Columbus North might have been pegged for a rebuilding season in boys basketball after losing its top three players from a 15-9 squad.
But what the Bull Dogs have done this summer has only served to brighten expectations for the coming season. North went 16-6 during the period when high school coaches could work with their players, including 8-2 at last weekend’s Super Hoops Tournament at Indiana Wesleyan.
“I think we’ve been pleasantly surprised this summer,” North coach Paul Ferguson said.
The Bull Dogs’ freshman, junior varsity and varsity teams all made it to finals in the Super Hoops Tournament. The JV team beat Cincinnati Moeller Hamilton Southeastern and Carmel to win its event.
The North varsity went 2-1 Friday and 4-0 Saturday to earn the No. 2 seed for Sunday’s tournament. The Bull Dogs beat Penn and Marion before falling to top-seeded Moeller 32-27 in the title game.
Moeller went 28-1 and lost in Ohio Division I (big-school) state finals last season. Four of its starters have Division I college offers.
“We played great,” Ferguson said. “We competed with them. We battled. I was really proud of our kids’ effort. It was a great weekend for our program.”
North began its summer season by going 1-1 in the Indiana All-Star Shootout at Ben Davis. The Bull Dogs went 3-2 in the Conference Indiana Summer League.
Also last month, North went undefeated in its pool, losing to eventual champion Batavia (Illinois) in the semifinals of Hoop Mountain Tournament in Chicago.
“We knew after that tournament that we were really starting to gel,” Ferguson said. “We knew to get that far in that tournament, we had to play at a really high level, and that continued into this weekend.”
Incoming seniors Trey Vincent and Jaylen Flemmons are the Bull Dogs’ lone returning starters. Junior Trenton Kelley and senior Bailey Hester saw considerable action last year, and were joined in the starting lineup this summer by Blake Barker, an incoming freshman who played at Columbus Christian last season.
Also playing for the varsity this summer were incoming seniors Ross Gill, Matt Boldrey and Drew Wilson and juniors Patrick McKinley and Lakeevan Whedon.
“There were a lot of question marks going into the summer about how they would gel as a team,” Ferguson said. “We’ve seen a lot of growth in these guys, and the overall outcome had been good this summer.”
Meanwhile, Columbus East went 2-5 against an abbreviated summer schedule, led by assistant coach Sean Miller.
The Olympians went 2-3 in round-robin event at East Central. They then went 0-2 at Bellarmine, but the losses were to reigning state champions from Ohio and Kentucky.
“That was kind of an eye-opening experience for some of our kids,” Miller said. “It was good to play against that level of competition.”
Like North, East returns only two full-time starters. Back are incoming seniors Max Nolting and Thomas Myers.
Juniors Matthew Frost and Drew Johnson saw considerable action last year. They were joined on the varsity this summer by seniors Wyatt Koopman, Luke Poindexter and Tyler Thomas and juniors Carson Whitehead and Beck Kelley.
“We’ve gotten better I think every time we’ve taken the floor,” Miller said. “The summers, we’re more concerned with developing for the upcoming season than with playing a lot of games and with wins and losses. We look at putting people on the floor and see who works well together and hopefully have a finished product by the time we take the floor in November.”
Head coach: Brent Chitty
Last year’s record: 11-13
Returning starters: 2 (Max Nolting, Thomas Myers)
Head coach: Paul Ferguson
Last year’s record: 15-9
Returning starters: 2 (Trey Vincent, Jaylen Flemmons)