Schedule for the Triple Double Prospects Spring AAU Tune-Up is now available. This event will run this coming weekend at Cincinnati Hughes HS and feature some of SW Ohio’s top teams at the 15u, 16u and 17u age brackets….
The first weekend of the second edition of Ohio’s Best Basketball League, an in-state version copying the Nike EYBL concept, took place in Cincinnati this past weekend, with some of the state’s top talent taking place. Programs like Ohio Basketball Club, Ohio Varsity, Hidden Gems and local programs such as Team One and A.B.U. Elite all enjoyed success at the first of three league events, while several others participated.
Here are a few standout players who looked to be among the OBBL’s finest in the first session….
- Carlton Bragg – ’15 PF Cleveland VASJ: Simply put, Bragg is supposed to be on this list. At 6’9 (or taller), he’s the tallest player in the league, one of the best athletes and definitely the most promising prospect as he is consistently listed among the nation’s top-15 rising seniors. Both days this weekend, Bragg lived up to his hype, scoring the ball with ease around the basket, and from the perimeter. Showing off his floor-running ability, Bragg punished the rim for big dunk and big dunk, while also using his length to block shots around the rim. Playing on an OBC 17u team that looks like favorites to finish undefeated in the league, Bragg was the most impressive of several top performers.
- Dikembe Dixson – ’15 SF Mingo Central (WV): It’s been hard to track Dixson this season as we’ve seen him transfer from Ashland Paul Blazer (KY) to Bardstown Thomas Nelson (KY) then to Mingo Central (WV), but we think that with his commitment to OBC 17u he might have found a outlet where folks can continue to watch this star shine. Since the last time we saw him, at John Lucas Camp in the fall, nothing has changed with Dixson’s athleticism, as the 6’6 wing continues to play above the rim basketball with a high motor. One thing that the junior did show off that looked new, however, was an ability to stop and pop from the mid-range, adding another weapon and showing that he can avoid being called for charges. Against OBBL competition, it appears that Dixson will have his way in the full-court game, and he could easily end up being OBC’s leading scorer by year-end.
- Khalil Iverson – ’15 SF Delaware Hayes: The Ohio Varsity 17u forward picked up where he left off in last season’s OBBL, dominating like no other player in the league with his combination of athleticism, strength and flat out effort. Arguably the state’s top athlete in the rising senior class, the 6’4 wing forward finished everything around the basket through contact, producing several highlights in the process. Iverson has emerged as an almost sure-fire Division I prospect in the past year, as his combination of physical tools, upside, effort and just enough skill give him a nice package for mid-major schools to look at. Playing for the first-time with one of Ohio’s better-known AAU programs, look for his name to be mentioned amongst Ohio’s breakout players this spring.
- Rodney Culver – ’15 SG Pickerington Central: Another potential breakout player this spring, the 6’4 wing from Columbus is another intriguing athlete playing with Ohio Varsity, who has really improved his production level from a year ago. What impressed us most about Culver over the weekend was his ability to affect the game defensively with his length, as he had to lead the entire league in deflections at the top of the OV press. A talented scorer in transition, Culver handles the ball better then we’ve given him credit for at Triple Double Prospects, and has complimenting finishing or distributing abilities as well. As he improves his feel for the game offensively, Culver might just be a consistent jump-shot away from becoming one of the top wings in Ohio’s 2015 class, and is definitely one of the late blooming perimeter players to keep an eye on with his athletic ability and size.
- DJ Harris – ’15 SG Cincinnati Aiken: Starring for Cincinnati based upstart program A.B.U. Elite, Harris scored the ball from the wing area all weekend long as consistently as any player who we evaluated. He’s a power wing with good athleticism and a toughness to his approach, who when focused on taking it to the rim is very difficult to contain. Since breaking onto the scene last AAU season with the Ohio Phenoms, Harris has continued to impressed with his defensive ability, but now is a much more efficient scorer of the ball as well. With A.B.U. making a splash in the OBBL with an impressive 4-2 opening weekend record, look for Harris and fellow Aiken guard Vonny Irvin to be among the league’s top players heading up to Cleveland.
- Yavari Hall – ’16 SG Cleveland Warrensville Heights: While OBC’s 17u team dominated their division, the rising juniors in the 16u division more than just handled their business in their age group. Led by Hall and Wilmington wing Jarron Cumberland, OBC outscored teams with length and athleticism in transition, while applying enough defensive pressure to frustrate teams into turnovers. Hall is one of our favorite prospects to watch in the 2016 class in Ohio due to his immense talent and versatility, and over the weekend he was particularly impressive as he was locked in with an attacking mind-set. Capable of scoring from all three levels or distributing, the Cleveland wing can really finish on the break at or above the rim. Playing on an OBC team that has all of the pieces to be really successful with on both ends of the floor, Hall will be one of the most heavily relied on prospects, as his ability to create offense is hard to teach and can translate to the next level.
- TC Wells – ’16 SF Cincinnati Fairfield: One of the most productive high school wings that you’ve probably never heard of, Wells had a huge weekend with Team One, another Cincinnati based program, as he scored with power, touch and rebounded the ball at a high level. With a linebacker build but shooting guard game the Fairfield sophomore is a versatile prospect that can be a matchup nightmare. Wells can handle and shoot the ball, but is best served scoring around the rim, as his motor and strength are simply too much for opponents to contain. As he gets more and more skilled, look for Wells to be one of the breakout performers in this year’s OBBL and entire AAU season even.
- Spencer Cline – ’16 PF Mason: When we evaluated Cline during the high school season, TDP had several question marks regarding Cline’s game. However, the 6’6 forward proved us wrong in many ways this past weekend, showcasing athleticism, skill and versatility that we simply didn’t see with him wearing a Mason uniform. Playing for Team One along with Wells, Cline showed a toughness with the ball in his hands, consistently attacking the rim as a scorer, including putting up one 35 point game in the process. We’re still not entirely sure what his best offensive position is, but Cline could emerge quickly as one of the better face-up power-forwards in Ohio’s 2016 class.
Other Top Performers: DJ Triplett (’17 SG Toledo Whitmer/Ohio Gators), Justin Johnson (’15 PF Fairfield/Team One), Assante Patterson (’15 SF Dayton Thurgood Marshall/Team One), Craig Randall (’15 PG Medina/OBC), Zach Neuenschwander (’15 C Navarre Fairless/OBC), Isaiah Jones (’15 PG Cincinnati Woodward/OBC), J’Suan Davis (’15 PF Columbus Brookhaven/Ohio Varsity), Jarron Cumberland (’16 SG Wilmington/OBC), Kameron Moore (’16 PF Cincinnati Aiken/OBC), Trey McBride (’16 PG Cincinnati Roger Bacon/Team One), Vonny Irvin (’15 PG Cincinnati Aiken/ABU Elite), Rakeem Mincey (’15 SF Cincinnati Woodward/ABU Elite)
This weekend, less than two weeks after Ohio High School State Tournament, the AAU season gets underway in style throughout the Buckeye State. Triple Double Prospects will be in Cincinnati to over the King James Ice-Breaker, but the Buckeye Prep Classic in Columbus and NY2LA Sports Swish-N-Dish in Milwaukee will also draw top talent.
Heading into what can officially be called opening weekend, even though a few teams have played a game or two around the state, here’s our look at some of the top teams to watch in the rising senior and rising junior divisions.
17u (Rising Seniors)
- King James Shooting Stars: The conversation begins and ends with King James in Ohio in the 17u division. The team features Duke commit Luke Kennard (Franklin), Ohio State commit AJ Harris (Dayton Dunbar) and a plethora of other high-major prospects including Nate Fowler (Cincinnati Moeller), Kyle Ahrens (Versailles), Kipper Nichols (Cleveland St. Edward) and Derek Pardon (Cleveland VASJ). Add Ohio’s most highly regarded sophomore, Akron SVSM wing VJ King, to the equation and there might not a more talented team top to bottom in the entire nation. Expect for King James to be a force in the Nike EYBL, with an eventual title being a realistic dream.
- All-Ohio Red: The other Nike sponsored team in the state, AOR boast a talented and deep roster as well. Red will be led by star power forward Esa Ahmad (Shaker Heights) and guard Jordan Dartis (Newark); however, role players like MaCio Teague (Cincinnati Walnut Hills), Ahmad Wagner (Huber Heights Wayne) and Noah Bramlage (Ottawa-Glandorf) should play major roles. Add in new additions Josh Williams (Akron SVSM), an Akron commit, and center Doug Taylor (Columbus Northland), and Red has all the pieces to be the clear cut second best team in the state.
- Ohio Basketball Club: It’s tough to make a distinction between the third and fourth teams on the list, however, we believe that OBC’s star power in forward Carlton Bragg (Cleveland VASJ) gives them a slight edge. With Bragg being the most sought after player in Ohio by colleges right now, OBC will get a lot of attention on the circuit, and deservingly so. Craig Randall (Medina) and Brian Parker (Cleveland VASJ) return as stars in the backcourt, while Devon Andrews (Cleveland Lorain), Pittsburgh sophomore commit Maverick Rowan, a Pittsburgh resident, and West Virginia based forward Dikembe Dixson give OBC a ton of offensive firepower. Playing in the new Adidas version of Nike’s EYBL, look for OBC to give Ohio something to be proud of.
- All-Ohio Black: While they may be underneath the All-Ohio banner, the Black team shares the spotlight with no one. Over the last two years the group has produced several impressive wins, while also having a reputation for great team chemistry. Forwards Xeyrius Williams (Huber Heights Wayne) and Ryan Mikesell (Saint Henry) have gotten the most attention, however, guys like Columbus Africentric duo JaQuan Harrison and Ulmer Manzie, along with Grant Zawadski (Troy Christian) and Doriane Dawson (Dayton Dunbar) have also been key contributors. Look for AOB to be competitive in-state and in the region, and don’t be surprised if they beat a team or two ranked ahead of them at some point.
- Team Work: Last year, the 2015 Team Work team as rising juniors struggled some due to injuries. This year, though, they’re healthy, big and filled with their usual allotment of skill players. On the interior look for Alex White (Lakota East) and Nolan Gerrity (Berea Midpark) to shine, while Austin Adams (Toledo Cardinal Stritch), Beau Justice (Peebles) and Isaac White (Ashland) will man the perimeter. Team Work always seems to find a couple under the radar guys each year to add to the equation, and we’re expecting nothing less this year on a team that could be very underrated at fifth.
Other teams to watch for: King James Runnin’ Rebels, Team One, Queen City Prophets, Hidden Gems Black, Ohio Varsity, TNBA, VJ Sports, Hidden Gems Orange
16u (Rising Juniors)
- King James Shooting Stars: Just like in the 17u division, King James is tops in the 16u age group as well. KJ has a near unstoppable collection of size, depth, talent and chemistry, making them a team we believe can compete at the top of the Nike circuit. The Shooting Stars are most impressive inside where they boast twin towers Derek Funderburk (Cleveland St. Edward) and Derrick Daniels (Dayton Thurgood Marshall), while the point guard trio of Xavier Simpson (Lima Central Catholic), Tre Cobbs (Lima Central Catholic) and DJ Hoskins (Dayton Thurgood Marshall) will also give opponents fits. Add in wing players like Anthony Christian (Akron Hoban), Henry Baddley (Akron SVSM) and new additions like LePear Toles (Canton Timken) and Ibi Watson (Athens), and this team might just have too much talent to lose to an in-state team.
- Team Work: One of the most impressive teams on the entire circuit last season, Team Work’s 2016 team returns for their second year eager to match last season’s win total. The core remains mostly intact, with Jon Teske (Medina), Luke Vargo (Dublin Coffman), Mason Baich (Dublin Jerome) and Seth Fuller (Dublin Coffman) returning. To add to the scoring punch, Team Work picked up a valuable wing in Cleveland St. Ignatius’ Deven Stover; giving the group some much needed athleticism on the perimeter. A team with good chemistry and a variety of offensive weapons, look for Team Work to have another big year, and for Teske to be a breakout player.
- All-Ohio Red: Nike continues their dominance at the top, as AOR finds their name in the upper part of the rankings, after finishing second in the State Tournament and Nike Super 16 last season. Red will be led again this year by wings Tervell Beck (Cleveland Central Catholic) and Willie Jackson (Garfield Heights). In addition to the big two on the wing, guys like Nick Ward (Gahanna Lincoln), James Manns (Marion-Franklin) and Roderick Caldwell (Dayton Stivers) will be critical to the team’s success. While he missed high school ball this season, be on the lookout for Shaker Heights point guard Keith Griffin, who should make his return to the court this spring in an AOR uniform, after tearing up the circuit a year ago.
- Ohio Basketball Club: As impressive as the first three teams on this list are offensively on the perimeter, it’s tough to put together a group as talented as what OBC plans on starting on the wing. Jarron Cumberland (Wilmington), Yavari Hall (Warrensville Heights) and Frankie Hughes (Garfield Heights) give OBC three dynamic scoring options to distribute shots among, while allowing the team to not have to rely on one or two guys to get hot. The rest of the OBC rotation remains to be seen, but with those three players attacking the rim and shooting the rock, it’s going to be tough to guard this team.
- VCC Warriors: Many outside of central Ohio don’t know just how good this team is, but very soon they could become the talk of the state. VCC features a variety of Columbus based prospects in Seth Towns (Columbus Northland), Matt Moyer (Gahanna Lincoln), Tyus Ferguson (Groveport Madison) and Malik Harrison (Columbus Walnut Ridge) among others. Add in chemistry and program loyalty that is nearly unmatched at the AAU level anywhere else in Ohio, and this team could very well finish the season ranked much closer to the number one spot than they are now.
Other teams to watch for: Cincinnati Lakers, Columbus Mustang Ballers, Nova Village, All-Ohio Black, Team One, Queen City Prophets, Hidden Gems Black, Hidden Gems Orange
15u (Rising Sophomores)
It’s too early for us to get a feel of who the actual best teams are, but here are some teams we have a good feeling about….
King James Shooting Stars, All-Ohio Red, Ohio Basketball Club, Ohio Basketball Club South (Hall), Team Work, Cincinnati Lakers, DB Hoops, Ohio Unity
After the Unsigned Senior Showcase had ended on Sunday at Cincinnati Hughes HS, college coaches and talent evaluators stayed to watch the next generation show off their abilities during the Triple Double Prospects Underclassmen Showcase. Forty players from all over Ohio and Kentucky participated in the event, with some of the region’s most talented players making appearances as well. Here’s a rundown of the top performers from the inaugural version of the event…
- James Bolden – ’15 Covington Holmes (KY) PG: There’s no denying that “Beetle” was definitely the most well known of the one hundred players that played between the two showcases on Sunday. The lightning quick, scoring minded point guard had a big reputation to defend in Cincinnati, and he definitely crossed the Ohio river with a clear level of focus. “Beetle” put on quite the offensive display against a variety of defenders, using his speed and skill to blow by players or create separation for his smooth jumpshot. The top point guard prospect in Kentucky, and a potential high major player, Bolden is being recruited by Xavier, Ohio University, Cincinnati, Kentucky and Southern Mississippi, among others, right now, however that list likely will grow when he makes his second appearance on the Nike EYBL circuit later this month with the Kentucky Travelers. Already having proven that he can be dominant in high school competition in Kentucky, look for Bolden to be among the frontrunners for Mr. Basketball in the Bluegrass State next season.
- Kameron Moore – ’16 Cincinnati Aiken PF: While it was Bolden who was best among the guards in attendance, Moore was the most established big man at the gym. The 6’6 power forward has a chiseled frame and good leaping ability, and on Sunday he finished with the type of aggressiveness and consistency that we would love to see from him every time out. Moore is capable of doing a few different things offensively, however, he’s definitely best as a hard-hat big man who can control the boards and get out and run. Already being recruited at the mid major level, Moore should continue to be listed among the top power forwards in a very good group of 2016 Ohio front-court players.
- Evan Duncan – ’15 Dublin Coffman SF: We had a chance to see Duncan a couple of times during Coffman’s season, however, he has never looked as impressive as he did on Sunday. Playing with confidence and a lot of offensive freedom, Duncan took over with the ball in his hands, setting up plays with good decision making, timely shooting and some deceptive dribble moves. A skilled player with size and length, Duncan is the type of versatile wing forward that TDP loves to evaluate. Still somewhat under the radar among Columbus area juniors, if Duncan continues to play on that level he’ll have a breakout senior season in our opinion.
- Jalen Avery – ’15 Cincinnati Shroder PG: Over a month ago we wrote an article introducing fans outside of Cincinnati to the talent that is Jalen Avery. On Sunday, Avery put that talent on display, all while hardly attempting a single shot. One of the purest passers in all of basketball, Avery has speed bursts that allow him to get where he wants with the dribble, while also possessing the strength to ward defenders off. He’s a good shooter, finisher and handler, but really thrives as a decision maker as he simply makes guys better without taking unnecessary risks. Avery doesn’t have a D1 offer yet, however, he’s getting more and more interest by the day, and after a couple of years off he’ll be re-entering the travel circuit again later in April.
- Assante Patterson – ’15 Dayton Thurgood Marshall SG: Patterson wasn’t one of the heralded guys on Thurgood Marshall’s run to the State Tournament, however, the 6’4 slashing athlete is still a very talented player, and really looks to be putting the pieces together right now to be a breakout performer in his senior season. A scoring minded player who is best in the open court, Patterson showed good vision in finding lanes to attack, while having the physical tools to effectively finish in the open court. He’s a long-armed player who can get deflections and rebound, and also showed more willingness as a distributor. Patterson’s jumper can still be a little streaky, but he has the ability to turn some heads on the AAU circuit this upcoming season.
- Terrence Gholston – ’15 Cincinnati Aiken SF: Gholston has always been one of the more talented prospects in the Southwest Ohio area in 2015; however, he has lacked consistency and production at times. Sunday the Aiken junior had the whole package going, however, as he scored as efficiently and in high quantity as anyone in attendance. The lefty has a strong build, can handle the ball driving to his dominant hand, but really shot the outside jumper well on the day, proving to be a dual threat on every catch at the three-point line. Capable of physically controlling most forwards, Gholston is your throwback forward that can play inside and outside from the three-man spot, while also providing you with enough shooting to keep the defense honest, making him a versatile and intriguing prospect.
- Spencer Cline – ’16 Mason PF: The sophomore from the Northern suburbs of Cincinnati turned heads at times with his play this season with the Comets, however, until Sunday we did not know that Cline could do some of the things that he showed at Hughes. A 6’6 power forward who could project as a combo forward down the road, Cline is fairly nimble with the basketball, while also showing the ability to step out and hit the mid-range shot with confidence and consistency. Playing in a very structured high school system, Cline knows how to position himself, and gets shots within the flow of the offense. He still has some developing to do, but we’ve changed our opinion, and now consider Cline to be one of the sleepers in Southwest Ohio in the 2016 class.
Other top performers: Elijah Pughsley (’15 Cincinnati Hughes PG/SG), Phillip Hawkins (’15 Cooper/KY C), Vonny Irvin (’15 Cincinnati Aiken PG), Israel Griffin (’16 Cincinnati Hughes SG), Carlik Jones (’16 Cincinnati Aiken PG), Justin Johnson (’15 Fairfield PF), Jordan Gaines (’16 Cincinnati Clark SG), Jaylin Bannerman (’16 Pickerington Central SF/PF), Damion King (’15 Clark County/KY PG), DJ Harris (’15 Cincinnati Aiken SG), Kalib Younger (’16 Columbus Walnut Ridge SG), Bryce Butler (’16 Finneytown PG)
Sixty seniors from around the state of Ohio, and even some from Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee came down to Cincinnati on Sunday morning for the 2nd annual Triple Double Prospects Unsigned Senior Showcase. In addition to the talented prospects, the showcase also attracted 19 different college coaches, many coming from ranked NCAA D2 and NJCAA programs. Thanks to our friends at Scarberry Media who came down from Columbus, some highlights from the event can be seen here: LINK TO VIDEO.
With scholarships on the line in the final event of their high school careers, these seniors put great effort into both the drill-work and live game sessions of the showcase. Here are some of the top performers that stood out at Hughes High School….
- DeJuan Jones – Cincinnati Withrow SF/PF: Two days after winning the MVP at the Senior All-Star Classic which pitted Cincinnati’s top city league players against suburban league players, Jones was at his best again. The 6’5 combo forward is an athletic forward who cans core with strength around the rim. However, the thing that makes Jones special is that he is a fierce competitor who is positively relentless on the glass. In only his second year of high school basketball, Jones burst onto the scene this year, getting a double-double in almost every game. Besides his rebounding ability, the hard-working forward can score in a lot of different ways, and is a deadly shooter in the mid-range game to combat his interior scoring. A junior college prospect; expect Jones to be one of the top priorities for the top in-state schools.
- Willie Green – Dayton Dunbar PG/SG: Your prototypical jack of all trades, Green showcased a little bit of everything on Sunday morning, scoring the ball, dishing it off, defending and playing both guard positions with length and athleticism at 6’2. An effortless slasher who can get by his man with changes of direction, Green lives in the paint offensively and has the bounce to finish above the rim against defenders. Most dangerous as a versatile defender, Green rebounds great for a guard and is most dangerous when getting a rebound or a steal to start the break. Green is in between a D1 and junior college prospect right now; should he get over the hump academically to qualify he’ll likely end up at or near the mid-major level. If not, he’ll be the top big guard target among in and out of state junior colleges and prep schools.
- Jordan Smith – Dayton Dunbar PG/SG: Another tough-minded Dunbar guard that can really defend against dribble penetration, Smith is a late-bloomer and excellent athlete that has emerged as a capable offensive threat. Thriving off the dribble, Smith uses his speed to score around the rim, where he also has the power and explosion to finish above the basket. Again like Green, he’s best in the full-court game, but Smith has had a reputation all year of playing mistake free basketball at Dunbar, while playing a variety of positions for the Wolverines. One of the top students in his graduating class, Smith is being highly recruited at the D2 level, and likely will end up receiving a full scholarship when it’s all said and done.
- JC Kramel – Cincinnati Summit Country Day C: One of the hottest prospects in all of Southwest Ohio, the 6’9 shot-blocker showed just how much he has improved since transferring into Cincinnati SCD for his senior season. Kramel is a high-energy big man with above average leaping ability who can make an impact in the game due to his willingness to be physical. He’s still improving on the offensive end, but has good hands and finishes more than most big guys his size. A high academic kid, Kramel is looking for a D2 program with an engineering program, while also strongly considering a walk-on deal at the mid-major D1 level.
- Nate Shepherd – Dayton Jefferson SG/SF: Perhaps the most talented wing in attendance, which is really saying something, Shepherd impressed college coaches from the moment he walked into the gym with his combination of size, athleticism and skill-set. A pure guard that can handle, slash and really shoot the three-pointer, Shepherd very much has the look of a college player already. A leg injury held him out of the final two games, but the Dayton native did enough in his time on the court to impress the D2’s in attendance, all of whom had already put him on their list heading into the event.
- Dwight Nared – Cincinnati Hughes PF: Nared has long been one of TDP’s favorites in our native Southwest Ohio region. The 6’6 forward is hyper-athletic, has a great motor and flat out consistently produces. Add in the fact that he’s improved by head and shoulders each year, and Nared is one of the most under-valued prospects in the Midwest in our opinion. A great finisher in transition who excels as a court-runner, Nared looked really comfortable scoring the ball on Sunday, and has added in the ability to score in different ways, whether it be post-ups, lobs in traffic, offensive rebounds or high-post drives. Nared’s name was the first one circled by junior college scouts in attendance, and he’ll be highly sought after going forward.
- Quinten Chames – Covington Holmes (KY) SF/PF: As much as we like Nared, he was actually the second most athletic forward in attendance on Sunday, as the bounciness of Chames was without question the most impressive of any prospect’s. The Northern Kentucky star finished around the rim in both transition and the half-court, throwing everything down with power and explosiveness. He’s not the most skilled guy, but Chames gives you good effort every possession, and has the tools to guard either the post or the perimeter at 6’5. Another high quality junior college prospect, expect Chames to end up at one of the top Ohio schools.
- Akil Cornish – Columbus Africentric SG/SF: Cornish doesn’t do a lot of different things to wow you as an evaluator, but one thing he does is shoot; and he does that at a high, high level. The 6’2 shooting guard from Columbus was absolutely automatic from the three-point line on Sunday, hitting deep shot after deep shot in game action. We knew he could spot up in the corner, however, TDP did not previously know that Cornish had the footwork necessary to step into three-point shots in transition. Adding that versatility as a scorer, Cornish was easily one of the most impressive offensive prospects in attendance.
Other top performers: Jalen Malone (Westerville Central PG), Tyonte Robertson (Cincinnati Withrow PG), Jake Miller (Germantown/TN SF), Kevin Daniels (Cincinnati Hughes SG), Robert Caldwell (Dayton Stivers PG), Blake Simpson (Cincinnati LaSalle PF/C), JeMichael Blanton (Trotwood-Madison SG), Joey Schmitz (Bloom Carroll SG), Dwayne Chastain (Dayton Thurgood Marshall SG), Quincy Tillinghast (Cincinnati SCPA SG), Marcus Hill (Covington Holmes/KY PF)
The whole town gathered into the gym at Franklin HS on Monday night to celebrate the terrific junior season of star shooting guard Luke Kennard.
The 6’5 wing won just about every award possible in the state of Ohio, including AP State Player of the Year, Coaches Poll State Player of the Year, Gatorade State Player of the Year and of course, Ohio’s Mr. Basketball award.
However, that wasn’t the only thing that the crowd showed up for. As expected, Kennard made his college decision public after the awards were announced, choosing the Duke Blue Devils.
With offers from all of the nation’s elite programs, Kennard chose Duke over Michigan, Ohio State and Kentucky in the end, spurning the semi-local teams to travel down to Durham, NC, to play for Coach K.
Kennard told TDP that he felt that Duke was the best fit for him, and that he had felt that way ever since he took his official visit to campus a few weeks ago to take in the Blue Devils rivalry game against the North Carolina Tarheels.
After tearing up the record book this season by averaging over 41 points per game, Kennard has gathered national attention from every media outlet in basketball, and has become a consensus top-25 prospect nationally in the 2015 class. Along with Cleveland VASJ forward Carlton Bragg, Kennard is Ohio’s top junior prospect, and will be in strong consideration for a spot in the McDonald’s All-American game next season.
An ideal fit for Duke’s style of play, Kennard is a sharp-shooter and versatile offensive talent who should be able to contribute in the scoring column in his freshman season. With size at 6’5, Kennard could play multiple positions in Durham, and could quickly become a fan-favorite with his high octane style of offensive play.
With Kennard off the board, look for high major programs to focus on Shaker Heights PF Esa Ahmad, Versailles wing Kyle Ahrens, Cleveland St. Ed’s forward Kipper Nichols and several other intriguing prospects, as Ohio’s class of 2015 continues to gain momentum nationally.
Another year of high school basketball has come and passed in the Buckeye State, and when the dust had settled just four teams were able to leave this weekend’s State Championships in Columbus with the gold trophy.
Cleveland St. Edward’s defeated Upper Arlington in overtime in Division I, Norwalk trumped Columbus Bishop Watterson in Division II, Lima Central Catholic upset Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph’s in Division III and finally, Convoy Crestview dominated Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas in Division IV.
As they always do, the state tournament games produced some memorable moments, and spectacular performances. Here’s a quick look back at the weekend that was, and the players who stood out….
- Kipper Nichols – ’15 SF Cleveland St. Edward: In one of the most memorable games that TDP has ever seen, it was senior wing Marsalis Hamilton who hit the three-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime on Saturday night, however, it was the play of 6’6 Ed’s wing Kipper Nichols that kept the Eagles in the game. Nichols was simply sensational on Saturday as he willed his way to the rim time after time for buckets. One of Ohio’s top juniors, Nichols projects as one of the state’s most mature and versatile prospects, who is more than capable of consistently knocking down the perimeter jumper.
- Ben Haraway – ’14 PG Norwalk: There can’t be many feelings better than scoring 30 points in the State Championship game, but to find out we’d have to ask Ben Haraway. The 6’0 scoring point guard from Norwalk was electric on Saturday in the final, taking defenders off the dribble and scoring at the rim over and over again. A tough competitor who is also a pesky defender, Haraway’s speed and strength were too much for defenders, as he led Norwalk to an emotional win in front of a pro-Tuckers crowd. Haraway will be taking his talents to D2 Malone University next season.
- Martyce Kimbrough – ’14 SG Lima Central Catholic: A speedy shooter with major confidence, the D2 Indianapolis University signee had a great weekend in helping LCC cut down the nets. Kimbrough made jumper after jumper in the first half of the title game against Cleveland VASJ, showcasing long range and a serious will to win. A guy who was potentially slept on by scouts coming from a smaller population area like Lima, Kimbrough should be a prolific scorer at the next level, where at 6’1 he’ll likely play some at both guard positions.
- Xavier Simpson – ’16 PG Lima Central Catholic: As good as Kimbrough was in the first half, it was Simpson whose game management sealed the deal for LCC in the second half. Battling a slight ankle injury the entire game, Simpson finished floaters, scored in transition, made great passes and overall provided the winning spark that LCC needed. Ohio’s top ranked point guard in his class by this publication, look for Simpson to be one of the biggest names in the state next season, regardless of class.
- Kevin Vannatta – ’14 SG Upper Arlington: Along with senior point guard Danny Hummer, there are few players that participated over the weekend, if any, who TDP respects more as competitors. Vannatta led the UA Golden Bears all the way to one shot away from a D1 State Title, showcasing tremendous heart along the way. The UNC-Ashville signee scored around the rim, played with physicality and showed lockdown ability as a defender, giving UA a chance to make history and making their fans proud at the same time. Known for years as one of the tougher players in Ohio’s 2014 class, Vannatta, along with Hummer, will be sorely missed in Columbus.
- Dazhontae Bennett – ’14 SG Trotwood Madison: While his team wasn’t able to play as well as they usually do in an emphatic loss to Upper Arlington in the semi-finals, Bennett showed that he belonged on the court as much as anyone on Friday night, going off for 23 points the loss. The 6’1 senior scored from all over the court, knocking down his patented mid to long range jumper off the dribble. No one gets more elevation in the entire state in the senior class, and Bennett showcased that at a high level as well, blocking shots, rebounding and making some acrobatic finishes. Potentially one of Ohio’s top unsigned seniors, Bennett projects as a future star at the junior college level next season.
- Cody Calhoun – ’14 PG Columbus Bishop Watterson: He’s never going to be the most talented player on the court, but you’re never, ever going to be able to doubt the heart of the 5’10 floor general. Calhoun was great on Saturday in the loss to Norwalk, attacking the rim with his strength advantage to finish several key shots in the lane. While his team did not get the win, Calhoun still will graduate with a State Title to his name, as Bishop Watterson did win one in his junior season. Besides Calhoun, tremendous credit needs to also be given to senior forward Matt Hughes, who might have been the only player on the court capable of matching Calhoun’s intensity.
- Carlton Bragg – ’15 PF Cleveland VASJ: At times it was fellow juniors Derek Pardon or Brian Parker who were leading the show for the Vikings in Columbus. However, it was the scoring of Bragg that kept the Vikings in the game, and helped them get to where they were. The defending State Champions were unable to repeat this season, but did make it all the way to the finals, as the 6’9 Bragg scored 23 points in the final. Playing with more aggression than he sometimes does, Bragg was particularly impressive attacking the rim off the dribble, while making enough jumpers and post plays to keep the defense guessing. Ohio’s top ranked junior by every scouting service, Bragg will be tracked closely by every college in the country over the spring AAU circuit.
NEWS AND NOTES:
- On Monday (3/24) at 7:45 PM ET, Ohio’s Mr. Basketball, 2015 SG Luke Kennard, will make his college announcement live at Franklin HS. The junior is still considering Duke, Kentucky, Ohio State and Michigan, and told TDP that his decision will surprise some people. The Blue Devils of Duke are probably considered the favorites here, but we won’t be surprised if Kennard selects any of those four finalists. Follow along with TDP on Twitter tomorrow, as we’ll be live from Franklin HS with coverage.
- Parker Ernsthausen – ’14 PF Toledo St. John’s: Not one player in Ohio saw a quicker spike in his recruitment than Ernsthausen, who went from a D3 recruit with no exposure to a D1 commit in just a couple of months, as the 6’9 forward gave a verbal pledge to Wright State. With athleticism, skill, size and great upside, Ernsthausen projects as an intriguing long term prospect who should be fun to watch develop.
- Johnny Davis III - ’14 PG Cleveland Beachwood: Davis became the second senior to commit to a Division I college on Sunday afternoon, when the 5’10 PG from the Cleveland area chose Furman. After a huge senior season in which he put up great scoring numbers, Davis was considered one of the hottest point guard prospects still remaining in the region, and is a great fit in the Southern Conference, where his lack of size will be countered by his IQ, skill-set and desire to win.