By Ben Stroup
The Big Walnut boys basketball team has been up and down in recent years.
The Golden Eagles had some moments last winter, but finished 9-15 overall and just 5-9 in a tough OCC-Capital Division.
This time around, with Brett Bartlett taking over as head coach, improvement and consistency are the first orders of business.
“There will be an obvious learning curve with it being my first year at Big Walnut,” Bartlett said. “We hope to improve as the season progresses. Our goal is to try and get better every single day we are in the gym, that’s it.”
Bartlett has some pieces to work with, including senior forward Josh Seabrook, senior guard Hayden Bowmar and sophomore standout Austin Becker. Alex Kelso, a 6-3 junior forward who lettered at Zanesville last year, joins the mix as well.
“We are taking things day by day,” the coach said. “We want to be as fundamentally sound as possible on both ends of the floor. We need to improve our team defense and defensive rebounding. Offensively we need to be unselfish and play with great spacing — good ball movement and player movement.”
Senior guard Zac Chucta, junior post Henry Von Hollen, junior guard Ben Saxe and sophomore forward Kaleb Phillips are all up from JV, and could contribute at the varsity level this time around, the coach said.
Their contributions will be key for the Eagles to jump into contention in an always-tough league.
“Olentangy has a lot back. Orange was young, has everyone back, and started to win more games toward the end of last year and New Albany and Delaware Hayes will also be right there,” the coach said of the Capital Division.
Bartlett is new to Big Walnut, and the OCC, but no stranger to coaching.
He was head coach at Firelands High School in Lorain each of the last three seasons, compiling a 36-33 record. Bartlett was named Lorain County Division II Coach of the Year after his squad won the Patriot Athletic Conference championship in the 2012-13 season.
He’s no slouch on the court, either. He was a four-year starter, four-time Team MVP and two-time first team All-Ohio pick while a player at LaGrange Keystone High School (2000-2004). He went on to play college ball at Kent State (full scholarship) before transferring to Ashland for his final three seasons.
While at Ashland, where he is the school record holder for three-pointers made in a season and career threes made, Bartlett scored more than 1,000 points. He was a three-year starter, team captain and second team All-District Four Academic All-America pick.
Big Walnut opens the season tonight against visiting Buckeye Valley. Tip is set for 7:30 p.m.
Follow Ben Stroup on Twitter @delgazette_ben.