Centennial boys basketball coach Roosevelt Osborne III loved the tenacity that his defense showed during the preseason.
Correction: An earlier version of this story had Jaylon Jackson averaging 12 points and being honorable mention all-league last season. It was Travonne Jackson.
Osborne, who is in his 18th season, believes defense will be the strength of his team. However, his offense could determine the Stars' success.
"If we invest in running our sets when we have to and share the basketball, this could be a really good basketball team," said Osborne, whose team opened Dec. 2 against Hilliard Davidson and begins City League-North Division play Tuesday, Dec. 10, against visiting Beechcroft.
Centennial, which finished 12-11 overall last year and placed fourth (8-6) in the league behind co-champions Northland and Beechcroft (both 12-2) and Linden-McKinley (10-4), lost only two players to graduation in Myles Martinez and Amin Mullins. Martinez was first team all-league and all-district in Division II, averaging 15.1 points and 5.7 rebounds.
The Stars have a pair of returnees who averaged double figures in scoring last year in Jaylen Gilbert and Travonne Jackson.
They also have Jaylon Jackson, a 6-foot junior guard who has an affinity for the defensive end.
"I've always been told defense wins game, offense sells tickets," Jackson said. "Defense has always been a big part of my game since I was growing up. It's something I've worked on a lot."
Osborne is counting on Jackson to set the tone on defense.
"Jaylon Jackson is an outstanding defender," Osborne said. "I'm confident that he can do a good job on pretty much anybody. He's so coachable. He'll do whatever he's asked to do. He's not thinking about scoring. He's going to facilitate a lot of plays. He's just a really smart basketball player."
Gilbert, a 6-3 junior guard, is the top returning scorer from last season after averaging 13.2 points and 5.0 rebounds. He was second team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
"(Gilbert) is going to do a lot of things," Osborne said. "He's going to rebound. He's very unselfish and he's looking to win. He's been a starter since he was a freshman. He can shoot from the outside, he can score off the dribble and he can rebound."
Gilbert is one of five players who also helped the football team earn its first playoff berth this fall. Seniors Luchene Davis (5-8, guard) and Kelvin Gilliam (6-4, forward) and juniors Tyreek Gunnell (5-8, guard) and Syquee Womack (6-0, guard) also are expected to be key contributors.
"They know how to win," Osborne said. "We had a lot of young guys last year. They were all sophomores last year. Now, they're juniors and they're experienced juniors. They're tough-minded.
"(Gunnell) had a really good football season, but he really shines on the basketball court. He's really good defensively and he's very difficult to cover (offensively). He's a hard guy to check. (Gilliam) is probably the best big man in the (City-North)."
Gilliam was honorable mention all-league last season along with junior Travonne Jackson, a 6-5 guard who averaged 12 points.
Seniors Ahmed Dada (6-3, wing player) and Cameron Kates (6-1, guard) also will key the Stars on offense.
"We're really guard-heavy this year," Jaylon Jackson said. "We should be pretty good. (The goal) is to work hard every day and come out every Tuesday and Friday and play hard."
Bowling teams feature experienced lineups
The boys bowling team lost three players to graduation after finishing 9-3 overall and in the COHSBC-C last season.
But the core of that team, which placed 31st of 42 teams in the Division I sectional, has returned.
Centennial, which opened Dec. 2 against Columbus Academy before playing Worthington Christian on Dec. 4, will be led by seniors Joe Theis and A.J. Grumbling and junior Nick Loudner.
"Joe's kind of our natural," 10th-year coach Brian Hamilton said. "He can't explain how he does what he does, but he keeps coming along pretty well.
"A.J. is kind of the thinking man on the team. He's constantly analyzing his play, trying to figure out how to make those adjustments. He's a really solid bowler. He keeps going for that 300 -- he keeps fighting for it -- and I hope he's going to get it this season."
Seniors Phil Thomas and Vinny Flinders also saw extensive time last year.
"Phil is my crazy left-hander who (bowls) right-handed, so it's a bit of an odd-ball throw," Hamilton said. "But it works for him and it's coming along really well. It's really developed over the years."
Senior Matt Campbell, juniors Giovanni Camp, Nate Dorinsky and DaeJon Pratcher and sophomore Xander Scarberry round out the roster.
"We didn't really lose any of our strongest bowlers (from) last year," Hamilton said. "The big thing this year is working on keeping our focus. If we have one problem on the team, it's that we can sometimes get a little out of sorts when things start getting a little tough. We're just making sure that we can keep that focus throughout the game."
The girls team returns one district qualifier from a year ago, when it finished 7-2 overall and in COHSBC-C play and placed 25th of 37 in the Division I sectional.
"Last year, we had an excellent season," seventh-year coach Ryan Dobbins said. "Where we hang our hat is that even though we finished third (in the COHSBC-C), we beat every team in the City (League) in terms of match play."
The Stars lost Jeslin Deets, who rolled a 477 at district to finish 37th of 104 bowlers.
"She was extremely consistent," Dobbins said. "When we needed a game in our match play, Jeslin was always right there. Without her on the roster, that's going to be big for us. We've got some shoes to fill."
Junior Kylie Crissinger-Acuna also qualified for district and rolled a 485 to finish 34th.
"She actually works at a bowling alley in the offseason," Dobbins said. "Her and her family are all big bowlers. She's got a lot of potential in that sport. She's very good."
Other key returnees include seniors Izabelle Segovia and Sarah Clifton.
"Our goal is to always qualify as a team to go to districts," Dobbins said. "We've never quite been able to reach that, but we've always had individual qualifiers."
Senior Sarah Thompson, junior Tali Blaha and sophomore Allison Murphy-Smock round out the roster.
The future looks especially bright because Centennial will field a junior varsity team for the first time, according to Dobbins.