Reynoldsburg Roundup: Boys basketball team adjusting to new coach
Reynoldsburg junior boys basketball player Julian Heckman already is a fan of new coach Andy Moore.
A 1992 Muskingum graduate who got his coaching start at his high school alma mater, Mount Vernon, Moore has 25 years of coaching experience at the college level, including the last six years as an assistant at Air Force.
Last May, he took over a Raiders program that had been guided on an interim basis by Shawn Elliott during the final five games last season after former coach Scott Davis was placed on administrative leave because of an incident that took place during a 60-59 victory over Central Crossing.
“The coaching staff has worked us and taught us different things,” Heckman said. “They’ve been great coaches, teaching us a new offense and a different style of play that has brought us together as a team while still going up that learning curve.
“Having coach Moore has been a different experience, with him being a former college coach. At the start, we had to get used to the different expectations, but we’re improving every day and it’s been exciting. You’d be really surprised on how cool he is as a person.”
Heckman was honorable mention all-OCC-Ohio Division last winter as the Raiders went 3-7 in the league. He now will try to help the team through a transition season in the realigned OCC-Buckeye, which includes perennially strong programs Pickerington Central and Newark along with Central Crossing, Groveport and Lancaster.
Reynoldsburg is scheduled to open Dec. 18 at Lancaster.
A 6-foot guard, Heckman is the leading returning scorer after averaging 9.0 points while helping the Raiders finish 14-11 overall.
Senior Josiah Mobley (6-0, guard) has rejoined the program after averaging 11 points last season for Whitehall. He averaged 5.0 points as a sophomore for the Raiders before transferring.
Senior Zaveon Croff (6-1, forward) is another key returnee after averaging 6.5 points, while junior guards Bryden Burnett (5-11) and Martize Powell (5-8) and junior forward Jabari Mitchell (6-3) also saw action last season.
The other seniors are N’Rique Love (6-0, guard) and Davion Pirtle (6-3, forward).
Sophomore Zazen Bivens (5-10) is another guard who should contribute, and juniors Malekai Booker (6-2, forward) and Jonye Madison (5-10, guard) are others who should be in the mix.
Splitting time between varsity and junior varsity to begin the season are juniors Kenny Long (5-11, guard), Nemo Smith (6-1, forward) and Javon Waters (6-0, guard) and freshman Noah Smith (6-0, forward).
“We don’t have a lot of experience as far as guys that have played a lot of minutes at the varsity level, so I think what’s going to have to happen is with some of the guys who haven’t played a lot of those minutes, we’re going to expect a lot more out of those guys,” Moore said. “With Josiah coming back, that adds to that experience, but the guys are going to have to give us what we need to be successful.
“We’re not real big, so we’re going to have to play a style where we’re going to have to play fast and pressure people on both ends. We’ve got the talent and the skill level to do that. … We’ve got to be able to create some offense with our defense. We’re going to have to find some creative ways to score until we can get guys that feel comfortable in those roles.”
With 2020 graduates James Dean, Sean Moore and Nick Wallace leading the way, the Raiders fell just short in a district semifinal last winter, losing 59-57 to eventual district champion Walnut Ridge. Moore was named second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
Junior Cooper Davis, who is Scott Davis’ son and was honorable mention all-district last season, has transferred to Olentangy Liberty.
“We have a lot of potential and with the work we’re doing, we can fulfill it,” Heckman said. “We can do big things. With seniors like Zaveon Croff and Josiah Mobley, I’d like to say, ‘We’re coming different.’ ”
•Coach: Andy Moore, first season
•Top players: Zazen Bivens, Bryden Burnett, Zaveon Croff, Julian Heckman, Jabari Mitchell, Josiah Mobley and Martize Powell
•Key losses: James Dean, J.B. Goodwin, Sean Moore and Nick Wallace
•Last season: 14-11 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 Dublin Scioto 51-41; def. New Albany 59-55; lost to Walnut Ridge 59-57 in Division I district semifinal