With the experience his team returns, New Albany boys basketball coach Sam Davis isn't shy about his optimism for this season -- with one caveat.
"I'd like it a lot better if we'd quit getting injured," he said.
Three of the team's expected top players missed part or all of the preseason with various injuries in seniors Dillon Masters (6-foot-2, forward), Keegan Schaub (6-1, guard) and Jake Warinner (6-3, guard). Masters will miss the entire season because of a torn ACL, Schaub suffered a knee strain and did not return until a season-opening 60-43 win over visiting Westland on Nov. 30 and Warinner -- who played for the Eagles as a freshman and a sophomore but was at Upper Arlington last year -- did not practice much before the season because of various injuries.
"It's really hurt us from a depth standpoint. Those are three pretty good players, but I like the way our young pups are playing," said Davis, who is in his 20th season. "We're making a lot of mistakes, but I think those are called 'growing pains.' They're going to reap the benefits as the season goes on. I think we have some pieces that are pretty good and if we can build some pieces around that, I think we have a chance to have a lot of fun this year."
New Albany went 8-15 overall and 4-6 in the OCC-Capital Division last year.
Schaub is one of three returning starters along with seniors Jayden Lewis (6-1, guard) and Udai Singh (6-6, forward). Senior Chris Benseler (6-4, forward) was the first player off the bench.
Lewis had 20 points against Westland. Schaub scored 15 and Singh added 14.
"I got in the gym and shot a lot more. I am more of an outside shooter, but I can't settle for that," Benseler said. "I also have to work on driving. I have worked on my all-around game and also getting my teammates open for better shots, too."
Lewis expects scoring to be balanced given the team's experience and depth.
"Everybody on the court can score," he said. "Last year, I was really dependent on scoring but this year, teams know that so I have to play more of a role of driving, kicking it out and letting people collapse and get my teammates open instead of driving and trying to score every time."
Warinner averaged 12.8 points and 3.2 rebounds last season at UA and 10.5 points and 5.0 rebounds for New Albany as a sophomore.
Rounding out the roster are senior Lucas Kasper (6-2, forward), juniors Michael Berko (5-11, guard), Braedon Elwer (6-3, forward), Kylan Phom-thirath (5-6, guard), Landon Thompson (6-1, guard) and Lleyton Thompson (6-2, forward), sophomore Justin Perry (6-5, forward) and freshman Sam Dunn (5-8, guard).
Landon Thompson is a move-in from Wheelersburg. The Pirates were a Division III regional runner-up last season.
"They're figuring it out. We're having (Dunn) run the point a lot (because of injuries). That's a tough job for a freshman to do against varsity players, so I am really happy with what he is doing," Davis said. "Michael Berko is playing hard. He's really a defensive kid who gets after it. Landon Thompson knows how to win. He is giving us a lot of help. ...
"Once we put all these pieces together and keep working on playing as a team, I think we have a chance to make a little noise."
New Albany begins OCC-Capital play Friday, Dec. 6, at home against defending league champion Newark.
Veterans return to lead bowling teams
The majority of last year's lineups for the boys and girls bowling teams return for first-year coach Jess Biller, although Adriane Hammond graduated and is competing at Wright State.
Hammond fell one spot shy of qualifying for the Division I girls state tournament last season, less than a month after setting a program record series score of 787.
Sophomore Jada Biller, the coach's daughter, averaged 172.6 per game last year, ahead of seniors Codey Mockler (130.2) and Riley Langdale (111) and sophomore Abby Phelps (107.2). Hammond averaged 193.4.
"We're really happy with how things are coming together. Everybody looks strong and the numbers are good," coach Biller said. "We have a lot of capable, consistent bowlers and they have a great attitude. You have a great bowler like Adriane who almost gets to state and that shows everyone what they need to do to get to that level. They know what is achievable."
The boys team returns all of its top five scorers in senior Grant Kresina (180.6), sophomores Elliot Greer (166) and Noble Conn (147.8) and juniors Jacob Cohen (147.5) and Damon Jolly (137.4). Conn was a district qualifier, tying for 74th place.
New Albany opened Dec. 4 against Marysville in a COHSBC-A match at its home facility, Gahanna Lanes. The Eagles begin OCC-Buckeye play Thursday, Dec. 5, against Olentangy at Delaware Lanes.
Biller coached at Whitehall from 2007-18, leading the girls team to six state tournaments. He was an assistant last year under Damian Hammond, who had coached both teams since the program's inception in 2014.
Keith Kresina, who was Hammond's assistant for his entire tenure, has stayed on and is primarily working with the boys team.
Rounding out the girls roster are senior Shannan Ireland, junior Jordan Riesbeca and freshmen Taryn Jolly and Sydney Wamsley.
Ireland helped the girls golf team to the past two Division I state championships and will play at Ohio Dominican.
The rest of the boys roster consists of senior Christian Hathaway, juniors Cole Dybik and Shane Maguire, sophomore Max Higgins and freshmen Lucas Burnard and Liam Harper.
Below are the coming schedules for the New Albany boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, hockey and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 6 -- Home vs. Newark
Dec. 10 -- At Westerville North
*Dec. 6 -- At Newark
Dec. 10 -- Home vs. North
*Dec. 5 -- Olentangy at Delaware Lanes
*Dec. 9 -- Olentangy Liberty at Sawmill Lanes
*Dec. 11 -- Big Walnut at Gahanna Lanes
Dec. 6 -- Dublin Jerome in Adam Allgeyer Memorial Showcase at Chiller North
Dec. 7 -- Dublin Coffman and Newark in Adam Allgeyer Memorial Showcase at Chiller Dublin
Dec. 8 -- TBD in Adam Allgeyer Memorial Showcase at Chiller Dublin
Dec. 5 -- At Coffman with Gahanna and Westerville Central
Dec. 11 -- Home vs. Central Crossing, Whetstone and Whitehall