By Rick Palsgrove
Cold weather has arrived and that means it’s time for the Groveport Madison Cruisers to gear up for the winter sports season.
“The strengths of our team will be our defensive intensity, shooting, and transition,” said Cruiser boys varsity basketball coach Lamont Hampton.
The team boasts several strong and talented players, including senior captain and point guard Duane Davis.
“He can get anywhere on the floor and has extraordinary defense,” said Hampton.
Senior wing Marlon Elliott, Jr., has three years of varsity experience and is a captain and a vocal leader.
“He’s also an extraordinary defender and playmaker,” said Hampton.
Senior Abubakar Diallo, according to Hampton, has unlimited shooting range and has improved dramatically each year on defense.
“Senior captain Kenyatta Whiteside, who averaged a double-double last season, also has unlimited shooting range,” said Hampton. “He’s an elite rebounder and a great defender.”
Senior Markel Holmes, Hampton said, has unlimited shooting range and is also “a great rebounder and defender.”
Hampton said the team has high expectations of success in the Ohio Capital Conference this year.
“With that being said, we have the utmost respect for all of our opponents in the OCC, which is one of the toughest leagues in central Ohio,” said Hampton. “Everyone we play will be formidable competition in this great league.”
Hampton noted the team is participating in a “quadruple header” with the girls’ team against Teays Valley this season.
“I think this is a very unique evening, allowing the boys and girls to watch each other play against a non-league opponent,” said Hampton.
Cruiser girls varsity basketball coach Zach Cowan said the team’s strengths this year are athleticism and defense.
“We love forcing turnovers to get easy points and making opposing offenses feel uncomfortable,” said Cowan. “Our team is very athletic and loves to run in transition and control the tempo of the games. We also have built a great team culture in the program and it’s great watching the girls interact and hold each other accountable on and off the court.”
He said the team has several top players.
“Tyairah ‘TT’ Flowers (a junior) worked very hard this past summer and fall to develop her offensive skills,” said Cowan “She is a physical bully in the post and a tenacious rebounder and defender.”
Cowan said junior Danica Graham is skilled offensively and a great rebounder.
“When she gets hot from three point land it can be scary,” said Cowan.
Freshman Niah Smedley is a post player who Cowan said can score from all areas of the court and rebound.
“Marisa Jones (a junior) worked really hard to develop her offensive skill set this summer and fall,” said Cowan. “She’s a great defender and rebounder.”
According to Cowan, freshman point guard Jolisa Butts can distribute the ball and score when needed, senior Alauna Nguyen is a team leade who can fit any role wherever needed, sophomore Milani Eppsis the “best perimeter defender, who worked extremely hard to develop jump shot in offseason,” and freshman Zariyah Jones is an “extremely athletic guard who is gifted defensively.”
When asked about the team’s prospects in the Ohio Capital Conference this year and what opponents will be the most formidable competition, Cowan said, “We look to compete this season in probably the toughest conference in the state of Ohio. We play top ranked teams such as Reynoldsburg, Newark, and Pickerington Central. Reynoldsburg has several Division 1 commits.”
He noted the Cruisers also have some interesting non-conference games scheduled this year against Canal Winchester, Teays Valley, and Pickerington North.
“This year we have a green and very young team,” said Cruiser head varsity wrestling coach Jacob Schultz. “The biggest strength my guys and girls have showed me so far is their willingness to learn and be coachable. That skill is more important than any other skill in this sport and through the years will show great results as our freshman continue to grow in this sport at the varsity level.”
Three notable Cruiser wrestlers to watch this season are senior Jacob Johnston (150 pounds), senior Cameron Leitwein (175 pounds), and junior Tyler Brown (138 pounds).
“Jacob is a top guy on our team because his willingness to learn and his intensity on working towards his goals this year, being a state qualifier,” said Schultz. “He often times calls out coaches to train extra and work towards his goals.”
Lightwine missed his junior season due to a knee injury and Schultz said “he has taken his PT like a progressional.”
“Cameron is a top guy on our team this year because his willingness to learn and add the things necessary to his repertoire to hit his goals,” said Schultz. “This off season Cameron and I spent a lot of time one-on-one to get him ready to crush his goals in his last season.”
Schultz said Brown is “a top guy on our team due to his eagerness to wrestle and the intensity and morale he brings to our team everyday. He loves big moves and I look for him to upset a lot top guys in the district this year as we refine his skill set.”
Schultz said the team looks forward to any and all competition.
“We don’t care who that opponent is or where they come from,” said Schultz. “We want to win against everyone. With that being said, it’s always a good evening when we get to defeat those guys from Canal Winchester!”
Visit gocruisers.org to see each team’s schedule. Click on the “athletics” tab and go to the “click here for athletic schedules” box.
Editor’s note: The Groveport Messenger also hopes to have previews of the Cruiser bowling and swimming teams soon.