’20-’21 Cincy HS Preview

23 Nov

Sage Tolentino

Dating back to the days of Cincy Prep Hoops Report, we’ve been publishing an annual preview of Greater Cincinnati area high school basketball since the fall of 2010; and, without a doubt, this year’s edition of the preview is by far the most challenging to write. This shouldn’t be hard to understand, as COVID-19 has stripped us of almost all the basketball events we would’ve seen between last March and the present. With that being said, we still feel we have a decent gauge on what to expect from the high school scene on the Ohio side of the Cincinnati area. In a spirit of hoping that the state government allows us to have a complete season, here’s our preview of what to expect this winter….

Cincinnati D1 Preview

1. Moeller: The Crusaders caught a tough break last March when the season was cut short, as they were favorites to capture their third consecutive state title had the event been played. That being said, the 2020-2021 season has always been one that Moeller fans have pointed to as a year where they could have one of the most talented teams they’ve ever assembled. Leading the charge for the Crusaders this year will be senior center Logan Duncomb, a 6’9 post committed to Indiana University and a nationally ranked top-100 recruit; however, Duncomb is far from the only big body on the Moeller front line. Fellow seniors and NCAA D1 signees Alex Williams (Furman) and Aidan Noyes (Richmond) return, with Williams bringing strength and scoring at 6’4 and Noyes providing elite athleticism and shooting ability at 6’6. While Moeller did graduate some talent from last year’s team, and lost ’21 wing Will McCracken (UNC-Wilmington) to an out-of-state transfer, there are a couple of other players to keep an eye on to compliment Duncomb, Williams and Noyes. Senior point guard Aidan Turner, committed to NCAA D2 Charleston, is expected to play a bigger role in the backcourt, while junior wing Evan Mahaffey has caught the eye of tons of NCAA D1 coaches with his size, mobility and versatility at 6’6. Given their all-around talent, experience and winning pedigree the Crusaders are our easy choice for the area’s pre-season #1 team in Division I.

2. Lakota East: Just like Moeller, Lakota East was never eliminated from last season’s tournament, as the Thunderhawks were scheduled to face the Crusaders in the Regional Final before the event was cut short due to COVID-19 concerns. This year we could very well be on our way to a rematch of that showdown, as East is yet again loaded and the on-paper favorites in the GMC. There’s no mistaking that this year’s East team will go as far as senior guard Nate Johnson (Akron) carries them, as the athletic combo guard was dominant last year in averaging 16 PPG. While Johnson will carry the brunt of the attention of defenses, East has a very talented junior class, led by guards Kobe Peck, a small but fiery point guard, and Jadon Coles, a bigger guard with scoring ability, and complimented by players such as Nathan Adkins and Charlie Kenrich. Thunderhawks fans might also want to circle the name Jack Kronauge in their programs, as the sophomore wing who transferred in from Saint Xavier is one of the most talented young players in the city. East has the experience, talent, discipline and guard play to make some noise in the city; could this be the year they dethrone Moeller?

3. Princeton: The ’20-’21 season marks a complete changing of the guard at Princeton, as the Vikings graduated most of their rotation from a team that won 17 games last year, as well as changed coaches in bringing in former Cincinnati Hughes head man Bryan Wyant. Don’t expect Princeton to take a back seat though, as the Vikings return one of Cincinnati’s best players in junior wing Bowen Hardman (an early Ohio State pledge), who will be expected to step into the primary scoring role this year, where he could easily end up as the GMC’s leading scorer. Hardman will be the number one scorer, but Princeton also has another talented guard in senior Greg Johnson, an athletic sparkplug, who will handle the setup duties this year; along with returnees such as senior guard Kelvin Turner and junior post Rodney Harris. Coaching changes often take time to develop, but the Vikings have the talent to make a run in the GMC, and Coach Wyant’s experience in playing with athletic, up-tempo teams could make some GMC opponents very uncomfortable.

4. Saint Xavier: Year one of the Mike Noszka experience went well above expected at X, as the former Wilmington coach won a division game, guided the team to 16 wins and a trip to the District Finals. In year two the expectations will grow considerably, as the Bombers are our pick for second place in the GCL-South (although it’s a close call with LaSalle). Senior guard Kobe Rogers (NCAA D2 Nova Southeastern) will be the scoring catalyst this year, after averaging 14 PPG in a breakout role last season, and, even though they lost Kronague to transfer, the rest of the roster is far from bare. Rogers gives them size and athleticism on the wing to compliment his shooting, whereas we expect players such as senior post Kristopher McClure and senior sharp-shooter Joe Kirby to provide scoring as well. We’re not sure what else to expect from this Bombers roster, but, given the buzz surrounding the culture Coach Noszka is instilling, the future of St. Xavier basketball is looking bright.

5. LaSalle: Listing the Lancers fifth on our pre-season rankings might be a tad disrespectful, as LaSalle reached the Regional Semifinals a season ago, but we’ve got to be honest, we really don’t know what to expect from this year’s team. We know LaSalle will always play aggressive and tough-minded basketball, and we know they return two really good players in seniors Ayden Schneider and Justin Lovette, but, outside of that, there are some unknowns heading into the season for Coach Goedde. Schneider brings versatility and grit to the forward position at 6’4 to compliment the elite athleticism and penetrating ability to Lovette, so, we’ll see which new faces come in and provide the shooting ability to keep LaSalle in line with GCL South opponents.

6. Elder: Another tough team to gauge heading into the winter, we saw the Panthers twice last season in which they were great one game and stoic the other. Elder certainly will have size at their disposal as they return 6’4 senior paint beast David Larkins at center to go along with 6’5 junior forward Andrew Harp, last year’s leading scorer, and under-the-radar prospect Scotty Nieman, a sneaky athletic 6’7 power forward. Keep an eye on junior guard Sean Keller as well, we liked what we saw from him last season and this year’s Elder squad will need a lead guard to step up early.

7. Hamilton: Seeing the Big Blue on our pre-season list might surprise some folks; however, we feel that Hamilton could be this year’s surprise team in the area. While he is an unknown to folks in the area, 6’11 junior Sage Tolentino will be a household name by season’s end, as the transfer from Hawaii is a nationally ranked prospect and an early pledge to Auburn University. The surprise addition of Tolentino could be just what Hamilton coach Kevin Higgins needs to replace last year’s seniors; however we also like the abilities of senior guards KJ Swain and Jackson Lewis as well as role players Malik Verdon and Bre’eon Ismail.

Honorable Mention: Fairfield, Oak Hills, Lakota West, Mason, West High, Walnut Hills, Turpin

Cincinnati D2-D4 Preview

1. Taft: Yes, the Senators graduated a ton of key pieces and had a coaching change (although a familiar face in DeMarco Bradley is back at the helm), but, we still expect Taft to be tops in the CMAC this season, as the boys from Ezzard Charles have plenty of talent. The focus will of course be on sophomore wing Rayvon Griffith, arguably the most talented prospect in Cincinnati and a player who holds major NCAA D1 offers after averaging 17 PPG last season. This season Griffith will be relied on to create his own offense off the dribble, as coaches are eager to see the development of the ultra talented 6’6 wing. There are some unknowns surrounding the rest of the Taft roster, but some names to track include seniors such as AJ Lowe, Brandon Miles, JayMarco Berry, Yacco Nelson and Dylan Britton, all of whom saw minutes last season.

2. Woodward: There’s no hiding the fact that Woodward was disappointed in last year’s results, but, fortunately for the Bulldogs, they return much of their roster from last season on a team full of perimeter talent. Like Griffith at Taft, this year’s Woodward team will be associated with the success of one player in junior guard Paul McMillan IV, a nationally ranked prospect who averaged over 31 PPG a season ago. McMillan will contend this year for Ohio’s Mr. Basketball award and could easily lead the state in scoring with his knack for getting to the paint and finishing with floaters or free throws. Even though McMillan is alpha-male at Woodward, the Bulldogs backcourt has other talent in senior guards Montev Ware, who averaged 12 PPG last season, and Aaron Davis, as well as talented sophomore standout Kanye Moreland. With depth on the perimeter and scoring ability, expect Woodward to play fast paced and commit to not letting last season repeat itself.

3. Aiken: Returning one proven scorer is impressive enough in high school basketball, and Aiken is returning two this year, making the Falcons one of our teams to watch heading into December. Senior point guard Jakada Stone returns for his fourth year as a starter after averaging 23 PPG a season ago, and will be joined again by sharpshooting junior guard Robbie Cass, who averaged 15 PPG in last season’s campaign. Stone will again be counted on to provide a spark in creating offense for himself or others, while Cass is a pure shooter and one of the area’s most consistent scoring threats. Complimenting those two will be fellow juniors LeBraun Berry and Chance Davis, both versatile forwards who started on last season’s team. Just like in year’s past, the CMAC should be very closely contested among the top teams, with this year’s Swoop squad being talented enough to potentially capture the league title.

4. Hughes: We slept on Hughes last season and all they did was respond with a 10-0 league record and a 20-6 overall record. Are we dumb enough to make the same mistake again? Time will tell as, while this roster still has talent, Hughes took some graduation hits and has a coaching change with former assistant Derrell Black taking over the top spot. Just like with league rivals such as Taft and Woodward, there’s a certified returning high school superstar at Hughes, as senior guard Camron McKenzie is back for his final go-around after averaging 24 PPG last season. McKenzie has proven he can score from all three levels and will do so again this year, so, the question is who will assist him in the scoring column? Junior guard Jae’sean Martin is certainly a candidate after starting on last season’s team; as we expect Coach Black to stick with the smaller, guard oriented style that helped build the program to where it is. We might be sleeping on Hughes again, but we of course expect them to be in the mix for a league title come tournament time.

5. Wyoming: The Cowboys don’t rebuild, they reload; and that’s exactly what we expect from this year’s Wyoming team yet again. Sure, they lose a four-year starter and leader, but the talent rich stay rich as Wyoming returns one of the area’s top talents in senior wing Isaiah Walker (Belmont). After averaging 26 PPG last season Walker is a solidified star in the CHL and should duplicate those numbers again this season, despite being the primary focus of every defense they’ll face. Don’t be surprised if senior point guard Damien Crayton becomes a breakout player in the city, as Coach Rooks will likely rely on Crayton to play Robin to Walker’s Batman.

Honorable Mention: Purcell Marian, Roger Bacon, McNicholas, Badin, Bishop Fenwick, Deer Park, Gamble Montessori, Blanchester

D1 Pre-Season All-City 1st Team
Logan Duncomb – ’21 C Moeller
Nate Johnson – ’21 PG/SG Lakota East
Alex Williams – ’21 PF Moeller
Kobe Rogers – ’21 SG Saint Xavier
Bowen Hardman – ’22 SG Princeton
Sage Tolentino – ’22 PF/C Hamilton

D1 Pre-Season All-City 2nd Team
Aidan Noyes – ’21 SF Moeller
Evan Mahaffey – ’22 SF Moeller
Aboubacar Cisse – ’22 SF West High
Logan Woods – ’22 SG Fairfield
Ayden Schneider – ’21 SF LaSalle
Ben Southerland – ’22 PF Sycamore

D1 Honorable Mention: Aidan Turner (’21 PG Moeller), Greg Johnson (’21 PG Princeton), Justin Lovette (’21 PG LaSalle), KJ Swain (’21 PG Hamilton), Jordon Mumford (’21 PF Middletown), Dominic Cantrella (’21 PG Turpin), Zion Reynolds (’21 SG West High), Matt Butcher (’21 PF Wilmington), Matthew Smith (’21 SF Mason), David Larkins (’21 C Elder), Kobe Peck (’22 PG Lakota East), Andrew Harp (’22 PF Elder), Owen Murray (’22 SG Walnut Hills), Deshawne Crim (’23 SG Fairfield), Jack Kronague (’23 SG Lakota East), Nate Dudukovich (’23 SG Lakota West)

D2-D4 Pre-Season All-City 1st Team
Paul McMillan IV – ’22 PG Woodward
Rayvon Griffith – ’23 SF Taft
Isaiah Walker – ’21 SG Wyoming
AJ Braun – ’21 C Bishop Fenwick
Camron McKenzie – ’21 SG Hughes
Brayden Sipple – ’21 SG Blanchester
Jakada Stone – ’21 PG Aiken

D2-D4 Honorable Mention: Montev Ware (’21 PG Woodward), Marjoni Tate (’21 PG Roger Bacon), Xavier Smith (’21 SF Gamble Montessori), Max Stepaniak (’21 C Hamilton Ross), Robbie Cass (’22 PG Aiken), Andre Simmons (’22 PG Purcell Marian), Danny Austing (’22 SG Taylor), Damien Crayton (’21 PG Wyoming), Kanye Moreland (’23 SG Woodward), Mason Weisbrodt (’22 C Batavia), Tyler Thornton (’22 PF Indian Hill), Jordan Robinette (’21 PG New Miami)

NOTE: Due to the growing prep school scene, and possibly even concerns of COVID-19 affecting the OHSAA season, we’ve seen a large number of outgoing transfers in the area. These transfers obviously have a huge impact on our pre-season all-city teams. Below is a quick list of some of the players no longer playing OHSAA basketball…

Will McCracken – ’21 Moeller: Family moved to South Carolina.
Jackson Holt – ’21 Turpin: Transferred to Moravian Prep (NC).
Skyler Schmidt – ’21 Clermont NE: Transferred to Covington Catholic (KY).
Ani Elliott – ’21 Deer Park: Transferred to United Prep (FL).
Kodee Holloway – ’21 Finneytown: Transferred to KEBA Prep (OH).
Tre Munson – ’21 Deer Park: Transferred to ISA Prep (OH).
Demari Martin – ’21 Winton Woods: Transferred to ISA Prep (OH).
Larry Kosicko – ’21 McNicholas: Transferred to ISA Prep (OH).
Kaden Warner – ’21 Gamble: Transferred to Huntington St. Joe’s (WV).
Kollin Tolbert – ’22 Mount Healthy: Transferred to KEBA Prep (OH).
Evan Isparo – ’23 New Richmond: Transferred to Covington Catholic (KY).

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