The Cuyahoga Heights football team made a second straight trip to the state football championship game earlier this month and now many of those same players traded in their cleats for a pair of high tops in the hopes of leading the Redskins to a deep postseason run on the basketball court.
The Redskins return just one starter but they have the size, talent and athleticism to make that run.
“We are pretty big and strong for a small school,” said 12th-year coach Michael Tartara. “Overall, they have a high ceiling if they can reach their full potential. The senior class is very close with one another and hopes to lead us to a successful season after losing several key players to graduation. It will be interesting to see how quickly the kids can get into basketball mode (after) their great football run in the playoffs.”
With a size advantage in the small school divisions, Tartara will challenge his players to be effective in pulling down rebounds on both ends of the court.
The Redskins always hang their hat on playing sound defense and that could lead to success on the offensive side.
“For a small school, we have decent size inside and a collection of athletes who like to compete. We will challenge them to be as effective on the boards as they can on both ends of the floor,” Tartara said. “Each year we adjust what we do based on our personnel. We will once again need to be solid on the defensive end, which has been a calling card of ours throughout the years. We will need to take advantage of scoring opportunities when they present themselves.”
Four seniors are expected to fill out the core of the starting lineup.
That group includes guard Ryan Polk, who quarterbacked the football team to the state finals. He averaged six points, 1.5 rebounds and one assist per game last season and also led the Redskins in 3-pointers made.
“Ryan will be asked to provide a scoring punch for us both outside and inside,” Tartara said. “When he gets it going, he can really score in bunches.”
Senior post Lucas D’Orazio was another member of that football team and he’ll be expected to shine the same way this winter. He averaged four points and three rebounds per game last year.
“Lucas’ two older brothers, Zach and Jordan, both had tremendous success for us in years past,” Tartara said. “Now it is Lucas’ turn. If Lucas can play within himself, his athleticism can provide lots of problems for the opposition on both ends of the floor.”
Jon Teter and Michael Adamo also are expected to start.
Teter, a two-way lineman on the football team, averaged three points and 4.5 rebounds per game while Adamo split time between the JV and varsity last season.
“Jon is probably one of the more physically imposing players in the CVC Valley Division. He can be an animal on the boards and animals gotta’ eat,” Tartara said. “Michael Adamo is one of the more cerebral players we have on our roster. Handling the ball and controlling the tempo will be his primary role on this team.”
Senior wing Tyler Hughes, junior guard Nassiem Salem and sophomore guard Ryan Selig also are expected to compete for starting roles.
“Tyler, Nassiem, and Ryan all look to provide important minutes for us throughout the year,” Tartara said. “Tyler can be a great defensive player, Nassiem has put in a lot of work in the offseason to help score the ball on the offensive end, and Ryan has worked hard as well and will compete for big minutes as a sophomore.”