Oak Hills Shootout

19 Jun

RayAfter an almost 18-month wait, NCAA D1 coaches are allowed back on the road to evaluate high school prospects all across the country. Almost all of Ohio’s top teams were out this weekend, spread across the Midwest, Kentucky and even Philadelphia to play in front of college coaches from various levels. We at TDP chose to attend the Oak Hills Shootout on the Westside of Cincinnati, and, even though NCAA D1’s are not permitted to watch games in the state of Ohio, there were plenty of non-D1 college coaches in attendance. In a talent-laden event filled with teams from Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus and Indianapolis, we certainly saw several standout individual performances. Here’s our latest breakdown from games we saw….

Louie Semona – ’22 PF Cincinnati St. Xavier: Semona burst onto the Cincinnati high school scene this past winter at Saint Xavier, playing alongside senior Kobe Rogers (Nova Southeastern) on a team that advanced to the Regional Tournament. After following that up with a solid spring on the circuit, the question as always going to be, “Is Semona ready to shoulder the load of a primary scorer?” The 6’7 rising senior forward answered the bell on that question at Oak Hills, showcasing a versatile skill-set. Semona is comfortable on the perimeter with the ball in his hands, and has mismatch potential, as he’s a combination of a dangerous shooter, skilled passer and capable slasher who can attack the rotating defense on reversals. With his size and good mobility, Semona can be an inside-outside forward at the next level, especially with college coaches continuing to put an emphasis on big men who can shoot the ball with range. Given the success that the Bombers had this weekend, and Semona’s offensive capabilities, we expect that, along with a rise in his recruitment, Semona will be in contention for GCL Player of the Year next season.

Logan Woods – ’22 PG/SG Fairfield: This was our second weekend this June seeing Fairfield, and again the team was very balanced with enough offensive weapons that an opposing defense has to pick their poison. That being said, this week we’re going to give the nod on our top performers list to Woods, who continued to show productivity as both a scorer and facilitator for an Indians team who might be the most deeply talented D1 program in Greater Cincinnati next winter. A long and slender 6’3 guard with versatility and an accomplished defensive resume, Woods was able to really make shots at Oak Hills; which he’s shown an ability to do in the past, but coaches have always wanted to see more continued consistency. Being a guard capable of playing the point, and showing good vision as a distributor, that ability to make open perimeter shots could be the final piece for Fairfield to make a run next year; as there is little doubting the Indians’ array of size, athleticism, toughness and depth. Woods currently holds NCAA D1 offers from Miami (OH) and UMKC; however, that list could easily grow in July when he suits back up for Midwest Basketball Club 3SSB.

Sean Keller – ’22 PG Cincinnati Elder: He’s not the biggest or most physically gifted guard you’ll see on the circuit, but there aren’t many young guards with more heart then Keller. A gritty 5’10 lead guard in the classic GCL mold, Keller was Elder’s playmaker last year on the perimeter, and will be counted on to do the same in ’21-’22. This weekend the rising senior was consistent with his jumper from three, as the lefty poured in several long-range shots, many of them after getting his balance via a rhythm dribble. Not only does Keller play with heart, which is epitomized but his on-ball defensive abilities, but he his intangibles are contagious, especially his confidence as a scorer. We think Elder’s team next year has the size, physicality and depth to be really good; if Keller can continue to create scoring opportunities for himself and their front-court players, the Panthers will absolutely be a team to reckon with.

Bowen Hardman – ’22 SG Cincinnati Princeton: It’s been a while since we’ve had a chance to see Hardman on the court, as he missed both a travel team event and the shootout earlier in June at Princeton HS; however, not much has changed for the longtime Ohio State commit. A 6’4 lights out shooter with a steady game, Hardman was electric as a scorer on Friday afternoon, including going toe to toe with a future Big Ten rival in Purdue commit Fletcher Loyer of Fort Wayne Homestead (IN). While there are plenty of guards who can compete with Hardman as standstill shooters, there are few who are as agile as he is in using screens or the dribble to create shots for himself, something Princeton will ask him to do quite often next year on a talented but very inexperienced varsity squad. With his recruitment having been settled now for almost two years, it can be easy to forget about Hardman in listing Ohio’s top 2022 talents, but he still ranks near the top of our list based on his shooting and scoring abilities alone.

Jacob Conner – ’22 PF Kettering Alter: We’ve had a chance to evaluate Kettering Alter a lot this June, and they’ve had moments where they’ve looked very promising and moments where they’ve looked closer to average. That being said, Saturday afternoon the Knights looked like a major threat in Ohio Division II, as the Dayton area team knocked off perennial power Covington Catholic (KY) behind the play of Connor and a slew of skilled guards. A versatile and athletic forward at 6’8, Connor is one of the most highly recruited rising seniors in the state, as he’s being courted by programs across all levels of NCAA D1 play and holds over a dozen scholarship offers. The big question mark around Connor has always been if he’s going to be aggressive on a consistent basis; and the rising senior began to answer that on Saturday, recovering from an early fall on a hard flagrant foul to lead his team with some key baskets. Capable as a shooter from deep but also able to handle and pass, Connor is going to be best served as a system player at the next level to be surrounded with other high-IQ offensive players; but it’s going to be his physical tools as a long and nimble 6’8 forward, and the defensive versatility that come with those tools, that might ultimately play the deciding factor in which colleges prioritize him the heaviest after the July evaluation period concludes.

Jayden Nervis – ’22 SF Hilliard Davidson: We weren’t super familiar with Nervis heading into the weekend, as he’s only been in Ohio one winter, where he averaged 15 PPG at Davidson. After Saturday’s two games it’s hard not to be excited about his upside, as he showed great versatility as a mobile 6’5 wing who can put the ball on the floor or make shots. A long and skinny wing forward who showed a ton of confidence as a scorer, Nervis was flat out in the zone on Saturday in a Davidson win over Cincinnati Walnut Hills, as he made shot after shot by using his length to hit jumpers over smaller Walnut Hills defenders. Playing alongside a great shooter in Ryan Paris (2022), a solid big in Peyton Frey (2023) and one of Ohio’s top rising seniors in scoring machine Jared Frey (2022), the addition of Nervis for a second year could make Davidson one of the sleeper teams in the Columbus area in ’21-’22.

Rayvon Griffith – ’23 SG/SF Cincinnati Taft: There are top performers and then there’s Griffith, who was the unquestioned talk of the event on Friday. Ohio’s most highly recruited 2023 prospect was sensational as a scorer for Taft in a blowout win over Mason and a close loss against Indianapolis Cathedral (a team which starts all NCAA D1 prospects), leading Taft to a 4-1 weekend. Known by most as a 6’6 long athlete with highlight reel finishing ability, Griffith showcased some improved shot-making skills on Friday, hitting several pull-up jumpers, open threes and even a couple of step-back jumpers in traffic. Capable of going into the post to score, attacking the glass above the rim and having the ability to switch onto most positions on the defensive end, Griffith does a nice job of using his God-given athletic abilities to give energy and influence the game in ways other then scoring; so, if he can continue to make shots he’s only going to see his national profile continue to expand. This past week was a busy one for Griffith, as his offer list now includes Kansas, Arizona State, Ohio State, Louisville, Alabama, UCLA, Penn State and more.

Evan Ipsaro – ’23 PG Covington Catholic: Ipsaro finds his way onto our top performers list for the second time this month, as the rising junior put together another point guard clinic at Oak Hills. A smaller guard in a 5’10 frame but gifted with elite quickness with the ball in his hands, Ipsaro was Covington Catholic’s sparkplug, as he consistently found their bigs, Mitchell Rylee (2022) and Chandler Starks (2023), for scoring opportunities. The one question mark surrounding Ipsaro after his performances at team camps this June was how well he shoots the ball from three, and the rising junior did that at a high level Saturday, finally looking for his shot with a mix of using his usual playmaking skills. With a competitive mindset and that quickness, Ipsaro also projects as a very good on-ball defender; which could be the difference maker in his recruitment beginning to explode in July (which we think it will) with Indiana Elite 3SSB 16u.

Tyler McKinley – ’24 PF Cincinnati Walnut Hills: The first of three rising sophomores to make this report, McKinley has gone from being the young kid on the team and now showing he’s ready to play grown-man ball around the rim as a sophomore for Walnut Hills. A 6’8 forward with a great frame, McKinley is starting to finish with two-hand dunks, as he has a special combination of agility and power for a young big in a frame that might have a few inches left to grow. Not only does he have the physical tools to be an elite prospect, but McKinley is also highly skilled and capable as a passer, post-up scorer, ballhandler in transition and as a spot-up shooter. When McKinley can catch the ball in the mid-post he has a ton of options in his bag to go to, as Walnut Hills is a sleeper team to follow in Greater Cincinnati with shooters, size, experience and some athletes. Miami (OH) became the first NCAA D1 to extend an offer to McKinley this past week; however, even though the Redhawks were first, they’re going to have plenty of competition in recruiting McKinley’s services as the 2024 class becomes more of a priority for college coaches.

Cade Norris – ’24 SG Hilliard Bradley: Being the son of one of Ohio’s most respected coaches and having two older brothers currently playing NCAA D1 ball, we’re by no means shocked that Cade Norris is a good prospect. We are shocked, however, by how different he is then his brothers, as the rising sophomore is already significantly taller and thicker then his brothers were as high school seniors. A versatile 6’3 guard who can play on the ball or on the wing, we’re listing Norris as a shooting guard for now, but the labeling of his offensive position is basically a moot point with his all-around scoring mindset and skill-set. Similar to his brothers in these two regards, Norris appears to be a knockdown shooter and junkyard dog competitor, as the rising sophomore showed maturity beyond that of most players his age in a statement win for a very young Bradley team over Covington Catholic (KY). We certainly haven’t seen every guard prospect in Ohio yet in the 2024 class, but Norris’ combination of size, IQ, competitiveness and of course his shooting, undoubtedly make him a prospect we’re excited to track moving forward.

Ben Menker – ’24 SG Mason: Heading into this weekend we’d heard some good things about Menker from another scout who’d seen him, but we’d never personally been able to evaluate him. After this weekend’s play, we’re right on board the bandwagon, as Menker is a legit talent to watch over the next three years in the GMC. At 6’3 the rising sophomore fits the mold of several other wing guards Coach Richards’ has had at Mason as Menker has size, is a solid athlete, can make shots and makes good decisions with the ball in their half-court offense. As high school basketball fans in Cincinnati know, Mason is going to be methodical at times in their half-court offense, and Menker already has shown an understanding of how to balance that offense with finding his own spots to be aggressive in attacking the rim. Next year’s Mason team looks young, and while they might take their lumps early in the season, we expect Menker to be a major catalyst in the Comets making noise in the GMC in ’21-’22.

Honorable Mention: Mitchell Rylee (’22 Covington Catholic/KY), Mekhi Elmore (’22 Cincinnati Taft), Owen Murray (’22 Cincinnati Walnut Hills), Jared Frey (’22 Hilliard Davidson), Kobe Peck (’22 Lakota East), Chandler Starks (’23 Covington Catholic/KY), Carson Browne (’23 Cincinnati Elder), Deshawne Crim (’23 Fairfield), Jack Kronauge (’23 Lakota East), Dayjuan Anderson (’23 Dayton Ponitz), Eian Elmer (’23 Cincinnati Taft)

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