New blend should keep Licking Heights boys basketball in title mix
PATASKALA – The Licking Heights boys basketball team returns just two varsity players, but that is not keeping coach Matt Faska up at night.
The Hornets have added plenty of talent from the lower levels and will have a new look this season. After being guard-heavy the past couple seasons, the Hornets are armed with five players 6-foot-4 or taller.
“We are able to do a few more things this year offensively and defensively with our height and our length,” Faska said. “Our height isn’t your traditional post-up bigs. They are forwards. You have guys who are 6-5 and 6-6 running the floor like guards. That is something we are going to try to take advantage of as much as we can.”
Heights finished just one game behind Granville in a competitive Licking County League-Buckeye Division a season ago, and the Hornets could have the right ingredients to win their first title since leaving the Mid-State League-Cardinal Division in 2013.
Junior guard Jacob Righter and senior forward Matt Dugue, who made a huge impact during Heights’ charge down the stretch a year ago, are the returning players. Senior Tanner Allton, who received varsity time as a sophomore is back after sitting out a season ago, and junior guard Zion Sharp will help Righter with the ball-handling right off the bat.
“A lot of the (juniors) have been playing together since they were 6, 7, 8 years old in the youth league whether it was football, basketball or baseball,” Faska said. “They have a lot of good team chemistry. That’s one of the thing I am looking forward to is working with these guys every day. They love playing together, so it’s easier for them to get going.”
Heights’ freshest face is 6-6 freshman Tyrese Hughey, who opened eyes at the middle school level and received attention on social media for his play on the AAU circuit this past spring. Hughey can play with his back to the basket or out to 15 feet and adds to Heights’ versatility with his ability to guard on the perimeter.
“He was with us all summer, so the guys are used to playing with him already,” Faska said. “He had a pretty good summer, obviously still a freshman with big upside. He has been able to mesh right away. The kids know what kind of player he is. There’s been no negative things going on, and I know he’s excited.”
Faska has spent November experimenting with lineups and combinations. Juniors Josh Osei and Raekwon Rogers are intriguing additions to the varsity lineup.
Licking Heights’ Josh Osei takes a shot against defenseBuy Photo
Licking Heights’ Josh Osei takes a shot against defense from Larry Thomas during intrasquad scrimmage during a practice on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017. (Photo: Sara C. Tobias/The Advocate)
Faska noted Osei, like Dugue a year ago, has really benefited from the Hornets’ renewed commitment in the weight room.
“Ever since middle school, (Osei) has gotten better every year,” Faska said. “He is a really good rebounder for his size. He can get to the rim.”
The Hornets again will not be easing themselves into the season. They host Westerville North, expected to be one of most improved teams in central Ohio, on Thursday and Hilliard Davidson on Monday.
Those games should provide a good barometer for the Hornets before they visit Northridge on Dec. 9 and Licking Valley on Dec. 13 to begin LCL play.
“We are playing against good Division I teams in the area to get us battle-tested for what we will see later on,” Faska said. “Playing two real good teams right off the bat, I know our guys are really looking forward to the challenge.”