Aside from the NCAA Live Evaluation Period in late April, there is never a better time to evaluate top prospects in the spring on the grassroots circuit then at the Spiece Run-N-Slam event held annually in Fort Wayne. Yet again this year, Spiece provided us with opportunities to see the best players from Ohio, as well as Kentucky with the Louisville Magic making the trip, compete against teams from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa and other states. With TDP utilizing the entire three days of tourney play to evaluate prospects, here is a rundown of who stood out the most at the Spiece Fieldhouse….
Tony Jackson – ’17 North Hardin/KY SF: One of the toughest players not only in the field, but in the country, the 6’5 Jackson was terrific for the Louisville Magic in leading his squad into the championship game at the 17u division. Always known as a bully on the wing with strength and athleticism, Jackson has also become known as a high level shooter from the perimeter. Now that he’s able to balance his scoring in different ways, Jackson has the whole package, as his abilities to defend and rebound are second to none. With offers from a handful of mid-majors already, expect Jackson to be among the hottest commodities in a solid 2017 class out of Kentucky heading into the July live period.
Chris Vogt – ’17 Graves County/KY C: What a difference a year can make with big men, and that is exactly the case with the 6’11 slender-built Vogt. Always seen as a big project with size, length and relatively soft touch, Vogt has taken his game to the next level by adding confidence and assertiveness on both ends of the floor. Fueled by high intensity AAU coach Ellis Myles of the Louisville Magic, Vogt was very productive this weekend; as the lanky post player scorer with his back to the basket, made free throws, blocked shots and played with more fire than we’ve seen out of him in the past. With offers from five D1 programs, including two Conference USA teams, look for Vogt to be well followed this July as well with the Magic.
BJ Duling – ’17 Newark SF: Everyone thought that with Ohio State commit Kaleb Wesson sidelined with an injury that All-Ohio Red would not be a factor this year at Spiece; well, those people forgot about BJ Duling. The hyper-athletic 6’7 wing played some of his best basketball in Fort Wayne, as he attacked relentlessly off of the dribble, finished above the rim through contact and used his frame to get to the foul line when he got the ball inside. Also a capable shooter, Duling, a Kent State commit, was able to show more all-around offensive skill then we’ve seen from in the past, as well as a motor that could make him one of the top seniors in Ohio if he can continue to play at that pace.
Steven Fitzgerald – ’17 Somerset Southwestern/KY SG: Another standout from the Louisville Magic, Fitzgerald saw time with the 17u team, but did the most damage at the 16u level, where he was among the most dynamic scorers in the event. An athlete with a strong build who is aggressive off of the dribble, Fitzgerald can score at the rim or in transition with the best of them; however, it is the consistency and confidence of his three-point ball that makes him such a tough matchup. Arguably the best prospect in the entire state of Kentucky in 2018, and certainly the best shooting guard, Fitzgerald holds offers from Tennessee Tech and Samford, but it’s safe to say that his recruitment has even begun yet.
Justin Ahrens – ’18 Versailles SF: One of the most well-rounded and versatile 2018’s at the event, Ahrens had a huge Friday night and Saturday with the King James 16u team, as the 6’5 wing shot the lights out from three-point range. As the younger brother of former King James star and current Michigan State wing Kyle Ahrens, Justin’s family was already known at the Fieldhouse, but took a step towards legendary status with his play over the weekend. Aside from just shooting the ball, Ahrens showed his ability to setup teammates with the pass, handle it against pressure, rebound and even get above the rim for the occasional finish. Ahrens also earned his first offer, from Stony Brook, over the weekend, but it’s safe to say that they will not be the last school to offer the rising junior standout.
Dane Goodwin – ’18 Upper Arlington SG: We usually don’t write about the same prospect two weeks in a row, but Goodwin played well enough to earn the honor, as scored at a high level against elite competition for the second straight weekend. The Ohio State commit was versatile by making three-point shots and attacking the rim, all while showing a little extra emotion as a competitor; leading his team into championship Sunday despite the loss of star point guard Foster Loyer to an ankle injury. While Goodwin might not be the high-wire act athlete that usually stands out at top grassroots events, his grit and skill level have ensured that he’s received everyone’s respect this spring.
Amari Davis – ’19 Trotwood Madison SG: It’s always fun to watch the top 16u and 17u kids go at it at Spiece, but the main reason that we go is to check out the younger guys. That’s exactly what you’ll find with these next five guys, including Davis, who were among the talk of the town this weekend. Davis, an athletic 6’3 wing who is starting to come into his own as a scorer, was electric in leading All-Ohio Red’s 15u team to the final four on Sunday, as the lefty created shots at will, showed a competitive spirit and used his athleticism to rebound and defend. While Davis can still be a little raw in his decision making at times, he has top-five talent in Ohio’s 2019 class and will be an absolute star at Trotwood Madison in the coming years.
Jordan Mitchell – ’19 Gahanna Lincoln SF: A freshman with a ton of hype surrounding him already, like Amari Davis, Mitchell was phenomenal for King James 15u this weekend, dominating on the offensive end with his mature floor game. When you start looking at traits that you want in a basketball prospect, there simply isn’t any box that Mitchell’s game leaves unchecked; as the 6’6 pure wing can shoot it, handle it, pass it, has solid athleticism, is long and has an unmatched feel for the game. As Mitchell continues to get more aggressive and takes on a mindset where he wants to dominate the game, there’s no reason why he cannot become one of the premiere 2019 prospects not only in Ohio, but in the country.
Jeremiah Francis – ’19 Pickerington Central PG: Running with All-Ohio Red alongside Davis, Francis used his mature frame and feel for the game to help AOR make that final four run; however, it was his toughness and leadership that we most appreciated in key matchups with Mac Irvin Fire and Spiece Indy Heat. As he gets deeper into the spring, Francis is developing more confidence in his perimeter shot, but we love his ability to defend the ball as well as get in the lane with crafty dribble moves. If he can continue to add inches to his strong frame, watch out, Francis will be one of Ohio’s best in 2019.
Andre Gordon – ’19 Sidney PG/SG: Last year we saw Gordon breakout at the 14u level as an elite athlete. However, this year we’re even more impressed with the 6’0 combo guard, as he’s become a true basketball player with a skill-set of a point or shooting guard. Gordon showed the ability to control the pace as a point guard, made open shots from the three-point line and played with effort defensively; but it was his elite ability to get into the lane and create a shot at will with the ball in his hands that really wowed us. Also a football standout, there might not be a more talented athlete in the state of Ohio than Gordon in any class, and as he continues to add to his basketball skill-set, the sky is the limit for this King James 15u guard.
Honorable Mention: Jaylen Sebree (’17 Christian County/KY), Dalonte Brown (’17 Toledo Bowsher), Ethan Linder (’17 Wayne Trace), Terry Durham (’18 Cincinnati Winton Woods), Deshon Parker (’18 Huber Heights Wayne), Jerome Hunter (’18 Pickerington North), Dylan Swingle (’18 Paint Valley), Darius Bazley (’18 Cincinnati Finneytown), Yahel Hill (’18 Cleveland Heights), Houston King (’18 Toledo St. John’s), DeMarco Bradley Jr (’19 Cincinnati Taft), Samari Curtis (’19 Xenia), Javin Etzler (’19 Convoy Crestview), Alonzo Gaffney (’19 Cleveland VASJ)