’19-’20 Cincy HS Preview

23 Oct

D1 Pre-Season POY: Alex Williams

Another high school basketball season is closing in fast, and, as always, Triple Double Prospects is here to bring readers a preview of what to expect in the Greater Cincinnati area throughout the 2019-2020 season. Perennial powers Moeller and Taft headline our divisional power rankings, while the pre-season all-city teams have plenty of new faces for fans to get familiar with. When it comes to top teams, as well as top individual performers, here’s how we see the early parts of the season playing out in the Queen City….

***UPDATED 11/24/19***

Cincinnati D1 Preview

1. Moeller: Surprise, surprise, another year and Moeller checks in atop our pre-season D1 power rankings. The back-to-back defending Ohio D1 State Champions again graduated several key pieces from last year’s undefeated team; however, as per usual, Big Moe has reloaded with several class of 2021 prospects ready for bigger roles this season. Returning from last year, Coach Kremer will be led by junior forward Alex Williams, a double-double machine and our pick for pre-season player of the year in Cincinnati in D1, along with senior wing Max Land and junior post Logan Duncomb (who holds several high-major NCAA D1 offers). Land should provide scoring from the wing as well as defensive versatility, while Duncomb can control the paint on both ends, as this duo both played starting roles for the Crusaders a year ago. Junior wing Will McCracken also saw plenty of minutes a year ago, and should step into a larger role as a transition scorer, athlete and capable shooter this year; while Moeller fans are excited to see the varsity debut of junior wing Aidan Noyes, a 6’5 hyper-athletic forward who can also shoot the ball with range. Rounding out the Moeller rotation will be sophomore forward Evan Mahaffey (a transfer from Northwest HS), as well as junior point guards Elijah Jackson and Aidan Turner, as well as senior guard Michael Curran. Overall, this isn’t the most experienced team Coach Kremer has had at Moeller, but the depth, raw talent, size and athleticism that the Crusaders have makes them the best team on paper in Cincinnati, and maybe even Ohio.

2. Princeton: The Vikings might not have the size of Moeller, but they can match the Crusaders in terms of quality perimeter play, depth and athleticism, while also returning basically their entire varsity team from a year ago. The three-headed class of 2020 monster returns in the backcourt for Princeton, as senior guards Deairius Barker-Randle, Kahlil Davis and Kaleb Crawford are back for their final go-round, while junior guard Greg Johnson and sophomore guard Bowen Hardman also return from key roles last season. Barker-Randle was the breakout player in the GMC last year, establishing himself as a dangerous scorer, while Davis and Crawford bring athleticism, defense and playmaking to the table. Johnson and Hardman will find plenty of minutes in their own right, as Hardman has already earned several NCAA D1 offers, and Johnson’s athleticism and passing ability make him a shoe-in for a major role. In the frontcourt Princeton continues to show depth, as 6’5 senior Jaheim Thomas returns, alongside senior forward Micah Thomas and 6’5 senior Sterling Berkhalter. Besides the fact that this team is ultra-talented on paper, one other thing is a certainty; this is going to be a fun Vikings team to watch, as they will likely lead the GMC in scoring and pace.

3. Lakota East: It’s basically a coin flip between East and Princeton for the pre-season favorite in the GMC. We’re giving the slight edge to Princeton due to depth, but don’t be surprised if the Thunderhawks come away as ultimate winners, as Coach Adkins team is also blessed with top tier talent. Despite having two very good seniors, the talk at East is going to be all about junior combo guard Nate Johnson, an elite athlete and one of Ohio’s premiere junior prospects, who came into his own late last season and received a plethora of NCAA D1 scholarships this summer. Johnson will be counted on to take major steps forward this season, but he’ll get plenty of help from 6’7 senior post Alex Mangold (who missed most of last season with injury) and 6’3 senior wing Kaden Fuhrmann, a bouncy athlete who can shoot it from three. If Johnson isn’t the pre-season favorite for GMC Player of the Year then Mangold might be, as the powerful 6’7 power forward can rebound, score in traffic and step out and knock down shots. East will have to prove that they have the role players to match the depth of teams like Princeton and Moeller, but we expect this team to be very, very good.

4. Walnut Hills: There will be some who are surprised to see the Eagles ranked this high pre-season, but we’re high on the upside of Coach Ricardo Hill’s team this year. First of all, Walnut Hills returns 6’6 Mr. Everything on the interior in senior center Nic Smith, who averaged a double-double last year. Smith’s presence as a scorer and paint eater alone makes the Eagles formidable, but we’re not even sure if Smith will lead this team in scoring with the recent emergence of senior guard Ed Abernathy. After missing all of last season with a torn ACL, Abernathy has been dominant in our open gyms this fall, as the 6’2 senior can make shots and create his own look at will. While Smith and Abernathy will put up the big numbers, don’t forget about senior wing Michael Grant, one of the city’s most reliable role players who can distribute, defend multiple positions and who finds ways to quietly put up points of his own. The rest of the varsity roster is younger and less experienced, but with three talented seniors and some promising underclassmen, look for Walnut Hills to lead the pack in the ECC this winter.

5. Mason: We’re not going to make our usual mistake of forgetting to include Coach Richards’ Comets team in our pre-season rankings, as, even though Mason again doesn’t have any well known superstars, they have a balanced, disciplined and experienced roster capable of competing at or near the top of the GMC. Seniors Mitchell Greer, a 6’4 wing with shooting range, and Jack Cooper, a 6’7 face-up power forward, both return after each averaging around 7 PPG last season, with Greer in particular coming on strong during last season’s playoff run. The only other major contributor returning is 6’4 junior Matthew Smith, one of the few players to crack Coach Richards’ rotation as an underclassmen last season; Smith won’t score as much as Greer and Cooper, but he brings athleticism and defensive upside to a team that will likely be among the GMC’s best on that end of the floor. The Comets aren’t as good on paper as Lakota East or Princeton, but their system produces wins every season, and this winter is unlikely to be any different in the league.

6. LaSalle: The Lancers were just a year away when we saw them last season, as a trio of juniors, now seniors, showed promise and a willingness to buyin to what Coach Goedde was preaching. All three are back for their final campaigns, with point guard Jaylen Lemons and wing Derek Eddings getting the bulk of the attention. Lemons is a small but quick point guard who can shoot the ball, while Eddings is a smooth and talented wing whom Lancer fans are hoping will break out of his shell this season. The third scorer will likely be senior Jeff Queen, who showed strong slashing skills when we saw LaSalle last year; however, coaches have also been whispering about junior guard Justin Lovette, who could be a potential breakout name in the GCL as well.

7. West High: While the coaching carousel continues at West High, the good news is that the kids in the program will be led by a familiar face this season, with former assistant Bryce Stokes taking over the head seat. Fortunately for Coach Stokes, the cupboard is far from bare, as the Mustangs return three major contributors from last season. Senior guard Demetrius Watkins put up around 14 PPG last season and is one of the most proven scorers in the CMAC, while we expect junior wing Zion Reynolds to produce a major jump in scoring this year with his shot-making ability and combination of finesse and size. The key to this team, however, will be 6’4 forward Aboucar Cisse, a powerfully built wing who can drive the ball to the rim and draw contact, as the sophomore averaged around 12 PPG in a starting role last year as a freshman. The Mustangs have to fill some plugs in the other spots in their lineup, but don’t sleep on their chances to compete in the CMAC, and to represent the city league proudly in the D1 rankings.

8. Turpin: The Spartans deserve a place on this list after being overlooked by us last pre-season, before going on to post an 18-6 record. Point guard is a question after graduating their emotional leader; however, Coach Slonim returns two of his three leading scorers from last season, including junior Jackson Holt, who averaged north of 15 PPG last season in his sophomore campaign. Holt is a 6’3 wing with elite shooting ability who should average over 20 PPG this season; where he’ll hopefully be balanced out by late blooming senior center Owen Spencer, a 6’8 stretch shooter who has come into his own of late. Outside of Holt and Spencer the Spartans will have to find the right role players to help put points on the board, but they’re a dangerous shooting team, have a dynamic one-two combination and are one of Cincinnati’s best teams.

Honorable Mention: Winton Woods, Hamilton, Oak Hills, Saint Xavier, West Clermont, Elder


D2-D4 Pre-Season POY: Paul McMillan IV

Cincinnati D2-D4 Preview

1. Taft: There were several big storylines to follow this summer over at Taft. First, the Senators have moved down to D3 (from D2) and will be among the favorites to contend for a state title. Second, former Senators coach Mark Mitchell has returned to the sidelines; and, third and perhaps most notably, Taft has reloaded with some talented new players. There is still some argument as to who the pre-season favorite is in the CMAC; however, the size, experience and depth of Taft make them our top ranked team for now. Before we talk about the new faces, the Senators return an all-league force in double-double machine Nekhi Smith, a 2020 forward, along with two solid senior guards in Roemello Carleon and Muhammad Metz. Smith is a potential CMAC Player of the Year candidate, while Carleon brings production on both ends as a guard, and Metz is one of the city’s premiere shooters. The two most notable new faces for Taft are senior wing Leroy Walker (Winton Woods transfer) and freshman wing Rayvon Griffith. Walker and Griffith’s athleticism could make this team a very entertaining one to follow, as the two could easily be considered the premiere athletic tandem in all of Ohio basketball. With Woodward and Aiken also expected to be very good, don’t pencil in Taft for a CMAC title, but mark the Senators as slight favorites.

2. Woodward: If Taft isn’t the team that ultimately takes the CMAC, then expect Woodward to be next in line, as the Bulldogs picked up the biggest offseason acquisition in Cincinnati in sophomore point guard Paul McMillan IV. After averaging over 25 PPG last season, and being named TDP Player of the Year for Cincinnati D2-D4, McMillan heads over to Woodward to lead a team with some sleeper talent on the roster. Of course, McMillan will be the primary scorer at Woodward, but expect two others to score plenty themselves in senior post Davion Mace, a high level athlete with a strong physique, and junior point guard Montev Ware, a competitive guard who was the second leading scorer for West High last season. Junior guard Aaron Davis, senior post Will Burns and freshman guard Kanye Moreland will also be key contributors for Coach Redden’s team, as we’ll be interested to see who steps up to make perimeter shots when teams inevitably throw double-teams at McMillan.

3. Aiken: Last year Taft and Hughes were the talk of the CMAC, while Aiken quietly ended up finishing tied for first place in the league with their two rivals, and was the last CMAC team standing in the playoffs, where the Falcons advanced to the regional semifinals. This year’s team has just as much upside, as we’re trying to remind ourselves not to count the Swoop out in the CMAC race. Junior point guard Jakada Stone is back for his third year at the helm for Aiken, and is also a no-brainer selection for our first-team all-city pre-season honors in D2-D4. Alongside Stone, one of the city’s elite point guards, Aiken will have additional offensive fire power in sophomore guard Robbie Cass, a big time shooter, and under the radar senior wing Greg Stewart, a potential 20 PPG player who missed most of last season due to OHSAA transfer rules. The Falcons won’t lead the league in dunks on a guard oriented roster, but Stone, Cass and Stewart combine to form an impressive big three, and, if sophomore wing LeBraun Berry and sophomore forward Chance Davis are ready to make impacts, this team could be deceptively good in D2.

4. Wyoming: The first non-CMAC team to appear on this list, the Cowboys made a coaching change this year, with Coach Tim Edmonds handing the reigns over to Matt Rooks (back for his second stint as Wyoming head coach). Even with the change in leadership, we still think the Cowboys are favorites yet again in the CHL. There is some roster turnover to deal with, including the graduation of a four-year starter at point guard; but Wyoming boasts the most talent in the CHL on paper with the combo of senior wing Evan Prater and junior wing Isaiah Walker. Prater might be committed to play football at Cincinnati next fall, but the versatile senior will be on the court this winter, where he is arguably the best senior in the metro area; while Walker, a 6’5 smooth wing player, should improve on his 13 PPG average last season as a sophomore. We don’t know a ton about the rest of the Cowboys roster, but between the size, athleticism and skill of the Prater-Walker duo alone, teams will have their hands full with this Wyoming team.

5. Deer Park: Despite a lot of turnover in the personnel department, two starters still remain from the 2018 State Championship team, and additional talent has transferred in to Deer Park, making the Wildcats a more then formidable opponent this season. Senior guards Mark Wise and Steve Gentry Jr are the lone holdovers from 2018, and will be the face of the team this season. Wise is already Deer Park’s all-time leading scorer and should lead the Wildcats again as a power guard, while Gentry, as the small but speedy guard, will likely take on more of a scoring role this winter. Joining Wise and Gentry will be senior wing Deshaun McEntire, a role player on both the 2018 and 2019 teams, as well as trio of new additions in junior guard Tre Munson (Roger Bacon transfer), senior wing G’Marrion Jones (Taylor transfer) and athletic 6’5 junior power forward Ani Elliott (Springfield transfer). With more raw athleticism and depth of talent then anyone in the CHL, don’t be surprised if Deer Park gives their rivals Wyoming a run for their money in the league. .

6. Gamble Montessori: Moving up from D4 to D3 for the first time in school history, expect Coach Allen’s team to make some noise this winter, as his Gators team is loaded with both talent and athleticism. Yes, junior point guard Kaden Warner might have transferred out-of-state, but Gamble still has plenty of horses, most notably senior power forward Michael McCants, a man-child on the interior with a great motor. Joining McCants in the front-court is junior wing forward Xavier Smith, one of the most talented players in Cincinnati that you probably haven’t heard of. Smith and McCants will likely lead the scoring effort, but junior point guard Dre Kindell and senior post TJ Grove are two transfers to keep an eye on who will be mainstays in the Gamble lineup.

7. Cincinnati Christian: Not only did the Cougars make a surprise run to last season’s D4 District Finals, but they did so with a young nucleus, giving CCS fans plenty to be excited about this season. Returning for Cincy Christian will be a young starting backcourt in sophomore guard Logan Woods (the son of head coach Carl Woods) as well as junior point guard KJ Swain. Woods has earned early college offers with his ability to score the ball in different ways, while Swain is a speedy guard who can distribute or make shots. Joining the team this year is 6’6 forward Kai Vance, a former member of the homeschool based Cincinnati Trailblazers; a junior this season, Vance will bring athleticism and versatility to the table for CCS. Traditionally, the small town teams control the SW Region in D4, but we believe CCS is the best D4 team in Cincinnati.

Honorable Mention: Roger Bacon, Hughes, CHCA, Bishop Fenwick, McNicholas

Bonus Preview: Northern Kentucky

Covington Catholic: With the purpose of this preview being to cover the Greater Cincinnati area, we feel it’s only right to give some coverage to the top team in the Northern Kentucky section of Greater Cincinnati, the Covington Catholic Colonels. Having won two KYHSAA State Championships since 2014, CovCath will be among the top ranked teams in the state of Kentucky again this season. While the roster is full of new faces, senior point guard Grant Disken returns to lead the show, as he’s already proven to be among the best players in Greater Cincinnati. Alongside Disken, look for two wings in sophomore Collin McHale (one of the top young prospects in the city) and transfer sophomore Walker Horn (the son of new NKU head coach Darin Horn) to make immediate impacts on the perimeter. The frontcourt will be inexperienced, but there’s plenty of talent there, as freshman post Chandler Starks enters CovCath with a lot of hype behind his name. Alongside Starks, look for the Colonels to also rely on 7’1 transfer Noah Hupmann (Evansville, IN) as well as junior Donovan Stocks. If the young players can find a rhythm together, expect this team to be as good as any in Ohio or Kentucky.

D1 Pre-Season All-City 1st Team
Alex Williams – 6’4 Junior SF/PF Moeller ***
Logan Duncomb – 6’9 Junior C Moeller
Trey Robinson – 6’7 Senior SF Hamilton
Nate Johnson – 6’3 Junior PG/SG Lakota East
Deairius Barker-Randle – 6’0 Senior PG Princeton

*** Pre-Season Player of the Year ***

D1 Pre-Season All-City 2nd Team
Max Land – 6’4 Senior SG/SF Moeller
Kaden Fuhrmann – 6’3 Senior SG Lakota East
Alex Mangold – 6’7 Senior PF/C Lakota East
Jackson Ames – 6’10 Senior C West Clermont
Kaleb Crawford – 6’2 Senior PG/SG Princeton
Ed Abernathy – 6’2 Senior SG Walnut Hills
Aidan Noyes – 6’5 Junior SF Moeller
Will McCracken – 6’5 Junior SF Moeller
Jackson Holt – 6’3 Junior SG Turpin
Bowen Hardman – 6’4 Sophomore SG Princeton

Honorable Mention: Will Cluxton (’20 PG Elder), Carter Combs (’20 SG Lakota West), Jack Cooper (’20 PF Mason), Kahlil Davis (’20 PG Princeton), Kelen Dietrich (’20 SG Oak Hills), Derek Eddings (’20 SF LaSalle), Michael Grant (’20 SG Walnut Hills), Mitchell Greer (’20 SG Mason), Danny Greive (’20 SF St. Xavier), Brandon Lanier (’20 PF Mount Healthy), Jaylen Lemons (’20 PG LaSalle), Ivan Mason (’20 SF Withrow), Zavian Ricks (’20 PG Fairfield), Nic Smith (’20 C Walnut Hills), Owen Spencer (’20 C Turpin), Hank Thomas (’20 PF St. Xavier), Jaheim Thomas (’20 PF Princeton), Aaron Ward (’20 PF Winton Woods), Demetrius Watkins (’20 SG West High), Greg Johnson (’21 PG Princeton), Julian Mackey (’21 SG Lakota West), Demari Martin (’21 SF Winton Woods), Zion Reynolds (’21 SF West High), Rob Thompson (’21 SG Middletown), Aboucar Cisse (’22 SF West High), Evan Mahaffey (’22 SF Moeller), Deshawne Crim (’23 SG Fairfield)

D2-D4 Pre-Season All-City 1st Team
Paul McMillan IV – 6’1 Sophomore PG Woodward ***
Evan Prater – 6’5 Senior SF Wyoming
Mark Wise – 6’3 Senior PG/SG Deer Park
Nekhi Smith – 6’6 Senior PF Taft
Jakada Stone – 6’0 Junior PG Aiken

***Pre-Season Player of the Year***

D2-D4 Pre-Season All-City 2nd Team
Steve Gentry Jr – 5’11 Senior PG Deer Park
Grant Whisman – 6’7 Senior SF/PF Middletown Madison
Michael McCants – 6’5 Senior PF Gamble Montessori
AJ Braun – 6’8 Junior PF/C Bishop Fenwick
Isaiah Walker – 6’5 Junior SG/SF Wyoming
Skyler Schmidt – 6’7 Junior C Clermont Northeastern
Camron McKenzie – 6’0 Junior SG Hughes
Brayden Sipple – 6’4 Junior SG Blanchester
Logan Woods – 6’3 Sophomore SG Cincinnati Christian
Rayvon Griffith – 6’5 Freshman SF Taft

*** Pre-Season Player of the Year ***

Honorable Mention: Matthew Adkins (’20 SG Country Day), Jared Baldock (’20 SG Purcell Marian), Evan Brunot (’20 SF McNicholas), Kyle Cardenas (’20 PF Shroder), Sean Ealy (’20 SG Clark Montessori), Anthony Felder (’20 PF Hughes), Curtis Harrison (’20 PF Seven Hills), Davion Mace (’20 C Woodward), Josiah McGee (’20 SF Roger Bacon), Greg Stewart (’20 SG Aiken), Kionte Thomas (’20 PG Hughes), Leroy Walker (’20 SF Taft), Deanza Duncan (’21 PG New Miami), Gates Flynn (’21 SG Summit), Kodee Holloway (’21 PG/SG Finneytown), Tre Munson (’21 PG/SG Deer Park), Jordan Robinette (’21 PG New Miami), Xavier Smith (’21 SF Gamble Montessori), KJ Swain (’21 PG Cincinnati Christian), Marjoni Tate (’21 PG Roger Bacon), Montev Ware (’21 PG Woodward), Robbie Cass (’22 PG Aiken)

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