With just three returnees who received significant playing time last season, Westerville South boys basketball coach Ed Calo realizes his team again will have to rely on fundamentally sound play with an emphasis on pressure defense.
"It's a great time of the year to have your team bond together and find out what you have to do to get better," said Calo, who is in his 33rd season. "It's just a matter of getting better every day. That's been the philosophy for 30 years. We just have to make sure we come ready to play, ready to practice and grow."
The Wildcats finished 6-17 overall and 3-7 in the OCC-Buckeye Division last season. They opened Dec. 3 against Newark and begin league play Friday, Dec. 6, against visiting Olentangy.
The only returning starter is 5-foot-11 junior point guard Peter Pedrozo. A quarterback on the football team, Pedrozo missed the final six games of the season with a broken right collarbone but was cleared to join the basketball team in time for the opener.
"We give relentless effort," Pedrozo said. "We're always swarming to the ball and playing with toughness."
Senior Stephon Saint-Cyr (6-1, guard) and junior Jaiden Guice (6-0, guard) also saw time last season.
"We expect Jaiden to be able to shoot the ball," Calo said. "Jaiden has some offensive skills that some other people do not."
Calo considers Saint-Cyr to be the most improved player on the team.
"I expect to have leadership from Stephon," Calo said. "He'll be a key guy. He had a great preseason. He had a great offseason. He's really matured as a player and he does a lot of good things."
Saint-Cyr is looking forward to his added responsibilities.
"(I like) the way we move the ball," he said. "A lot of us are unselfish right now, so that's good for our team."
Other returnees are senior Keyton Kowalski (6-2, wing player/guard) and junior Tabari Howard (6-2, guard/wing player).
Other players are senior Kylin Whitehead (6-1, wing player), juniors Ian Chuah (6-3, center/wing player), Unisa Kamara (6-5, forward/wing player) and Will Ortiz (5-10, guard), sophomore Drey Carter (6-5, wing player/guard) and freshman Jalen Wheeler (5-11, guard).
A key loss to graduation was Jordan McMillian, who was named first-team all-league and second-team all-district in Division I last season.
"We lost the most players by far (of any team in the OCC-Buckeye)," Calo said. "We just have to go fight."
Bowling teams open season
The boys and girls bowling teams opened the season by competing in the Ohio Kickoff Tournament on Nov. 23 at Columbus Square Bowling Palace.
The girls finished 23rd (2,337) of 28 teams during pool play behind first-place Cincinnati Seton (2,975) as junior Taylor Hughes led with a 467 series.
The boys finished 32nd (2,667) of 32 teams during pool play behind first-place Centerville (3,456) as senior Tristan Mathis led with a 521 series.
"We lost a lot of kids from last year," said 14th-year coach Jamie West, who guides the girls team and also oversees the program. "We didn't get a lot of girls to come out. We only have seven girls. Our scores from (Nov. 23) show that we have work to do, and they know that."
Both teams qualified for the Division I state tournament last season.
Along with Mathis, other returnees for the boys are juniors Jacob Spiegel and Henry Tran and sophomores Ethan Gary and Dominic Steele.
Other bowlers are seniors Craden Kelley and Noah Weidmann, juniors Caedin Bouton and Ethan Quimba, sophomores Nic Ball, Ashton Mellquist, Nelson Santiago and Tony Tran and freshman Dominic Candella.
Bill Henson is in his fourth season as boys coach.
Along with Taylor, other returnees for the girls are seniors Brenda Diaz and Fiona Thomas and junior Alexia Steele.
Other bowlers are freshmen Jessica Applegate, Addison Poulsen and Alexzandria Stewart.
"It's a good group of kids and the new ones are buying into what we're trying to do," West said. "It's going to take a while. ... We're always confident that we have good teams to put out and this year is no different. It might just take us longer to get to that point."
South opened COHSBC-A play Dec. 4 against Grandview. It begins OCC-Buckeye play Thursday, Dec. 5, against Westerville North at Columbus Square Bowling Palace.
Below are the coming schedules for the South boys basketball, girls basketball, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 6 -- Home vs. Olentangy
Dec. 10 -- Home vs. Gahanna
*Dec. 6 -- At Olentangy
Dec. 10 -- At Gahanna
*Dec. 5 -- Westerville North at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
*Dec. 11 -- Olentangy Berlin at Delaware Lanes
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 5 -- At Thomas Worthington with Westerville Central, North and Worthington Kilbourne
Dec. 6 -- Olentangy Liberty Diving Invitational at Ohio State
Dec. 7 -- Hilliard Darby at Hilliard YMCA
Dec. 5 -- Home vs. Grove City, Hamilton Township and Hilliard Bradley
Dec. 7 -- Upper Arlington Invitational