King James Classic Recap

27 Apr
Markell Johnson

Markell Johnson

The NCAA live period over the past weekend resulted in some of Ohio’s top prospects seeing their recruiting stock either soar or fall, based upon their play on the AAU circuit in front of Division I and II college coaches. With several events being played all around the nation, the majority of teams from the Buckeye State stayed in-state by heading to Akron for the King James Classic. Over one-hundred college coaches watched teams like King James, All-Ohio, Team One, Cincinnati Lakers, DB Hoops, Queen City Prophets, Ohio Varsity and more take the floor, while the following players were among the prospects that stood out against some great competition….

  • Ryan Mikesell – ’15 SF Saint Henry: After missing the TDP Spring Tune-Up due to baseball last weekend, we were excited to see Mikesell’s progress with All-Ohio Black this weekend. The 6’6 small forward more than impressed in multiple viewings, leading All-Ohio Black to the 17u Gold crown, in front of a plethora of mid-major coaches. Mikesell has great size on the wing and is a smooth and skilled player with a good feel for the game. Able to pass it, score off the dribble or shoot the jumper, he’s one of Ohio’s most versatile guys in the class, and a growing commodity in the eyes of MAC coaches. More athletic then your average forward, Mikesell’s inside-outside presence should help him continue to improve his recruiting stock as he leads a very strong AOB group.
  • Myo Baxter – ’15 SF Dayton Chaminade Julienne: No rising-senior did more to boost their stock than Baxter, a 6’5 forward from Club Ohio. Baxter willed his way to the rim off the bounce, showed exceptional strength and more than anything showed the versatility to play either the wing or the forward position. A powerfully built player with a very good open-court handle and vision to see plays, Baxter has been well coached in his career, and will be college ready defensively (no matter which position he ends up being called upon to defend). Several mid-major coaches expressed strong interest in Baxter, who told TDP that his current suitors include Morehead State, Kennesaw State, UNC Ashville and Radford.
  • Rodney Culver – ’15 SG Pickerington Central: After impressing two weekends ago in Cincinnati for the OBBL, Culver took his game to new heights in Akron this weekend, solidifying himself in our eyes as a definite Division I prospect. A long and lanky 6’4 wing, who still shows great upside, Culver was dominant in a viewing of his Ohio Varsity team against a loaded R.E.A.C.H. Legends (Detroit) team. Culver was all over the court, using his athleticism to defend, get off-ball deflections, block shots in transition and rebound, while showing significantly more skill off the dribble then we realized that he had. Division I schools are really starting to show strong interest in Culver, and after this weekend, we expect even more to toss their hats into the ring.
  • Lamont West – ’15 PF Cincinnati Withrow: The 6’7 forward from the Queen City Prophets has always been sort of a talented enigma in his high school years, but West was excellent over the weekend, earning praise from MAC and Horizon league coaches. Despite being very thin, West has incredible length and is a mobile forward with size who can alter the game around the paint when his motor is running. Capable of scoring from the wing as a shooter or driver, or as an offensive rebounder, West is still somewhat raw but has upside, and looks like he is starting to figure it all out. Call him one of Ohio’s sleepers in 2015, especially in the Southwest where there is an abundance of versatile and skilled big forwards.
  • Grant Zawadski – ’15 PG Troy Christian: If we had to describe Zawadski in one word, we’d use the word that we did in our last write-up, winner. The Dayton area point guard flat out helps his teams get W’s, playing an integral role for All-Ohio Black in their championship effort. Showing the ability to hit the pull-up jumper in transition, the deep three in the spot-up game, make a teammate better with a timely pass and more than anything get his hands on a lot of steals thanks to great anticipation skills, Zawadski continues to be one of the toughest and most skilled guards in Ohio’s 2015 class. Physically he isn’t going to wow you, but make no mistake; this kid can play.

    Nick Ward

    Nick Ward

  • Nick Ward – ’16 C Gahanna Lincoln: While guys like Mikesell, Baxter and Culver boosted their stock with strong play in the 17u division, it was All-Ohio Red’s Nick Ward who was most impressive in the 16u division. Despite falling to rival King James by one point in the semifinals, the 6’8 Ward was the single most impressive prospect on the court, scoring around the rim on almost every touch. A wide build with lower body strength helps him carve out space down low, but Ward also has great hands to corral the ball and score either on the post-up with a right-shoulder jump-hook or an offensive rebound. His athleticism is still a work in progress, but mid major and high major coaches watched Ward over the weekend, including Miami (OH), who became the first known school to extend the Columbus rising-junior an offer.
  • Derek Funderburk – ’16 PF Cleveland St. Edward: While Ward used physicality to score around the rim on Sunday, it was Funderburk’s athleticism and effort that helped the agile 6’9 power forward get buckets on the interior. One of Ohio’s most promising young big men, coaches from Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Xavier were among those who checked out the King James forward as he helped lead his team to the 16u crown. A high energy forward who can do more than just score, Funderburk is getting more and more physical by the day; as he continues to add strength to his combination of instincts, height, athleticism and skill-set, this kid has a chance to be an absolutely special prospect in Ohio’s loaded 2016 class.
  • Xavier Simpson – ’16 PG Lima Central Catholic: While Funderburk’s interior play was critical, and their whole rotation gave them solid minutes and offensive production, it was the play of Simpson at the point guard position that propelled King James to wins over All-Ohio Red and CIA Bounce (Canada) to win the 16u title. Simpson, like the formerly mentioned Zawadski in 2015, is an absolute winner who has really improved on his ability to add scoring to his all-around floor game. Simpson picks his spots to look for his shot well, is aggressive attacking the basket and has tremendous body control in exploding through contact to finish (while not allowing taller defenders to block his shot). Still clearly Ohio’s top point guard prospect in the rising-junior class, Simpson had another very impressive set of games.
  • Trey Landers – ’16 SG Huber Heights Wayne: An athletic and powerful wing who is starting to add skill to his game, Landers is a 6’3 workhorse around the basket for All-Ohio Red with a certain toughness to his game. The Dayton area rising-junior was very impressive in transition against King James on Sunday morning, bullying thinner wings off the dribble to score in the paint. His game is still way more predicated on his physical abilities instead of basketball instincts, but Landers has the mentality and athleticism to be one of the better wings in Ohio high school basketball next season.
  • Kaleb Wesson – ’17 C Westerville South: Heading into the weekend we knew that Wesson was probably the biggest prospect so far in the 2017 class, what we did not know, however, is that a strong case can be made that he is the best post player in the class at this point in Ohio. The 6’7, and growing, center was excellent in a high level game against CIA Bounce, helping lead King James to a win over Canada’s top young talent and an appearance in the 15u title game, where they finished runners-up. Wesson is a load down low, but has the hands and touch to finish everything, while also showing a little swagger and toughness that we did not see from him when we last saw him in the fall. Conditioning is still somewhat of a factor, but Wesson has the ability to be a star in Ohio’s rising-sophomore class.
  • Markell Johnson – ’17 PG/SG Cleveland East Tech: Every time that we see the 6’0 combo guard from King James he impresses us more and more, this time showing a great will to win in a star studded performance in King James’ win over CIA Bounce. Johnson is an athletic slashing guard who can get anywhere he wants off the dribble, while also having a certain calm to his game when carving out space against pressure. He still needs to learn to slow down and let plays unfold, but he is a high pressure defender, solid shooter and tremendous talent who is going to be really fun to watch develop. For now, he’s a no-brainer as Ohio’s top guard prospect in the 2017 class.

Other Standouts: Xeyrius Williams (’15 PF Huber Heights Wayne), JaQuan Harrison (’15 SF Columbus Africentric), Ditalion Battle (’15 SG Cincinnati Shroder), Justin Johnson (’15 PF Fairfield), Dez Wright (’15 PG Gahanna Lincoln), Terrence Landers (’16 SF Dayton Dunbar), Tervell Beck (’16 SF Cleveland Central Catholic), Anthony Christian (’16 SG Akron Hoban), Derrick Daniels (’16 PF Dayton Thurgood Marshall), Darrius Harper (’16 C Dayton Springfield), TC Wells (’16 SF Fairfield), Jaylen Harris (’17 SF/PF Cleveland Heights), Logan Hill (’17 PF Massillon Jackson), Danny Corbett (’17 SG Columbus Briggs), Tyrice Walker (’17 SF Cincinnati Summit), Armon Nasseri (’17 PF/C Youngstown Ursline), Ethan Linder (’17 PG/SG Wayne Trace)

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