ST. CLAIRSVILLE - New faces in new places is how veteran Ohio University Eastern men's basketball coach Donnie Madzia describes his 2013-14 squad.
"I really don't know for sure," Madzia said when asked how his team will be this season after going 18-9 overall and 12-6 in ORCC play a year ago. "I know we are going to be really, really small on the interior, but we have a pair of guards that can light up the scoreboard. We'll look to push the ball upcourt and and play good man-to-man defense, but how we do that and rebound will make the difference in our season."
The two backcourters that Madzia was referring to are former OVAC standouts Nick Schuetz (Shadyside) and Devin Ward (Bellaire). Schuetz is a 4-year performer who was second team all-ORCC last winter when he averaged just over 16 points per outing. Ward came on strong at the end of the season and will be counted upon again this campaign. He finished with an 18-point norm.
"Nick has worked his tail off," Madzia said about the 5-10 Schuetz. "He is going to graduate on time and that it what I'm really proud of him in that regard. He's also a really good free throw shooter.
"Devin can be very, very good," Madzia said of the former Big Reds product. "He was our sixth man last season, but due to some academic troubles with some of the starters, he moved into the starting lineup and contributed. He scored 44 in a game, so he can light it up.
"With Nick and Devin, I think we'll be able to score some points, but how we stop the other team is going to be important," Madzia added.
Also returning are 6-2 sophomores D'Aundrea Anderson (King George, Va.) and Matt Burke (Beallsville), along with 6-3 junior Darnell Fisher (Martinsburg, Va.) and 6-0 junior Darrick Phillips (Bridgeport).
"All of those guys should give us some quality minutes off the bench," Madzia said. "They all need to step up their games."
Newcomers include a pair of former all-Ohioans in 6-3 Cody Schau (Martins Ferry) and 6-4 Brandt Thieman (Fort Frye), along with the Shadyside duo of Ryan Richardson (6-1) and Cullen Dalton (6-4), Union Local product Paul Demarchi (5-9) and Shenandoah's Danny Neuhart (5-6).
"We've got a pretty good class coming in with the two former all-Ohioans in Schau and Thieman," Madzia noted. "However, Schau is injured right now, but when, and if, he gets healthy, he will team with Nick and Devin to give us three really good scorers."
"The addition of Thieman will greatly help us," the coach added. "He is listed as a freshman, but he is a 22-year-old freshman. He can play inside or outside for us."
Richardson was a starter for Ed Andes' Tigers last season, while Dalton saw action off the bench.
"Both of those kids come from a winning program at Shadyside," Madzia continued. "They will get some time off the bench.
"Demarchi came to some open gyms and decided to play, while Neuhart is a scrappy kid who is very knowledgeable of the game."
Gone from last season are Marquez O'Neil, Jordan Barbina, Nate Phillips and Kurtis Ogilbee. However, Madzia said there is a chance that O'Neil, a Wheeling Park product, could return after Jan. 1, 2014.
The schedule, as always, is loaded with good teams, especially those from the bigger cities like Akron-Wayne, the defending league titlists, and the Middletown and Hamilton teams, according to Madzia.
Terry Wasem will assist Madzia, while Cody Johnson is the statistician.