CADIZ - Losing just one starter from a 14-7 squad leads to high expectations. That's exactly where Harrison Central finds itself as the season quickly approaches.
Coach Justin Clifford, who is embarking on his fourth season at the helm of the Huskies, is quite OK with that, too.
''These kids have been around and they realize what we expect from them,'' Clifford said. ''We realize the expectations are high and we're hoping we can take the next step, whether that's getting to the OVAC finals, winning a sectional or increasing our number of wins. It's all part of the process.''
The Huskies are led by a trio of talented seniors, who've certainly been around the block and back.
Seior guard Fletcher Watt (5-foot-11) is rounding back into form after undergoing an operation on his knee during the summer. Watt is coming off a junior campaign in which he averaged 16 points a game.
''Fletch hasn't been the same in terms of his blow-by quickness, but I think as time gets there, he'll get that back and regain that strength,'' Clifford said. ''Actually, it might be a good thing to slow him down a little bit, so he can take what the defense is giving him.''
On the interior, Nick Pelegreen (6-3) is coming off a season in which he averaged a double-double. The all-Ohio football player netted 15 points and ripped down 10 rebounds a game last season and Clifford thinks even bigger numbers are in store this winter.
''Nick really uses his body well,'' Clifford said. ''He understands the game exceptionally well and knows what he can and can't do physically. He's always in the right spot and that makes him quicker, bigger and tougher to defend. Nick plays bigger than his frame, and if he's scoring 15 or 20 a game, we're that much tougher to guard.''
Senior swing player Rashaen Mitchell returns with his 6-5, athletic frame. Coming off a brilliant football season, Mitchell is trying to improve on the nine points a game he averaged last season.
''If Rashaen is a threat on offense and uses his ability and length on defense, I think we're a much better and tougher team to beat. He's a great kid and has been a great leader for us. He's worked his butt off in the offseason.''
Sophomore Austin Kowalski (5-9) is back after a fine freshman season in which he saw significant varsity action and worked his way into the starting lineup.
''Austin is a feisty competitor,'' Clifford said. ''Even though he's younger in terms of his grade level, he's really got some good leadership qualities, which helps him out. He's only a sophomore, but it seems like he's been around forever. He loves the game, invests a lot of time and he's very skilled.''
As for the fifth spot, it's been a battle in practice.
''We feel we can go probably nine deep because each of the other guys (in the rotation mix) bring a different skill,'' Clifford said.
Battling for that final spot are senior Dalton Rutter (5-9), junior Nate Olmstead (5-9) and junior Cody Evans (5-9).
Three sophomores battling for minutes are Kalub Mitchell (5-11), Cory Yoho (5-9) and Ryan Kibble (5-10).