McClain team and Zanesville.
The Cavs saw their trail stop with a loss to
Columbus St. Francis DeSales in the regional final. A year later, Chillicothe returns four starters and the expectations are bigger and better.
Last season, Chillicothe went on an impressive run that included: a sectional title blowout win over a talented Hillsboro team; district wins over a 22-0 Vinton County team and a Dante Jackson led Greenfield McClain team; and then a regional semifinal win over Zanesville. Finally, the Cavs saw their postseason trail stop with a loss to Columbus St. Francis DeSales in the regional final.
A year later, Chillicothe returns four starters and the expectations in Cavalier land are on bigger and better things come early March.
“We are excited about the season,” said Kellough. “We have a lot of pieces back and the kids have put a lot of time in over the off-season to get better. A new season can mean some new roles for people, but overall I think everybody is adjusting nicely and we seem ready to go.”
Leading the talented attack is Anthony Hitchens. The 5-foot-10 senior guard combines great quickness with a great skill-set to lead a Cavalier offense that is full of weapons. The Akron-bound Hitchens is a solid shooter from beyond the arc and he has a great midrange game that allows him to create high percentage shots for himself and others.
Junior Caleb Knights joins Hitchens in the backcourt. Knights is 6-3 and super athletic. He can play the one, two, or three on the offensive end and he is also Chillicothe’s lockdown defender. Towards the end of last year, throughout the summer, and into the current preseason, Coach Kellough has settled in with Knights at the point; however, the coach is quick to admit time and score can dictate some different options.
“The thing that makes our backcourt so tough is their versatility,” said Kellough of Hitchens and Knights. “Caleb has really improved his offensive game from a scoring standpoint, and they both do such a great job of distributing the ball to all of our weapons.”
Adding the post presence that completes Chillicothe’s inside-out punch is senior Ray Chambers. The senior is a dominating scorer on the low block and at 6-7 usually owns the glass on both ends of the floor. Chambers has really improved his overall skill-set on the offensive end and this versatility has earned him a lot of attention from the mid-major colleges.
Another weapon that makes Chillicothe nearly unguardable is sharp-shooter Stu Beverly. The more Beverly improved a year ago, the more dominate Chillicothe became. His clutch perimeter shooting in some of the biggest games down the stretch made it impossible for teams to deal with the inside-out combo of Hitchens and Chambers without leaving Beverly behind the arc.
The one big hole Chillicothe will be forced to replace is the loss of Chris Givens to graduation. Givens, an elite athlete that now plays football for Miami here in Ohio, was Mr. Intangible for the Cavs a year ago. He could guard all five positions on the floor and was a nightmare for opposing teams to keep off the offensive glass.
Chillicothe probably does not have one person that can jump in and do what Givens could do; however, Kellough will have a much deeper line of talent when he looks down this year’s bench.
Seth Dawes started for much of last year before dealing with an injury during the second half of the year. Chillicothe will also have a pair of 6-4 subs in Ronnie Smith and Jordan Benson, as well as, senior Mike Newman who played some key minutes off the bench last season. Scott Norris could also compete for minutes, and sophomore Michael Turner is an outstanding young talent that would start for several teams this season – and maybe even last season as a freshman for that matter – but will be forced to wait his turn as a backup guard to Hitchens and Knights.
“I love the depth of this year’s team,” said Kellough who enters his third season as head coach of the red, white, and blue. “We obviously have a lot of talent in our starting five, but I think we have a lot of guys who bring some nice things to the table off the bench as well.”
Chillicothe plays a brutal schedule that starts with an improved SEOAL and gets ridiculously hard when out of conference. In conference play, Chillicothe and Zanesville remain the teams to beat as they return loaded rosters from last year. The rest of the league should be better after having talented yet young teams a year ago. In the non-league Chillicothe plays Brookhaven, North College Hill, Newark and Dayton Dunbar.
“We feel like we must continue to play good people to get to the level that we hope to get to this season,” said Kellough when asked about his far from cupcake schedule. “We started with this philosophy a few years back and I think it is starting to payoff.”