By most accounts, the fall session of the Buckeye Prep Elite Showcase was a huge success! Approximately 320 players from around the Midwest traveled Central Crossing HS in suburban Columbus, Ohio to participate in what has become an elite and must-attend event. The 300 plus players were divided among 32 teams in 4 grade divisions (6/7th, 8th, 9th & 10/11th). Although Sunday proved to be a long day, the level of talent and electricity in the 4-court facility was electric! Add to that the presence of local and national media outlets, and you had what turned out to be a great day of fall basketball and a great opportunity to gain much needed exposure.
|Willie Jackson-6'4 8th Grader
One of the things I enjoy most with these types of events is the opportunity they create to discover fresh new talent. Most Midwest based coaches and fans know that Buckeye Prep’s elite showcase is a place for discovery, particularly for kids who live in rural areas or play for teams that do not play at the major AAU-type of tournaments. As is the case at every event, I see kids I have not yet seen. One such player is Willie Jackson, a 6’4 eighth grader from Garfield Heights. The 6’4 wing flashed impressive athleticism and the kind of explosiveness that brings crowds to their feet. Coach Sunny Johnson told me about this kid a few weeks, but I was a bit skeptical until I saw the easy in which Jackson plays the game. Also, from what I hear, Jackson is a good kid with even better grades. Based on everything I’ve heard and seen, this kid could really be something special.
|Jaylen McDonald-6'4 9th Grader
Another such player is Jaylen McDonald, a 6’4 swing man from Hudson Ohio. Like Jackson, McDonald already has a good size, a great frame and ample athleticism. I did not see much of him, but what I did see suggests this kid has great upside. In the youngest of the divisions, a couple of kids really caught my eye. Jaylen Harris, a 6’2 seventh grader dominated the showcase. Despite being one of the bigger kids in the division, Harris demonstrated he could run the floor, handle the rock and score. I plan to keep an eye on Harris’ development. Although he was no stranger, Hilliard’s Trey Pugh logged in an impressive day as well. Every time I looked over Pugh was making things look easy, as he scored almost at will.
|Jaylen Harris-6'2 7th Grader
In addition to Harris and Pugh in the youngest division, a pair of young guards made some noise. Michigan’s Caleb Hunter is a dynamic and skilled young PG with a basketball IQ beyond his years. Cincinnati’s Marcus Barton was also no stranger, but he proved to me that what I saw earlier in the summer was no fluke, as he played his way into the all-star game and a top 5 finish. Although I did not get a chance to see them play much, the dynamic duo of Tyler Mitchell and Tyler Knecht lived up to the hype. I had heard a lot of good things about the pair prior to the event, and I am happy the reports were credible.
|Cassius Winston-8th Grade PG Michigan
As I pointed out earlier, in addition to the Ohio kids, the showcase drew kids from several states including, Michigan, West Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia, Indiana, New Jersey and North Carolina. As always, there were a few Michigan kids who traveled south, performed well, and deserve some Buckeye love. Algevon Eichelberger, a 6’5 8th grader is an elite showcase returnee, and like he did the last time he came down, Eichelberger got busy. A big with great feet and a soft touch around the bucket, Eichelberger can score in bunches. Joining the big guy from Michigan was Cassius Winston, a 5’10 floor general who possess a full package of dribble moves and tricks. I had heard that Winston is widely considered as the top 8th grade point man in Michigan, and I can see why. In addition to Eichelberger, Winston and Hunter, at least 3 other Michigan players played their way into all-star games (see my post-event report).
|Marc Loving-2013 Ohio State Commit
I did not spend much time watching the 10/11th grade division, as there were several high school scouts watching and writing about that group. However, I am aware that Westerville North’s Jack Gibbs, Gahanna Lincoln’s Aaron Jackson, Toledo St. Johns’ Marc Loving, Reynoldsburg’s Wendell Davis, Brookhaven’s Ronnie Williams and Dayton Christian's RaChuan Martin all solidified their reps as elite players. As a side note, although both Loving and Davis were selected to the all-star game, neither player participated.
|AJ Harris-Top 2015 PG-Dayton
The guard play at the showcase was spectacular! With young guys like AJ Harris, Lamonte Stone II, Xavier Holston-Sims, Kyle Stergis, Isaiah Jones, Cassius Winston, Rodrick Caldwell, Ashon Riggins, Xavier Simpson, Jalon Lewis, Darion Burns (KY), Craig Randall, Jalani Rogers, Tyrell Carter, Jaqual Parks-Freeman, Marcus Barton, Tyler Mitchell, Ty Wiley and Caleb Hunter in the gym, you know there are going to be some great battles! One such battle featured a match up between two of Ohio's top 9th grade point guards in Harris and Stone. I’m not going to declare a winner at this point (I did not see the entire game), but let me just say this; it was fun to watch!
|Derrick Daniels-6'6 8th Grader
Although there were more guards at the event, there were also some very impressive bigs. Shaker Heights Esa Ahmed continues to lay claim as the top 2015 big in the state, as he logged in yet another stellar performance on Sunday. Africentric’s Tony Anderson continues to improve, as does Hilliard’s Michael Simon. Although Dayton’s Derrick Daniels arrived late, he was well worth waiting for. Daniels is easily the best post player in the class of 2016. Long and very active defensively, Daniels is a legitimate D-I prospect going forward. Speaking of long term prospects, I have to add Shaker Height's Kipper Nichols to the conversation, The 6'5 freshman''s play clearly established him as one of the top players in the class. When his scoring catches up to his rebounding and defense, watch out! I also really love Noah Bramlage’s game. A 6’6 power forward from Ottawa is high skilled and knows what he is doing in the post. Also, Bramlage has a nice face up game as well. From what I have seen from Bramlage during the last couple of events, there is little doubt that college basketball is in his future.
|Kipper Nichols- 6'5 Freshman
|Seth Towns-6'4 8th Grader
In closing, I could not be happier with how the showcase turned out. Although there are always areas of improvement, at the end of the day, the event featured a lot of talent, plenty of exposure, great facility all in a safe environment. In addition, I know I have not highlighted every player who played well and deserves recognition, but I brought in other media to serve this purpose as I was busy running the event. Also, I put together a more extensive report with individual and team photos. Enjoy! Finally, based on the overwhelmingly response and positive feedback about Sunday’s event, my March 2012 showcase has the potential to be really really special!! Click on the links below for additional showcase recaps:
Buckeye Prep Report
Spencer Pulliam's 2015 Report
Triple Double Prospects Report
Cincy Prep Hoops Report