Monday, March 27, 2017

All-Ohio Grassroots-Saturday Action

Rittinger, Wilson, Braun, Braham, Smith, Walker, Williams, Schmidt & Johnson
We spent some time at Jerry Watson’s Grassroots tourney on Saturday and had the opportunity to see a couple of real good 8th grade teams and a few very talented players.  The best team we saw all day was Coach Danielle Love’s Tru Gam Squad.  In fact, the game we watched was a blowout victory over the Motor City Bad Boys out of Michigan.  Simply put, Tru Game was too big, too athletic and too aggressive for the over matched Bad Boys.  After Tru Game slipped into their half court trap things started to get out of hand.  Standouts for tru Game were Noah Rittinger (6’0/CG/2021/Red House, WV) who had the deep ball clicking to the tune of 18 points on 4 treys.  Also playing well for Tru Game were Seth Wilson (6’1/CG/2021/Akron) and Malaki Branham (6’3/WF/2021/Columbus). From what we saw, Tru Game should get the #1 ranking when we release are Power Rankings.

We were also really impressed with Coach Dave Duco’s Cincinnati Royals Blue squad.  They may not scare anybody getting off the bus, but they run great sets, execute at a high level, shoot it well, and they play great team defense. We saw them get by a loaded All-Ohio Red team who we thought had a chance at the #1 spot. At the end of the day, All-Ohio was unable to keep their big man in the game because the Royals were able to exploit mismatches.  With AJ Braun’s (6’5/C/2021/Springboro) ability to handle the rock and to step outside and knock down the 3-ball, 6’10 Trey James’ length was neutralized. The Royals enjoyed scoring balance from 3 guys, Braun, Isaiah Walker (6’1/SG/2021/Cincinnati) and Matthew Smith (6’0/SG/2021/Cincinnati), all of whom finished in double digit scoring.  All three players are super skilled and possess a high basketball IQ. 

For All-Ohio, Alex Williams (6’2/WF/2021/Dayton) returned to the team for this season and his presence is already paying dividends.  Williams is a well-built guard that uses his size and strength to power his way to the cup.  He can also hit the 3-ball if left open. Brent Walker (6’6/C/2021/Huber Heights) did some nice things as well and led All-Ohio in scoring. All-Ohio has added several guards to the roster.  There’s no shame in losing to the Royals as a lot of teams will suffer the same fate this season. It’s still very early in the season for All-Ohio and it’s going to take some time for the new pieces to gel and learn their new roles.  I hope the parents and players are patient! 

We got another look at Coach Greg Johnson’s Cincinnati Royals White team as the just squeaked by (47-45) a scrappy All-Ohio Phenom team. Skyler Schmidt (6’6/PF/2021/Goshan) and Greg Johnson (6’0/PG/2021/Cincinnati) led the Royals in scoring with 11 and 12 points, respectively. We also got a closer look at Kobe Johnson (6’1/PG/6’1/PG/Canton), who was the most productive player on a solid All-Ohio Phenom team.  All in all, we saw some good basketball on Saturday.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

SMAC Premier out of the Gates Quickly

2024 SMAC Premier Off to 9-1 Start
With their 4-1 record and 2nd place finish at the Midwest Hoopfest in Cleveland, plus their 5-0 record and championship victory at the Twin Cities Tip Off last weekend, Brad Down’s 2024 SMAC Premier team has gotten out of the gates quickly in the 2017 season.  Already 9-1 on this young season, SMAC is quietly building a case for a statewide ranking.

In the Midwest Hoopsfest, SMAC defeated SMAC Caleris (49-15), Lake Erie Defenders (49-15), Ohio Warriors (52-12) and SMAC Akron-Evans (50-27) before loosing to West Red 34-39 in the championships game. Standouts for the tournament were Luke Skaljac and Brock Beech, both of who led the team in scoring.

Last weekend at the Twin Cities Tip Off, SMAC mowed down SMAC-Garner (forfeit), SMAC Akron-Evans (54-37), Baller Boys (49-23), Red Storm (48-44) and West Red (38-33). The win over West Red was payback for an earlier loss the previous week. Luke Skaljac and Brock Beech continued to lead the team in scoring, while Derek Fairley joined the list of standouts. Although SMAC’s 9-0 start is noteworthy, we will need to see how they compete against the state’s top teams in order to truly assess if they deserve a spot in our Buckeye Prep Power Rankings!  Congrats to Coach Skaljac, his players and parents for a great start!

MVP Dynasty Makes Early Noise

2023 MVP Dynasty
This past weekend, Aaron Perry's 2023 MVP Dynasty’s team made a semi-final run at the Rumble at Rocky Top in Gatlinburg, TN. MVP finished with a 3-1 overall record, loosing in semifinals to DCA out of Atlanta, GA. Their 3 wins were over Sonic Nation (60-50), EOTO (44-43) and Tennessee Elite Connection (53-43).  In the Sonic Nation game, Mason Shrout went for 17 points; Tyrin Sturdivamt added 13 points and Nathan Western finished with 11 points and 6 rebounds.  Against EOTO, MVP relied on a total team effort and balanced scoring. In the Tennessee Elite Connection game, Dre’Sean Roberts and Mason Shrout led all scorers with 14 points apiece. According to Coach Perry, he has a talented squad filled with elite players.  Below is what Coach Perry had to say about his team and their expectations for the 2017 season.

“After finishing 6th in the state rankings last season we were left feeling unfulfilled. We went on the hunt for talent to help enhance our core. With returning players Dre'Sean Roberts out of Piqua who is considered top 5 in the state and could land in the number 1 or 2 spot before the end of the season, Tyron Barnes out of Springfield, a top 10 PG right now, but will ease his way into the top 3 position, Jamison Rivers out of Lebanon (top 20) who has made huge improvements and will land in the top 10, and Mason Shrout, who made a name for himself last year and will be a name to remember as he joins the top 5 list, we have a very talented and stout team this year,”

Coach Perry continued “…all players have made remarkable improvements starting with Tyrin Sturdivant; he can take you inside or he can give it to you outside, Kaden Christensen (All Academic), don't let his dashing smile fool you, he will cross you over. Akin Perry, who's  intensity and hustle is unmatched, Danny "don't leave me open" Gross, and rounding out the team is Akelius Gordon, who hasn't seen a rebound he doesn't like! It won't be long before we overtake spots 1-10. We have made additions in the bigs department by adding Nathan Western out of Springfield who is a problem in the paint, highflying Ben Majors of Troy, and lights out shooter Wilson Suggs from Eaton. Get your popcorn ready, MVP Dynasty 2023 Black is guaranteed to put on a show.” 

As you can see, Coach Perry is extremely confident about his squad’s chances of making an impact this season.  We’ll see what they have next week at the Buckeye Prep Invitational Tournament.

OV Hidden Gems Looking for Recognition

2021 Ohio Valley Hidden Gems
Last weekend Mark Tate’s Ohio Valley Hidden Gems (OVHG) 14U squad blew threw the Parkersburg Elite Center’s March Madness Green & White Tournament with a 4-0 record. Their path to championship went through the WV Swag (85-15) and the Elite Cavs (63-26). Makiah Merrit led the Gems in the win over the Swag with 28 points in addition to a steal and a dunk early in the 3rd quarter. Mark Duckworth played well also and just missed averaging a triple double for the tournament with 17 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists per game.

Makiah Merritt (6'2" wing), Mark Duckworth (6'0 PG), Tony Munos (6'1" PG), Conner Baker (6'1" Wing) and Jake Baumguard (6'5" post) are all players that could dominate Southeast Ohio basketball in coming years. According to the Coach Tate “The Gems are looking to get a sniff at the statewide stage by playing well at Buckeye Prep Invitational Tournament next weekend,” Hopefully we will get a chance to see what kind of talent OVHG is working with next week.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Buckeye Prep Power Rankings Return

As is the case every season, a debate rages relative to who the best travel teams are in the state.  Well, we will attempt to shed a little light on the matter when we release our 2017 Buckeye Prep Power Rankings in a few weeks. We are currently putting together our initial list of top teams in grades 5th-8th for the state of Ohio, and will update them from week to week based on the performance of the teams. Although in some divisions we have started with a top ten, we have several teams listed as Honorable Mention, and as the season winds on and we get a better feel for teams’ talent level, we will increase our list from 1-15.  

Over the course of the season we will use the following criteria to update our rankings: head to head results; results from common opponents; margin of victory; final placements in tournaments; number of ranked players on a roster; and level of competition played. Unfortunately, many of the top teams in the state fail to play against each other during the season.  This happens for several reasons.  In some cases it’s just fate, as teams lose early in a tournament and just don’t meet, while some teams intentionally avoid playing in some of the better tournaments where that may be forced to play other top teams in the state.  We will monitor that situation and factor it in accordingly. At the end of the day, teams and programs know where the competition is playing! In addition, although we attempted to use historical data from previous seasons, that’s difficult because of the high roster turnovers as players change teams.  Also, in many cases, players grow and get better, which impacts a team’s overall talent level. 

Because we can’t be present at every event, we must rely on information from a network of coaches and sources around the state.  In order to produce credible updates, we need coaches and parents to send us accurate and unbiased information at the conclusion of weekend tournaments.  To this end, we have produced a “Tournament Results Reporting Form” designed to capture the information we need to update our rankings and produce feature stories for the website.  If we can get coaches and parents to buy in and take the effort to get the information we need, then we can more accurately track both team and individual progress.  This will help insure that  teams and players gets credit for their efforts.  At the end of the day, if your team is not playing in the top events against the top teams, and is not providing us with your team’s results, you can’t complain about where your team is ranked (or not ranked)!

It should go without saying that we have done our best to be fair and accurate with our rankings.  We mean no disrespect to any team with where we have them ranked.  If you feel you have been unfairly ranked, simply enter tournaments where the ranked teams are playing and beat them.  We will provide a couple of opportunities for the top teams around the state to hook up.  You can see from our “committed team list” for the Buckeye Prep Invitational Tournament next week that a number of ranked teams will be here.  Here’s your chance!  Also, we will invite the top teams to an exclusive event (Summer Showdown) June 16-18th, where the top teams will go ahead for final rankings and “Team of the Year” honors.  We’re excited about this project and we hope it inspires and motivates players, coaches and parents to seek out the highest competition possible and elevate to level of play in the state.  Finally, please feel free to offer your feedback at  Let the debate begin!!

Wolves Ready for Breakout Season

2023 All-Ohio Wolves
Although Coach Durand Barnes’ 2023 All-Ohio Wolves team has enjoyed a lot of recent success, the team is still flying under the radar.  Barnes’ Cincinnati-based Wolves team finished the winter season with 2 league and 3 tournament championships.  In addition, last week the Wolves finished 4-0 in tournament play.  They may not yet be widely known statewide, but Barnes has a lot of confidence in his team’s potential. “We are definitely a top 10 team in the state,” said Barnes.  Barnes is equally complimentary of his top 2 players, Deshawne Crim (5’7/WF/2023/Cincinnati) and Trent Lloyd (5’3/PG/2023/Cincinnati). He [Crim] is probably the best player in the state,” Barnes proclaimed. Well, time will tell exactly how good the Wolves are and at what level Crim can compete.  We plan to keep an eye on the Wolves over the next several weeks.