Coming off a 20-win season and returning four starters, including its top three scorers, the Canal Winchester boys basketball team seemingly has every reason to set high goals for this season.
Perhaps the murkiest part of the Indians' plan is clear-cut as well.
Seniors Cole Metzler (6-foot-4, forward), Zach Miles (6-6, guard), Avery Musick (6-0, point guard) and Bilal Sow (6-4, forward) return from last year's team that won its first 15 games and finished 20-5 overall and 7-3 in the OCC-Capital Division, losing to Pickerington North 68-36 in a Division I district semifinal.
Metzler, Musick and Sow combined to average 38.8 points per game a season ago, and all of them know that they must add even more after the graduation of Brady Snyder, a 6-1 guard who scored 1,367 career points to rank fifth in program history and now plays at Ohio University-Lancaster.
"You can't replace a 1,000-point scorer who was Player of the Year in the league, but the guys are coming together. Every player will do some of what he did," said sixth-year coach Lyndell Snyder, Brady's father. "Returning four starters is nice and now we have (6-0 senior guard) Jack Beeler stepping into that fifth starting spot. He's a quarterback (on the football team). He's a leader so we haven't missed a beat since the end of the year last year.
"(It's the) same practice schedule, same plays, same sets that we're doing and it's nice that the kids understand that. It makes practice a lot nicer."
Sow had 21 points and Metzler scored 11 in a 57-51 season-opening loss to Cincinnati Turpin on Nov. 30 in the Ohio Valley Hoops Classic at Mason. The Indians sought their first win Dec. 3 at Dublin Scioto.
Last season, Sow averaged 18.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks, Metzler averaged 13.7 points and 9.5 rebounds and Musick averaged 6.4 points.
Miles is a third-year starter.
"I have been lifting a lot because last year, I got bodied around a little bit, so I knew I had to put on some weight," Miles said. "I've done a lot of skill work and bulked up a lot because I knew this year I'd have to be a lot more aggressive. I need to step up. Ball-handling and shooting (were my top priorities). I had a pretty bad hitch in my shot last year, so I worked a lot on getting rid of that."
Coach Snyder said Miles' performance will play a large part in determining the team's fortunes.
"He might be the difference-maker this year if he can score and rebound like I know he is capable of doing," Snyder said. "Sometimes, he gets lost in the shuffle, but he might be our key. I have seen a lot of growth out of Zach in that he is playing with confidence and he is playing stronger. He is a tough matchup for a guard."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Tre'Von Robinson (5-8, guard) and Tyler Toledo (5-8, guard), juniors Andre' Heglar (6-2, guard), Anthony Milner (6-1, guard) and Graham Snider (5-9, guard) and sophomore Stephan Byrd (5-11, guard).
Canal Winchester begins OCC-Capital play Friday, Dec. 6, at home against Big Walnut. The Indians finished second in the league last season behind Newark (8-2).
"We have guys who can run. We don't have just one or two guys who can score the ball; we can move it around," Musick said. "There is no reason we can't get to 20 wins again and then make a run in the (district tournament)."
Below are the coming schedules for the Canal Winchester boys basketball, girls basketball, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 6 -- Home vs. Big Walnut
Dec. 10 -- Home vs. Central Crossing
*Dec. 6 -- At Big Walnut
Dec. 10 -- At Central Crossing
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 7 -- Athens Invitational at Ohio University
Dec. 7 -- Lee Spitzer Golden Bear Invitational at Upper Arlington