New Albany Roundup: Boys basketball team adapting to new coach
The New Albany boys basketball team spent most of the preseason finding its new personality under first-year coach Ryan Grashel, but one facet on which the Eagles felt they could count was versatility.
Perhaps no player personified that approach more than junior Justin Perry, who despite being 6-foot-7 and 190 pounds is not limited to playing inside coming off a strong sophomore season in which he averaged a team-leading 14.7 points as well as five rebounds.
“Really I can play about any position,” Perry said, adding that he gained about 15 pounds of muscle during the offseason. “We’re going to try to go up-tempo. If we have a fast-break opportunity, we’re going to push the ball whenever we can. We see the possibilities. We’re an athletic team. We can get free layups, free points if we just run the floor. If we’re not running a fast break or pushing it, we’ll slow it up, get into a set we’re comfortable in and try to get points."
Perry and senior Braedon Elwer (6-5, forward/center) bring back the most varsity experience from a team that went 15-8 overall and 7-3 in the OCC-Capital Division, finishing second behind Newark (9-1). According to Grashel, they will be among several players responsible for replacing the production lost to graduation from guards Jayden Lewis (13.7 points) and Keegan Schaub (10.0) and center/forward Udai Singh.
New Albany is scheduled to open Dec. 18 with an OCC-Ohio home game against Westland.
“We have big shoes to fill,” Elwer said. “I need to crash the boards, rebound well and put up a few buckets here and there.
“I’ll have to score more than last year because last year, we had Keegan, Jayden, Udai and Justin all in the lineup so we had a lot of scoring opportunities. I’d shoot 3s here and there, but I have to put up more points now.”
Seniors Michael Hughton-Berko (5-11, guard), Landon Thompson (6-1, guard) and Lleyton Thompson (6-3, forward), junior Will Benseler (6-3, guard) and sophomore Sam Dunn (5-8, guard) are in the mix for starting spots after seeing varsity time last season.
“Their roles within this team will be drastically different from what they’ve experienced the past few years. That’s where we need to get over the hump,” said Grashel, who went 95-95 at Groveport the past eight seasons and succeeded 20-year coach Sam Davis in May after Davis’ contract was not renewed. “We’re able to play in multiple ways. We have the ability to get up and go a little bit.”
Rounding out the roster are juniors Josh Evans (6-3, forward), Blake Pistro (6-4, forward) and Andrew Schell (5-10, guard), sophomore Will Powell (6-6, forward) and freshmen Addison Bailey (5-9, guard) and Braylen Nash (6-1, guard).
•Coach: Ryan Grashel, first season
•Top players: Sam Dunn, Braedon Elwer, Michael Hughton-Berko and Justin Perry
•Key losses: Chris Benseler, Jayden Lewis, Keegan Schaub and Udai Singh
•Last season: 15-8 overall
•2019-20 OCC-Capital standings: Newark (9-1), New Albany (7-3), Big Walnut and Canal Winchester (both 5-5), Groveport (4-6), Franklin Heights (0-10)
•2020 postseason: Lost to Reynoldsburg 59-55 in second round of Division I district tournament