Boys Basketball: Grove City eager for start of delayed season

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Senior guard Brock Waits (left) is the top returnee for Grove City. He averaged a team-high 19.4 points last season and was named first-team all-league and second-team all-district in Division I.

Once it begins the season, the Grove City boys basketball team plans to rely on its athleticism and pressure defense to pester opponents.

South-Western City Schools has suspended athletics through Dec. 17 because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, although teams could continue to practice.

The Greyhounds are scheduled to open Dec. 18 against visiting Pickerington North in an OCC-Ohio Division contest.

“It’s disappointing,” third-year coach Eric Saxton said of the delayed start. “It’s been such an odd offseason that you have certain things you look forward to and obviously going against other teams is what you look forward to. It’s dangled and then taken away and dangled and taken away.

“This is going to be a group that everybody remembers because they’ve been through such turmoil and they’re going to get through it.”

Grove City will rely on its guard play, led by 6-foot senior Brock Waits, who averaged a team-high 19.4 points last season and was named first-team all-league and second-team all-district.

“We’re developing more each and every week,” Waits said. “We have some young guys playing up this year that are going to help us a bunch, so we’re excited to get going.”

Another key returnee is senior Alex Coffey, a 6-0 guard who is expected to miss the early part of the season with a knee injury. He averaged 11.3 points and was honorable mention all-league last season.

Also back are seniors Lukas Hamilton (5-10, guard), Mike Hooffstetter (6-2, post player), Cole Keplar (6-4, guard) and Caleb Schall (5-10, guard) and junior Zach Combs (6-1, post player).

Hamilton is expected to miss time with a shoulder injury.

The roster also includes seniors Austin Allmon (6-4, guard), Tyler Biddle (5-9, guard) and Matt Kinney (6-4, post player) and sophomores Daniel Fetty (6-1, guard), Graydon Hutchinson (5-9, guard) and Campton Williams (6-4, post player).

“We’re going to figure out whatever off-speed pitch that life throws at us (and) we’re going to adjust. And at the end of the day, it’s going to be five Grove City kids against five other kids with three referees and eight minutes on the clock,” Saxton said. “Everything is exactly the same once we start playing.”

Grove City is in a realigned OCC-Ohio with North, Gahanna, New Albany, Westerville Central and Westland.

“We still don’t have a true rival in the league,” Saxton said. “Westland is close to us, so that would be as close as it gets. Hopefully we can build a rivalry with them for proximity. It’s nice seeing different styles of play, different kids. I’m happy with being in a (realigned) division. I’m excited about it.”

Junior guard Anthony Coleman and Central Crossing will try to improve on last season's 5-18 finish, but the Comets return limited varsity experience.

Inexperienced Comets

learning varsity game

Central Crossing has just one player back with much varsity experience in 6-2 senior forward Tristen Needham, who averaged 1.8 points last season.

“We pretty much have j.v. guys and Tristen, so it’s basically a new squad,” said sixth-year coach Neil Hohman, whose team finished 5-18 overall and 2-8 in the OCC-Central last season. “They’ll be getting the experience of playing varsity and learning about the size and speed that a variety of players have.

“Because of COVID, we didn’t have the summer to get used to this, which is tough with an inexperienced team. But all of the kids on varsity are three- or four-year players, and they’re picking things up quickly.”

Junior forward Isaiah Bridges grew three inches to 6-6, giving Hohman an inside presence.

“Isaiah and Tristen are the two guys we’ll be looking for in the paint,” Hohman said. “They make our team go right now. The more touches they get, the more that will help open things up for other players.”

Seniors Jeremy Burns, Landen Gilchrist and Tyler Terrell lead the guards.

“We have a good group of guards who need to be able to handle the ball, make good passes and make good decisions,” Hohman said. “Jeremy Burns was injured last season but has come back and played well for us early.”

Guard Mustafa Ahmed and forwards Rudy Risinger and Brandon Woods complete a six-player senior class. Juniors Anthony Coleman (guard), Eli Fleshman (forward), Joe Taylor (guard) and Chance Woods (guard) round out the roster.

“We’ve had a good group of seniors for the last couple years, and it’s the same this year,” Hohman said. “They’ve shown good leadership, and they want to be successful.

“They’ve been willing to come in and work hard and pick things up. We’ll go with the flow and hopefully get to play some games and have a season.”

The Comets are scheduled to open Dec. 18 at home against Newark in an OCC-Buckeye game.

—Scott Hennen

Eagles feature

inexperienced roster

With a roster consisting of six sophomores and three freshmen, Grove City Christian coach Chris Timlin expects his team to face a learning curve early in the season.

The Eagles return just one player with varsity experience in sophomore Braydan Taylor, a 6-1 guard who averaged 7.8 points last season.

“This is the youngest team that I’ve had in my career,” said Timlin, who is in his 11th season at Grove City Christian and 19th year coaching. “The talent is there, the skill set is there, but obviously we just need a few growth spurts to take place throughout the next couple of years.”

Taylor is looking forward to leading the team.

“We have a lot of young talent this year,” he said. “We’re all working really hard. We’re all pumped up about the season and just doing whatever it takes to get that win. … In the next two, three years, we could be an absolute powerhouse just because we’re so young and building together.”

Other sophomores are James Cuckler IV (6-2, forward), Will Lucas (5-10, guard), Luke McCoy (6-1, forward), Cameron Stedtefeld (5-8, guard) and Jimmy Suhayda (5-9, forward).

Timlin believes freshman guards Caleb Ransom (6-0) and Seth Vaughn (5-8) should make immediate contributions.

“In terms of talent, Caleb Ransom and Seth Vaughn are the two most gifted basketball players I’ve coached at the ninth-grade level since I’ve been at Grove City Christian,” Timlin said.

Freshman Trenton Timlin (5-8, guard), the coach’s son, also should contribute.

“It’s going to be a very competitive atmosphere for the next three or four years in our gym,” coach Timlin said. “This is a really exciting group to be around. They love being around each other. There’s just a sense of energy.”

While other school districts suspended athletics because of the pandemic, Grove City Christian has remained on a regular schedule.

The Eagles are scheduled to play host to Millersport on Friday, Dec. 11, and Berne Union on Tuesday, Dec. 15 in MSL-Cardinal contests.

Key losses to graduation were guard Braydan Holbrook and forward Garrett Baker.

Holbrook averaged a team-high 11.8 points last season and was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.

Baker set a single-season program record for rebounds with 233. He averaged 8.0 points and 10.1 rebounds and was honorable mention all-league.

—Frank DiRenna

sports@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSports

CENTRAL CROSSING

Coach: Neil Hohman, sixth season

Top players: Isaiah Bridges Jeremy Burns, Landen Gilchrist, Tristen Needham and Tyler Terrell

Key losses: Jalen Coles, Donavan Collins, Jander Garcia, Logan Green, Devon Miller, Matt Reed and Tyler Ronevich

Last season: 5-18 overall

2019-20 OCC-Central standings: Dublin Coffman, Marysville and Upper Arlington (8-2), Central Crossing (4-6), Hilliard Davidson (2-8), Westland (0-10)

2020 postseason: Lost to Hilliard Bradley 51-26 in first round of Division I district tournament

GROVE CITY

Coach: Eric Saxton, third season

Top players: Alex Coffey and Brock Waits

Key losses: Cole Crager and Luke Smith

Last season: 12-12 overall

2019-20 OCC-Ohio standings: Gahanna (9-1), Pickerington North (8-2), Pickerington Central (7-3), Reynoldsburg (3-7), Grove City (2-8), Lancaster (1-9)

2020 postseason: Defeated Watkins Memorial 62-50; lost to Westerville Central 61-41 in second round of Division I district tournament

GROVE CITY CHRISTIAN

Coach: Chris Timlin, 11th season

Top player: Braydan Taylor

Key losses: Garrett Baker and Brayden Holbrook

Last season: 6-17 overall

2019-20 MSL-Cardinal standings: Harvest Prep (12-0), Zanesville Rosecrans (10-2), Berne Union (7-5), Fisher Catholic (6-6), Grove City Christian and Millersport (3-9), Fairfield Christian (1-11)

2020 postseason: Lost to Morral Ridgedale 56-50 in second round of Division IV district tournament