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The Open Gym Report: Upper Arlington in reload mode after state title run

Graduating a stellar senior class that won the most games in Upper Arlington history, coach Tim Casey returns a talented core for the Golden Bears in 2014-15.

Upper Arlington looks to return to prominence after a magical run to the state final four in 2014-15.
Upper Arlington looks to return to prominence after a magical run to the state final four in 2014-15.
SB Nation

Replacing two Division I guards, and arguably the greatest player in program history in Kevin Vannatta, it would be reasonable to expect a rebuilding year for Upper Arlington, just a season after falling two points short of a state championship. However, with a talented core of juniors and seniors returning, and a promising freshman on the rise, Upper Arlington looks to be one of the top teams in the Ohio Capital Conference once again. So, what does Upper Arlington have coming back? Find out here.

Gabe Akins (6'3 SG / 2015):

The top performer in the gym, Akins was mightily impressive in all facets of the game. A lengthy combo-guard with lots of athleticism, Akins finished at the rim through contact time after time, and set up teammates for open scores while showcasing pinpoint vision. Adding muscle to a lengthy frame, Akins showcased improved body control, and showed to be a knockdown shooter from the perimeter, coming off ball screens and converting from deep. A high IQ guard with good upside, Akins, also a track star in the spring and summer, is a player to keep an eye on in 2014-15.

Griffin Caldwell (6'2 PG / 2015):

A key part to Upper Arlington's superb reserve unit from the state runner-up team, Caldwell looks to have big shoes to fill at the point guard position in taking over for Air Force freshman Danny Hummer. A little bigger than Hummer, Caldwell is a pass-first point guard with quality vision and passing ability, and looks to be the ideal guard for Casey's system at this point in time. A capable shooter when left open, Caldwell is selfless and leads by example, two major qualities that embody the Upper Arlington program.

Michael McGovern (6'5 PF / 2015):

The lone returning starter from the 2014-15 Golden Bear squad, McGovern is one of the better power forwards in the OCC, and will be looked upon to take a greater leadership role this season. A fundamentally sound combo-forward with a legitimate inside-outside game, McGovern is Upper Arlington's top returning rebounder, and will be a major piece to another solid senior class.

Dane Goodwin (6'4 SG / 2018):

Upper Arlington's prized freshman, Casey's eyes brimmed with excitement when describing the talented 6-foot-4 combo-guard Goodwin. Although Goodwin was not present at Thursday's open gym (he was busy at golf practice, he's good at that, too) Casey said the freshman looks to be an instant impact guy in the starting lineup. Casey described Goodwin as a freshman "that doesn't play like a freshman," similar praise once given to the UNC-Asheville freshman Vannatta, and Davidson junior guard Brian Sullivan. In a primetime matchup vs. Michigan commit Jon Teske and Medina at the Ohio State team camp in June, Goodwin exploded for 35 points, nailing 11 three-point field goals in front of OSU coaches Thad Matta and Jeff Boals. Following the explosive performance, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, and Dayton have inquired about the 6-foot-4 freshman, as Goodwin looks to be the OCC's top player in the 2018 class.

Onno Steger (6'4 SF / 2016):

Upper Arlington's top junior, the lengthy combo-guard Steger played at a high level on Thursday, making things happen on both ends of the floor. A difficult matchup for guards and forwards, Steger has the quickness and athleticism to get to the rim, but can also spot up and shoot from the perimeter. A high-level athlete with good basketball IQ, Steger looks to be an impact guy on a team that may be better than what some are expecting.

Austin Heath (6'4 SF / 2015):

The younger brother of Harrison Heath, one of Upper Arlington's stellar reserve forwards from last year, Austin is a prospect to keep an eye on. With quality size and athleticism, Heath is a guy that will do whatever his team needs to win, while handling the ball on the break and being able to mix it up inside. On a stellar junior varsity team coached by new Walnut Ridge head coach Brian Shininger in 2013-14, Heath looks to make a seamless transition to varsity ball this season.

Justin Whitcomb (6'2 SG / 2017):

One of the more explosive guards in the gym on Thursday, Whitcomb left a good impression in my first viewing of him. With good size for the two guard position, Whitcomb showed a unique ability to take defenders off the dribble, and finished strongly at the rim on several occasions. As Upper Arlington has a few open spots in the backcourt, look for Whitcomb to be a quality reserve guard coming off the bench in 2014-15.

In addition to the players listed above, keep an eye out for junior guards Nick Kahler, Jake Kern, Zane Laws and Will Zadnik. Senior student Matthew "Money Ball" Holodnak was one of the day's top shooters, surprising everyone in the gym with a barrage of threes.