|All-Ohio Red NYBL Championship Picture|
Two years ago, Jerry Francis’ All-Ohio Red squad joined forces with Demarko Bradley’s All-Ohio Purple team with the intent to “put a competitive team together, to survive and to win a national championship,’ said Bradley. The coaches of 2 of the top 5th grade teams in the country noticed that other teams had picked up kids and upgraded and realized a need to do the same. Heading into the 2013 travel basketball season the newly constructed All-Ohio Red received a significant amount of hype (admittedly from this website) and was quickly ordained the number 1 ranked team in the country. As luck would have it, the newly formed National Youth Basketball League (NYBL) gave the elite squad a new platform in which to display their talent, and they did not disappoint. Although they dropped a close game to Carolina Preps (now Team CP3) in session #2 of the NYBL, All-Ohio Red would later avenge their lone loss to Carolina Preps in the NYBL Finals in route to their first of 2 NYBL championships
Fast-forward to the 2014 season, and despite losing to the then Carolina Preps in the AAU National Championships the previous year, All-Ohio Red was still considered one of the top 2 teams in the country. After a 5-0 start in session #1 of the 2014 NYBL season, and a Team CP3 loss at the hands of Josh Woodson’s Texas Express Elite, All-Ohio Red was again considered the favorite to repeat as NYBL National Champions, and possibly collect an AAU National Championship as well. As most people know by now, All-Ohio collected their second NYBL National Championship, but was again defeated by Team CP3 at the AAU Nationals, thus, finishing 3rd for the second straight year.
|Keion Brooks, Simon Banks, Sydney Curry & Kyle Rode|
Despite an impressive 107-3 record over a 2-year span, Bradley’s team will look significantly different when the ball tips in March. The 2015 season will feature a revamped team with more size and more interior scoring. Gone are Jordan Mitchell (will run the point for King James), Gerard Reynolds, Greg Tribble Jr. and possibly Chris Payne. Returning players include Jeremiah Francis, Demarko Bradley Jr., Andre Gordon, Amari Davis, Malachi Matthews and Chris’Sean Stringer. According to Bradley, his 2015 team will “have 5 of the best players in Ohio.” In an effort to keep pace with other elite teams who will upgrade in the off season (Team CP3 has picked up Chris Hinton and Myles Pierre), Indiana’s Keion Brooks (6'3 WF), Sydney Curry (6'5 C), Simon Banks (5'8 PG), AJ White and Kentucky’s Kyle Rode (6'5 PF) will join Bradley's team and will provide the size All-Ohio lacked this past season. Some sceptics of the merger might question if there are enough basketballs to go around on such a loaded team. "yes there are enough balls to go around. Our style of plays allows us to play a lot of kids," countered Bradley. "We will put kids in [their right] position. "We could not have survived with out bigs," continued Bradley. In addition to the players, Keion Brooks Sr. will join Bradley and Francis on the bench next season.
Now that we know the make up of the new team, the question of sponsorship and a team name remains. Currently, Bradley is in discussion with Under Armour (UA) and All-Ohio’s Jerry Watson regarding sponsorship for next year. According to Bradley, George Hill was in the running early, but has since dropped out of the race. “Jerry [Watson] and Benji [Burke) are still trying to keep the team. They are coming the right way with us now,” continued Bradley. In elite travel basketball, it’s often about “show me the money,” and that’s apparently what UA has offered to do. According to Bradley, “Under Armour will pay for everything. They want the kids in their tournaments and in their camps. They only want us to play at the AAU Nationals, the NYBL and play up in the 9th grade division at several tournament,” continued Bradley. If Bradley signs with UA the new team will run as I-70 Elite next season. In terms of a time frame for the decision-making, Bradley expects to have an answer from Watson (weather to match UA’s offer) by this weekend. Speaking of this weekend, the new team is set to debut in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Despite All-Ohio’s tremendous success since the Red/Purple merger 2 short years ago, as is almost always the case, playing time, roles, positions and publicity were partially to blame for the departure of a couple of players. “There are so many hidden agendas; parents have hidden agendas,” said Bradley. “It’s never enough. We go 107-3 in 2 years and only loose to one team and it’s just never enough. “You guys [NYBL] gave too much pub to some guys and not enough to some others I guess,” complained Bradley. Travel basketball at the elite level often results in resentment, anger and jealousy. When faced with losing elite status, most teams are forced to upgrade their talent in order to remain relevant. To make room for that new talent, coaches, players and parents often have to part ways. This is a difficult process that is often resisted until the very end. Unfortunately, there is very little loyalty in the game.
Now that Bradley’s squad can score, rebound and can handle zone defenses with the nation's elite, he feels his team is once again the team to beat, and should be ranked #1 nationally when pre-season polls are released. "We will have 7 nationally ranked players on this team," Bradley said. With their return to year 3 of the NYBL in 2015, All-Ohio or I-70 Elite depending on the decision, will have to prove their medal against new comers like D.C. Premier who has also upgraded an already elite team. In addition to D.C. Premier, the NYBL will add several more elite teams, some of which have flown way under the radar and will prove to be tough competitors. 2015 is already looking to be another very exciting year for the class of 2019!