Girls basketball teams opened their seasons this past weekend and many boys hoops teams will get their seasons underway this weekend.
Here is a look at the City Series, which on paper appears to be wide open in both genders.
Firestone coach Dave Milo is reloading with three key players gone from last season’s team that won the City Series regular-season and playoff titles, and went 13-10 overall.
“We had Jerome Lane, Kevin Gladney and JaTice Shaw last year who were good seniors,” Milo said. “Jerome and Kevin accounted for a majority of our scoring. This year we have some experienced guys back. JaeQuan Jones at the point got a lot of starting time last year at that position. Evan Kennerly is going to be a three-year starter [at forward] for us. Those are two seniors who are leading along with [senior center] Miles Kirk.
“Raybon Lewis is a sophomore [forward] who is seasoned. He looks so good. The fifth position in the starting lineup is wide open. I have a bunch of nice kids. I just hope once they get on the floor they get rid of that niceness and get a little mean.”
Kirk, Jones, Kennerly and Lewis will be expected to carry the scoring load.
“This is going to be a totally different year for me,” Kennerly said. “Last year we had Kevin and J.T. and I was kind of more on the outskirts and didn’t really play my game. I fell in line with their game. I will have the ball more and so will my teammates. I plan to score more. There will be less outside shooting and more attacking the basket.
Juniors Davoris Allen and Kyrell Allen will get minutes with senior Andre Simmons.
“We plan to be more of a family with more passing, more penetrating and everybody is going to get more touches,” Jones said. “Last year, it looked like our identity was two people. This year we will have more options and more threats.”
The Buchtel boys basketball team finished second to Firestone and went 17-7 overall.
“We have about eight or nine guys back with experience,” Buchtel coach Stephen White said. “We have a good mix of a little bit of height and we are quick and fast. I think we will be faster and quicker than last year’s team and we will shoot a lot better. We have better attitudes and I expect really big things from our team.”
Seniors Tre’ Smith and Ci’Andre Johnson-Lollar and junior Deric Rucker are returning starters for Buchtel.
“We can do really well this year,” Johnson-Lollar said. “Our main strength is defense.”
Griffins seniors Antonio Hambrick and D’Angelo Smith should make an impact along with juniors Lashawn Johnson, Jarod Puryear, Talon Sims and Eric Rucker.
“We are going to be a defensive team with way better chemistry,” Smith said. “We are going to work harder to get everybody involved in the game and get hyped.”
Ellet could rise with senior leaders Jake Fisher, Dionte Williams and Jake Williams.
Other top boys to watch are: Trarell Balknight and Edward Harris of North, Derik Lewis and Kenyon Philpott of East, Oshay Vinson and Terez Smith of Kenmore and Brelyn Brewton and Noland Palmer of Garfield.
Firestone coach Audley McGill has one starter returning — junior Darian Carter — from last season’s team that finished 15-9 overall, shared the City Series regular-season title with Kenmore and won the league playoff title over Kenmore, which went 15-8.
“The league is even and wide open,” McGill said. “We are young and still working. We have a lot of work to do. We have a lot of potential, but Imani Scott, Brooke Morgan, Mishae Roper and Brea Forney graduated from last year’s team.”
Yolanda Sims, Ashley Ingram, Ashley Phillips and Destiny Turner are set to join Carter.
“It is stressful losing the players we lost to graduation,” Carter said. “I know I need to step up and do what I have been doing since freshman year.”
Kenmore coach Yontami Jones will rely on Brittany Gochenour and Breanna Hill to lead.
Other top girls to watch are: Tia Balknight and Sabria Meadows of North, Morgan Felder and Khaila Gregory of East, Shyna Smith and Anila Wallace of Garfield, Kendra Love and Dynasti Smith-Malone of Ellet, and Tionne El-Amin and Paetyn McGuire of Buchtel.
Groves leads East to win
Springfield coach Kevin Vaughn had fun watching Stow senior Brian Groves run around on offense, but he also enjoyed watching his East Team defense succeed in a 21-13 victory Thursday morning in the Thanks4Giving All-Star Football Game.
“Walsh’s D.J. Aguilar was a really good playmaker and one of ours from Springfield, Larry Boso, I thought did a great job too,” Vaughn said. “The Bryan DiCillo kid from Walsh who is going to Ohio U, did an outstanding job. Keith Jarvis from Green, his uncle is on the coaching staff with me at Springfield and was here today. That was pretty cool.”
Vaughn was also very familiar with the Ellet players — Jake Fisher, Hussain Hamdan, Dakota King and Matt Geer — on the East Team.
“I grew up and played for Jake Fisher’s dad [Mark] in high school in basketball and baseball at Ellet, so we have a relationship,” Vaughn said. “I also played for Matt Geer’s father, Brian Geer, in football on coach Joe Yost’s staff. I have been watching these kids since they were young. This was just a very special day to bring everyone together.”
CVCA’s Maurice Dorrell and Nordonia’s Desmond Filey stood out defensively for East.
“I liked our defense and I also liked our offensive line,” Vaughn said. “We had a huge offensive line with Tallmadge’s Joe Lowery, who is going to Ohio U, and we had Alex Conley and John Conner from Walsh. I think Stow represented very well with their kids. They were not all big and strong type of kids, but they played with a lot of heart.”
Stow had seven players in the game with Groves, Matt Beech, Jake Flinn, Zaire Lewis, Jonte Pooler, Joe Kollar and Christian Schmidt.
Fun being an all-star
Buchtel senior Chris Davis woke up Thursday and realized he had one more chance to showcase his speed to colleges in the Thanks4Giving All-Star Football Game.
“I was so excited to play,” Davis said. “I actually woke up at 5 in the morning. I couldn’t sleep. I was sitting in my bed and thinking about how this was my last high school game. Playing [on the West Team] with different players from Cuyahoga Falls, Barberton, Revere, Firestone, North, Hoban and Copley was just a great experience.”
Davis is a quarterback by trade, but some colleges are looking at him as a wide receiver. He caught two touchdown passes in Thursday’s game from Copley senior John Kromalic.
North’s Mike Laktash coached the West Team and praised the play of Davis, Kromalic, Archbishop Hoban’s Vince Buzzi and D’Angelo James, Buchtel’s Stephen Mosley, Firestone’s Brennan Williams and Copley’s Oliver Johnson.
Michael Beaven can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.