Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tale of Two Games

Two teams punched their ticket to the Fairground Coliseum last night with sectional victories at Lakewood High School. Although 2nd seeded Gahanna Lincoln and Reynoldsburg both advanced to the district semi-finals next weekend, their paths to the Fairgrounds were vastly different. Gahanna faced little resistance from Watkins Memorial as they cruised to a lopsided 106-27 victory. Early in the contest, before the starters were pulled, Rob Brandenburg provided several ESPN-worthy highlights in the form thunderous dunks. Stevie Taylor was Brandenburg's set up man, as 4 of Taylor's 6 assists accounted for Brandenburg's 8 points. The leading scorer in the contest was Anthony Jackson who dropped 16 points in limited play. A perusal of Sunday mornings box scores in the Columbus Dispatch will show that every Lion scored, while several reserve players out scored the starters. Other than Brandenburg's high wire act, the game was less than competitive as Watkins was way over-matched.

The second game of the night could not have been more different than the first contest, as Reynoldsburg needed over time to defeat Beechcroft 70-65. This game was contested from the very beginning and featured multiple ties and lead changes. During warm ups, Beechcroft appeared to be the bigger and stronger team, and the players appeared focused for the game. Both teams featured athleticism and prefer transition over half court offense. The difference in this game came down to heart, will to win, and free throw shooting. In the end, two missed free throws by Rashaun Moore with 1.1 seconds left in the game to break a 58-58 tie proved to be pivotal in the game. Moore had to endure the pressure thru 2 time outs designed to "freeze" him. The first time out was called by his coach after the first free throw missed the mark, and the second time out was called as Moore stepped to the line for the second attempt. The Raiders was led by Morehead State signee Kevin Gray who finished with a game-high 21 points. His partner in crime was Brandon Rushton who contributed 19 points. Brandon Mitchell added 9 points. Mike Petrie led Beechcroft with 17 points and DJ Bridges added 11 points. Next up for Reynoldsburg is Gahanna Lincoln, the state's 2nd ranked team. This game will mark the 3rd time these two meet this season as OCC Ohio foes fight for a spot in the district finals. See the pictures of the games at Buckeye Prep"s Facebook Fan Page.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Columbus City League Post Seasen Awards Decision

Although there have not been any formal announcements about the Columbus City League post season awards decision, it's clear by now that a lot of people have heard rumors about what is believed to be the final outcome of the coaches' vote. With so much information floating around out there (see your favorite message board) about the decision, much of it conjecture, rumor and simply misinformation, I thought I would take a shot of clearing up some of the information and introducing a few facts.

As is customary for most high school basketball leagues, on February 25th at the Columbus Student Activities building, the 16 head basketball coaches who make up the the Columbus City League, met to decide the recipients of the league's post season awards, most commonly referred to as First Team, Second Team and Honorable Mention. Because the league is divided into to two divisions (North & South), coaches from both divisions were separated by division and seated at separate tables to cast their votes.

From my sources inside the room, the North Division coaches initially cast their 1st team votes as follows: Jarred Sullinger (Northland), JD Weatherspoon (Northland), Jeremy Dixon (East), Bucky Chenault (Centennial) and Craig Sealy (Brookhaven); leaving a 3-way tie between Trey Burke (Northland), Jordan Laster (Centennial) and Percy Dean (Mifflin) for the final spot. After more debate and a second vote, there was still a two-way tie between Burke and Laster. A third vote resulted in Jordan Laster getting the nod for the final 1st team spot.

It's my understanding that after the final vote, Northland coach, Sach Sullinger objected to the fact that his top three players (Sullinger, Weatehrspoon & Burke) were not voted onto the 1st team. At that point, Sullinger is alleged to have demanded that if all three of his players did not make the 1st team, then all three players should be taken off the lists entirely. Although the North Division coaches implored Sullinger to re-consider his stance, he reportedly refused and a new 1st team was selected which included: Sealy, Chenault, Dixon, and the additions of Laster Dean and Peter Kpan.

At this point you can debate the merits of putting a 3rd player on a 1st team or weather any 1st team should include the top 5 players in the league or some other mix (i.e., 2-2-1) of players based on the final finish of the teams in the league. For some historical perspective, according to All-Ohio's Jerry Watson, not since East High School's Bo Lamar, Eddy Ratliff and Nicky Connors did it back in 1969, have three players from the same City League team made the 1st team. Also, if you will recall, about 5 years ago, Brookhaven's Drew Lavender, a 1st team All-Ohio selection and McDonald's All-American was relegated to the 2nd team because his team was loaded with 6 future D-I players. Considering past precedent, context of the recent decision and the process that created the situation should be a little clearer.

As I pointed out earlier in this piece, no formal lists have been published to date, so in theory, we really don't know what has been decided. Well maybe we do. It's my understanding that Columbus School officials, as high up as Dr. Gean Harris, the Columbus Public School Superintendent, may have stepped into to right this situation. I have heard that Northand recently held a team meeting where the players were informed that Sullinger and Weaterspoon were placed back on the ballot, and will in fact be present on the City League North 1st Team list. If this actually transpires, it will not only save the Columbus City League from a public relations "black eye," and certain local, state-wide and national ridicule, but it will give the kids their just due and the recognition their on-court play deserves. Although I have my own personal opinions on the matter, I have kept them to myself and tried to introduce more facts from people who were actually part of the process. I will let the reader decide their position on the matter. I hope this helps bring some clarity to the situation. Please feel free to post your comments below.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Olentanay Freshmen Advance to Championship Game

While most central Ohio basketball fans are hoping to get a good seat at the Fairgrounds Coliseum next weekend to watch their favorite high school team; unknown to most fans, for about a week, 17 freshmen teams have been competing for a championship of their own at the 2010 Raider 9th Grade Basketball Tournament at Reynoldsburg High School. Tonight, with a 61-59 semi-final win over the Gahanna Lincoln Lions (13-3), the Olentangy Liberty Patriots (12-2) punched their ticket to the tournament championship game on Saturday, where they will face off against the Reynoldsburg Raiders (14-2).

In the contest tonight, the Patriots jumped out to an early lead and entered the locker room at half time with a 32-33 lead. However, after the Lions scored on 3 consecutive possessions to start the second half, the lead shrunk to 32-30. Gahanna took lead (40-39) with 2:15 left in the 3rd quarter, and began the 4th period with a 45-43 lead. The Lions appeared to have the game wrapped up with 21 seconds left in the contest when Troy Mundy stepped to the free three line with a 1 point lead (59-58) and a chance to put his team up by 3 points. However, although Mundy converted the front end of a one-and-one, his foot was over the line, and his made shot was waived off. As you would expect, Liberty pushed the ball up courtt and drained a treyr with 4 seconds remaining to go up by two points. Although Gahanna got off a shot with 2 seconds left, a runner off the mark. The leading scorers for Olentangy was Zach VanGundy who scored a team-high 12 points. For Gahanna, Troy Mundy dropped a game-high 17 points and Aaron Jackson, the leading scorer in the tournament with 54 points in 3 games, added 15 points.

The championship game between Olentangy and Reynoldsburg is scheduled for Saturday at 6:00pm, while Gahanna will face Grove City in the 3rd place game at 4:30pm. In the first game of the night, the Reynoldsburg Raiders defeated Grove City 53-45. Leading scorers in the game were Reynoldsburg's Nathanael Wallace (15 points) and Jaylen Givens (14 points). Grove City's Dominic Marion scored a team-high 12 points. At the conclusion of the tournament an all-tournament team will be selected. From what I hear, Gahanna's Aaron Jackson; Reynoldsburg's Grant Coleman and Jaylen Givens are believed to be favorites. Check out the pictures on the Buckeye Prep Fan page. For the final results of the tournament including the All-Tournament Team and other standout performers, see the final report submitted by Gary West in the comment section below!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Northland Claims City League Championship

By now, most of you have already heard that Northland notched a 65-52 win over Marion Franklin to claim their 4th consecutive Columbus City league Championship on Saturday. Also, you no doubt already heard the Jarred Sullinger paced the Vikings with 27 points and 13 rebounds, while JD Weatherspoon contributed 16 points and Trey Burke dropped 12 points and 3 steals. Because you already know the particulars, I want to spend a few minutes to discuss some of my observations of the day.

First of all, big ups to Marion Franklin for making a game of it and providing just enough drama to keep the capacity crown at East High School entertained and committed to the game. Although most in the crowd thought it was only a matter of time before the Vikings machine started hitting on all cylinders; the Red Devils made us think the game was still in doubt well into the second half. Despite be overwhelmed from a talent perspective, Marion Franklin competed until the very end. Of course there was the customary trash talk and extra bumping in the paint, but like the hundreds in attendance, everyone one was on their best behavior on and off the court (except for a few double technical fouls in the closing minutes).

Besides the on-court happenings, the game was a "coming out" of sorts for the brand new basketball facility at East High School. I have to admit, I was very impressed with the new facility, and I think that Columbus Public Schools has reason to be proud of the final product. However, although the game was sold out, and off limits to anybody who had the nerve show up without a ticket (unless you were somebody, new somebody or had a secret entrance mapped out), there was more than enough seating still available after the doors were closed. I also have to admit, I kind of felt sorry for those unfortunate few who were seen with their noses pressed up against the windows and doorways trying to sneak a peak at the over hyped contest.

From my perspective, I got the sense that many of the fans in attendance were there to see history in the making, and to ensure themselves of the ability boast that they were witness to coronation of one of the best teams in Central Ohio history. Yes, the game featured high major individual talent in Jarred Sullinger (Ohio State), JD Weatherspoon (Ohio State), Trey Burke (Penn State) and Elijah Macon (West Virginia), but the feel in the gym was bigger than the individual players; it was about just being there to see everything unfold. All-in-all, it was a great day for central Ohio basketball, the kind of day the Columbus City League can be proud of! Congratulations to Northland, Marion Franklin and Columbus Public Schools for hosting such a great event. Finally, I took a lot of pictures during the event. To see what I saw, visit the Buckeye Prep Facebook page!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Buckeye Prep Schedules Tryouts

From 5:00 to 7:00pm on February 20th & 21st, this year's 8th grade Buckeye Prep team will be holding tryouts at the J. Ashburn Center located at 85 Clarendon Ave, Columbus, Oh. 43223 (west side of Columbus). Some of the tournaments on the schedule include: King James Classic, Pittsburgh Jam Fest. Buckeye Prep Invitational, Nike Grassroots, Spiece Memorial Run & Slam, Pittsburgh AAU Super Regional and AAU State and National Tournaments. For more information about the tryouts contact Coach Gary Scott at 614-354-2318 or email him at All players must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Warriors Win Newark Basketball Classic

Scott Bradley's New Birth Warriors finished 4-0 on their way the championship of the Newark Basketball Classic. In game one, New Birth defeated the West Virginia Wildcats 45-25. The leading scorers in that game were DJ Tyree (21 points), Jelani Rogers (9 points) and Tyrell Carter (7 points). In game # 2, New Birth defeated Newark 56-19. Leading scorers were DJ Tyree (13 points), Jelani Rogers (13 points), Tyrell Carter (10 points) and Jelen Tate (6 points).

In the semi-finals, New Birth defeated the Sting 61-32. Leading scorers were Jelani Rogers (21 points), DJ Tyree (14 points) and Tyrell Carter (14 points). In the championship game, the Warriors defeated North Canton Hoover 49-36. The leading scorers were DJ Tyree (16 points), Tyrell Carter (10 points), Jelani Rogers (9 points) and Jalen Tate (7 points). For the season, the warriors are an amazing 27-5 with two tournaments remaining. Congratulations to the New Birth players, coaches and parents!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Program Review-NCAA First Team

Many of you have heard me elude to the NCAA's First Team Program in many of the stories on this site. As the spring and summer grassroots basketball scene approaches, I thought it would be a good time to expand my discussion about this program. Although the NCAA has been criticized a great deal over the past several years, by most accounts, their First Team initiative is a home run. For the most part, First Team, now in conjunction with iHoops, a boarder NCAA initiative, was designed to serve as a four-year education and mentoring program aimed at potential D-I college basketball prospects. The program targets rising 9th and 10th graders and selects student-athletes based on several criteria, including college potential, academics and citizenship. Once selected for the program, young adults are invited to annual summer conferences at various locations around the country, where for 3-4 days they participate in programing aimed at preparing them to become college studen-athletes. From year-to-year, there are about 200 plus kids with in the four classes participating in the program. (Junior class pictured above)

In addition to the summer conferences, student athletes receive follow-up visits and information from First Team reps thought out the year, including in-school visits with guidance counselors to ensure its members are taking the right number and type of courses, which will lead to college eligibility. To remain eligible for the program, members must maintain a set GPA and be on track to graduate with their class. Make no mistake, the First Team program is bigger than basketball, and in fact, there is very little basketball played at the conferences; it's more about preparing kids for the next level though guest speakers, classes and lectures. With that said, the conferences are not about all all work and no play, as the kids are flown to destinations like Orlando, Florida, put up in 5-star hotels, fed like kings, geared up in First team apparel, and treated to field trips and social outings, all sponsored by the NCAA and at no cost to the parents or players. The program is about five years old and boasts alumni such as Daequan Cook, OJ Mayo, BJ Mullins, Walter Offit, Bill Edwards, and Bobby Cappbianco. Some of the current members of the program include: Brandon Knight, Kendall Marshall, Kyrie Irving, Trae Golden, James Bell, Ray McCallum Jr., Jayvaun Pinkston, Joshua Smith, Carl Jones Jr., Nick Kellogg, Juwan Staten, Kevin Gray, Marcus Davis, Zach Joseph, Tony Wroten, Austin Rivers, LaQuintin Ross, Julian Royal, Brandon Kearney, PJ Boutte, Jamal Branch, Carlton Brundidge, Percy Gibson, Trevor Cooney, George Marshall, Stevie Taylor, Treavon Jackson, Kyle Molock and Seth Rosenbauer. At this point, I'm sure you want to know how kids are selected. In Ohio, there are several First Team representatives who travel to tournaments and selected events looking for talented players and prospective members. Not only are the reps looking for college-level potential, they are looking for good kids who conduct themselves in a manor consistent with First Team's mission. In fact, I have seen them bypass on a number of talented players based on the way the players carried themselves on and off the court. In addition, First team reps receive input and recommendations from a host of individuals from around the county about potential members. Look for First reps at the Buckeye Prep Elite Showcase evaluating 8th grade players for their program.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Gahanna MS West Finishes Fifth

In a game that went right down to the wire, Gahanna Middle School West defeated Gahanna Middle School South 49-44 to finish 5th in the Gahanna Lions Invitational Tournament. The leading scorers in the game were Javon Bess with 19 points and Valsquez Davis who finished with 17 points. For Middle School South, the leading scorers were Ethan Fernandes with 13 points, and Kevin Randolph and Jaylen Shaw who both added 8 points. In an earlier game, the Worthington Wolves defeated Gahanna Middle School East to claim their share of fifth place in the tournament

Pickerington Lakeview Wins Gahanna Tourney

Last night at Gahanna Middle School East, Pickerington Lakeview defeated Upper Arlington Jones by 5 points to claim the championship of the 8th grade Gahanna Lions Invitational Tournament. Lakeview remained undefeated and continued its two-year middle school dominance, as they have not lost a game in either of the past two seasons (as 7th & 8th graders). Congratulations to the Pickerington players, coaches and fans for an amazing accomplishment! In the earlier game, Reynoldsburg defeated Olentangy Liberty to claim 3rd place.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Winds of Change Continue to Blow Thru Grassroots Basketball

As has been pointed out on this website and others, summer basketball continues to experience significant change. First it was the reduction in the number of days college coaches could attend spring and summer basketball events to evaluate recruits; then it was the demise of the traditional all-star type summer basketball camps where elite level hoopers could audition for college scholarships, then Sunny Varcarro was "tricked" into shutting down his basketball empire, and recently, the NCAA currently has pending legislation designed tp bar or limit grassroots basketball events from being held on D-I college campuses. Although I could cite may other examples of change over the past few years, for the purposes of this story, I'm going to focus on Nike's brand new initiative for its summer events.

During a recent Nike business meeting in Las Vegas last week, Nike brass unveiled a revolutionary concept for their stable of summer basketball tournaments. Traditionally, Nike and its grassroots basketball programs came together several weekends over the summer to participate in key tournaments such as the Boo Williams Invitational, Nike Memorial Day Tournament, Main Event and the ever-popular Peach Jam. However, starting this summer, the "Nike circuit" will be replaced by-drum roll please-the Nike Youth Basketball League. Whats this league all about you ask? Over four weekends this summer, Nike's 42 travel teams will all meet in Virginia (Boo Williams), Houston, Los Angeles, and South Carolina (Peach Jam), to face off against other Nike teams within their divisions as part of league play.

No longer will Nike-sponsored teams be participating in traditional Nike tournaments, where kids play up to 6-7 games per weekend in search of championships and trophies. Instead, the various Nike weekends will involve 5-6 league games, with the hopes of making it to the league championship tournament and winning a league championship "similar to what you would find in the NBA," said All-Ohio's Jerry Watson. "I like the new concept," said John Stovall, a long-time Nike rep. "Nike is trying to get away from travel basketball (having kids) and playing every week. Nike is trying to take things to another level," added Stovall. "Every five years Nike rolls out new initiatives, and this year, the Nike League is it," continued Stovall.

Although players will no longer play for championships every weekend, "making games more important," said Stovall, the competition will be much greater, as there will no longer be the blowouts you traditionally see in pool play of regular tournaments. The number of games will be reduced and the value of a championship will be much greater, like what you find in college," stated Stovall. In addition, the exposure opportunities will be great, as most of the national media will be attending these events, and "Nike's entire staff will be at every event," continued Stovall.

The Nike Youth Basketball League will tip off the weekend of April 9-11th at the Boo Williams Invitational, followed by Houston April 30 - May 2nd, Los angeles the weekend of may 29-31st, and the league will culminate in the league championship at the Peach Jam in Augusta, North Carolina the weekend of July 12-15th. Nike will still host the various positional skills academies including the LeBron James Skills Academy, and Nike teams will continue to attend other more traditional tournaments at Spiece, King James and AAU showcases and national championships, but make no mistake, this new league represents significant change and could be the harbinger of even more changes in grassroots basketball. Stay tuned, the winds of change are blowing!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Gahanna Lincoln Clinches OCC Ohio

With their 84-56 win over Pickerington North, the 16-0 Gahanna Lincoln Lions clinched the OCC Ohio Division Championship tonight. Although the game was close early, as they have done all season long, the Lions went on multiple runs to put the game away. Leading scorers for the Lions were Rob Brendenburg (a VCU signee) with 22 points, Stevie Taylor (Pictured cutting down the nets) with 17 points and 5 assists, Sam Bott with 12 points and Anthony Jackson with 8 points. Ranked 4th in the State of Ohio by the AP and 2nd in central Ohio by the coaches, the next goal for the Lions is an undefeated season, a district championship (the 1st ever for Gahanna) and a birth in the regional championship game. Next up for Gahanna is Grove City on Friday and Reynoldsburg on Saturday. Congratulations to Coach Tony Stiab, his coaching staff and the Gahanna Lincoln Lions for their accomplishment!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Hughes Leads Monroe to Victory

Although the OCC middle schools will begin the second round of tournament play tomorrow, Columbus City League teams are still fighting for their post season lives for at least another week. This afternoon, the Monroe Eagles punched their ticket to the City League playoffs with a convincing 65-40 win over the AIMS Panthers. Thou this game was highly contested early (it was tied 11-11 at the end of the 1st quarter), after returning from the locker room with a 28-22 lead, the Eagles began the third quarter with a 25-7 run, to begin the 4th period with 53-29 lead. A combination of Panther turnovers and hot shooting from Monroe, led to a blowout loss by AIMS. You have to credit 8th grader Jamal Hughes for blowing open the game, as his team-high 21 points propelled the Eagles to the victory. Seventh grader Xavier Holston-Simms contributed solid guard play and 5 points, while 8th grader Laquan Hendrick finished with 12 points. The only real bright spot for AIMS was the outstanding play of 8th grader Nate Jamison who dropped a team-high 21 points.

With their second win over the Panthers this season (won by 2 points the last time they met), the undefeated Eagles locked up the #1 seed in the Central Division and will face the winner of the Dominion/Ridgeview game in the first round of the playoffs. The 10-3 Panthers still have a chance at a spot in the playoffs depending on the results of their final game. The three other #1 seeds are undefeated Woodward Park of the North Division, Franklin in the East Division and Beery of the West Division. The following teams are either in the playoffs or still have work to do to extend their seasons: AIMS, Mifflin,
Hilltonia, Johnson Park, Dominion and Ridgeville. I'm going to do my best to cover at least a portion of the City League playoffs.