The Big Walnut boys basketball team was right around the .500 mark last season (10-12).
This year, with a similar cast of characters, expectations are a bit higher … and for good reason.
The Golden Eagles, who finished the 2017-18 regular season by winning three of their final four games, will be led into the season by seniors Nathan Montgomery, Jordan Koebel and Brody Lawhun. All three averaged right around 10 points per game last winter.
“Nathan really started to play well toward the end of last year,” BW coach Brett Bartlett said. “He’s a good ball-handler who can use his athleticism to get in the paint and create for himself and others.
“Jordan worked on his game this offseason and should be a more consistent scorer for us and Brody returns after missing more than half the season last year. He provides us with some athleticism on the wing.”
Senior forwards Carson Becker and Sam Elliott and junior guard Jackson Podraza are also back, as is junior post Kegan Hienton, who led the team in scoring last year as a sophomore.
“He finishes well inside for us even though he is slightly undersized (6-foot-4),” Bartlett said of Hienton.
Newcomers include sophomore guard Jagger Barnett and junior guard Lincoln Bullock.
“Jagger should provide some outside shooting and scoring for us this year,” Bartlett said. “He had a great summer and preseason for us … and Lincoln should give us even more depth at the guard position.”
Bartlett said chemistry, unselfishness, experience and offensive scoring balance are his team’s strengths — things that could offset some of its weaknesses, like rebounding and overall size and strength.
“We just need to continue to get better throughout the season, be more consistent offensively — we had too many quarters where we only scored a few points last year — and become tougher on the boards and at the defensive end,” Bartlett said. “We also need to find ways to win close games.”
The Eagles will be competing in the OCC-Capital Division again this season, which means they’ll be trying to knock Newark off its perennial perch atop the league standings.
“Newark is still the team to beat,” Bartlett said. “They haven’t lost in the league since they joined this division. Canal also has a lot coming back. We should be able to compete with everyone each night and we expect to be in a lot of close games.”
Big Walnut opens the season Friday against host Hamilton Township. Tip is set for 7:30 p.m.