Wayne appeared to have everything in place to defend its Division I boys state basketball championship last season. There was a perfect 22-0 regular season and a lineup full of NCAA Division I-caliber players.
But a stunning 60-57 upset by Lakota East nixed all that.
“It was disappointing,” reflected Warriors coach Travis Trice. “You see it as you left some things on the table.”
The boys high school basketball season begins today. Most of the teams will play 22-game regular seasons. The girls basketball season began last week.
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Wayne (25-1) had one of the area’s all-time best teams last season not to win a state title. That extended an impressive run in which the Warriors have won 21 or more games over the last four seasons.
The only returning starter for Wayne is 6-foot-5 junior L’Christian “Blue” Smith (14.7 points, 8.8 rebounds). The best of the unproven Warriors’ underclassmen appears to be 6-7 junior Matt Palma.
But like last season, Wayne will benefit from the transfer of two proven high scorers in 5-10 guard Darius Quisenberry (Tecumseh) and 6-0 guard Ray James (Xenia). Quisenberry will have to sit out the first 11 games to fulfill his transfer requirement. He was second in the Central Buckeye Conference in scoring (22.4) last season.
James (17.7) transferred last spring and was a standout on the Wayne football team as a receiver. He’ll be immediately eligible.
They’re the latest in an impressive run of Warriors who have graduated to the next level: Ahmad Wagner (Iowa), Rodrick Caldwell (Bowling Green State), Trey Landers (Dayton), Xeyrius Williams (Dayton), D’Mitrik Trice (Wisconsin) and Chazz George (Findlay).
“We’ve got a lot of pieces,” Trice added, “and we’ll be extremely good at the guard positions.”
Wayne opens next Friday by hosting Fairmont.
• Springfield (18-8) also is loaded with returning starters Danny Davis (19.5), Michael McKay (14.4) and Leonard Taylor (6-0.).
Trotwood-Madison (23-2) suffered its only regular-season loss to Wayne. Trotwood again has a loaded schedule against the likes of Thurgood Marshall, Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, Prolifit Prep (Calif.) and Dunbar.
Back for the Rams is leading scorer and senior Torrey Patton (20.9), sophomore Amari Davis (16.3) and junior Myles Belyeu (14.9).
Whatever football help the basketball team will receive will have to wait another week because Trotwood plays for the D-III state championship on Saturday. Trotwood’s delayed opener is Dec. 9 against visiting Fairborn.
• Dunbar (16-8) should benefit from the transfer of junior Antwuan Johnson. Also a football standout this past season for the Wolverines, he averaged 6.5 points and 4.3 rebounds as a starter at Springfield last season.
Returning to guide Dunbar is veteran coach Pete Pullen.
• Alter (19-7) also should be a top D-II contender, especially with 6-7 senior Dominic Laravie (15.0 points, 6.1 rebounds).
Versailles (18-7) has a proven scorer to build around in 6-5 junior Justin Ahrens (22.7). He was among the first in the class of 2018 to verbally commit to Ohio State.
• The dean of area coaches, Joe Staley, is looking for a healthy season at Chaminade Julienne (11-11). The Eagles were among the area’s best until guard Christian Montague (14.1) went down with a leg injury. C.J. Player (14.9, 8.9) emerged among the area’s top freshmen.
Jackson Center (24-5) advanced all the way to the state semifinals. The Tigers have a great inside player in 6-6 senior Brady Wildermuth (18.5), who signed with Findlay.
• Fairlawn Nathan Lessing (28.3) is among the state’s top returning scorers and is a legitimate threat to average 30 points as a senior.
• Gavin Richards (17.0) is the only returning starter off Tri-Village’s state title team of two seasons ago. He’ll be counted on to carry the Patriots as a senior.