With nearly every key player back from a team that more than doubled its win total from two seasons ago, the Worthington Christian boys basketball team likes its prospects this season.
The Warriors, though, are putting extra emphasis in not looking ahead because of what could be a challenging opening month.
Three of Worthington Christian's top players have been battling injuries and there is the concern that the team's roster might not be up to full strength until the 2020 portion of the schedule begins.
"Not having these guys the entire preseason means they're going to miss 20 to 25 practices, so it might be a little bit of a slow start," 20th-year coach Kevin Weakley said. "It's a team with a lot of talent. We have good chemistry. The kids really like each other, so when you combine talent and chemistry together, you have a chance to have those special years. We think we have the potential to do that, but we've got to put it all together. It should be an exciting season. The league is tremendous this year."
Worthington Christian opened Nov. 30 with a 74-60 loss to Dayton Thurgood Marshall in the Ohio Valley Hoops Classic at Mason and played Fairbanks on Dec. 3.
The Warriors open MSL-Ohio Division action Dec. 13 at Grandview. They split their two league games against the Bobcats last season but lost to Grandview 64-52 in a Division III district semifinal. The Bobcats have dropped to Division IV.
Worthington Christian, which won a district title in 2017 but slipped to 9-14 the next season before going 20-5 last winter, got 33 points from 6-foot-1 senior guard Derrick Hardin against Thurgood Marshall.
Last season, Hardin was the team's second-leading scorer, averaging 11.8 points, and was named second-team all-league and third-team all-district.
D.J. Moore, a 6-3 sophomore guard, averaged 18.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.4 steals and was first-team all-district and the MSL-Ohio Player of the Year. He is out with an injury but is expected to return in early- to mid-December.
Another player out with an injury is 6-1 junior guard Tyler Kindberg, who averaged 11 points and 4.4 rebounds and was honorable mention all-district last season. His status going forward is uncertain.
Kobe Buford, a 6-3 junior forward who transferred from Upper Arlington midway through last season after averaging six points for the Golden Bears, also has been battling an injury.
Nakimba Mullins, a 6-4 senior guard, is another key returnee after averaging 10 points and 5.5 rebounds and making honorable mention all-league and all-district last season.
Seniors Steven Spayde (5-10, guard) and Brien Wall (6-4, forward) and juniors Drew Faieta (6-1, guard) and Isaiah Hazelwood (6-5, forward) also have returned, while sophomores Tommy Anthony (6-1, guard) and Jaiden Reynolds (5-10, guard) are looking to fill roles.
"We're looking to build off (last season) and go farther in the tournament," Moore said. "We're talented, to say the least."
Girls team looks to continue success
With all but one key player back from last season when it finished 21-3 overall and won the MSL-Ohio championship at 7-1, the girls basketball team is hoping to again be one of the area's top Division III programs.
The Warriors have a new coach in Jason Dawson, who had been on the boys team's coaching staff the past three seasons.
Chris Joseph guided the Warriors to a 169-50 mark from 1997-2006 and returned to help the program improve by eight victories last season.
According to Weakley, who also serves as athletics director, the coaching change was made, in part, because Dawson is a teacher at the school.
Dawson also is co-founder of the Columbus training organization D.O.S.E., which stands for "Developing Our Story Everyday."
"I'm just getting acclimated to girls basketball, but it's been going really well," Dawson said.
The Warriors opened Nov. 26 with a 49-32 win over Columbus School for Girls and beat Grandview 56-34 on Nov. 30 in its league opener before defeating Utica 64-57 on Dec. 2.
Worthington Christian features one of the area's top returnees in 5-10 junior guard Katherine Weakley, who is Kevin Weakley's daughter. She averaged 16.6 points and made first-team all-district last season.
Sophomore wing player Blessing King (5-11) averaged 7.7 points and was third-team all-district last season.
Senior guard Mianna Hartings (5-7), senior guard Eliana Styer (5-5), junior wing player Libby Dalton (5-8) and sophomore forward Kendyl Burns (5-9) also were key players last season.
Hartings averaged 5.4 points.
Other returnees are senior Ashley Hall (5-5, guard), juniors Libby Dalton (5-8, wing player) and Izzy Slaughter (5-9, forward) and sophomores Anna Schwartz (6-0, post player) and Jaeda Tagoe (5-8, guard/wing player).
Freshmen Meghan Mayotte (5-10, forward), Sylvia Fulks (5-4, guard) and Megan Weakley (5-8, wing player), another of coach Weakley's daughters, are newcomers who are taking on key roles.
Against Grandview, Katherine Weakley had 20 points and Mayotte scored 18.
Dawson, who played for Wofford and Gardner-Webb and also played abroad in Australia, Mexico and Canada, is a 2006 Worthington Christian graduate who was named the school's Alumnus of the Year last June.
"(This team is) very athletic and super competitive," Dawson said. "It's going to be a tough, gritty team, but also is going to be fast. We're going to be able to get up and down the court and hopefully we'll be able to score in the 50s and 60s."
Below are the coming schedules for the Worthington Christian boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling and swimming & diving teams:
Dec. 5 -- Home vs. Grove City Christian
Dec. 9 -- At Bloom-Carroll
*Dec. 6 -- At Bexley
*Dec. 10 -- Home vs. Wellington
Dec. 7 -- Holiday Baker Marathon at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
*Dec. 11 -- Briggs at HP Lanes
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 6 -- Olentangy Liberty diving invitational at Ohio State