In recent years the 2023 basketball landscape in Ohio has been dominated by a handful of teams including the Cincinnati Royals, All-Ohio Red, Truth Basketball, Toledo Wildcats and King James. However, a new storm is brewing, which could possibly blow away the competition when the 2016 travel season roles in in March. Most youth basketball fans are familiar with the national success of the Texas based Gulf Coast Blue Chips organization; well, we can soon expect the emergence of the North Coast Blue Chips (NCBC), an Ohio based team next season built around LeBron James Jr.
It’s been no secret that such a team is forming, and that a roster is currently being constructed. In fact, we alluded to as much in a recent story (See Random Thoughts Article). However, it’s starting to become a little clearer what that team might look like. As we pointed out a few weeks ago, the foundation of the team is King James’ son, and if what we have seen in the numerous highlight videos is any indication, that’s one heck of a start. Alongside LBJ Jr. are Khori Thurman (Illinois), one of the top guards in the country, Jahkari Towsend (Michigan), Adisa "Desh" Molton II (Cleveland), Jayvion Moore (Maple Heights), Cody Head (Shaker Heights), Sean Thigpen (Dayton) and Gabe Cuppe (Dayton). Of course there will be additional talent added to the roster over the next couple of months, as Coach David Lane expects to carry 10-12 players. Although we still don’t have a complete picture of the team’s make up, from what we know right now, I think we can all agree this team has the potential to be pretty darn good.
David Lane, the team’s head coach, is no stranger to coaching talent, as he has high school coaching experience with Akron St Vincent St Mary’s High School. In fact, Lane only recently stepped away from his coaching duties at the Akron institution to focus more on other ventures, including coaching the Blue Chips. With the level of talent this team is likely to field, coupled with great coaching and skill development, the top spot in the state, and county for that matter, maybe up for grabs. “Our focus will be playing together, playing smart and playing defense,” Lane said. “We don’t have a point guard; we have five guys who can all push it [basketball] and score,” said the coach. In terms of his roster, “we are an Ohio based team with a couple sprinkles from Indiana, Michigan and elsewhere,” Lane said.
NCBC intends to play an aggressive schedule in 2016, including the AAU Nationals as well as other competitive tournaments around the country. “We want to play the best,” continued Lane. You can get an early look at NCBC this weekend as they take their show on the road to Indianapolis where they will get some work in at the Fieldhouse Winter League. Also, Ohio’s other elite 2023 teams can get their shot at the upstarts at the Buckeye Prep Invitational April 1-3rd. Can you say super pool!
With the arrival of a new basketball organization in the Buckeye state, the obvious question centers around future expansion plans as well as the possible impact to traditional basketball powers such as All-Ohio, King James/NEO and OBC. At least at the youth level, NCBC seems to have cherry picked some of the best talent in the state. Most impacted short term appears to be the 2023 Truth, one of the top teams in the state last year, who may have lost several key pieces to NCBC. According to Clyde Jackson, program director for both the Texas and Ohio based programs, long-term, NCBC plans to follow the 2023 and 2025 teams all the way through high school. From there, “we plan to see how theses 2 teams [2023 & 2025] go then possibly expand into the younger age groups,” said Jackson. “We will carry the team  for as long as they want to stay with the program,” continued Jackson. The fact that the Blue Chip organization is “Nike sponsored” is significant, particularly if the program becomes a fixture at the high school level a few years from now.
We asked Jackson about his motivation to expand his organization northward and it seemed pretty simple, “we wanted to make a program where LeBron James Jr. could compete nationally, since we will be an Ohio based team next year [per AAU rules],” said Jackson. As you would expect, Jackson has high hopes for his new venture. “I’m really high on this team. I think we will be top 5 in the country. I’m really impressed with them,” offered Jackson. Well there you have it, the low down about the North Coast Blue Chips. As far as we are concerned, we welcome the new organization to Buckeye State! We’re sure the level of basketball will be elevated, and we look forward to the opportunity to covering the teams and players in this class.