Division II state champs adjusting to new roles in preparation of title defense


Chillicothe senior guard Caleb Knights (Photo by Gary Housteau)

With Anthony Hitchens off to Akron and Ray Chambers gone as well, a still talented, athletic Chillicothe Cavaliers basketball team is going through a preseason of adjustments as returning players take on more important roles.

With Anthony Hitchens off to Akron and Ray Chambers gone as well, a still talented, athletic Chillicothe Cavaliers basketball team is going through a preseason of adjustments.

These changes bring on increased roles for last year’s returnees and open some opportunities for the underclassmen who have been waiting their turn.

“At this point, we are still trying to define our roles,” said head coach Garry Kellough as he enters his fourth season at Chillicothe. “The kids coming back are going to be asked to take on more, and some of our new guys are going to fill-in a variety of roles for this year’s team. Overall, I like this team. It is just going to take some time to get into shape and to get everybody comfortable with what we are doing.”

Two starters and a sixth-man return from last year’s team. Point-guard Caleb Knights and forwards Seth Dawes and Ron Smith will all take on bigger roles that will include more shot attempts and expectations to stuff all columns of the stat sheet.

Knights, a 6-1 senior, is fresh off football where he quarterbacked the Cavaliers to Week 12, so he is still working himself into basketball shape. Knights is a solid ball handler and decision maker who can score the basketball. He is even more dominating on the other end as a lockdown defender who can defend multiple positions with his quickness, strength, and length.

Dawes, who will be starting for the third straight season on the varsity basketball team, recently signed with Xavier University to play baseball. The 6-4 senior stars as a catcher on the baseball team, but played a huge role at the post-forward position on last year’s title team. Dawes will bring a lot of experience and versatility to this year’s squad. His ability to play both the perimeter and the post will make Chillicothe capable of handling any adversity that foul trouble or injuries may bring throughout the course of a season.

Smith is an outstanding athlete. At 6-5, the senior is an outstanding scorer on the baseline and in the paint. He also is a great defender who can guard multiple positions and change shots at the rim.

“These three seniors have played in a lot of big games,” said Kellough who captured six SVC titles and six conference coach-of-the-year awards from 1987-2005 while at Zane Trace High School. “They have worked hard and have been great leaders throughout the off-season.”

The biggest adjustment for these three in trying to pick-up the “go-to” roles will be the adjustment of having other teams keying on them rather than Hitchens and Chambers a year ago. This change will be made easier by the fine supporting cast that Chillicothe’s roster permits.

Michael Turner (5-10, jr.), Eric Young (5-11, sr.), Jordan Benson (6-4, sr.), Landon Beverly (6-0, jr.), and Donta Thompson (5-10, jr.) will see significant time on the perimeter while Gregg Van Volkinburg (6-4, sr.) and James VanVoorhis (6-4, sr.) will give the Cavs great depth on the frontline. The Cavs have great depth, athleticism, and versatility. Even though Chillicothe would prefer to go up-tempo, there should never be a style of game in which the Cavs feel uncomfortable in terms of match-ups.

“We have a lot of options in terms of combinations,” said Kellough. “Once we get into shape and start to play, I think everything will play itself out. For now, I think it is more about getting our work done in practice and working hard to get better.”

Chillicothe will prepare to start their tournament run back through the southeast district by playing their conference games in the Southeast Ohio Athletic League (SEOAL).

They will also play another tough non-league schedule that contains formidable programs such as North College Hill, Reynoldsburg, Pickerington Central, and most notable, Mount Zion Academy in North Carolina. This game will take place in January at the National Hoops Classic. Mount Zion has produced several great players over the years including Tracy McGrady.

Southeast Ohio hoop fans will also get a Christmas treat when Chillicothe hosts Logan Elm on Dec. 27 what could be an early preview of a regional match-up later this winter.

“Playing this type of schedule is something we have committed to over the past few years at Chillicothe,” said Kellough. “We want to push our kids by playing the high level of competition.”




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