|Amos "AJ" Harris|
As if placing 6th at the AAU Nationals was not enough, the Cincinnati Knights hung around Orlando, Fla for a couple of extra days to participate in the 40-team AAU Super Showcase, and ended up finishing 8-0 on their way to the Showcase championship. In pool play, the second seeded Knights destroyed the Mardi Gras Gators (61-15), knocked off Heart & Hustle (72-52), and finished pool play with a 71-65 win over the GR Bulldogs. In championship bracket play, the Knights beat the Fairfax Stars Black (62-36), the Playaz Basketball Club (66-61), the Florida Family (68-51), and Each 1 Teach 1 in the championship game.
According to coach Leon Ellison, although the field was not as stacked as the AAU Nationals, there was still some great competition at the showcase. In terms of his team’s play, Ellison thought they, “Played much better in the showcase because they were more focused and did not use Nate Fowler’s absence as an excuse.” In addition, although Ellison described the Knights’ success as, “A team effort,” he pointed out that AJ Harris, Luke Kennard (averaged 24 points), JaQualus Matlock and Chris Moxley all played well, and the team enjoyed, “balanced” scoring. Ellison was really impressed with the play of Harris whose, “Point guard play was crucial,” as he, “Got shots for everybody and made everybody better,” said Ellison. He also pointed out the Matlock really picked up the slack for Nate Fowler who was sidelined with a foot injury, Ellison remarked about Indiana's Brennan Gillis stating, "The Indiana kid was a huge pickup.” Ellison also expects Gillis to return to the team full-time next year. As an added bonus for the Knights' players, they got to play in front of a number of college coaches who arrived in Orlando early to watch the U-16 and U-17 kids play.
Speaking of next year, the Knights intend to keep the team together and possibly merge with a larger, more established shoe company sponsored team next year. With a merger, the Knights would be in a position to participate in larger, more prestigious tournaments such as Nike’s EYBL. No formals plans have been made, but the Spiece organization appears to be the front runner for a merger. Congrats to the Knights and their fans for an outstanding season!
On another note, congratulations go out to Coach Jerry Francis and All-Ohio Red’s 4th grade squad for winning the AAU Nationals in Charlotte, NC. On their trek to the championship, All-Ohio finished 3-0 in pool play with wins over the South Peidmont Heat (54-35), Team Rush (47-19) and the Carolina Ravens (57-29). In championship bracket play, All-Ohio defeated West VA Xplosion (52-29), Chicago (45-30), Texas BU All-Stars (52-36), Indy Rising Stars (45-49) and the NC Gators in the championship game. Coach Francis was, "very excited about the boys' effort and their ability to deal with adversity. We made adjustments offensively and defensively," said Francis. "The championship was a total team effort and there was no selfish play or agendas," noted Francis. For the season, All-Ohio finished with an impressive 60-1 record. All-Ohio's roster includes: Jerome Francis III, Jordan Mitchell, Gerod Reynolds, Jaidon Lipscomb, Garret Wilson, Alvin Byrd III, Morgan Safford, Roshawn Harper, Arron Cincone, John Hansell and Na Simons, coach Larry Harper and Alvin Byrd III.
|All-Ohio Purple with the Hardware|
Finally, a shout out also goes out to Coach Demarco Bradley and All-Ohio Purple, who after finishing 1-2 in pool play, ran the table (won 5 games) in the Classic bracket to claim the Classic championship. According Coach Bradley, the experience at the nationals was "Extra special for our players and parents. This was our first year going down to the nationals and words can't even describe the experience." Also, Bradley expressed his gratitude for the support he and his team received from the All-Ohio Red coaches, players and parents, stating, "Coach Francis was very helpful to me, and to see two Ohio teams come together down there was special." Bradley firmly believes that had his team not been placed in one of the toughest pools in the tournament, they made have more success in the championship bracket. Some of the standout performers included: Joey Edmonds, Greg Tribble, Nyles McBride, Demarco Bradley Jr. and Jeff Tyus.