By Ben Stroup
With the Olentangy boys basketball team, you know what you’re going to get.
The Braves, who have been coached by Chris Kelly for the last 12 seasons (136-127 combined record) only play one way: aggressively.
“We believe we will be very good offensively,” Kelly said. “We will attack all game and force our opponents to work extremely hard for four quarters. Defensively, we are smart and quick, and will keep teams off-balance by changing defenses very quickly. We are also a deep and unselfish team.”
The Braves, who open tonight against visiting Big Walnut, will be led into the season by seniors Seth O’Neal, Derrick Wyche and Christian and Brandon Mazzeo.
“Seth played a big role for our team last season, and will be counted on to do so again,” Kelly said. “He is an explosive offensive player and great passer. I believe he will be one of the best point guards in Central Ohio.
“Derrick had some huge games last year, and is an excellent all-around player. He is one of the best shot blockers and rebounders in Central Ohio. He will play a key role in our success this season.
“And Christian and Brandon have made a lot of big plays in their careers. We expect both to have great senior seasons.”
Joining the mix will be senior Carter Kinnaird, and juniors Jason Sieve and Collin Mathews.
“They are all very good scorers and should have a major impact on our team this year,” Kelly said. “We have a strong and deep senior class, and more depth on the varsity roster than we’ve ever had.”
Kelly and company will need that depth to compete in what is expected to be a competitive OCC-Capital Division.
“I believe five teams in the division are capable of winning it, but we expect to make a run at the title with three returning starters and some very good role players,” he said. “I expect this division to be the best it has been from top to bottom since we’ve been in it.”
The Olentangy Liberty boys basketball team struggled to find its form last year, finishing above .500, but barely.
The Patriots had their moments, but couldn’t string wins together like they have in the past, finishing 12-11 overall and 8-6 in the always competitive OCC-Central Division.
Liberty coach Greg Nossaman will look to returning letterwinners Drew Rosi, Brendon White and Spencer Mitchell to lead the way this year.
Rosi and White, both juniors, are back after steady sophomore seasons. Rosi, who will control things in the paint this winter, is coming off a year in which he averaged 11.2 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. He was a second team All-OCC honoree. White, meanwhile, averaged 8.2 points and 3.4 rebounds on his was to nabbing honorable mention All-OCC recognition.
Mitchell is back for his senior season after averaging 3.2 points last year.
With last season’s starting point guard and four man — Brad Smith and A.J. Kullman, respectively — gone to graduation, Nossaman will look to a handful of young players up from last year’s JV team to fill out the roster.
“We lack experience, and size is a concern, but our strengths are team chemistry and depth,” the coach said. “Everyone working together and playing hard (will be key) … as will keeping everyone healthy.”
The Patriots open the 2015-16 campaign tonight against visiting Central Crossing.
Follow Ben Stroup on Twitter @delgazette_ben.