With a seven-member senior class filled with key players and a junior no longer with the program leading the way, the Dublin Coffman boys basketball team put together a 20-win season for the fourth time in five seasons last winter.
That might lend credence to the idea that the Shamrocks will be rebuilding this season, but that's not what they're expecting.
In addition to having successful junior varsity and freshman teams a year ago, the Shamrocks return a key contributor from last season, when they went 22-2 overall, won the OCC-Central Division title at 9-1 and earned the No. 1 seed for the Division I district tournament.
Coffman opens Friday, Dec. 6, with a league game at Hilliard Davidson.
"Our team goal is ultimately to win a state championship," 6-foot-1 senior point guard Keaton Turner said. "Who's to say we can't? If we come in and execute the game plan that coach (Jamey) Collins has for us and everybody plays their role to the best of their ability, then the sky is the limit."
Turner averaged 8.5 points and was named special mention all-league last season. He figures to be the team's No. 1 scoring threat and ball-handler this season after Dominiq Penn transferred to Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga, Tennessee, for his senior year. Penn averaged 16.3 points as a sophomore and 19 last season, earning first-team all-district honors.
Turner, who saw limited action two seasons ago when Coffman won a district championship after losing in district finals in 2016 and '17, is joined in the senior class by 6-0 guard Jesse Hains. Hains played j.v. last season.
Junior Nash Hostetler (6-3) and sophomore Ajay Sheldon (5-11) are guards who Collins believes are ready to take on bigger roles.
Gavin Headings, a 6-5 freshman forward, should fill a key role inside along with junior Hammond Russell (6-4) and freshman Braden Daugherty (6-4).
Dylan Van Vlerah, a 6-1 junior guard, should begin contributing in early- to mid-December once he returns from an injury.
Junior Kaelib Catabay (5-8), sophomore Aidan Dring (5-11) and freshman Aiden Schmidt (6-0) are other guards who could see playing time.
Much of what the Shamrocks accomplish could be dictated by the continued development of Turner, who had 39 points, nine rebounds and six steals during one of his team's scrimmages, according to Collins.
"He was the best player on the floor for us last year in some games," said Collins, who is in his 18th season. "Quite a few of these guys have been waiting. We had a large senior class last year, so there wasn't a lot of minutes available."
Among the 2019 graduates were Luke Bartemes (first-team all-league, third-team all-district), Grant Yeater (honorable mention all-league), Will Hunter (second-team all-league, honorable mention all-district) and Derek Van Vlerah (second-team all-league, honorable mention all-district). Bartemes averaged 15 points last season and is now playing for Lincoln Memorial, while Van Vlerah is now playing for the University of Incarnate Word.
"There's been a lot of quick learning in practice," Collins said. "Many of these guys have been waiting for this moment and now is their opportunity. We have no different expectations than we do in any other year. Our guys really don't make excuses for our age or anything like that. Obviously, we need the experience, but they have high expectations. We don't set a win total, but this group has a chance to be a really good team."
Below are the coming schedules for the Coffman boys basketball, girls basketball, gymnastics, hockey and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 6 -- At Hilliard Davidson
Dec. 10 -- Home vs. Olentangy
*Dec. 6 -- Home vs. Davidson
Dec. 10 -- At Olentangy
Dec. 9 -- Home vs. Jerome, Scioto, Hilliard Bradley, Hilliard Darby, Hilliard Davidson and Olentangy Orange
Dec. 6 -- Newark in Adam Allgeyer Memorial Tournament at Chiller Dublin
Dec. 7 -- New Albany and Jerome in Adam Allgeyer Memorial Tournament at Chiller Dublin
Dec. 8 -- TBD in Adam Allgeyer Memorial Tournament at Chiller Dublin
Dec. 5 -- Home vs. Gahanna and Westerville Central