Hunter Shedenhelm wants to be known as more than just a 3-point shooter for the Pickerington North boys basketball team.
Coming off a season in which he averaged 10.8 points, the 6-foot-5 senior guard emphasized ball-handling and asserting himself within the paint. And although it did not count for anything except bragging rights, Shedenhelm won the dunk contest Nov. 14 during Panther Madness, the boys and girls' teams annual season kickoff event.
"I definitely wanted to work on improving my ball-handling. A lot of people know me as just a 3-point shooter, which is nice, but I want to be an all-around scorer and make my personal game well-rounded," said Shedenhelm, who committed to Ashland on Nov. 13. "I like (my game) a lot, offensively and defensively. I've been working on just trying to get stronger and hone my skills and other areas of my game."
Shedenhelm, 6-3 senior guard/forward Chris Scott and 6-0 junior guard Casey George are among several returnees for North, which is coming off a record-setting season in which it finished 23-5 overall and 9-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division and lost to Olentangy Liberty 64-58 in a Division I regional final.
The Panthers shared their second league championship in three seasons with Pickerington Central, won their second district title in three seasons and set the program record for wins, eclipsing their 21-7 record from 2016-17.
North opened Nov. 30 with a 63-51 loss to visiting Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in the All-Ohio High School Hoops Showcase.
"Last year, it felt like we were starting from scratch at times. We had only a few guys returning and this year, we returned the majority. You can tell already that we're ahead of where we were," sixth-year coach Jason Bates said. "We're a talented team and we can score with a lot of teams. We shoot it well and we're skilled at a lot of different positions, but what makes a great team is their defense. I preach that to them. We have high hopes this season and for us to reach our goals, we have to focus in on defense. We can make that our calling card."
Idris Lawrence, a 5-11 junior guard, and 6-0 sophomore guard Jerry Saunders are among the other returnees for North, which expects to be without standout junior forward Jack Sawyer for the entire season.
Sawyer, an Ohio State football commit who led the Panthers with 21.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game as a sophomore, tore his left MCL during the football team's 36-17 loss to Olentangy Orange in a Division I, Region 3 first-round playoff game Nov. 8 and underwent surgery the following week.
"Jack is a phenomenal player and a phenomenal scorer. That's a lot to make up for and we will need a whole team effort to do that," Bates said. "We have some skilled guys and guys who are ready for the opportunity and who can put the ball in the (basket)."
Scott, who averaged 9.9 points last season, expects to return this week from a sprained right MCL.
George saw considerable playing time last year and will be the starting point guard this season.
"I feel more confident being stronger and getting a little taller," said George, who grew two inches and gained about 20 pounds of muscle and now weighs 175 pounds. "That's what I did all summer, just stay in the weight room. I see myself being a team leader, just getting everybody where they need to be."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Jackson Baker (6-2, guard), Kaleb Leach (6-2, guard) and Savion Marshall-Hamilton (6-8, center), juniors Elijah Hawk (6-6, forward) and Brent Wippel (6-1, forward) and sophomores Dior Conners (6-1, guard) and Corey Hudson (6-0, guard).
Hawk is a transfer from Groveport.
The Panthers open OCC-Ohio play Friday, Dec. 6, at Central. The Tigers and Panthers finished three games ahead of third-place Reynoldsburg (6-4) in the league last year.
Bowling teams return experience
Division I district qualifier Alana Robinson returns to lead the girls bowling team, which brings back its top four scorers from last season, while two of last year's top five boys competitors are back for seventh-year coach Mike Rossi.
Robinson, a junior, finished 68th at district and averaged 142.4 pins per game to lead the girls. Also back are seniors Kathryn VanCourt (132.4 average last season) and juniors Sienna Reedus (118.7) and Evy Vance (108.2) as well as seniors Piper Clark and Shea Dooley.
"Alanna is just really good. She has good form and throws the ball nicely. Sienna is a great competitor," Rossi said. "They are getting better. Piper is enjoying herself. She was averaging in the 70s last year and she is averaging 110 or so now. If that keeps up, we will have a lot of depth."
North opened Dec. 4 against Whitehall at Holiday Lanes in COHSBC-B action. The Panthers' home opener at Rule 3 is Jan. 7 against COHSBC-B and OCC-Central foe Reynoldsburg.
Last season, the boys finished 9-3 overall and the girls were 3-9.
Sophomore Ethan Yurko and senior Alex Zumock are back for the boys after averaging 178.6 and 174.1, respectively, last year, second- and third-best on the team. Other returnees include seniors Jacob Dollmatsch and Caden Thieken.
"We have seven guys down the line that we can bowl and be competitive with a lot of teams," Rossi said. "It'll be between Ethan and Alex to be our top bowler, but Caden and Jacob improved so much last year that I think we will be really good. We will definitely compete.
"We will get better as the year goes on, but Ethan could be one of the best bowlers in the area. If Caden and Jacob keep bowling how they are, that will help a lot."
According to Rossi, other boys contributors should include senior Gary Neal, junior Kyle Roberts, sophomores Ethan Grundy and Jack Rodgers and freshmen Kyle Butterfield, Blaze McKnight, Jake Neubauer and Dominic Rowland.
Other varsity girls bowlers could include senior Kennedy Kidd and juniors Gabby Furrow and Chelsea Rager.
Below are the coming schedules for the North boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 6 -- At Pickerington Central
Dec. 10 -- Home vs. Westland
*Dec. 6 -- At Pickerington Central
Dec. 10 -- At Westland
*Dec. 6 -- Dublin Scioto at Sawmill Lanes
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 7 -- Athens Invitational at Ohio University
Dec. 7 -- Bad Apple Brawl at Mount Vernon