Whitehall-Yearling Roundup: Boys basketball squad adapts amid uncertainty
In a season beginning with uncertainty, Whitehall-Yearling boys basketball coach Drew Williams is stressing both fundamentals on the court and important life lessons away from the game.
The Rams return a solid nucleus from a team that went 15-9 last winter and advanced to a Division I district semifinal, but the start of the season has been delayed because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
“We have to adapt,” Williams said of following COVID-19 protocols. “They have to have a mask on. The kids have done everything I’ve asked them to do. I told them in order for us to have a season, we have to be able to stay together and do the things necessary to make sure we don’t have positive cases. … In this COVID environment you could lose a couple of kids and have to compete.”
While the team can continue to practice, all contests have been suspended through Dec. 18.
MSL commissioner Jim Hayes announced a tentative MSL-Ohio schedule Nov. 24. The teams will play one round of league competition — with the Rams scheduled to start Jan. 9 at Bexley — before being seeded for a league tournament Feb. 5-12.
Leading the returnees is 6-foot-3 senior forward Kei’Von Wiggins, who averaged 13 points a year ago and was named first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
“As a team, we need to work harder than we did last year,” Wiggins said. “We need to be more precise about the stuff that we do and come harder than what we did, because we have more people doubting us, saying Whitehall is not going to do that good even though we know that we can and we will.”
Senior forward Royal Sibley (6-6) averaged 12 points and was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district. Also back are seniors Jay’Saun Brown (6-2, forward), Teddy Brown (5-10, guard), Da’ Leon Jackson (6-4, forward) and Jaiion Lowe (6-7, forward) and sophomore Elijah Hughes (6-4, forward).
The roster also includes seniors Josiah Cartwright (6-4, forward), Reggie Jackson (6-2, forward), Kaden Macklin (6-0, forward), Tali Taylor (6-2, guard) and Jeremiah Williams (5-9, guard), junior Nate Diaz (5-9, guard), sophomore Ray Bagley (6-3, forward) and freshman Donald Milton (5-9, guard).
Key losses are senior guard Josiah Mobley (11.0 ppg), who transferred to Reynoldsburg, and forward Amir Dallas, who graduated. Mobley was second-team all-league and Dallas was honorable mention all-league.
“I’m very optimistic,” said Williams, who is in his eighth season. “We had four scrimmages and we improved every single scrimmage, so I like what we have. We have pretty decent depth and the kids seem to be responding pretty well.”
Whitehall shared the MSL-Ohio title with Worthington Christian at 9-3 a year ago, and Williams expects his team to again contend for the league championship.
“That’s the first and foremost goal,” Williams said. “We try first to win the MSL, second, compete for the district, third, get to the regional, and then the ultimate goal if you’re fortunate, (the state tournament). We have a legitimate shot. Each level it gets tougher, but the MSL is always tricky, too.”
Williams and Worthington Christian’s Kevin Weakley shared league Coach of the Year honors last season.
“Worthington Christian is going to be strong,” Williams said. “Buckeye Valley is strong.”
•Coach: Drew Williams, eighth season
•Top players: Teddy Brown, Royal Sibley and Kei’Von Wiggins
•Key losses: Amir Dallas, Charles Miller and Josiah Mobley
•Last season: 15-9 overall
•2019-20 MSL-Ohio standings: Whitehall and Worthington Christian (9-3), Grandview (8-4), Buckeye Valley and Wellington (6-6), Columbus Academy (4-8), Bexley (0-12)
•2020 postseason: Defeated Canal Winchester 65-51; lost to Gahanna 68-45 in Division I district semifinal