SW 2023’s Making a Splash

31 Dec

Lawrent Rice

In the last couple of weeks we’ve written about Southwest Ohio’s top unsigned seniors, the top juniors and the breakout sophomores. So, what else is left but to profile the area’s standout freshmen from the first month of the 2019-2020 season. After entering the season with a lot of hype, the class of 2023 has been productive so far, with these eight players listed being among those who have made immediate and significant impacts with their varsity squads. Here’s a look at the top freshmen in the area so far this winter…

Rayvon Griffith – 6’5 SG/SF Cincinnati Taft: The most highly heralded of the area freshmen based on his success at the junior high level on the travel circuit, as well as both YouTube and social media, Griffith is off to a hot start at Cincinnati Taft, even with his Senators team having played a brutal schedule. So far this season, Griffith is averaging over 17 PPG as well as 6 rebounds for Taft, with the 6’5 wing guard starting to prove to naysayers that he can make some outside shots when he’s in rhythm and his feet are set. Even when he’s making shots, what Griffith does best is play aggressively, as he has elite physical tools and athleticism, with a motor that allows him to be an impact defender and slasher, who can pass, score at the rim or draw fouls. Griffith’s best basketball is still going to be played way in the future, but against teams like Huntington Prep, Cincinnati Hughes and Lakota East, Griffith has made it clear that he’s worthy of the hype.

Lawrent Rice – 6’2 PG/SG Huber Heights Wayne: We had a chance to see Rice in Wayne’s win at Centerville earlier in the month and wow, what a performance, as the young guard was dynamic on the offensive end of the floor. A smooth and long combo guard who can shoot the three, passes it really well and doesn’t force the issue, Rice is averaging 10 PPG, 4 assists, 5 rebounds and 2 steals for a Wayne team who is young, but also off to a great start. Still physically raw and skinny, Rice is a cerebral guard who is not afraid to take the big shot, is fluidly athletic with and without the basketball and who has talent beyond his years as a lead guard; we understand it is very, very early in the process, but we believe Rice’s name will absolutely be in the mix for Ohio’s top 2023 point guard.

Dayjuan Anderson – 6’0 SG Dayton Ponitz: For the sake of full disclosure, Anderson is the only prospect listed who we unfortunately have not gotten a chance to see yet in a varsity game. However, this young man comes highly recommended from 270 Hoops’ Zach Fleer and NEO Spotlight’s TJ Peatross, which is more than enough to satisfy us. Anderson is apparently a big time shooter, with the numbers to back it up, as he averages just over 15 PPG for Ponitz, a program trying to rebuild in the Dayton city league.

Gabe Cupps – 5’11 PG Centerville: Like Griffith, Cupps entered his first high school season with a media circus following him, much of that coming as a result of his viral H-O-R-S-E showdown with LeBron James last summer. Despite having to steer the ship on an exceptionally young (but talent rich) Centerville team, and despite playing one of the tougher schedules in the state of Ohio so far, Cupps has been more than efficient for Centerville, averaging 10 PPG and shooting a sizzling 44% from three-point range. He might be known primarily as a shooter, but Cupps does much more than that, as he’s a heady young guard with a mature floor game and a competitive drive; yes, he’s on the smaller side physically, but Cupps has big game for a young guard.

Chandler Starks – 6’6 PF Covington Catholic (KY): While he might go to school across the Ohio river in Kentucky, Starks is and always has been a Cincinnati resident, having played his junior high ball in the Anderson school system. Due to his residency, and his game, Starks earns a spot on this list, having posted early averages of 6 points and 6 rebounds for a Covington Catholic team who has faced off against teams such as Oak Hill Academy (VA), Cincinnati LaSalle and Lexington Catholic (KY). A skilled forward who can score at the rim or with the jumper, coaches have to be pleased with Starks physicality on the backboards this early in his career, especially considering he’s just starting to fill into his massive frame.

Deshawne Crim – 6’0 SG Fairfield: Since he began suiting up with the varsity team last summer on the team camp scene, local coaches, especially those in the GMC, have raved about the maturity of Crim’s game. The start of the season has proven those coaches right, as Crim is averaging 11 PPG, good for second on the team. A strong combo guard who can get his pull-up off in tight spaces, Crim is a reliable shooter and competitive player who has a knack for making big shots. His Fairfield team has had some up and down moments so far, but expect the Indians to improve partly due to a deep freshmen class that has area coaches talking.

Kanye Moreland – 6’0 SG Cincinnati Woodward: Moreland might not have the flashy offensive statistics of fellow Woodward guards Paul McMillan IV and Montev Ware, but make no mistake about it, Moreland is an integral piece to the Bulldogs season who has show great maturity early on. Moreland is currently averaging 8 PPG for Woodward, while proving he isn’t afraid to step up and take the big open shot in the fourth quarter when teams double McMillan. While he is a capable scorer, Moreland has embraced a defensive role, as he’s a more physically mature guard then most on this list and has shown great maturity in being a freshmen who already understands basketball is more then just scoring.

Evan Isparo – 5’10 PG New Richmond: When we profiled the junior class we mentioned with Clermont Northeastern’s Skyler Schmidt and Blanchester’s Brayden Sipple that it can be easy to forget about the talent in the SBAAC. Despite the somewhat rural local and the small school nature of the league, young Evan Isparo is making headlines in Greater Cincinnati, as the freshman point guard is averaging over 18 PPG as well as 5 assists to lead his New Richmond team. A small but feisty guard with a knack for making flashy plays off the dribble, Isparo might have already, in just December, established himself as the premiere point guard in that league. Much like Sipple and Schmidt at their respective schools, as he gets older, we expect Isparo to put up monster numbers for his team.

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