Over a year ago we released our “Watch List” for the class of 2019. That list contained the names of about 75 6th graders who we felt represented the best players in the state at that time. Fast forward to today, and we finally had the chance to better define the top kids in the class of 2019. As most fans would expect, our top 30 list is dominated by players from All-Ohio Red, one of the top 2-3 teams in country last year. Having won the NYBL championship, then following that up with a 3rd place finish at the 6th grade AAU Nationals in July, it only stands to reason that team is loaded with talent, and should be well represented in our rankings.
Although we did not rank players from 1-30 (players are listed alphabetically), we did attempt to highlight (in red) those players whom we felt had top 10 potential. In terms of the top player in the class, there is much debate around the state, and country for that matter. By most accounts, the top 2 guys are Jeremiah Francis, a 5’11 PG from Columbus and Jordan Mitchell, a 6’2 WF from Blacklick. Who you like depends or your particular tastes. If you like big strong point guards, who can score, defend and who represent matchup problems for most opponents, then Francis is your man. If you like long, versatile players who can play multiple positions, you might go with Mitchell. Regardless of who you choose, both players are very talented and project well going forward. It should be noted, in terms of the national rankings, most middle school talent evaluators say it’s neck and neck, but give the nod to Francis right now.
In terms of the national rankings, Columbus’ Gerard Reynolds (6’0 C) is consistently recognized as a top 50 player, and he is certainly in our top 5 as well. Reynolds, though a bit undersized for his position, is an absolute beast in the paint, and a handful for those who are forced to defend him in the post. Reynolds has consistently excelled on the big stage, and his trophy case is full of MVP awards as proof of his talent. Cincinnati is blessed with talent as well, as Chris’Seon Stringer (5’11 PF), A.K.A. Grown Man, and Chris Payne (6’0 PF) are two of the Nati’s best ballers. Both are strong, athletic and specialize at attacking the rim. In addition, both Stringer and Payne logged in impressive performances at the NYBL All-Star games in September.
Cincinnati also has some quality guards with Joey Edmonds, DeMarco Bradley Jr. and Greg Tribble Jr. Bradley and Tribble are well known nationally and have competed against the best guards in the country routinely, but Edmonds is still elite, despite the fact that he is rarely seen on the statewide or national scene (baseball kid). We certainly hope that changes in the near future, as the entire state should get the pleasure of seeing him hoop. Dayton’s Amari Davis (6’0 WF) plays behind a lot of talent on the All-Ohio Red squad, but the kid has game and could start for most other teams. Keep an eye on Davis, he could be one of the top guys before this this is finished.
We can’t forget about northeast Ohio, as the area continues to crank out quality players. Among the best is Alfonse Hale (5’6 PG), a dynamic guard who can get it done. Hale was the leader of a Murphy AC team that got better during their play in the NYBL. Justin Smith (6’0 PF) was another key piece to that Murphy AC Squad (with O.B.C. now). Smith is a big who is still under development, but he showed flashes of greatness last summer in the NYBL. David Dial Jr. (5’3 PG) is another player who has not really been seen on the “big stage” consistently just yet, but he seems to always excel at events like the Buckeye Prep Elite Showcase, where he proves he can play with the big boys. Mike Bekeja (5’7 SG Solon) has also established himself as an all-star at past Buckeye Prep Elite Showcases. Very skilled with a high IQ best describes Bekeja.
The poster child for “flying under the radar” is Andre Gordon, a 5’10 PG from Sidney. Gordon has logged in several impressive performances in the few times I’ve seen him play. Blessed with good size, athleticism a solid skill set and an aggressive style of play, Gordon is right there among the best floor generals in the state. In fact, in this evaluator’s opinion, Gordon’s talent is worthy of a national ranking, if only he was seen more. Also in the shadows are Gavin Baker (6'1 PF Worthington), Tanner Holden (6’0 WF Wheelersburg), Peyton Harris (5’11 PF Springfield) and Jeremiah Keene (5’9 WF Columbus). None of these guys are household names right now, but they all can play.
Of course we all understand that rankings are just “someone’s opinions,” and that most lists fail to include all of the players who are truly worthy of recognition, but until players make themselves easy to find and evaluate, it’s tough to give them their props. Also, like most lists of this type, they will evolve over time as kids emerge on the scene and develop. Next week, we will publish our “Watch List” for the class of 2020 (6th graders). As I always say, let the debate begin!