Buckeye Prep – Recap

23 Sep

All Rob Taylor has to do is set a time and place for the Buckeye Prep Showcase every fall and the top players will be there. This year’s event was no different as the majority of Ohio’s elite prospects from the classes of 2015, 2016 and 2017 all showed up at Grove City Central Crossing HS on Saturday and Sunday to be evaluated by all of the scouts in attendance and to compete against the other top players in their class.

Kyle Ahrens

Kyle Ahrens

Triple Double Prospects put our focus towards evaluating players in the All-Star games, which Taylor set up on Saturday afternoon with pre-arranged teams of Ohio’s best. After watching the classes of 2015 and 2016 play north versus south games, as well as a north and then a south 2017 team take on a group of Canadians, here are some prospects who stood out…..

  • Kyle Ahrens – ’15 Dayton Versailles SG/SF: The 6’5 wing was absolutely dominant in the class of 2015 All-Star game on Saturday, proving why TDP has consistently ranked him among the top five prospects in the junior class. Ahrens is equal parts tough, athletic and skilled, and showed his deep range by hitting four long-range bombs in a row in the first half. Also efficient as a scorer off the dribble, Ahrens likes to powerfully attack the rim where he can finish with a dunk or layup through contact. His recruitment is finally starting to pick up to the level it should be at, with Xavier, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue and Michigan making recent trips to watch him in open gym. Ahrens also has offers from Iowa, Boston College, Dayton, Kent State, Wright State, Miami (OH) and Toledo, with more offers likely on there way very soon.
  • Esa Ahmad – ’15 Cleveland Shaker Heights PF: As he always does in these type of events, Ahmad put in a productive performance, using his 6’7 frame to score around the rim and rebound. While Ahmad is more than capable of stepping outside and doing some wing-like things offensively, we like that he was willing to keep it simple for the most part, choosing substance over flair. In the last year there have been significant changes to Ahmad’s body, and he has more explosion then he has in the past, setting himself up for a big junior year. Ahmad listed offers from Xavier, Rutgers, Miami (FL), Dayton, Cleveland State and Iowa, along with interest from Illinois, West Virginia and several others.
  • Zach Neuenschwander – ’15 Navarre Fairless C: This was our first time seeing the big fella live, and he showed a good deal of promise. Neuenschwander stands a legitimate 6’10, has a wide frame and hasn’t even touched his potential as a post presence. He’s not the most mobile big man, but he showed nice touch around the rim and he has the size to be a space-eater at the Division I level. We’ll be interested to watch him progress as he gains more experience playing against top prospects, but Neuenschwander’s size alone has helped him draw interest from Wisconsin, West Virginia, Akron, Kennesaw State and UNC Ashville.
  • Kipper Nichols – ’15 Cleveland St. Edward’s SF: It’s hard not to like Nichol’s effort and versatility as a 6’6 forward making the transition to the wing. He’s really starting to progress as a ballhandler, and showed more athleticism in the open court then we had seen from him in the past. Nichols will always be somewhat of a tweener, but he can rebound, defend, score in a variety of ways and doesn’t do anything to hurt a team. Dayton and Kent State are Nichols’ top two offers right now, but he also cited interest from Rutgers, Virginia Tech and recently Michigan State.
  • Derek Pardon – ’15 Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joe’s PF/C: If there was an award for most improved 2015 prospect in the past year then Pardon wouldn’t just win it, he’d win it by a landslide. The 6’8 post from Cleveland is really coming into his own as a rebounder, low post scorer and athlete, showcasing the ability to finish aggressively with dunks around the rim or score with a baby hook. Pardon still has a ways to go, but his potential has scouts buzzing and is also getting him some serious interest from several top colleges. Toledo, Akron, Cleveland State and Kent State have all offered Pardon, while Wisconsin, Michigan State and Northwestern are beginning to show interest as well. Paired next to fellow 2015 star Carlton Bragg in the post this year at Cleveland VASJ, look for them to form an unstoppable twin towers like tandem.
  • Derek Funderburk – ’16 Cleveland St. Edward’s PF/C: Moving onto the sophomore class, the 6’9 post, Funderburk, was the most impressive in the north versus south game. Funderburk played with great energy, showcased his mobility and athleticism and was able to score down low with post moves, dunks, short jumpers or put-back baskets. Funderburk is still very thin, but his length, mobility, effort and upside make up for it, and he looks to be one of the more promising players in a loaded Ohio class in 2016. Iowa and Xavier have already offered Funderburke, while Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Purdue and most recently Indiana are also involved.

    Omari Spellman

    Omari Spellman

  • Omari Spellman – ’16 North Royalton PF/C: A year after making a big name for himself at this event, the 6’8 post from the Cleveland area was back at it again. Spellman has a massive frame and wide build, and although he needs to improve on his conditioning he has those “wow” plays on occasion to show athleticism that you didn’t think he had. Offensively, Spellman has near the complete package. He can put it on the deck, shoot the jumper, score with his strength down low and has a combination of craftiness and vision that is rare for a young post player. Spellman reminds TDP of a young Kennedy Meeks, a 2013 post out of Charlotte, and McDonald’s All-American, who is currently a freshman at North Carolina. As his conditioning improves look for Spellman to become as highly recruited as any of Ohio’s 2016 stars. Right now, Spellman already boasts offers from UNLV, Rutgers, Cincinnati, Dayton, Iowa and Cleveland State to go along with interest from Indiana, Xavier, Purdue and UCLA.
  • Jayvon Graves – ‘17 Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary’s PG/SG: The 6’1 Graves was not only the most impressive of the 2017’s in attendance, but also the most impressive 2017 prospect whom TDP has evaluated live this year that is from Ohio. Graves is a shifty guard with speed and strength that can score it off the dribble at the rim or in the mid-range game. He can handle the ball, run a team and has the physical tools to be a really good defender. If Graves sees time at the varsity level on a Akron SVSM team that is stacked with guards in VJ King, Jalen Hudson, Josh Williams and more, remains to be seen, but he looks like a guy who will make some serious noise in the freshman class.
  • Jarious Ward – ’17 Spencerville PG/SG: Another speedy and high scoring guard, the 6’1 Ward was very impressive with his ability to score off the dribble, especially with a polished mid-range jumper. Ward also showed a high motor and a desire to play fast in the open court where he showed good instincts with the ball in his hands. Playing at Spencerville, expect to hear big things out of Ward this season as a freshman.
  • Jaden Sayles – ’17 Cincinnati Kings PF/C: For the third straight event that we’ve covered at TDP the 6’7 post has impressed. First at Crossroads Elite Camp, the Adidas Midwest Elite Camp and now at the Buckeye Prep Fall Showcase, Sayles continues to show great promise as a long and athletic power forward who can run the floor, rebound out of his area and has a nice knack for scoring the ball. Sayles really shoots it well from the short corner or mid-post, is an efficient offensive rebounder scorer and has the ability to slam home dunks in transition. We’d like to see him be more effective as a shot-blocker, but his physical tools and soft touch have high major coaches inquiring about him before he has even played a high school game.
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