SW’s 2021 Class Shaping Up

18 Dec

Isaiah Walker

In our last article we profiled the top unsigned seniors in Southwest Ohio, and, for as much talent as was featured in that piece, the class of 2021 in the Greater Cincinnati and Dayton area might be even deeper. With several players holding early scholarship offers, but no one being committed to a school yet, here’s a look at the top college prospects in the region who are off to a great start in their junior season….

Nate Johnson – 6’3 PG/SG Lakota East: Johnson has been the breakout star of not only the Greater Cincinnati area in his 2021 class, but possibly of the entire state through the early point of the season, having put up over 24 PPG, including outstanding showings of 28 points against Cincinnati Taft and 34 points against Cincinnati Princeton. Leading a Lakota East missing a few key pieces with injuries to a 5-0 start, Johnson has been sensational, not only as a scorer but as an all-around player. A big time athlete with a strong frame and explosive leaping ability, Johnson is also an adept passer who wants to find open teammates; however, so far this season he’s also proven that he can shoot the ball, as he’s currently shooting over 65% from the field and has been reliable in the mid-range with his pull-up. Johnson’s progression reminds us of ’19 Cincinnati Moeller guard Deuce McBride (currently playing a major role for West Virginia in his freshman season), as Johnson is an all-around guard who can score and pass, but who also has great athletic tools to use on the defensive end. College coaches agree with Johnson’ progression, as the 6’3 junior holds several mid-major offers, but has seen increased high-major attention in the last few weeks, including taking new unofficial visits to both Xavier and Cincinnati.

Logan Duncomb – 6’9 C Cincinnati Moeller: By far the most heavily recruited player on this list up to this point, Duncomb already holds early scholarship offers from Indiana, Ohio State, Xavier, Wisconsin, Iowa and Cincinnati, and that list is going to continue to grow, as the 6’9 post is putting up solid numbers at 13 PPG and 10 RPG through Moeller’s first three games of the season. A true post player with a long wingspan, Duncomb is an exceptional perimeter defender who, even though he isn’t a dynamic athlete, can positionally defend and influence shots at the rim, while being a volume rebounder. Offensively, Duncomb can hit the mid-range shot but is best around the rim with his hook-shot or spin-back hook-shot, as he likes to catch the ball with his back to the basket. As he still has a raw frame, Duncomb is only going to get better as he continues to get more coordinated and stronger, making him one of Ohio’s most high-upside 2021 prospects given his combination of size, experience and skill.

Anthony McComb – 6’2 SG Dayton Thurgood Marshall: We said it back in the fall at our open gym series, we just cannot for the life of us understand why none of the in-state mid-major schools have offered McComb! In our opinion, the fact that McComb is currently offer-less makes him Ohio’s biggest sleeper in 2021, as there just aren’t many players with his combination of size, athleticism, skill and most notably, grit. A terrorizing wing defender who has the frame and athleticism to guard all three-perimeter positions, McComb is a high motor player who makes winning plays not associated with scoring. Offensively he’s a pull-up shooter in the mid-range who can create off the dribble, but is also exceptionally unselfish as a slashing guard who likes to find teammates as well. McComb is as solid of an all-around guard as there is in the class, and we’d be willing to bet the farm that schools coming flocking in to Thurgood Marshall before the end of McComb’s career.

Isaiah Walker – 6’5 SG Wyoming: We expected this season to be the turning point for Walker, as, due to graduation, the offense at Wyoming runs through Walker this year. Even with Evan Prater, arguably Cincinnati’s top senior hooper, next to him, Walker is putting up 21 PPG this season, a big increase from last year’s 13 PPG. Walker, at 6’5, has become a reliable three-point shooter in his junior season, adding another skill to his previous repertoire, which consisted more of being a slashing scoring wing. A long and smooth athlete who can handle the ball, Walker has a good feel for the offensive game, and all the physical measurables that will college coaches want to see. While Walker does boast two early NCAA D1 scholarship offers from Youngstown State and Western Carolina, we expect that list to grow significantly between now and signing day a year from now.

Aidan Noyes – 6’6 SF Cincinnati Moeller: The second of four Moeller players to make this list, some might be surprised to see Noyes’ name here, as he averages a modest 7 PPG in the early part of the season; however, college coaches love Noyes’ upside. A lanky 6’6 athlete with deceptive bounce at the basket, Noyes is a shooter who can run and jump, which makes him the prototypical NCAA D1 wing in today’s game. After playing on the junior varsity team a season ago, Noyes is starting to find his niche with Moeller’s varsity this year, and we expect his scoring to go up some as the season goes, on a Moeller team that has a plethora of scoring options. With an offer list that already includes Bowling Green, Akron, Miami (OH) and Northern Kentucky, it’s safe to say that college coaches are fully onboard with the long-term upside of Noyes as an athletic scoring wing.

Alex Williams – 6’4 PF Cincinnati Moeller: Another Moeller player to make this list, Williams was a starter on last year’s State Championship team, and probably will be the team’s first scoring option over the next two seasons. Currently second on Moeller’s team at over 17 PPG through three contests, Williams is a power forward with a small forward skill-set. Capable of shooting it from the perimeter but best around the basket, what Williams lacks in height, he makes up for in strength and heart, as he’s a warrior down low who can will the ball in the rim with multiple efforts and the power to bully opponents. Williams also is light on his feet for his size, giving him the versatility to attack against bigger forwards when he’s matched with at true big. Youngstown State, Kent State and Robert Morris have already offered Williams, and that list could grow as, even though he lacks great height, Williams is expected to be among the top high school forwards in the state this season.

Will McCracken – 6’4 SF Cincinnati Moeller: Yes, one more Moeller wing forward is on the list, as McCracken fits a similar role to Noyes, where his scoring numbers might not reflect just how good of a prospect he is. A rangy athlete on the wing who can play in transition or the half-court, McCracken is an ideal glue guy who makes hustle plays, rebounds and defends for Moeller; however, he’s plenty capable of being a scorer as well when the opportunity presents itself. McCracken shoots a good ball from the perimeter, and, with his athleticism, has slashing ability, as he’s currently averaging 6 PPG on 59% shooting for the Crusaders. With McCracken already holding scholarship offers from Ohio, Akron, Robert Morris and Western Carolina, we believe college coaches are already sold on the overall role McCracken can bring to the table, as well as his experience and buy-in at playing that role.

Jakada Stone – 6’0 PG Cincinnati Aiken: There might be some more naturally talented scoring point guards in Ohio’s 2021 class, but we believe an argument could be made that there is not a better pure passing point guard in Ohio’s junior class then Stone, a third year starter for a successful Aiken program. A shifty athlete who can explode with burst in transition or in the ball-screen game, Stone is a bulldog with a tough mentality and competitive spirit. He’s capable as a scorer as well as excelling as a passer, with current averages of over 26 PPG, 4.5 assists, 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game. With Stone adding a more consistent three-point shot this year, there really are no weak points in his game, as we expect him to become a household name among hoop-heads in Ohio by the end of Aiken’s showcase games at events such as Flyin’ to the Hoop.

AJ Braun – 6’8 C Middletown Bishop Fenwick: Through three games this season, Braun is on an absolute offensive tear, averaging over 21 PPG and 8 RPG, while shooting over 70% from the field! Even though the expectations weren’t super high for his Fenwick team heading into the season, Braun has been the primary catalyst in keeping the Falcons in games, as the 6’8 post has a skilled all-around offensive game where he can shoot it from three or play in the post. We wrote in the fall that Braun has appeared more coordinated and confident in open gym settings, as, once his body catches up to his offensive game and feel, Braun has considerable upside as a scoring post who can also put up solid rebounding numbers. Ohio offered Braun a scholarship over the summer, as we expect his list to grow as more schools see the 6’8 big out of the Middletown area.

Brayden Sipple – 6’3 SG Blanchester: It’s easy to forget about Blanchester’s Brayden Sipple, located way out east of Cincinnati; however, that’s going to change soon, as Sipple is among Ohio’s leading scorers through five games, averaging an unbelievable 37.4 points, 13.2 rebounds, 4.2 steals, 3.2 assists and 2.2 blocks per game, all while shooting 62% from the field, 35% from three and 90% from the foul line. So, it’s safe to say that no one has been more dominant than Sipple so far this season, as the junior wing is an athletic and explosive slasher who can make shots in bunches and who plays the do-it-all role as Blanchester’s Mr. Everything. After a strong season on the travel circuit over the summer, Sipple has both NCAA D1 and D2 offers and interest, as we’re going to be very interested to see which coaches make the trek out Blanchester to get their eyes on Sipple as his incredible offensive run continues.

Camron McKenzie – 6’1 SG Cincinnati Hughes: After averaging 16 PPG as Hughes’ second scorer a year ago, folks certainly wondered aloud as to what McKenzie would do this season in the number one scoring role for the Big Red. Through four contests, not only has McKenzie proved even the stingiest naysayer wrong, having averaged 23 PPG, but Hughes is 4-0, with huge league rivalry wins over both Cincinnati Taft and Cincinnati Woodward on their resume. McKenzie is not as naturally athletic as some of the players on this list, but he is a 100% pure hooper, as the junior combo guard can shoot it from three or attack off the bounce, where he’s strong at taking contact and finishing the play anyways. A tough but quiet guard who still hasn’t gotten his due in the city, let alone the state, McKenzie is a name to follow as the season unfolds in Cincinnati.

Skyler Schmidt – 6’7 PF/C Clermont Northeastern: A junkyard dog who had a breakout season on the travel circuit with the Nike EYBL’s NEO Tru Game, Schmidt has started off his junior season with a bang, becoming arguably Greater Cincinnati’s top rebounder. A capable scorer averaging around 24 PPG so far this season, it’s easy to forget about Schmidt out CNE, but he’s got the numbers and the game to garner more attention as the season goes on. With interest coming from both the NCAA D1 and D2 levels, this spring/summer travel season will be huge for Schmidt’s recruitment. 

Honorable Mention: Kodee Holloway (PG/SG Finneytown), Chanze Amerson (PG Dayton Thurgood Marshall), Montev Ware (PG Cincinnati Woodward), Zion Reynolds (SG Cincinnati West High), Patrick Ivory (SF Dayton Northmont), Ani Elliott (C Deer Park), Donovan Stocks (SF Covington Catholic/KY)

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