The biggest benefit to the Big Walnut boys basketball team is that the core of its players will be around for a couple of years.
Seven of the 11 players on the roster are juniors, including all four returnees from last year’s squad that finished 4-19.
Juniors Nathan Montgomery (guard), Jordan Koebel (guard), Carson Becker (forward) and Brody Lawhorn (guard) are the only holdovers from that team, and all played key roles.
Sophomore Kegan Hienton should round out the starting five in the post.
BW coach Brett Bartlett, who is entering his third season, also sees sophomore Jackson Podraza (guard) and junior Sam Elliott (guard/forward) as key contributors off the bench.
“This is a group that really likes each other,” Bartlett said. “We’re working hard at practice and trying to get better.”
Tyler Shuster (guard) and Donovan Pugh (post) are the only two seniors on the team. Junior Ian Taylor (guard) and sophomore Lincoln Bullock (guard) fill out the roster.
Bartlett hopes, like last year, his team will continue to get better as the season goes on.
The Golden Eagles won two games in the final two weeks of the regular season, both against OCC-Capital foes.
BW lost four games by five points or less and another five by 10 points or less.
“We have to make stops late in games,” Bartlett said. “If we can win a couple of those close games, that will really be a step in the right direction.”
Bartlett thinks Newark will be the team to beat in the OCC-Capital this year and Groveport and Canal Winchester should be up toward the top of the league standings as well.
But, he’s hoping that a strong showing early will build confidence within his team for the rest of the season. The Eagles open with Watkins Memorial, which they beat late in the year last season, Nov. 30 at home.
BW follows with Buckeye Valley at home the next night before traveling to Canal Winchester to open the league Dec. 8. Hamilton Township (home Dec. 12) and New Albany (home Dec. 15) round out the first five games.
The Eagles also have Olentangy (Jan. 23), Olentangy Orange (Dec. 19), Westerville Central (Jan. 9) and Marysville (Feb. 6) as its OCC crossover games.
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