New Albany Roundup: Boys basketball team relying on Sam Dunn for offense

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
New Albany sophomore Sam Dunn (10) has moved into the role of an offensive leader and was averaging 12.6 points through seven games, including a career high 20 points in a 50-48 victory over St. Charles on Jan. 2.

New Albany boys basketball coach Ryan Grashel’s plans for sophomore guard Sam Dunn this season did not last long before he saw that Dunn’s role needed to change. 

A reserve point guard last year, the 5-foot-8 Dunn showed that he might be best used more as a scorer than a facilitator. 

“What we recognized pretty quickly was that we had to find him ways to score, so we’re playing him more off the ball, running more stuff for him and getting him more involved in the scoring portion of our offense,” Grashel said. “That didn’t happen until late into our preseason. With no scrimmages, we didn’t recognize that (about Dunn) as quickly as we probably otherwise would have, how much we needed him to score.” 

Through seven games, Dunn was averaging 12.6 points and 1.3 assists and shooting 41.7 percent (20-for-48) on 2-point field goals, making him the team’s primary offensive option. He had a career-high 20 points in a 50-48 win at St. Charles on Jan. 2. 

Dunn played approximately eight to 10 minutes per game as a freshman and scored 36 points all season. This season, he is averaging 23 minutes as New Albany is 3-4 overall and 1-2 in the OCC-Ohio Division entering a Jan. 22 game at Grove City. 

“Losing four seniors, I knew I had to be more of a scorer, maybe even the primary scorer, but continue to get assists and play defense. It’s changed a lot from last year,” Dunn said. “This year, it’s a whole different game for me.” 

Justin Perry is averaging 10.7 points but, according to Grashel, saw limited time in recent weeks because of a coach’s decision. In turn, that put additional responsibility on Dunn. 

Michael Hughton-Berko took over at point guard as Dunn moved to shooting guard. 

“He’s always been a big scorer. He fills his role very well,” Hughton-Berko said. “He knows when to attack, to move the ball and cut and get other players the ball. He knows how to take the game one play at a time.” 

Dunn said he is strongest driving to the basket or shooting 3-pointers. 

“I’ve been the primary guy in most of our sets,” he said. “Not a lot of sophomores expect all this pressure. That’s usually on the juniors and seniors. But being a sophomore stepping up and making plays, I take a lot of pride in that.” 

A positive COVID-19 test within the program sent the Eagles into quarantine after a 44-36 win at Teays Valley on Jan. 9 in which Dunn had 19 points and five rebounds. Scheduled league games against Gahanna (Jan. 12) and Westerville Central (Jan. 15) were postponed to Feb. 6 and Jan. 30, respectively. 

Grashel hopes Dunn remains the leader he has become after the unexpected break. 

“One thing that comes with leadership is you can’t take possessions off and I think Sam is adjusting well to the leadership we expect from him,” Grashel said. “He’s continuing to grow. It’s fun to be able to see a kid so young be able to have this kind of an impact.” 

Roth, Sautter among leaders

for wrestling team

With a flexible lineup, the wrestling team went 4-5 in its first nine duals and sought its first OCC-Ohio win Jan. 14 against Gahanna. 

Before facing the Lions, Colin Swincicki was 8-1 at 120 and 126 pounds, Michael Roth (220) and Jack Sautter (182) both were 7-2 and freshman Noah Rosen started 5-2. 

Roth wrestled 182 and 195 last season, while Sautter did not compete because of a torn ACL. 

“Even last year when he couldn’t wrestle, Jack was at every practice doing everything he could to be a great teammate. Once he was healthy, he was back on the mat as fast as he could and that work is paying off,” coach Larry Reichard said. “Michael is up about 40 pounds from last year. That’s a big challenge facing bigger guys than he was used to before. Both of them have stepped up.” 

Swincicki began the season at 126 but recently dropped to 120. Rosen has wrestled in the class opposite from Swincicki throughout the year. 

The Eagles lost their league opener 52-15 to Grove City on Jan. 7. 

New Albany did not open until Dec. 18, two weeks later than expected because of pandemic-related restrictions. 

“We worked a lot on technique,” Reichard said. “We improved a lot in that area. Some things that might have taken us all season to get down, we’re ahead of schedule with those. Our conditioning is not quite there, but we’ll get there.” 

Girls basketball team

off to strong start 

The girls basketball suffered its first loss with a 51-39 setback to Gahanna on Jan. 12, dropping the Eagles to 6-1 overall and 2-1 in the OCC-Ohio. 

The winning streak to open the season was New Albany’s longest since 2017-18, when the Eagles recorded seven consecutive victories after an 0-1 start. 

They had not won more than three games to start a season since 2010-11. 

Katie Kaucheck led New Albany in points (11.2), rebounds (5.2) and steals (3.5) per game before Jan. 12, while Lauren Wood was averaging 10.5 points and 4.0 rebounds. 

Four more Eagles were averaging between 4.2 and 6.2 points.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekDave