Times they are a changinâ€™ at Buckeye High School.
Everyoneâ€™s favorite opponent not all that long ago, the boys basketball team has progressed to the point where it wants more than a Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division championship.
Buckeye (11-10, 10-3) shared that title with Wellington a year ago, but fourth-year coach Steve King now wants his experienced and talented team to add postseason success to its list of goals.
â€œWeâ€™re to the point now where weâ€™ve won the conference two years in a row,â€ King said. â€œOur goal is still to win the conference, but now our goal is to do something in the tournament as well. Weâ€™ve raised our expectations from when I first got there. Thatâ€™s a good thing.â€
The Bucks return four starters and six lettermen overall, led by fourth-year varsity starter Logan Weiland, a two-time All-Gazette choice who enters his senior season with 685 career points.
The 6-foot-1 guard underwent surgery for the second offseason in a row â€” he had a sunken chest plate altered to make it easier for him to breathe â€” but appears ready to improve upon his 15.4 scoring average from a year ago.
â€œHe started going to the basket a little more last year, and heâ€™s continued to get better in that area,â€ King said of Medina Countyâ€™s second-leading returning scorer. â€œHe hasnâ€™t played for the last two summers, but heâ€™s gotten better just because he understands how to play and he has the experience of playing.â€
Mike Smetana, a 6-4 junior center who averaged 8.0 points and 4.3 rebounds, and Brad Oddo, a 6-2 senior forward, are also returning starters being counted on to produce heavily.
â€œWeâ€™re going to try to pound it in to him,â€ King said of Smetana, who led the county in field goal percentage (.539) and blocked shots (1.19) a year ago. â€œHe has a chance to be the best big guy in our league. Heâ€™s gotten a lot stronger and he worked hard in the offseason to get better. Heâ€™s going to be a force inside.
â€œ(Oddo) has probably improved the most from the end of last year to this year. Heâ€™s become a more consistent shooter and heâ€™s very athletic. Heâ€™s 6-2, but he can take it to the basket and dunk. Heâ€™s going to be a matchup problem for other teams.â€
Darrin Reed, a 6-0 senior guard who averaged 4.0 points last season, also has starting experience, while Billy Relitz (5-11, G, sr.) and Cory Reisner (5-11, G, sr.) picked up varsity letters a year ago. Two of those three will join Weiland, Smetana and Oddo in the starting lineup.
Newcomers expected to help the Bucks, who hope to increase the tempo to take advantage of their athleticism, include Rick Smetana (6-5, C, jr.), Darren Boulton (6-0, G, sr.) and Tom Vraja (5-5, G, jr.).
If Buckeye can develop a bit of depth and find a replacement for defensive standout Chaz Jordan, a point guard who almost always defended the opponentâ€™s best scorer, it could win another PAC Stars Division title â€” and make some noise in the postseason.
â€œThis has the potential to be our best team since Iâ€™ve been at Buckeye,â€ King said. â€œWe return a lot of our scoring from last year, and thatâ€™s a bonus. We return a lot of experience as well.â€