Ric Blevins is nothing if not a straight shooter.
The Woodridge boys basketball coach’s assessment of his team is simple.
"We’re very experienced. We have very little size," Blevins said. "We’re going to be outmanned on the front line just about every game this season. We got what we got."
One the one hand, lack of height can be a fatal flaw in high school boys basketball. On the other hand, the Bulldogs have proven it can win with smaller lineups.
Last winter, Woodridge finished 18-6 overall and finished 12-2 in the Portage Trail Conference Metro Division, sharing the division title with Coventry. The Bulldogs will have seven letterwinners back from that squad
The biggest loss for Woodridge is easy: All-time leading scorer Mason Lydic is now playing basketball at Marietta College. Lydic, Logan Palmer and Chris Malone all graduated for the Bulldogs.
"We’re losing 1,700 points over the course of his career," Blevins said. "The luxury for us is the we have lot of depth this year. They’re very experienced. We have the luxury of having a huge senior class."
Blevins will need that depth, as the Bulldogs will play a high-tempo, relentless style of basketball this season. Without revealing any particular sets, Blevins said Woodridge will need to "force tempo on people."
if you can control the tempo against us, we’re going to have challenges," Blevins said. "We can play nine or 10 guys. We know what we have to do to be successful. Are we going to be able to do that 22 straight games? That’s the question."
"We’ve never been a set offense-type of team," he added. "We try to give of them some freedom. Offensively, we’re going to look difference from night to night."
Defensively, Woodridge will continue to be a straight man-to-man squad.
Blevins’ assistant coaching staff remains intact with Brian McGallaird serving as varsity assistant, Drew Kussin coaching the junior varsity squad and Andrew Brunn coaching the freshman team.
Anchoring the Bulldogs on both sides of the ball will be senior point guard DJ Snyder (5-foot-9), who will be a four-year letterwinner for the Bulldogs.
"He is the one guy who can score outside of our offense," Blevins said. "He does everything we ask of him. We’re not focused on who’s scoring. It’s by committee. To a man, they’re a very unselfish."
Another returning starter is senior guard Michael Massey (5-10), who will time both at point and shooting guard. Blevins said Massey brings "amazing athletic ability" to the table, but may have been a bit too unselfish last year with Lydic in the backcourt.
"He can defend a guy who’s a couple inches bigger than him because of his jumping ability," Blevins said. "We’re going to need some scoring from him this season. He kind of accepted his role too well last year."
Similarly, Blevins wants a big season out of senior forward Elijah Arnett (6-1), who is a three-year letterwinner for the Bulldogs.
"He is the guy who is capable of doing a lot of things for us," Blevins said."He’s plenty athletic. When he believes in what he’s doing, he’s going to be dangerous."
Senior forward Ikye Leggette (6-1) is among those pushing for starting time.
"He’s a guy that gets better every day," Blevins said. "He has an amazing nose for the basketball.He’s starting to turn into the player we thought he could be."
Blevins noted senior returning starter Joe Mehalik (6-foot) is the epitome of a Woodridge basketball player.
"He’s tremendously hard worker and a team-first guy," Blevins said. "We saw flashes of him last year. We think he can do that on a nightly basis."
Blevins said senior forward Jabron Driskill (6-foot) has "been waiting patiently" for a starting job and should step up this season.
Seniors Alex Schertz (5-11) and Bobby Eslick (5-10) will add depth off the bench this winter.
Among the junior class, Josh Fleming (5-10) will seen the most time, as he can play any guard position for the Bulldogs.
Blevins said a quartet of dedicated junior will be asked to play some junior varsity time due to "a logjam in front of us." Andrew Mekeal (5-10), Ben Lahoski (5-10) Brandon Albright (5-9) and Kyle Mottice (5-9) all could work onto the varsity roster.
The lone sophmore on Woodridge’s varsity roster is 6-1 Josh Decker.
"Josh is a guy who’s going to push for starting minutes," Blevins said. "He might be the best passer in the program. He’s still just trying to figure out the physicalness of the varsity game."
"We’ve got a big roster and only so many minutes available for all the players," Blevins said. "It’s a big bonus for the style we want to play. A lot of guys are going to have their chances."
Woodridge will open the season Dec. 1 at the Joe Siegfurth Classic at Akron Firestone. The Bulldogs will face Tallmadge at 3 p.m.
Woodridge’s home open will be Dec. 7 against Metro Division foe Ravenna. Varsity tip time is set for 7:30 p.m.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, email@example.com or @MLeonard_RPC