By Ben Stroup
The Olentangy Orange boys basketball team did a lot of growing up last season.
The Pioneers finished just 10-13 overall — 7-7 in OCC-Capital Division play — but that doesn’t tell the whole story. They won just two of their first seven league games, but flipped the script the second time through, finishing 5-2 in their last seven to get back to even.
It was a pretty impressive turnaround. Couple that with the fact all five starters are back in the fold and, well, they have the potential for a successful season.
“We didn’t lose much from last season,” Orange coach Anthony Calo said. “We now have experience and a group of kids ready to play hard for each other. We have a couple guys who can score inside, and we have some shooters to space the floor as well.”
Forward Grant Gossard will be the Pioneers’ key cog in the paint. The 6-foot-8 senior averaged 10 points and seven rebounds per game last season. Senior Colin Shepherd, meanwhile, will run the show from the point guard position. He hit more than 40 three-pointers last winter, averaging 12 points and five assists per contest. Junior Cam Barron and senior Josh Smith are also back after starting last season, and Evan Lewis and Adam Rieger — seniors who shared a starting spot as juniors — are also back.
Key newcomers include senior Nathan Mathews and juniors Alex Eha and Zack Stablein.
“They were our three best JV players,” Calo said. “They had nice seasons last year and are ready to play varsity minutes.”
Calo said he likes the pieces he has to work with this year, but said they’ll only go as far as they take each other.
“One of our keys to success is sticking together,” the coach said. “We have good players, but our strength will be in our unity. We will reach our goals if we are great teammates.”
One of those goals is to finish at the top of the Capital Division — a league that’s a little more wide open than in the past.
“I think Delaware is probably the league favorite,” Calo said. “In the mix with Delaware would be New Albany, Olentangy and us. Worthington Kilbourne will have a shot to compete for the top half if Carson Van Lynn is playing … but Delaware is the favorite because they have three starters returning from a team that made the district finals. The Yoakum kid (junior guard Will Yoakum) and the McIntire kid (senior wing Zach McIntire) can play. They have size, length and are tough kids.”
Follow Ben Stroup on Twitter @delgazette_ben.