|Team Lima-Finished 6-1|
On Sunday, I took a trip up north to Lima to catch the action at Quincy Simpson’s Nationals Prep Tourney. The 8-team tournament was held at Lime Central Catholic High School and hosted 6 of the top rising 9th grade teams in Ohio, including a rising 10th grade team and the #1 ranked 9th grade squad from Kentucky. In terms of the format, it was a grueling day for the players, as each of the 8 teams played seven-20 minutes games.
I will start with Team Lima. Although the format did not necessarily result in the crowning of an official champion, with a 7-1 record, the top team of the day and unofficial winner was Simpson’s Team Lima squad. Watching Simpson’s squad playing hard, playing unselfishly and executing multiple offense sets; it’s easy to see why this team is arguably the top rising 9th grade team in the state. The team is led by Xavier Simpson at the point. Although Simpson can get you points when needed, he is not a high volume scorer, but he is the engine of this well-oiled machine. Simpson is a pass-first guard who is best when distributing the rock. He is not going to wow you with dribble moves, athleticism or by putting up big numbers, but he spreads the ball around, won’t over dribble or make many mistakes and his team wins. The top scorer on the team is Rico Stafford, a 6’5 athlete with a high motor. Stafford is very active around the basket and because he runs the floor so well, he often gets easy break away buckets. Stafford had a great day on Sunday, and his stock went up in this evaluators’ opinion. The other key pieces to the puzzle are Trey Cobb (5’8 SG) and Ruben Flowers (6’4 PF).
|Rico Stafford-6'4 PF Lima|
With a 4-2-1 record, by most accounts, All-Ohio Elite (AOE) had a good day. Although Leon Ellis’ squad got off to a 0-2 start with losses to Kentucky’s Hoop Dreams and the Dayton Heat, AOE later found their stride, and would go on to get 4 wins and a tie, including a 25-21 win over Team Lima to close out the event. At the end of the day, All-Ohio will go as far as Jarron Cumberland (6’3 WF Cincinnati) leads them. When Cumberland is hitting treys and playing with grit, determination and passion, the team is tough to beat. When Cumberland’s shot is off the mark and he becomes disinterested, the team struggles. Cumberland found his stroke against the Ohio Warriors to the tune of 4 treys. Other than Cumberland, All-Ohio does not rely on 2 or 3 stars to win games. Sure they have solid guard play with guys like Carlik Jones, and yes they have length and athleticism in the paint with Kameron Moore (6’5 PF), but AOE is Jarron Cumberland-dependent.
Kentucky’s Hoop Dreams represented the Commonwealth well as they got at least 4 hard-fought wins on the day. Hoops Dreams, the reigning Kentucky AAU State Champions, is lead by Quentin Goodwin (6’2 SG Campbellsville), Carson Williams (6’5 C Owen County) and Malik Dow (6’3 W/PF Lousiville).
|Ryan Mikesell-6'5 SG/WF St. Henry|
For the small college coaches who visit our website, you might want to take a look at Scott Nourse’s 2015 Ohio Stars squad. As the lone rising sophomore team in Sunday’s event, the Stars executed good offense and finished the day with 4 wins. Although the team does not boast a roster full of athletes or sure fire D-I prospects, there are a couple of kids who could make nice small college prospects if they continue to develop. In this evaluator’s opinion, the best prospect on the team is Ryan Mikesell, a 6’5 combo guard from St. Henry. Mikesell is a long, point-forward type who possess a solid skill set. I’m not sure he starts on that team, but when he enters the game he makes an impact. The best part of his game is his length for his position and his ability to get to the rack. He’s versatile, can defend multiple positions and can shoot it if left open. In addition, coaches may want to keep an eye out for Luke Knapke, a 6’9 C from Marion Local High School. Although Knapke is still very slender and in need of strength right now, you can’t teach size! With 3 more years of high school left, both Knapke and Mikesell could both emerge as solid players.
|Derick Daniels-6'6 C Dayton|
The Dayton Heat had a roller coaster of a day; going 4-1 in the morning and 0-3 in the afternoon. At times, the Heat looked like the best team in the state who can beat anybody, but at other times they just looked ordinary. The most impressive player I saw all day was Derrick Daniels, a 6’7 C heading to Thurgood Marshall. Daniels did a lot of good things over the course of the day, including rebounding, blocking shots and scoring in the paint. But what is really starting to separate Daniels form the other players in his class is his ability to score at three levels. Not only is he finishing at a high rate around the cup, he has developed a nice midrange jumper, and he can knock down a trey if you need one. In fact, with the game tied at 18, Daniels excited the crowd when he drained a trey at the buzzer to beat All-Ohio Elite 21-18. The Heat is solid at the point with Darnell Hoskins Jr., but the outstanding play of Joshua Smith (6’1 SG/WF Dayton) surprised this writer. The Dunbar bound Smith is a bigger guard who can score in a variety of ways. I’m going to keep an eye out for this guy to see if his performance on Sunday was a fluke, or whether he needs more attention for his talent.
|Rodrick Caldwell-5'10 PG Dayton|
As most of you know, heading into Sunday the Cincinnati Lakers was my #1 ranked team in the state. In the morning, the Lakers played the role as they got out of the gates with a 2-1 start, with wins over the Ohio Stars and King James. After that, the wheels fell off and the Lakers would take 4 consecutive Ls before getting a win in their final game against the Ohio Warriors. Early in the day, Stiver’s Rodrick Caldwell (5’11 PG Dayton) looked great, as he had his shot falling and served as his team’s primary scorer. Caldwell is widely considered one of the top 2-3 floor generals in the state, and his play early on Sunday justified such talk. Caldwell was difficult to guard, and easily got in the paint where he did damage by scoring or dropping dimes for easy buckets by his teammates. A’shon Riggins (6’0 SG Hamilton) had some bright moments and showed some nifty dribble moves early.
|Seth Towns-6'4 WF Columbus|
As was the case with the Lakers, the Ohio Warriors enjoyed some early success, and grabbed 2 quick wins over the Dayton Heat and Hoop Dreams. However, as was the case with the Lakers, the Warriors lost their next 5 games. The Warriors’ inconsistent play was aggravated by an injury to Seth Towns (6’4 WF Columbus), arguably the team’s best player. Although I did not see it personally, word has it that Seth Towns was having a good day before he went down with an ankle injury. What I did see were a couple of good things from Matt Moyer (6’3 WF Gahanna), who appears to still be growing and developing a perimeter game. I also saw a big time performance from Tyus Ferguson (5’8 PG Groveport), who had a monster game in a 33-21 loss to Team Lima. Ferguson attacked the basket furiously and scored his team’s first 3 buckets. Ferguson is on the small side, but his quickness helps make up for his lack of size.
|Keith Griffin-5'9 PG Shaker Heights|
The team with the most talent was also the most disappointing team (1-6 record). King James was already talent rich with Buckeye Prep top 30 players Tervell Beck, Derek Funderburk and Anthony Christian, but after picking up DB Hoops’ big three in Willie Jackson, Keith Griffin and Ronald Jones Jr., King James quickly became the team to beat in the state, and arguably the country. However, we all know that talent is not enough to win games if the talent does not play together, play unselfishly and play hard. That was the case with King James on Sunday, as the team did not seem to play with chemistry, discipline and a consistent will to win. Of course they were playing without Beck, Larnell Neely and Yavari Hall, but they had more than enough talent to make a better showing in Lima.
Let’s start with the floor general, Keith Griffin (5’10 PG Shaker Heights). In the opening game against the Lakers, Griffin shot 1-7. It’s tough to win when your PG is a high-volume shooter and is off his game. With that said, Griffin had some bright spots as well, and in fact, in the next game his shot was falling and the team played well. Even with his "shoot-first" approach sometimes, I still think Griffin is one of the top guards in Ohio. Griffin is a streak shooter who can either shoot his team in or out of a game. At the end of the day, he handles the ball well, has a nice floater, great court vision, and when he chooses to pass, he’s good at. Finally, I really like how the kid communicates and directs his teammates. I should also mention the fact that Griffin matched-up with Rodrick Caldwell, and the differences in their games was evident. Caldwell is a bigger, more physical guard and did a good job of staying in front of Griffin; when Griffin guarded Caldwell, Caldwell was more effective getting by him and into the paint. Once Griffin embraces his role as a facilitator, his stock will rise.
|Derek Funderburk-6'6 C Cleveland|
Anthony Christian played well early and was actually the team’s leading scorer in game #1 against the Lakers. I also thought Derek Funderburk and Willie Jackson were good in spots. Funderburk grabbed a lot of rebounds and blocked a handful of shots, and although I did not see it, I heard Jackson knocked down some treys later in the day. Watching Jackson play, he always seems to be on the verge of making a highlight play, usually an alley oop for a thunderous dunk. Finally, he does not get much attention on this loaded team, but Henry Baddley III is long, athletic and could be one of those kids who emerge as an elite player down the road. Keep an eye on this one!
I would like to give a shout out to Coach Q for his hospitality to this writer, putting together a great event, and for giving the players a great tune-up opportunity before heading down to the AAU Nationals. It was a long HOT day, but the experience the teams received on Sunday should prove invaluable as they head off to represent the Buckeye state. For the coaches in the other classes, take a lesson from Simpson and make an effort to play the top teams as often as possible. Don’t allow egos and win/loss records to keep your teams from bumping heads multiple times during the season. Every class is different, but it takes leadership and the willingness to develop kids regardless of the cost!
Standout Player Pictures