There will be many new faces on area courts this weekend as the boys high school basketball season starts, but Springfield will be one of the few teams relying on returning starters.
Ten area teams lose their top scorers from last season. That’s not the case for Springfield, though, which has won at least 18 games each of the last three seasons. The Wildcats return their top two scorers in guards Danny Davis and Michael McKay.
Davis is entering his fourth year as a starter and has scored 1,294 points in the last three seasons. He averaged career highs in points (19.5) and rebounds (7.0) last year and will be looked upon to lead the team.
“We’re expecting big things out of Danny this year,” Springfield coach Isiah Carson said after a scrimmage against Middletown on Nov. 15. “He’s working hard and wants to have a big senior year. He’s been an asset to this program and has helped get Wildcat basketball back to a big-time program.”
McKay averaged 14.4 points per game a year ago and has gained strength. Together, he and Davis form one of the better guard combos in southwest Ohio. Michael Wallace also returns at guard after playing in 10 games off the bench last year, and varsity newcomers Lazarus Toliver and JaJuan Rodgers will add depth.
Junior forward Leonard Taylor will be Springfield’s leader in the paint after the graduation of three-year starting center Darius Harper and forward Jeremiah Ward. The 6-7 Taylor played in 21 games and started six last season. Sophomore forward Sam Towns (6-6) will also be a key inside player.
• Teams in the Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division will have new scoring leaders this year. Urbana loses it top two scorers, Shawnee and Tecumseh lose their top three, and Kenton Ridge loses its top five.
Most of the losses are due to graduation, but two are due to transfers. Jordan Bailey, who averaged 15 points per game last year, transferred from Kenton Ridge to Upper Arlington. Darius Quisenberry went from Tecumseh to Wayne.
Tecumseh has won at least 16 games each of the last two seasons, and the success has come with Darius and older brother Malik Quisenberry leading the team in scoring. Malik became the fifth player in program history to surpass 1,000 career points last year, and Darius scored 920 points in the last two seasons. Malik is playing at Heidelberg.
Despite the loss of both players, Tecumseh coach Roger Culbertson said the team’s schemes aren’t changing much.
“We’re doing the same thing for the most part,” Culbertson said. “We changed a little bit offensively, going half-court. We’re still going to push the basketball. I’m not sure if we’re deep enough to press all year, but we’ll find times to do that, too. It’s the way I believe in.”
Tecumseh returns two starters from last season in senior center Ross Warren and junior guard Clay Mastin. Warren, who’s 6-6, averaged 4.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. Culbertson said he’ll likely get more shots this year, but he’ll be most depended upon for rebounding and defense.
“He’s playing his role well,” Culbertson said. “I think defensively he’s done a good job protecting the rim and protecting the basket area. Anything scoring is going to be icing on the cake, but I think he’ll get his points. He’s a complete player. He’s been playing hard at both ends of the floor and has been doing a good job.”
• Southeastern had the longest tournament run of any Ohio Heritage Conference team last year by advancing to the Division IV regional semifinals. In order for the Trojans to get back, they’ll have to replace leading scorer Jake Bertemes, who’s now at Wittenberg. Andrew Lyons, who averaged 16 points and five rebounds, is one of three returning starters.
West Liberty-Salem should contend for the OHC title again with three returning starters. Kannon Stillings is back after leading the Tigers with 15.2 points per game last season.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Levi Boettcher, 6-5, junior, Urbana: Averaged 8.3 points and 5.2 rebounds last year and looks to lead the Hillclimbers in the paint this year.
Ethan Bradds, 6-5, senior, Greeneview: Was second team all-OHC while averaging 16.7 points and 10.6 rebounds per game.
Danny Davis, 6-3, senior, Springfield: Was second team all-Ohio after averaging 19.5 points and 7 rebounds per game. He’s a four-year starter and has nearly 1,300 career points.
Andrew Ford, 6-0, senior, Graham: Averaged 13.9 points per game and shot 80 percent from the free-throw line.
Casey Hayes, 6-3, senior, Northeastern: Led Northeastern with averages of 19 points and 11 rebounds per game.
Thomas Kavanagh, 6-1, senior, Catholic Central: Averaged 11 points per game.
Cameron Kettler, 6-3, senior, Kenton Ridge: Entering his third year as a starter for the Cougars. He averaged 4.5 points per game last year and will get more shots this season.
Billy Lord, 6-3, junior, Shawnee: Averaged 5.6 points per game last year while shooting 52 percent from the field. He’ll be Shawnee’s go-to player in the post.
Andrew Lyons, 6-4, senior, Southeastern: Was second team all-Southwest District and averaged 16 points per game.
Clay Mastin, 5-8, junior, Tecumseh: Will take over as point guard after averaging 4.8 points per game last season.
Michael McKay, 6-1, senior, Springfield: Averaged 14.4 points per game. Has increased his leaping ability in the offseason.
Leonard Taylor, 6-7, junior, Springfield: Will take over as Springfield’s main player in the post. Averaged 6 points and 5 rebounds per game.
Kannon Stillings, 5-10, senior, West Liberty-Salem: Led the Tigers with 15 points and 3 assists per game.
Austin Swope, 5-10, senior, Greenon: Averaged 10.8 points per game.
Ross Warren, 6-6, senior, Tecumseh: Averaged 4.9 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.