Sunday, February 7, 2016

Buckeye Prep 2023 Watch List Released

Roberts, Hayes, Molton, Walker, Head, Moore & Woodard
Below is our initial list of some of the top 5th graders in the state of Ohio.  As is the case with any list of this type, there are a number of other kids worthy of making this list, but they have not yet appeared on our radar.  In addition, this list was developed based primarily on our own observations from the events we host and cover.  Moreover, we have made numerous phone calls to travel team coaches from across the state asking about their opinions of the top players in their respective areas. If a deserving player has not made our initial list, it’s probably because no one (credible) is talking about them, or we have not seen them in showcases, camps or travel team events.

With that said, our list will evolve over time and new players will be added to the list as they arrive on the statewide scene.  Not only will we add to the list, sometimes from week-to-week, we will eventually affix numbers (rankings) as we become more comfortable with the players in the class.  Also, keep in mind, the class of 2023 is so very young, and many more elite players have yet to be discovered.  Most importantly, our list, or any list for that matter, only represents our opinion and does not seek to make any guarantees of future success, as some of the players on our list will fade due to several factors, while other kids will grow, continue to work hard and develop.

Now that we have set the table, there are a handful of players in this class who we have already evaluated and are excited about, some of whom we have already featured on this website.  For example, we really like Dre’Sean Roberts (5’0”/SG/2023/Piqua), who we’ve seen at both our elite showcase as well as a team environment.  The same thing can be said about LA Hayes (5’4”/PG/2023/Brookpark) and Adisa “Desh” Molton II (4’11”/PG/2023/Lyndhurst), both of who garnered MVP honors at our most recent elite showcase. A few other guys we’ve seen and liked include: Andre Wheeler Jr. (4’9”/PG/2023/Lyndhurst), Jayvon Moore (5’4”/WV/2023/Maple Heights), Cody Head (5’2”PF/2023/Shaker Heights), Chase Walker (5’6”/C/2023/Reynoldsburg), Paul Woodard (5’2”/PG/2023/Trotwood), Marquise Frazier (4’4”/PG/2023/Toledo) and Tyron Brown (5’3/”PG/2023/Dayton).

Of course there are several kids we’ve heard a lot about but have not yet evaluated, including: LaBron James Jr., Gabe Cuppe, Shawn Thigpen, Chandler Starks, Bede Lori, Chandler Thomas, Channer Wells, Jordan Jonson, Ryan Nutter, Skyler Schmidt, CJ Hornbeak III, Deric Jaynes and others.  Throughout the upcoming spring and summer we will be attending various events around the state where we will attempt to identify and feature the top kids in this class.  Continue to follow our website for updates.  Finally, many of the top players on our list will be attending our March 12th elite showcase.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Maumee Bay Turf Announcing Their Arrival

Maumee Bay Turf  Basketball Club 2023
As part of our process designed to identify the state’s top 10-15 middle school travel basketball teams for our pre season Power Rankings, we looked at some of the more storied programs around the state as well as some recent up and comers.  Just when we thought we had the 2023 division pretty much figured out, we began to hear about some team called Maumee Bay Turf Basketball Club (MBTBC).  When we first heard the name we thought it was a Michigan-based program.  However, this very talented 5th grade team is actually based out of the Toledo area.

Last weekend at the Gulf Coast Blue Chips-sponsored tournament the MBTBC team ran through the field, taking out teams like All-Ohio Red and the West Virginia Burn before going down to a loaded North Coast Blue Chips squad 53-49 in the championship game on the final day.  Despite their 4-point loss, Coach Brad Morrison’s squad had formally served notice that they are force to be reckoned with.

Although MBTBC’s key to success revolves their balanced attack, the team is anchored by their starting 5 of: CJ Hornbeak III (5’5”/C/2023/Toledo), Deric Jaynes (4’11”/PG/2023/Toledo), Mike Greenlee (5’1”/WF/2023/Toledo), Jake Morrison (5’1”/WF/2023/Oregon), and Justyn Toler (5’5”/WF/2023/Toledo).  Morrison describes Hornbeak as “special,” compares him to a young Gary Trent, and believes he is one of the top players in the state in his class. Morrison is also complimentary of Deric Janyes, who “is a lefty who really makes us go.” In addition to a solid core, MBTBC has a great supporting cast of Jaylen Murphy (5’0”/SG/2023/Toledo), Cody Markus (5’0”/SG/2023/Toledo), Blake Lichtenberg (5’6”/WF/2023/Sylvania) and Derek Vorst (5’8”/C/2023/Pemberville).

According to Coach Morrison, the core of his team was put together 3 year ago, and has enjoyed a great deal of success because of their approach to the game.  Namely, “We play 94 feet. We press and we are a lot of perimeter,” said Morrison. Although many teams do a lot of scrimmaging during the season, Morrison’s approach is more about practice and training.  “We train at least 2 days a week,” Morrison continued. “We run Michigan’s offense, a lot of dribble drive and kick,” Morrison said.  Having played college ball himself, at Bowling Green and Findlay, Morrison knows what it takes to win and play at the next level.  “We prepare our kids to play varsity as freshman,” offered Morrison.  Based on what we are hearing, the Maumee Bay Turf  Basketball Club has an excellent chance to make our top 5 when we release our Power Rankings in a few weeks.  You can catch them in action at the Buckeye Prep Invitational Tournament April 1-3rd.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Branham Erupts for 39 points in Win

Malaki Branham-WF 2021 Columbus
On Wednesday, Malaki Branham (6’1/WF/2021/Columbus) went off for 37 points against Africentric Middle School. In the game, Branham shot 60% from the floor while relentlessly attacking the basket. The game was nip and tuck until the end, but Ridgeview would eventually capture the 59-56 win on the strength of Branham’s game winning layup and free throw in the final seconds of the contest. As we mentioned in an earlier piece, Branham’s talent is unmistakeable. With the win, Branham’s Ridgeview team sits atop of their division as they head into the Columbus City League playoffs next Wednesday.  

Monday, February 1, 2016

Stars Shine at League Playoffs

Shaker Heights-TNBA 6th Grade Winter League Champs
On Sunday, we took a trip up to Cleveland to scout the TNBA Winter League playoffs, in order to get a better look at northeast Ohio talent.  As suspected, we were pleased at the level of talent and were able to unearth a few hidden gems.  In terms of the league results, in the 6th grade division, Shakers Heights defeated a scrappy Garfield Heights squad 41-54. The 5th grade championship featured a matchup between Shaker Heights and Twinsburg.  Shaker Heights would later get the 43-32 victory.  The 4th grade championship game was a dog fight between Garfield Heights and 4th Quarter Basketball Club.  In the end, Garfield Heights would take home the championship hardware with a 28-18 win.

As is the case with any championship run, star players earn their reputations and role players rise to the occasion.   In the matchup between Shaker Heights and Garfield Heights in the 6th grade championship game, no one was better that Sunny Johnson Jr. (5’2”/PG/2022/Garfield Heights) and Danny Young Jr. (5’4”/PG/2022/Shaker Heights), both of whom  paced their respective squads with double digit scoring.  Of course we were well aware of Johnson’s talent as he is nationally ranked and one of the top 3 players on our Top 6th grader list.  As did the entire day, Johnson was difficult to keep out of the lane.  In a man to man situation, Johnson is a problem!  He can shoot it from deep if you play off of him or he can use his elite handle to defeat his defender and get into the paint where his skill set gives him several options.  Although an early zone slowed him down, Johnson eventually did what he does, got buckets.  Although we featured Young’s game in an earlier piece, needless to say, he was the man, and almost singlehandedly willed his team to the title.

Most often, in order for a team to win a championship, role players have to step up.  For Shaker Heights, 3 guys did just that.  Jalen Brown (5’3”/SG/2022/Shaker Heights), Lashawn Singleton (5’6”/C/2022/Shaker Heights) and John Henderson (5’1”/SG/2022/Nordonia) each made significant contributions in the win. We were really impressed with Brown, who did some impressive things in the championship game.  He’s the kind of kid who may not get a lot of attention early, but will one day end up a stud.  We plan to keep an eye on him.  Singleton is a quality big man who is strong, aggressive with solid footwork and a soft touch around the basket. Henderson hit some really big shots in crunch time of the championship game and proved he has game as well.
Johnson, Young, Tatum, Brown, Singleton, Popoola, Henderson, Fletcher & Hill
Garfield Heights had a couple of players who held supporting roles as well.  The more we watched Tavian Tatum (5’10”/C/2022/Garfield Heights) play, the more impressed we became with his talent.  Tatum is long, lean and rebounds at a high rate.  We first thought his best attribute was protecting the rim, as Tatum blocked a boatload of shots, however, he also demonstrated the ability to step away from the basket and hit the 15 footer.  We think Tatum has a good chance to be a long term post prospect going forward.  We also caught glimpses of Akin Popoola (4’11”/SG/2022/Cleveland Heights) and believe he is a player to watch done the road.

Although we had not seen nor heard of him before we walked into the gym, the positive comments about his game were quickly confirmed after watching Clayton Cunningham (5’4”/PG/2023) and his TNBA team.  Cunningham is a wizard with the rock and understands how to create scoring opportunities for himself or his teammates.   Although he’s only a 5th grader, Cunningham is already proficient at scoring off the pick and roll or finding open teammates.  Cunningham’s game is a bit more mature than other players his age, and he even has a nice little euro step he employs to get all the way to the basket.  In addition, Cunningham has a good feel for the game and plays with good pace.  Cunningham is always in attack mode as he probes the defense for a crease, and when he finds one, it’s straight to the cup for a score or dime.  He wasn’t on our top player list before, but he was by the time we left Cleveland!  Cunningham has a chance to be a good one.
Shaker Heights-TNBA 5th Grade Champions
Quimet Smith’s 5th grade Shaker Heights squad is absolutely loaded with talent.  A review of the score sheet of the 5th grade championship game reflects that 3 players finished with double digit scoring.  Kelly Smith (WF/2023/Shaker Heights), Cody Head (W/PF/2023/Shaker Heights) and Pat Williams (4’6”/PG/2023/Shaker Heights) all finished with 12 points in the final game. We can’t forget about Jayvion Moore (5’4”/C/2023/Maple Heights), the team’s leading rebounder and rim protector.  We had heard that Moore was a stud, but his play on Sunday confirmed that for us. Between the 4 of them, that Shaker Heights team is a monster.  Look for all 4 of these guys to make our 2023 Watch list when we release it next week.

Speaking of very talented 5th grade squads, you have to add Damon Stringer’s 2023 Cleveland Heights team to the list.  In fact, Stringer’s team is so good, they reached the league semi-finals playing up against 6th grade teams.  Although they ran into a buzz saw against a loaded Shaker Heights team (lost 47-17), the team boast some of the state’s top 5th graders.  Included among those players are LA Hayes (5’4”/PG/2023/Cleveland Heights), Adisa Desh” Molton II (4’9”/PG/2023/Lyndhurst), Andre Wheeler Jr.  (4’9”/PG/2023/South Euclid) and Dorjan Flowers (4’0”/PG/2023/Cleveland Heights). 

Hayes, Cunningham, Molton, Flowers, Wheeler, Smith, Head, Moore & Williams
We were well aware of Hayes and Molton, as both players attended our September elite showcase, and not only did they get all-star game nods, they went on to secure MVP honors and were both ranked in the top five in our post event rankings.  We were really impressed with Hayes’ motor, aggressiveness to the cup and his willingness to defend.  What’s most impressive is the fact that he competed against older guys and more than held his own.  Molton, Wheeler and Flowers are all dynamic guards who can handle to rock and can knock down shots from the perimeter.  All three are super quick and play hard.  Right now, we consider both Hayes and Molton to be among the elite in the class, and could be potential top 10 prospects when we release our 2023 Watch List next week.  In addition, both players are positioned well to make one or our All-State Teams and receive a spot in the prestigious Ohio North vs South All-Star Game in September.

Although he is one of the youngest players in the gym, Marcus Johnson (4'8"/PG/2026/Garfield Heights) has talent beyond his years.  An absolute pit bull, Johnson is non-stop both offensively and defensively.   Highly skilled with an elite motor, Johnson is simply smarter than any other player on the floor.  He can score at multiple levels and he’s a ball hawk on defense. Johnson is ranked among the best nationally for a reason; the kid can flat out play!  Finally, below is a list of some of the other standout performers we saw on Sunday.  Among the players on this list are some young guys who could command a lot of attention in the future.  Finally, many of these players can be seen at our upcoming March 12th elite showcase.

Johnson, Salters, Belcher, Edmonds & Wright
Other Standout Performers:

Israel Fletcher (2022); David Miller (2022); Dushawn Hill (2022); Mikael Hill (2022)
Herald Reece (2022); Nigel Wright (2023); Justin Belcher Jr. (2023); Yahir Hill (2024); Brayon Salters (2024); Arnell Edmonds (2024); Allen Mallory (2024); Mason Dawkins (2025); and Bird Young (2023).

Buckeye Prep Recognizing Academic Excellence

The Buckeye Prep Report has always been synonymous with youth basketball excellence. With our ongoing desire to support and recognize academic excellence, we have developed a program designed to shine a spotlight on youth basketball players who are not only excelling on the basketball court, but are also taking care of business in the classroom as well.  To this end, we will be selecting young men in grades 5th-8th for our “All-Academic Teams.” Through the end of the 2015/2016 school year, we are asking parents and guardians to send us copies of their child’s grade cards as well as other information relative to academic-related awards, special recognition and/or community service work, which will serve as nominations for this very worthy endeavor. Not only will we track and publish the nominations, later this summer we will publish the names of the “All-Academic Teams” and will present each selectee with an award.

Most of us understand a couple of truths; some day the basketball is going to stop bouncing for everyone.  In addition, with ever tightening NCAA academic standards, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for many of our youth to qualify for division I, II, or III college basketball programs. So that we represent more than just basketball exposure, Buckeye Prep wants to send out a clear measure that EDUCATION MATTERS, and just like athletic success, academic excellence is worthy of recognition!  For this program to be successful, we need parents, guardians, coaches and concerned adults to take affirmative steps to get us the information we need in order to recognize these young people.

We will be using the following criteria in our determinations: GPA (3.0 minimum), honors/AP classes taken, awards received, organizations/clubs, community service and basketball accomplishments. Please email grade cards and supporting information (copies, as information will not be returned) to or mail to the Buckeye Prep Report at 585 Tall Oaks Dr. Gahanna, Oh. 43230. Decisions will be made at the conclusion of the 2015/2016 school year.  Here’s your chance to create something truly unique special!