A share of its first CCL championship since 2010 and an agonizing finish in a Division II district final pushed the DeSales boys basketball team to raise the bar this season.
The Stallions return two starters from last season, when they went 17-9 overall and 6-2 in the league and lost to CCL rival Hartley 50-48 in a district final on a last-second 3-pointer, and will work several other players into new roles.
Versatile 6-foot-4 junior Desmond Watson primarily will play guard, but could see time at every position after averaging 10.8 points last season, and 5-10 senior guard Kobe Righter will try to build on last year when he averaged 10.5 points.
Watson began the season Nov. 30 by scoring a career-high 39 points in a 75-67 win over Huber Heights Wayne in the All-Ohio High School Hoops Showcase at Gahanna. Austin Mann, a 5-6 junior guard, added 14 points and Righter scored 12.
"We want to play up-tempo. We want to get out and run. We will see how this group handles extending the floor defensively," said third-year coach Pat Murphy, whose team visited Westerville Central on Dec. 3.
"We like the progress so far that these guys are making. They're embracing their new roles. You just never know how much time it will take to start jelling and coming together."
Other returnees include 6-2 senior forward Chris Fleisher and 6-1 junior forward Obed Achirem. Fleisher split time inside the past few seasons with 2019 graduate Danny Bogue, while Achirem is expected to be out until January because of an injury suffered in football.
One of DeSales' losses to graduation was forward Kayin Derden, who finished with 1,015 career points and was the sixth Stallion to reach the 1,000-point mark.
Watson, who made 12 field goals and 13 free throws against Wayne, primarily will play guard but is embracing his new responsibilities.
"I just have to do everything (and) do what's best for the team to get wins," Watson said. "If that's playing (point guard), if that's playing (center) or anywhere else, that is what I will do. My main position is guard, but I will do anything for the team.
"I've had to attack off screens, make my shot more consistent and just take advantage of the people guarding me. I'm ready for it."
Fleisher worked to expand his game during the offseason in the hopes of becoming a dependable offensive threat.
"Everybody thinks of me just as a to-the-rim kind of guy and if I have that ability to play on the outside, it will bring an edge to my game," Fleisher said. "Last year, I mostly stayed around the rim. But this year, I will be more on the perimeter but getting to the rim at times, too. I'll still play (center) because not many people know that position, so I'll be a (power forward) and a (center)."
Rounding out the roster are juniors Noah Garrick (5-10, guard), Nico Genovesi (5-10, guard) and Tony Swartz (6-0, guard) and sophomores Jalen Carpenter (6-2, forward), Cruz Sanchez (6-5, forward), Atticus Schuler (6-4, forward) and Jonathan Thompson (6-1, forward).
"We play with an aggressive passion. Everybody is diving on the floor, getting loose balls and it's really fun to watch," Righter said. "Watson developed his game into a faster pace, so he's a big presence on the perimeter and in the post. He and I will play off each other more. It's a different role, but I like how it has played out so far."
DeSales begins CCL play Friday, Dec, 6, at home against Watterson in a matchup of last year's league co-champions. The game also is the Stallions' home opener.
Below are the coming schedules for the DeSales boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, hockey, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 6 -- Home vs. Watterson
Dec. 7 -- At Watkins Memorial
Dec. 9 -- At Mount Vernon
*Dec. 6 -- Boys: St. Charles at Capri Lanes
Dec. 6 -- Big Walnut, Olentangy and Watterson at Central Ohio Gymnastics and Cheerleading
Dec. 10 -- At Thomas Worthington with Delaware
*Dec. 6 -- Columbus Academy at Chiller Easton
*Dec. 8 -- Columbus Academy at Chiller Easton
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 5 -- At Thomas Worthington
Dec. 7 -- Catholic Showdown at St. Charles
Dec. 7 -- Tony Pizzurro Memorial Tournament at home