The Wellington boys basketball team is aware that it will need to find new ways to score this season after losing one of the greatest players to come through the program to graduation.
At least the Jaguars have multiple options and a deeper pool of talent to work with as they look to return to being a Division IV district power after being in Division III the past two seasons.
Wellington opened Dec. 3 at Buckeye Valley and will play Cincinnati Riverview East on Friday, Dec. 6, in the Jaguar Invitational at home. The winner plays Toledo Maumee Valley Country Day or Circleville New Hope Christian for the title Saturday, Dec. 7, with the loser playing in the consolation game that same day.
"We're pretty excited," sixth-year coach Artie Taylor said. "We're not a very tall team as we've been accustomed to, but we have a lot of length, a lot of arms and legs and a lot of guys that have played a lot of basketball. Even our freshmen have played a lot of basketball, and that hasn't always been the case."
Seniors Connor Herrick (5-foot-10, guard), Noah Jones-Beyene (5-9, guard), Elijah Meredith (6-6, forward) and Marcus Stewart (6-4, point guard) and sophomores Aurius Calloway (5-11, guard) and Chase Ouellette (6-4, guard/wing player) are the top returnees.
Meredith averaged 13.4 points and 10.5 rebounds over the first 11 games last season before becoming ineligible because of the OHSAA transfer rule after transferring from Olentangy Orange. He was named honorable mention all-district.
Herrick and Ouellette both averaged seven points.
Freshman A.J. Taylor, a 6-4 wing player/forward and the coach's son, is expected to be an impact player and classmate Brandon Ivery, a 6-3 wing player/forward, also is highly regarded.
Seniors Adenola Adekoja (6-0, guard) and Yoshi Parker (6-4, guard) and freshman Max Schaeffer (5-10, guard) are others looking to contribute.
The biggest loss to graduation was Dallas Patrick, who had 38 points in a 77-73 loss to Columbus Academy in the second round of the district tournament as the Jaguars finished 14-10 overall. He finished with more than 1,300 career points and is now competing for Otterbein.
The Jaguars placed third in the MSL-Cardinal Division last season at 10-4 but are now in the MSL-Ohio, which featured three teams that won at least 19 games a year ago in Academy, Grandview and Worthington Christian. Buckeye Valley also has joined the MSL-Ohio this season.
"The guys are looking at the opportunity in the postseason, but we're looking at the challenges we have facing us and using everybody we have so that we're firing on all cylinders down the stretch," coach Taylor said. "We're going to be competitive. It's just finding a way to close the deal and win some games. We're excited to get going."
Girls basketball team preps for home invite
The girls basketball team also is preparing to play host to the Jaguar Invitational.
On Friday, Dec. 6, the Jaguars will face Cristo Rey and Fairfield Christian will play Marietta St. John Central.
The consolation and championship games will be held Saturday, Dec. 7.
Wellington opened Nov. 26 with an 81-12 loss to Buckeye Valley and fell to Whitehall 83-8 on Nov. 30 to fall to 0-2 overall and in the MSL-Ohio. The Jaguars faced Academy in league action Dec. 3.
"We're still fairly young, but we have a lot of potential," second-year coach Kimball Johnson said.
The Jaguars have returned nearly all of their key players from last season, when they finished 4-18 overall and 4-10 in the MSL-Cardinal.
Returning are seniors Eli Burkhardt (5-6, wing player) and Ellie Weinberg (5-5, guard) and sophomores Jameela Askira (5-6, guard), Abigail Burkhardt (5-3, guard), Hannah Jones-Beyene (5-8, wing player) and Rhea Singh (5-6, guard).
Freshmen Lilliana Adkinson (5-6, guard), Dani Casline (6-0, forward) and Katie Kuttrus (5-9, forward) are newcomers.
The only player lost to graduation was Savannah Childress, who scored 28 points in the Jaguars' 52-48 loss to Tree of Life to close last year's regular season. She missed eight games with injury.
Matt Conkling, the former coach at Village Academy before the school closed, is serving as an assistant.
"The (MSL-Ohio is) going to be a tough league, but hopefully we'll sneak up on some people," Johnson said. "We're going to grow and we're going to get better. Give us a few games under our belt and we'll start to jell as a team. We're getting better every day."
Below are the coming schedules for the Wellington boys basketball, girls basketball and swimming & diving teams:
Dec. 6 -- Cincinnati Riverview East in Jaguar Invitational at home
Dec. 7 -- TBD in Jaguar Invitational
*Dec. 10 -- Home vs. Columbus Academy
Dec. 6 -- Cristo Rey in Jaguar Invitational at home
Dec. 7 -- TBD in Jaguar Invitational
*Dec. 10 -- At Worthington Christian
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 7 -- Columbus Academy Relays
Dec. 9 -- Whetstone at Columbus Aquatics Center