During his more than 30 years coaching high school athletics in the City League, Dean Washington rarely has been reluctant to say how he feels or step forward with guidance when he deemed it necessary.
He's put that into practice during his first few months of his latest endeavor as coach of the Whetstone boys basketball team.
"People have been supportive and people have been receptive to coach Washington because I'm on them," Washington said. "I'd heard some rumors that they didn't like to play defense, and that rumor was true. We're trying to change some of that mindset because defense wins championships. I keep pointing to the banner in the gym (to remind them) that there's not a whole lot on the banner."
Washington coached the Northland baseball team for 33 seasons but stepped down this past summer after accepting the job as Whetstone boys basketball coach. He's a member of the Central District Coaches Hall of Fame in baseball.
A long-time basketball official, Washington went 145-54 as Northland's girls basketball coach from 2004-13. He guided the Vikings to three City-North Division titles and a City championship in 2012.
Washington also coached the Marion-Franklin boys program from 1990-97, guiding the Red Devils to the City championship and a Division I district title in 1993.
"I got convinced to come back into (coaching basketball), and it's been fun," said Washington, who will serve as an assistant for the Bexley baseball team next spring.
Whetstone, which opened Nov. 29 with a 53-38 loss at Bexley and begins City-North action Tuesday, Dec. 10, at East, returns three letterwinners in seniors Jaden Arledge (6-foot-6, forward/center), Caleb Brigle (5-10, guard) and Alex Timmons (5-9, guard) from last season, when the Braves finished 4-19 overall and 3-1 in the league under former coach Rickie McClanahan.
"We have to get good chemistry together," said Arledge, who scored 18 points in a 55-54 loss to Briggs in the Braves' regular-season finale a year ago. "(Washington is) very experienced, very well-rounded and definitely knows how to say what he wants to get a certain point (across). He's very good at making a picture of what he has in his head, so it's very, very awesome."
Junior Ivan Twitty (6-0, guard), sophomore Micah McGonagle (5-7, guard) and freshman Jaqualen Beard-Cook (5-9, guard) also should be key players.
Others looking to contribute include seniors C.J. Brown (5-8, guard), Maverick Minor (5-8, guard), Anthony Mirando (6-1, forward/center) and Bud Nutter (6-2, center), juniors Zach Casto (6-1, forward), Sam Cipriani (5-8, guard) and Alex Hurd (5-8, guard) and sophomore Damarius Warfield (6-3, forward/center).
The biggest losses from last season were 2019 graduates Antwan Allen and Sam Barrett IV, both of whom were honorable mention all-league.
"We're going to try to compete as hard as we can every time we step on the floor and if they don't, those individuals will be sitting by (assistant) coach Clyde Johnson and I'll find five guys that will go out there and play hard," Washington said. "You've got to play defense, and if you're not going to play defense, you'll come out of the ballgame."
Millington-Fuqua to lead girls bowlers
The girls bowling team has a returning Division I district qualifier in senior Alea Millington-Fuqua to build around this winter.
Millington-Fuqua had a team-best 157.6 average in the COHSBC as the Braves finished 8-6 overall and fifth in the COHSBC-C Division at 7-3.
Although it fell short of advancing to district as a team, Whetstone had two individual district qualifiers in Millington-Fuqua, who rolled a 538 three-game series to tie for 15th of 104 bowlers, and 2019 graduate Lindsay Arnold, who rolled a 472 to place 38th.
The other competitors are senior Asiatou Diallo, juniors Jillian Clark and Mia Howard-Stevens and sophomore Stella Thompson. Clark competed in one game at sectional as the Braves finished 20th (2,848).
"I have high expectations for captain Alea Millington-Fuqua," seventh-year coach Larry Howell said. "She's a solid bowler who had a nice season last year and just came up short on a chance to qualify for states last season. She's worked hard in the offseason and her scores have shown it so far.
"We're a young team without a lot of depth. We're just hoping to improve as the season goes along and have a chance to get into the City roll-off and do well at sectionals. Hopefully, Alea can find her way into the state tournament."
Boys bowlers show strong potential
The boys bowling team also returns a Division I district qualifier in sophomore Josh Jones after going 9-6 overall and finishing sixth in the COHSBC-C at 9-4 under Chris Lisi, who stepped down after five seasons as coach.
Howell has taken over for Lisi.
Senior Nairan Normand and sophomore Jack Longar also are among the team's top bowlers. Longar fell 13 pins shy of qualifying for district last season.
Rounding out the roster are seniors Amein Diallo and Michael Vedavato, juniors Max Gonsiska and Emmit Schwier and sophomore Daniel Johnson Brewer.
Jones averaged 164.5 in league action a year ago and rolled a 425 at district to finish 81st of 106 bowlers. Nathan Vokac, a 2019 graduate, also qualified for district but did not compete because of a wrist injury, while the Braves finished 18th (3,611) at sectional to miss advancing to district as a team by two places.
"Right now, we're hoping for senior captain Nairan Normand, Josh Jones and Jack Longar to carry the team," Howell said. "They have experience and have shown improvement so far this year. The rest of the players need to score well enough and consistently enough for us to compete this season. The team has tremendous potential and have expectations to win City and qualify for districts."
Below are the coming schedules for the Whetstone boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 10 -- At East
*Dec. 6 -- At Linden-McKinley
*Dec. 6 -- Bexley at Holiday Lanes
*Dec. 9 -- Columbus Academy at HP Lanes
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 9 -- Grove City at Columbus Aquatics Center
Dec. 7 -- Lee Spitzer Golden Bear Invitational at Upper Arlington