AAU Season Preview

4 Apr

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)

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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)

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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

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