SIDNEY — John Willoughby had big plans for Sidney’s boys basketball team this season. When he heard Andre Gordon was coming back, the plans only got bigger.
The Yellow Jackets will start on their big plans this weekend. Sidney will open the season on Friday with a Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division game at Tippecanoe and then will face Greater Miami Conference power Mason on Saturday in the Ohio Valley Hoops Classic at Hillsboro High School.
The OVHC is in its fifth year and will host some of the best teams in the state over the course of the two-day event, which starts Friday. Among the participants is defending Division I state champion Moeller.
“When (Sidney athletic director) Mitch Hoying and I talked about it, we thought it would be a good opportunity,” Willoughby said of playing in the event. “It’s a different place to play and against a team we really don’t get to see much. Everybody that we talked to said it was a really well-run event. The people who put it on take really good care of the teams.”
Sidney is hoping to showcase its new look at the event and on Friday in Tipp City. Though the Yellow Jackets aren’t changing formations from previous years, they’re looking to play at a faster pace this season.
Willoughby said a deep bench and the increased experience and conditioning of the team’s four returning starters should enable quicker play — and hopefully more points in transition. He’s said he’s been pleased with how the squad has performed in scrimmage games.
“We’ve been playing a lot of kids, and it’s been working well,” Willoughby said. “You never know how that’s going to go over in games, but we plan on playing a lot of our kids and hopefully wear (opponents) down a little bit.”
“We have a number of kids that we can play. They can play if they’re producing, and if they’re not, they’ll come back out and we’ll try someone else. I think we’ve been practicing pretty well, and I think the kids have been trying to learn their roles.”
Gordon, a Virginia Tech commit, re-enrolled at Sidney earlier this month after spending the beginning of the school year at Huntington Prep in West Virginia. Willoughby said he heard early in November that Gordon would return and was at a conference in Indianapolis on Nov. 6 when he re-enrolled.
He’s excited to have Gordon back, especially with the plans of running with a faster tempo.
“Even before Andre came back, we knew we wanted to pick up the pace,” Willoughby said. “If anything, Andre helps that immensely. So kids have to learn new roles than what we were originally planning. But we’re going to try to get a lot of people in the action.”
Saturday’s game will be the nightcap of the Ohio Valley Hoops Classic. The Comets are led by coach Greg Richards, who has 325 career wins. They have put together a 92-20 record over the last five seasons and have two GMC championships and one district title to their credit.
Mason looks to be led by senior guard Landen Long, who averaged 11.4 points and 8.4 rebounds last season. Junior post Jack Cooper, who is 6-foot-6, and 6-7 senior Matt Minick are potential collegiate players. Point guard Ethan Howard also returns for Mason after averaging 6.7 points per game last year.
The Comets will present a contrasting style for Sidney, as they play at a methodical pace.
“They’re a lot like Centerville or Vandalia-Butler or those type of teams,” Willoughby, who has 378 career wins, said. “They like to take time off the clock, pass, get everyone the ball. We defend that pretty well, but sometimes, you can get irritated with that. You can try to gamble a little bit more than you should and get yourself out of position, and that’s when they take advantage. We’ll have to make sure we don’t (do that).”
Sidney will open the season on Friday against the Red Devils, which lose the vast majority of their roster from last season, including their top four scorers. Their leading returnee is sophomore guard Ben Sauls, who averaged 6.9 points per game last season.
“They’ll try to pack it in defensively and try to take away Andre,” Willoughby said. “They play sound defensively. We’re going to have to be able to run our stuff against that. Execute and go to the second and third options.”
Aside from Gordon, senior guard Josiah Hudgins, senior forward Ratez Roberts and junior guard Darren Taborn are returning starters. Willoughby is expecting big things out of senior guards Jace Conrad and Keith Lee, junior forward Trey Werntz, sophomore guard Camden Vordemark and junior guard Dominck Durr among others. Durr was among the team’s scoring leaders in a scrimmage against Perrysburg last Friday.
The first game in the OVHC on Saturday begins at noon, with Xenia taking on Walton Verona. Price of admission is $10, and tickets are good for the entire event.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.