First-year Newcomerstown High boys' basketball coach Rod Bonamico is busy these days preparing his first squad of Trojans for a brand new season on the hardwood.

Bonamico, hired back in April to take over for Danny Weekly who resigned after seven seasons leading the Trojans' program, is ready for the challenge.

"I'm very excited about this opportunity to coach the boys' basketball team here at Newcomerstown," Bonamico said. "We have some first-rate facilities and there are a lot of hard-working student athletes to work with here. I'm really looking forward to the challenge."

Bonimico's coaching resume includes four years at Tuscarawas Central Catholic. With the Saints, he took over a 2-19 team and in his first year posted an 8-14 record. During his third year at TCC, Bonamico led the Saints to a solid 15-7 mark and was named the District 5 "Coach of the Year" for the 2009-2010 season.

Bonamico is in his second year with the Newcomerstown district, currently teaching physical education, exercise science and weight lifting at the high school.

A total of four lettermen return for the Orange and Black this season from last year's 7-16 campaign which included a disappointing 2-12 mark in the Inter-Valley Conference.

"The talent cupboard is definitely not bare here," Bonamico said. "I got a chance to see a few games last year and was impressed with the kids' skill level."

Lost to graduation for the Trojans was last season's leading scorer in Hunter Sneary, who tallied 251 points last year for an average of 11.4 points per game. Sneary was named third team all-Eastern District and second team all-Inter-Valley Conference.

Leading the way for the returning Trojans will be senior Austin King (6-2 guard), who garnered honorable mention all-Eastern District and all-IVC honors a year ago.

Other lettermen back in the fold for the Trojans include seniors Steve Poe (6-3 post) and Josh Green (6-3 guard/post) along with junior Austin Zufelt (6-2 guard).

"We have a good mixture of guards and post players returning from last year," Bonamico said. "If we can develop some of our younger players ,we will be able to build depth which will help us as the season progresses."

Key newcomers for the Trojans who figure to contribute this season include junior Jibril Dansby (6-0 guard), who is coming off a big season on the gridiron racking up 1,670 yards rushing for the Trojans' football team that finished 6-4.

Other newcomers expected to have an impact for the Orange and Black include juniors Tyler Wheeler (6-0 guard), Lincoln Shaw (6-0 post), Zach Gibson (5-10 guard) and freshman George Brode (6-0 guard).

"We have numerous newcomers to the team who I expect to see playing time at the varsity level," Bonamico said. "Some of them could also see some time at the junior varsity level."

Rounding out the Trojans' varsity roster is sophomore Kwinten Garretson (6-3 post).

Players on the NHS junior varsity team include juniors Damian Myers (post), Dustin Stringer (post), Shaw and Garretson; sophomores Gage Miller (post) and Giovanni Perez (guard); along with freshmen Brode, Bryce Barbera (post) and Brennan Wilkin (guard).

"Our players have put in a real good summer at the Eastern Ohio Camp," Bonamico said. 'They have also been committed to the weight room and conditioning. I'm pleased with the effort they put in to prepare for the season and hope all the work pays off this season."

At the center of Bonamico's program, he hopes to install will be a strong defensive mind-set for his Trojans.

"I'm a firm believer in defense," Bonamico explained. "You need to be solid on defense every time you step on the basketball court. You can have an off-night shooting the basketball -- that can happen -- and when it does you need to be able to stay in the game with your defense and rebounding the ball. Those are two areas we will hang out hats on for sure."

Bonamico is a veteran of the IVC basketball wars and has a true respect for the strength of the league.

"I feel the IVC is one of the best Division III-IV leagues in Ohio," Bonamico related. "Our league is well-represented at the district, regional and state levels each and every year. There are some solid programs in the IVC like Hiland and Garaway. Playing in the IVC really prepares you for the tournament by playing such a very competitive schedule during the regular season."

Bonamico also feels the Trojans' non-league schedule will be challenging.

"Our non-league schedule is very competitive this season," Bonamico continued. "We have Indian Valley, Claymont, Zanesville Rosecrans, River View, Shenandoah

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and Kidron Christian on the schedule.

"We need to get better each week and improve on last year's record," he added. "It is our goal to be playing our best basketball at the end of the season heading to tournament time."

Bonamico's coaching staff includes Mark George as junior varsity coach, with Jason Leggett at the freshman level. At the junior high, Bill Lafferty coaches the eighth grade squad and Chuck Eicholtz will handle the seventh grade team.

Newcomerstown opens the season on Friday, Nov. 29 hosting Indian Valley.