it means its formula for success will be different.
The Raiders went 21-7 last season and were runners-up (7-3) in the OCC-Ohio Division behind Pickerington Central (10-0), which they lost to 66-39 in a regional final.
"We'll feature guards at all positions and will look to get up and down the court like a lot of professional teams do today," said senior Malaysia Miller, whose team opens league play Tuesday, Dec. 3, at Lancaster. "We're also working to perfect our defense and making sure we rebound because with our height this year those will be key."
Miller, a 5-8 guard, is part of a senior class that also includes 5-6 guard Kyria Walker and 6-0 forward Londen Coleman.
Walker averaged 13.1 points and was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district as a sophomore before averaging 9.1 points and making second-team all-league last winter.
Makiya Miller, a 5-7 point guard whose role increased as last season went on, and Jamiona Ross, a 5-6 guard, are sophomores whom 18th-year coach Jack Purtell expects to contribute. Makiya Miller averaged 3.7 points.
Junior Cassidy Collins (5-6, guard) is another key returnee along with junior Taylor Starks, a 5-5 guard who isn't expected to be available until January as she recovers from a knee injury.
Sophomore Mya Perry, whose sister, Maliya Perry, is a 2019 Central graduate who now plays for Auburn, is a 5-11 guard who should fill a key role.
Senior Ashanti Stafford (5-6, guard) and freshmen Taryn Cornett (5-10, forward) and Sam Savoy (5-9, wing player) are others in the mix.
"We really, as a group, don't have a lot of varsity experience," Purtell said. "When you lose six (key players), we're just young. ... Not every practice has been great but most have been very good and they know we have to practice better to get better. There will be some ups and downs."
In addition to losing Ezeudu, who averaged 18.4 points last season and was first-team all-district, the Raiders lost Destiny Fields (8.8 points) and Bre Johnson (4.6 points) to graduation.
Junior guard Jazmyn Fields did not return and sophomore forward Alexia Mobley, who averaged 9.5 points while receiving second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district honors, transferred to Whitehall.
Purtell entered the season with 449 career victories and again is assisted by Dave Butcher, who won 747 games for Pickerington and Pickerington North from 1983-2018.
"We anticipate a deep run this year," Malaysia Miller said.
"We're under the radar for now, but I'm sure they'll know who we are in March. We can go as far as our defense and 3-point shooting will allow us to go."
Below are the coming schedules for the Reynoldsburg boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling and swimming & diving teams:
Nov. 30 -- Africentric in All-Ohio Nike Hoops Showcase at Pickerington North
*Dec. 3 -- At Lancaster
*Dec. 2 -- Lancaster at Holiday Lanes
SWIMMING & DIVING
Nov. 30 -- Scottie Sprints at Dresden Tri-Valley