The Olentangy Orange boys basketball team worked hard for what it achieved last year.
The 18-5 overall record, 12-2 league mark and OCC-Capital Division championship weren’t eared overnight, or even over the course of the entire season. The Pioneers’ rise spanned years.
The seniors had a lot to do with that. Now, though, that senior class, which included Orange’s entire regular starting five, has moved on.
“We lost a lot,” Pioneer coach Anthony Calo said. “We return three players from our rotation and a good JV group, but it will still be a process for us.”
Returners include 6-3 senior wing Cam Barron, 6-0 senior point guard Alex Eha and 5-10 senior shooting guard Zack Stablein.
“Cam started some last winter, averaging six points per game,” Calo said. “Alex is a tough kid. He is a good defender and plays hard for us and Zack shot 48 percent from three-point range and averaged five points per game last season.”
The newcomers were all part of a JV team that won 15 games last season.
“We have a bunch of nice kids this year,” Calo said. “I like our kids, but I’m concerned about our lack of experience … the challenge for this group is learning how to do things at the level we need to be successful.
“We have done a lot of standard and expectation setting to start this year. If this group stays together through adversity, we will improve over time.”
Among the newcomers are 6-1 junior guard Matt McCollum, 5-6 senior guard Rondrell McBride, 5-9 senior guard Danny Park, 5-9 junior guard Jack Betz, 6-0 junior wing Jayden Rodgers, 6-1 junior wing Jack Neer, 6-4 junior forward Manny Anderson, 5-6 sophomore guard Bryson Lane, 6-3 junior forward Jordan Shelton, 6-5 junior forward Jalen Bethel and 5-10 sophomore guard Luke Ballinger.
The young Pioneers will be challenged throughout the season in the newly realigned OCC-Buckeye Division.
“Our new league is very good,” Calo said. “The Division I defending state champion (Westerville South) is in our league, and the coach of that team happens to be my dad … so that’s interesting. Even though South lost four scholarship players, they have three full scholarship players returning.
“Westerville North has a talented young group, Westerville Central is underrated and, with (John) Feasel taking over as the head coach (at Olentangy), he has instilled some excitement in that program … he will work hard for them.”
Orange opens the season Tuesday against visiting Marion Harding.
Follow Ben Stroup on Twitter @delgazette_ben.