Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

The Buckeye Prep Report would like to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

All-Ohio Ranked Third in NYBL’s Pre-Season Team Rankings

All-Ohio Red
A season after All-Ohio Red claimed the inaugural NYBL championship, then followed that up with a 3rd place finish at the AAU Nationals in  July, DeMarco Bradley’s All-Ohio Red squad is considered as the 3rd best 7th grade team in the nation according to the folks with National Youth Basketball League (NYBL). With a roster full of NYBL Top 100 players, as well as a bench full of quality reserves, All-Ohio could not only repeat as NYBL champions, but could also battle for an AAU crown in June.

However, in order to claim a coveted NYBL National Championship, All-Ohio must first battle with North Carolina’s CP3 (formally Carolina Preps), Texas Express Elite (formally Deron Williams Elite), the revamped Team Rio National, Team Takeover (formally ETU Select), George Hill Rising Stars, SC Hornets  and several other quality contenders. Year two of the NYBL will again feature the best “national” competition in the country in addition to an elite level of exposure! Below is a link to NYBL’s list of the top 10 teams in the country, plus another 15 teams on a “Watch List.” Let the Debate begin!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

2013 Ohio Hoopsters Holiday Classic Recap

Indy Elite/Gametime-6th Grade Champions
On Sunday, I had the opportunity to catch several championship games at the 2013 Hoopsters Holiday Classic which held at New Covenant Believers Church in Columbus. Although the numbers were small in terms of the teams (about 18 teams), there was some real good talent at the top of the 4th, 5th and 6th grade divisions.

In the 4th grade division, All-Ohio Red dominated Indy Elite/Gametime by a final score of 60-33.  The game was competitive early, but an undermanned (only 5 players) Indy squad was no match for the depth and talent of All-Ohio. Indy simply ran out of steam as All-Ohio stepped on the gas to cruise to an easy victory. With a game-high 15 points, Sean Jones was the top- guy for All-Ohio. Right behind him was Isaiah Wilkins who went for 12 points and Collin Tolbert who contributed 8 points. All-Ohio is loaded with talent and future stars. They don’t have a lot of size in the post, but their guard play is elite, which is crucial at this age. The best kid on the court in that game was Jones a dynamic little guard who I’ve seen him before, but his performance on Sunday was nothing short of impressive. This kid’s skill set is advanced, as his poise and basketball IQ. Moreover, he’s quick, pushes the rock in transition, makes great decisions with the rock and is an able and willing passer. He’s very young, but with continued growth and development, and a healthy attitude, Jones’ potential is significant! I also really like Brice Williams for Indy. The kid has game beyond his years. He’s tough as nails, aggressive and can score the ball at a high rate. Bright future!

Indy Elite/Team Up-5th Grade Champions

The 5th grade championship game featured a battle of the sexes, as Indianapolis’ Indy Elite/Team Up found themselves in an early battle with an All-Ohio girls squad. The final score may have been a lopsided 50-31 in favor of Indy, but the final results do not adequately reflect just how competitive this game was. Bottom line, those girls could ball! There were a number of talented players on the Team Up squad, but the back court duo of Anthony Hopson and Jalen Clark was the difference in the game. Clark dropped a team-high 14 points while Hopson added another 13 points. Both guards were quick, fast and skilled. I have to give a shootout to Alexa Smith and Nyam Howard, who led All-Ohio with 15 and 8 points, respectively.

All-Ohio Red-4th Grade Champions

Indianapolis was well represented in the tournament, as the 6th grade championship featured a matchup between Indy Elite/Gametime and the New Birth Warriors, the best 2 teams in the event. Although New Birth drew first blood on a layup by Matt Allocco, Indy Elite answered with a score. Indy would get out to a hefty lead and was up 18-10 with 6:09 left in the half.  A New Birth run would cut the lead to 3 points (24-27) by the break. The Warriors scored first to start the second period, but again, Indy answered. The Warriors would regain the lead (32-33) at the 9:59 mark but Gametime took it right back the following possession. The game was tied at 36 with 8:40 left, but Gametime would retake the lead for the last time before eventually claiming the championship by a final score of 61-48. In the end, Indy enjoyed too much size in the post and exploited their advantage to get the win. In addition, I was very impressed with the skill level, team-oriented play and shooting of Gametime. I didn’t catch the final numbers, but the standouts for Indy Elite were Grant Russell (5’6 WF), Luke Brown (5’0 P/SG), D’Andre Davis (5’4 G) and Maximus Gizzi (4’9 PG). For New Birth, Josiah Fulcher (5’6 WF Columbus) and Matt Allocco (5’3 PG Upper Arlington) logged in impressive performances. Both Fulcher and Allocco are listed on my 2020 “Watch List,” and their stellar play more than justified their early recognition. Congratulations to all of the champions and all of the teams that participated in this event.

Anthony Hopson & Jalen Clark
Josiah Fulcher & Matt Alacco

Sunday, November 24, 2013

THE BASKETBALL SHOE, “where the rubber meets the road.”

Below is the most recent article in our exclusive series of health-related features from Dr. Kenneth Ransom. Enjoy.

THE BASKETBALL SHOE, “where the rubber meets the road.”

Basketball shoes have come a long way since the Converse All-Star high cut, in black or white only, one-style-fits-all model.  Today’s athletic shoes are high-tech in design and materials not to mention a noticeable fashion accessory.  The game of basketball places significant forces on the feet, ankles and legs of players.  Instant acceleration / deceleration, lateral movements and jumping produce great stresses on the player’s footwear (where the rubber meets the road).  Basketball shoes must be constructed to provide support, cushioning, flexibility and stability to not only maximize performance but also to protect the player from injury.  Shoes have more impact on both the health and performance of a basketball player than any other piece of equipment.

There are four basic components of an athletic shoe: the upper portion or cut, the insole, the midsole and the outsole. The upper portion of the high cut shoe keeps the foot secure and protects the ankle from extreme rolling. Lower cut shoes to not give this same stability.  An insole is the inner bottom lining of the shoe, with or without an insert, which provides arch support and heal cushioning. The outsole is the bottom part of the shoe that makes contact with the floor.  It is usually flat to provide maximum surface area for traction.  Finally, the midsole is between the insole and the outsole.  This can be made from any number of high-tech materials that make it stiffer for more explosive take-off or softer for better cushioning.

The physical build and individual playing style will determine the preferred qualities of the shoe to be worn.  Frontcourt players, the BIGS, need a shoe with good ankle support as well as cushioning for protection when landing after jumps.  This shoe would likely have a high-cut upper portion with a softer midsole.  Often these big players can benefit from a good arch support, heal cushioning insole insert as well.  Smaller backcourt players usually prefer a lighter, low-cut shoe with a stiffer midsole for quicker lateral movements and acceleration.  For the in-between wing player that is large but also needs agility and quickness, a mid-cut upper portion shoe with a stiffer midsole may provide the most versatility.  Additional ankle support can be accomplished with taping and more cushioning with a insole insert.

Shoes should always be laced-up snug and tied.  When loosely laced or not tied the foot is allowed to move too freely placing the player at a much greater risk for injury.  The same principles apply to wearing shoes that are too old. The canvas becomes stretched out and loose, the cushions collapse and the outsoles wear down to become slippery.  An active basketball player may have to replace his shoes about every six months depending on the quality. It is prudent to get familiar with the specs of a shoe when shopping, the price and appearance doesn’t necessarily correlate with the quality. 

Good Holiday gift idea for a young basketball player!

By Dr. Kenneth Ransom

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Middle School Preview Marks Tip Off of Basketball Season

Bwerwick vs Westeville Genoa
For the last 8 years, one of the sure signs that the Columbus City League middle school season is just around the corner is the tip off of the annual Africentric Early College Middle School Boys Basketball Preview.  Friday night, approximately 300 fans packed the Africentric High School gym to see 10 Columbus-area middle schools debut their 2013/2014 squads. Africentric Head Coach Mike Bates inherited the event from a rival high school, and has continued to provide a competitive forum for Columbus middle school basketball.  In terms of the format, 10 teams participated in the event, which included two, 6-minute halves. The following were the matchups on Friday:   Starling vs Indianola K-8; KIPP Academy vs. Boys City Preps; Johnson Park vs. Westerville Genoa (7th); Berwick K-8 vs. Westerville Genoa (8th); and Africentric  vs. Columbus Arts & Tech.

The opening game featured a matchup between Starling and Indianola. Indianola would take an 11-8 lead into the break and would go on to collect the win.  Although there was no elite talent on either team, Indianola’s Ricardo Volley (5’4 PG), an 8th grader, led all scorers with 8 points.

Ty Wiley Excited the Crowd
Game #2 pitted KIPP Academy against Boys City Prep. Very early, Boys City Preps was clearly the team to beat based on their length, plus the fact their roster included one of the top 8th grade point guards in the state in Ty Wiley (5’7 PG).   The more talented Boys City Preps led at halftime 13-7 and by the time the horn sounded on the game, Preps had secured the 25-14 win.  His shot was off and he only scored 3 points, but Wiley was clearly the most talented player on the court. On a couple occasions Wiley excited the crowd with his tight handle, dribble moves and his ability to drop dimes to open teammates. Although Wiley was the only elite player in the game, there were several other prospects that could emerge down the road. Keep an eye on Stanley Williams (6’3 C). Williams led with a game-high 6 points, and is more potential than production right now, but at 6’3 in the 8th grade, he could end up being a good one in a couple years. Dennis Peterson (6’0 WF), Na’elle Simmons (6’0 C 7th grader), Jordan Barrett (5’11 WF), Tyrique Tribble (5’10 WF) and Antonio Green (5’3 PG) could all turn out to be quality players going forward.

In the third game of the night, Johnson Park blew by Westerville Genoa 30-5.  There is not much to say about this one as the game was never in doubt. A couple of players to watch include: Chernor Bah (6’1 C) and Keon Dooley (5’6 PG/SG). Bah finished with 7 points and Dooley added 5.

Jeremiah Francis-5'11 PG
The 4th game on the slate was a Berwick Alterative vs Westerville Genoa matchup. Although Westerville was surprisingly competitive early, Berwick would lead at the break 14-8, and would later extend the lead to 26-12 as time ran out. Berwick was led by Jeremiah Francis (5’11 PG), arguably the top floor general in the state in the class of 2019.  Francis did not disappoint as he hit floaters, dropped dimes and bullied his way to a game-high 9 points. Every time I attend an event I hope to discover fresh new talent that I can introduce to our readers. Well, Westerville’s Solomon Pierre-Louis (6’1 WF) is a name to remember! Pierre-Louis has significant upside potential with his size, skill set and athleticism. The kid has good length, can play multiple positions, pushes the ball on the break and passes well for his size. He was really more of a point forward on Friday. I’m not sure anybody know about this kid, but I trust that AAU coaches will be blowing up his phone soon. Also keep an eye out for Isaiah Hairston (6’1 WF). The brother of Northland’s Ty Hairston, Isaiah has more length at this point and could develop into something special with continued growth and development.

Solomon Pierre-Louis-6'1 WF Westerville
The finale was not much of a game, as Columbus Arts & Tech trounced Africentric 24-7. The only notable aspect of this game was the play of Jabohe Garcia (5’10 SG). Garcia, only a 7th grader, could be a good prospect in the future. Blessed with good length for his position, ball skills and vision, Garcia has a ton of potential.  

Although there was not a ton of individual talent or many household names at this event, there were a number of intriguing prospects who could emerge as players in a couple of years. Many of the kids I featured in this recap are very raw, but with these types of players, once they get to high school, they often turn out to be solid college prospects. Congratulations to Coach Mike Bates and his staff for hosting a nice event.

Pictured Below: Jabohe Garcia, Ricardo Volley & Chernor Bah

Monday, November 11, 2013

Yet Another Assault on AAU-My Perspective

I recently read an interesting article which represents yet another attack on AAU basketball. This particular piece centered on Kobe Byrant’s recent condemnation of AAU. “I was lucky to grow up in Italy at a time when basketball in America was getting f***** up with AAU shuffling players through on strength and athleticism,” said Bryant. As most people know, AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) is a generic term often used to describe travel or select basketball. Although there are a number of teams that never actually compete in AAU-sanctioned events, teams at the elite level are often considered “AAU” teams, and the system of “summer basketball” is consistently lumped under this category by media and fans alike. The fact is, AAU actually accounts for a small percentage of the basketball events that are held every summer. When we refer to “AAU Basketball” we are really referring to “summer basketball.”

My Experience

With that said, I thought I would join the debate by adding my own perspective as a parent, coach, talent evaluator, event organizer and general basketball fan. For some perspective and as a frame of reference, my 2 sons and I enjoyed the heck out of our travel basketball experience and we would not trade the experience for anything in the world. We loved the competition, travel, the time spent together as a family and the friendships we developed along the way.  The experience was very expensive thou and we often sacrificed financially in order to put our kids in the best position to succeed. As is the case with most parents, we dreamed of high school fame and scholarship dollars. However, unlike some parents, the NBA was only a faint goal, and was more analogous to “buying a lottery ticket” than realistically thinking about the possibility of a professional career for either son. For the Taylors, our goals were achieved as both sons went on to earn scholarships to division I and division II schools. Our eldest recently graduated from a small college with a business degree and is currently working for a Fortune 500 company, while our youngest is still playing college basketball. The relevance of our experience you ask; we owe it to AAU basketball to a great extent.  Also, I think our experience adds some context to my thoughts and experience with the game. In addition, as further disclosure, the Buckeye Prep Report is part of the summer basketball, which could be either good or bad depending on one’s perspective.

Now that I have made full disclosure, provided a foundation for my perspective and highlighted the positive aspects of AAU basketball; for many families, AAU has amounted to no more than a pipe dream that neither led to college scholarship money nor NBA riches. Despite some of the same sacrifices mentioned above, for whatever reason, there was not pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Other than for a lack of talent, there could be a number of other reasons why the system fails families, but said failure could be traced to the very nature of travel basketball and some of the decisions that were made along the way.

AAU Lacks Emphasis on Skill Development

Like many of the critics of AAU basketball, I have my own concerns about the current system. From my perspective, there is not nearly enough attention paid to skill development. In many cases, AAU teams rarely practice, and if they do, practices amount to little more than an hour or two of scrimmaging, with little or no attention being paid to developing a player’s overall skill set. Even if a team practices, the focus is often more toward executing a team’s offensive or defensive philosophy rather than preparing players to play fundamental basketball. In my opinion, and it was certainly my approach when I coached my sons’ teams, practices should be more geared toward developing the basic skills (i.e., dribbling, passing, shooting) necessary to excel in high school and college. As an example, when I coached, over the course of a 2 hour practice session, we spent 1.5 hours with skills and drills and a half hour of “controlled” scrimmages designed around our offensive and defensive sets. We didn't have the biggest or most athletic teams, but we won a lot of big tournaments (i.e., 2 AAU final 4s).

My suggestion to parents, go to your son’s practices and observe what’s happening. If you don’t see an emphasis on skill development, talk with the coach and request the same. Additionally, when choosing a team for your child, look for a team that practices 2-3 times per week, and actually works to develop your son’s individual game. Is your son’s coach teaching defensive fundamentals like help-side defense, defending the pick-and-role, and how to box? Is he/she teaching good shot mechanics and fundamentals? If not, that could be a real warning sign. With that said, and practically speaking, if your son’s team is full of talent, plays in the best events and the coach(s) are healthy individuals who have your son’s best interest in heart, it makes perfect sense why a parent might not want to change teams.  In that case, I would suggest hiring a personal trainer who can provide your son with the skill development he needs, that way, you still get the best of both worlds. Trainers can be expensive (about $25 per hour on average), but these days, many kids are getting it, and if yours is not, he could be falling behind other kids, which is not a good situation depending on your goals. Bottom line; and I always tell parents; take responsibility for your child’s development. Don’t leave it up to your son’s coach; rather it’s a high school or AAU coach!

AAU Players are Pampered

In the article I alluded to earlier, San Antonio Spurs coach Greg Popovich, when comparing basketball in the United States with basketball in other countries, suggested that our players are often “coddled.” I’ve seen this situation with my own two eyes, as coaches are so concerned about losing star players that they often allow poor play and poor behavior to go unchecked. Players routinely disrespect their coaches, officials, opponents and fans with virtually no fear of being disciplined. In fact, many coaches will not even sit a player on the bench for fear the player will leave or a parent will pull their child from the team. Quite often, a kid will play on multiple teams in one year because of issues they experienced on another team.

Unfortunately, players jump teams not just because of disciplinary issues, but because of a team’s lack of success, playing time issues, team schedule or personality issues with other players, coaches or parents. These days, parents are often quick to pull their child from Team A one weekend, have them playing for Team B the following weekend, and before the summer is over, they are with Team C or back with Team A. This practice sends a poor message to the player, which often carries over to high school and college. The result, every year in college basketball, a number of players transfer schools in search of better situations. Although there are a number of good reasons why kids transfer schools (i.e., coaching changes, poor fit, etc), it’s often a situation where a player is not accustom to being coached, pushed, and for the first time in his career being held accountable for poor play, substandard effort or poor attitude. Because they could just pick up and move in AAU, and high school for that matter, they seek out a perceived better opportunity with another school. As evidence, according to NCCA President Mark Emmert, over 40% men’s basketball players are not at their original school by the end of their sophomore season. This trend continues to increase at an alarming rate

Kids Play too Many AAU Games

Charles Barkley has been a big critic of AAU basketball for many years. His complaint, “…These kids aren’t getting good coaching. They’re playing too many games and not working on their game enough,” Barkley said. I’ve already touched on the poor coaching situation a bit, but the argument about the number of games kids play over the course of the summer is a real issue.  In most cases, kids are playing every weekend starting in early March and not finishing up until late July or early August. And that’s just summer ball which does not include school ball or the fall showcases/camp circuit. Throw in training and it’s easy to see why Barkley and others like him are so concerned and why we see the problems in the game. Those problems include lazy play, indifference to losing (as they will still play another game in an hour or two win or lose) and overuse injuries. In reality, more and more events come on line every year, and parents and coaches believe that kids have to play in them to get better and to get exposure. My suggestions to parents and coaches; choose quality over quantity. Pick quality events where both the competition and exposure are high. Rather than going to tournaments every weekend, schedule skill sessions or academic-related activities. I can certainly relate to this issue, as I was guilty of doing the same thing myself, consequently, we have had multiple knee operations in the Taylor home!

AAU Breeds Bad Habits

Many of AAU’s cynics suggest that AAU makes it more difficult for high school coaches to coach. The primary concern involves the need for high schools coaches to have to break bad habits formed during AAU play. Although I can certainly see how this could be an issue, I also recognize that the level of play in most summer events help prepare players to contribute early to high school programs.  In many cases, AAU has prepared kids to go directly to varsity and junior varsity teams and not on play a role, but start and sometimes become a program’s star player. Yes, a high school coach may have to correct some bad habits, both in terms of skill and attitude, but that coach inherits a player who has played against top competition, has performed on the big stage and under pressure for many years, and is already experienced and poised enough to step right in and contribute. As far as I’m concerned, as a high school coach, I would be willing to correct a few bad habits in exchange for a young player who can contribute to my program right away!

A Local High School Coach Weighs in

As part of this piece I wanted to get feedback from a local high school coach. Tony Stiab, a 12 year coaching veteran and current head coach for Gahanna Lincoln High School is an AAU proponent. “I may be in the minority [of high school coaches], but I’m an AAU supporter,” said Stiab. In Stiab’s opinion “the positives out weight the negatives,” in terms of AAU ball continued Stiab. As positives “it [AAU] gives high school players the chance to play against good competition,” Stiab said. When asked, about the “bad habits” kids tend to pick up from AAU, and the lack of structure and defense associated with summer ball Stiab indicated he is willing to deal with that. “Summer is the time for players to improve their offense game; time to work on their individual development. We tell our players that the high school season is about the team. We will reel them in on defense once we get them back in the gym,” continued Stiab. Stiab also acknowledged that many of his colleagues are “old school,” and are not fans of AAU. Not only does Stiab see AAU from a high school coach's perspective, he has 2 young boys who play AAU basketball, and he is careful where he places them. “Kids need to find the right team that will help them improve their game. As a father, you have to find the right program for your son. There are good organizations and there are bad. You have to put aside your ego [as a parent] and put your son on the right team, the right environment.” Staib said. “How many minutes are there? How many quality minutes will there be for my son,” questioned Stiab. There you have it, not all highs school coaches are AAU bashers!

Has AAU Surpassed High School Basketball in Importance

It is also argued that AAU has surpassed high basketball in terms of importance and relevance. Again, my experience suggests this may be true in some cases.  I think in terms of exposure and recruitment, that’s very much the case. The fact remains, college coaches benefit greatly from AAU basketball, because the weekly events they flock to allow them to evaluate a large number or quality prospects at one time. Therefore, AAU basketball saves coaches money which is a must for smaller programs that lack the big recruiting budget. Moreover, AAU events provide coaches with the opportunity to see prospects play against a high level of competition, as opposed to seeing 1 or 2 prospects compete against inferior talent during the high school season. It’s also important to note that high school season and college season run simultaneously, making it difficult to get out and evaluate prospects.

In terms of the “high school experience,” I would not trade my son’s experience for anything. Although it’s great to travel the country with friends and family while competing against the best competition in the county, there is simply no substitution for the experience of playing in front of big crowds in your community and the pride a kid feels representing his/her high school!Also, at least in Ohio, AAU’s influence on high school programs is significant. In many cases, AAU coaches are increasingly taking over high school programs. When this happens, AAU programs often become “feeder programs” for high schools. Cincinnati seems to lead the way with this practice, but central Ohio has joined the trend as has northeast Ohio. Make no mistake; this is a national trend that will only increase as the pressure to win intensifies.  Many fans of high school basketball point to the lack of competitive balance.  When high school coaches bring a high number of players from their, or other, AAU teams, those teams are often stacked and can create artificially dominate highs school teams that compete against more “community-based” teams. Clearly, AAU’s influence on high school programs is significant, and not likely to decrease anytime soon.

I would be less than honest if I did not acknowledge the fact there is a lot of bad in AAU basketball (i.e., overzealous coaches and parents, greedy and dishonest program directors and coaches, adults who exploit players for their own gain, absentee parents, ect), however, even with its flaws, travel basketball can be a fantastic experience. Although I have highlighted some of my concerns about our system, I remain a great fan of travel basketball and the positive forces working within the game. Additionally, I have to acknowledge the fact that there are numerous hardworking and dedicated coaches and support persons who spend time away for their own families and spend money out of their own pockets to work with kids. Often times, coaches and teams are “painted with the same brush.” AAU is the same way; a few bad situations are allowed to define the entire system, when in fact, there is much more good about the game than bad. Although only a handful of coaches may run astray of the law, all AAU coaches are considered crooks and criminals. In my experience, that’s simply not the case. Many of AAU’s critics have not seen enough of the positive situations; consequently, they focus on the negative aspects of the game and ignore all of the good.  In closing, I’m not sure this piece has “plowed any new ground,” or has offered anything of substance to the debate, but I simply felt the need to weigh in with my own observations and guidance for our Buckeye Prep Report followers. I welcome your comments (constructive) in the section provided below. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Buckeye Prep 6th Grade/2020 Watch List Released

Shemar Morrow-Aurora
We recently released our list of the top thirty 7th graders in Ohio, and from the amount of chatter in the comment section (22 posts and counting), there is much debate regarding several players on that list. With the release of our 6th grade/2020 “Watch List,” the debate is sure to continue. Our list currently contains the names of 46 players who have already established themselves worthy of statewide recognition. Clearly, our Watch List is incomplete and does not nearly identify all of the top guys in the class.  However, the list represents a good starting point, and will aide us in better defining the elite talent in the class going forward.

Although there is much debate about several of the top players in 2019, there is no such debate about the #1 player in Ohio in 2020; that honors goes to Shemar Morrow, a 6’0 WF from Aurora. Morrow is not only considered to be the top prospect in Ohio, he is the consensus #1 player nationally as well. At this point in his young career, Morrow is physically dominate and has no equal. Bigger, stronger and more athletic than his peers, Morrow scores at will in the paint. When he does occasionally miss, he often grabs his own rebound and puts the rock back for the score. His play in the Best of Midwest all-star game at last September’s Buckeye Prep Elite Showcase left no doubt to onlookers that Morrow is the real deal!

Zeb Jackson-Toledo
Currently, there is a huge gap between Morrow and the other elite players in the class; however, there are still some quality players on the radar presently. Matt Allocco (5'3 PG Upper Arlington) has made the case as the top PG in the class. He may be diminutive, but nobody is tougher under pressure than Allocco! This kid has more than held his own against 2018’s best floor generals, and his skill set, IQ and motor are superior to any floor general in the class. Other elite 2020 kids include: Jack Pugh (5’10 PF Plain City); Grant Huffman (5’5 SG Aurora); Zeb Jackson (4’11 SG Toledo) and a handful of others.

Between now and next fall, we will be watching this class very carefully in order to add names to our list and to  better define the truly elite among them. As I have mentioned earlier, there are a number of other talented players who deserve to be featured on our list, but until we see them on multiple occasions, we can’t evaluate them. If your son/player is not fortunate enough to play on an elite team that plays in the more competitive tournaments, it will be more difficult for them to get the exposure they need. In those cases, camps and showcases are an alternative.

Now of course we realize that not everybody is interested in early exposure for their child/player, and that’s ok, but understand that if exposure matters, parents have to put their child in the right position. Finally, the list below is just “one person’s opinion,” and placement on the same does not guarantee future success; we simply want to recognize the hard work of those players who have landed on our radar so far.  Let the debate continue!

6th Grade/2020 Player Watch List

Monday, October 28, 2013

Buckeye Prep Top Thirty 7th Graders (2019)

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!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

All-Ohio City Series Tipped off on Saturday

Kentucky Commit Tyler Ulis was Impressive

On Saturday, I made my way over to Reynoldsburg High School to check out the day-one action at the All-Ohio City Series. Although the level of competition and number of teams are down from year one of the event in 2010, there was still a lot of talent in the high school divisions. The best player in the gym was Kentucky commit Tyler Ulis from Chicago, IL. I know you what you’re asking; because Ulis is originally from Lima, and developed his significant skill set in that city before relocating to Chicago, he was allowed to run with Quincy Simpson’s Lima team as a symbolic gesture.  If you don’t believe Ulis is a Lima kid, checkout this old highlight video of Ulis putting in work at the Buckeye Prep Elite Showcase when he was in middle school. To be honest; it was an unexpected treat to see the dynamic PG display the talent that garnered him a scholarship with one of the top college programs in the country. Ulis did not disappoint, as he led his Lima squad to an 83-53 win over Team Akron, while leading all scorers with 23 points.  Ulis made it look easy as he commenced to break down defenders off the dribble with crafty moves, dropping sweet passes, and draining treys, all without breaking a sweat. Justin Blanks paced Akron with 20 points followed by Martyce Kimbrough who finished with 14 points.

Javon Bess-Michigan State Pledge
In another 12th grade division game, Columbus Red got by Dayton 85-73. Columbus was in control the entire game, and was up big early.  However, Dayton mounted a late run and trimmed the lead to 10 points (50-60) with 8 minutes left in the contest. Michigan State pledge Javon Bess was big for Columbus, finishing with a game-high 20 points. Trotwood’s Dazhontae Bennett finished with a team-high 15 points followed by Jordan Smith (Dunbar) who added 11 points.

Ryan Mikesell Had a Big Day
The 11th grade division saw a great game between Columbus Red and Dayton.  Although Dayton was winning for most of the contest, and was actually up by 16 points into the second half, Columbus came roaring back to take a 1 point lead with 7 minutes left in the game.  Dayton would regroup with a 7-0 run to push the score to 81-73 by the 1:24 mark.  Dayton would go on to capture the 87-77 win. St Henry’s Ryan Mikesell led all scorers with 23 points, followed by Wayne’s Ahmed Waggner (18 points) and Xeyreus Williams (10 Points). Columbus was led in scoring by Jaquan Harrison who finished with a team-high 11 points followed by Nicholas Bapst (9 points).

Ty Wiley & Jabari Perkins Shined
Because most middle school divisions were held at different facilities, I only had the opportunity to catch one middle school game.  I have to admit, it wasn’t much of the game, as a loaded Columbus Red dismantled an undermanned Columbus Grey squad (it was 25-8 at one point).  When I say loaded, I’m talking about a team that featured some of 2018’s best players with guys like Ty Wiley (5’7 PG), Jabari Perkins (5’10 SG), Jamiel Goliday (6’0 SG/WF), Jerome Hunter (6’3 PF), DeShawn Daniels (6’3 PF/C), Juan Elmore (6’3 C) and Cory Baker 5’9 PG/SG). In this evaluator’s opinion, Jabari Perkins and Ty Wiley were the stars of the game. These to kids run together with the Ohio Hoopsters in the summer, but they always seem to find themselves on the same team, and it shows with how they play off of each other. Both players can handle the rock, are aggressive and can knock down jumpers if left unguarded. Wiley is craftier of the two in terms of his handle, while Perkins is more about using his strength and athleticism to get to the cup.

Ryan Ross-Has Potential
I also saw some good things from Jerome Hunter. Hunter is new to the state-wide scene, but by most accounts, his upside potential is good if he continues to develop. Although I saw more jump shots than rebounds from Hunter, he has the ability to be productive closer to the bucket. Ross Ryan, a 6’5 PF from Centerburg was the best player on the Grey team, and showed a lot of promise with his size, footwork and post moves.  Not only can Ryan score in the post, he has the ability to step outside and knock down a jump shot as well. He is overshadowed a team full of talent on the Ohio Hoopsters, but the kid can play. Hopefully I can get back over to the event on Sunday to check out the City Series final.

Tyler Ulis City Series Highlight Video
Saturday Highlight Video

Friday, October 25, 2013

Buckeyes Represent State in National Rankings

Shamar Morrow-#1 Ranked 6th Grader
Although many question the accuracy, let alone relevancy of ranking middle school-aged players; the fact remains, they are here to stay! Love them or hate them, middle school rankings are important to a lot of people, and they inspire many reactions, both positive and negative. Not only does the Buckeye Prep Report rank young players in the state, we keep an eye on other national rankings.

Case in point, our colleagues at Prospect Central recently released rankings for grades 6th, 7th, and 8th, and a few Ohio kids were recognized for their talent. In terms of 6th graders or the class of 2020, Ohio can lay claim to the number 1 player in the country. Shemar Morrow, a 6’0” WF from Loraine has been a prominent fixture on the AAU basketball scene for several years, and his talent is already being compared to some of the greatest basketball players in history. With great size and athleticism at a young age, Morrow has dominated up until this point in his career. During his recent play at the Buckeye Prep Elite Showcase in September, Morrow’s talent was on full display as he was clearly a cut above the competition. Although Prospect Central’s 2020 list only totals 10, Morrow sits atop the class for now.

Jordan Mitchell Ranked 6th Nationally
Prospect Central also dropped a list of their top sixty 7th graders, and a trio of Buckeye made the cut. Blacklick’s Jordan Mitchell (6’4 SF) was the highest ranked Ohio kid at #6, followed by his All-Ohio Red teammates Jeremiah Frances (5’11 PG Columbus) at #7 and Gerard Reynolds (6’0” PF Columbus) at #29. All three players have consistently been recognized as top 50 players by national media outlets, and all of them proved their talent during the inaugural season of the National Youth Basketball League(NYBL), as they lead their Ohio Select team to the championship. It should be noted that once again, the NYBL had a significant number of its players on the list, which only highlights the high level of competition in the league! In addition, based on the fact that all of the national lists that have been published  to date are loaded with NYBL players, it’s clear that the exposure generated by the league is getting kids recognized at a high rate!

EJ-Williams-Ranked #55 Nationally
Ohio only had 1 representative on Prospect Central’s 2018 list, and that honor goes to Middletown’s EJ Williams (6’9 C) at #55. Williams has been a fixture at Buckeye Prep events for many years, so we know his talent very well.  Not only is he BIG, but Williams has continued develop his skill set and is absolutely dominate in the post. An absolute rebounding machine; Williams also scores at will if he catches the rock anywhere near the basket. In addition, it’s our understanding that Williams is already receiving serious interest from D-I colleges. Congratulations to all of the above-named players for representing the Buckeye State well, as their national success further solidifies that Ohio is more than a “football state.”

Rolled Ankle Injury in Adolescent Basketball Players

Below is the latest article in a series of exclusive articles written by Dr. Kenneth Ransom for the Buckeye Prep Report. The series of articles represent both Buckeye Prep and Dr Ransom’s commitment to youth basketball. Enjoy!

Rolled Ankle Injury in Adolescent Basketball Players

The inversion ankle sprain is the most common traumatic injury in basketball players and the injury occurs more frequently in basketball than any other sport (7.74 per 10,000 high school basketball athlete exposures).  A sprain is defined as the stretching or tearing of a ligament.  There are three ligaments that attach the fibula to the foot that can be stretched or torn when the ankle is turned in, or inverted. (Fig 1)  This injury usually occurs when the player is landing from a rebound or making a sharp lateral cut. Besides pain, especially with weight baring, there is frequently swelling and even bruising depending on the severity of the ligamentous damage. Grade I, stretch with minimal swelling and no bruising; Grade II a partial tear with swelling and minimal bruising; Grade II is a complete tear with extensive swelling and bruising.

The injury that adolescents suffer may be different than what happens in young adults. Since the bones are still growing and the growth plates have not fused in boys up to 15 or 16 years of age, they are weaker than the surrounding ligaments especially in the area of a growth plate. So when an adolescent basketball player rolls his ankle he is more likely to injure the bone where the ligament attaches than the ligament itself.  Of more concern is the possibility of damaging or even fracturing the growth plate, which is actually the weakest portion of the bone. (Fig 2)  Injury or fracture of the growth plate can result in abnormal growth if the injury is not recognized and properly treated.  Swelling and bruising of the ankle after an inversion injury in an adolescent athlete should be evaluated by a physician and possibly x-rayed or undergo an MRI to make sure that there is not a fracture.

Minor ankle inversion injuries with little or no swelling and no bruising can be treated with rest, ice and elevation for the first 24 hours to minimize the swelling.  Anti-inflammatory medication can also be given to reduce the pain and inflammation.  In 48 hours the player usually can start passive range of motion exercises but only weight bare to pain tolerance. If the ankle hurts to walk on, crutches or additional time at rest may be necessary. Activity is increased as the soreness subsides but “if it hurts don’t do it”. Stretching and movement of the ankle within 48 to 72 hours is important therapy to prevent the joint from getting stiff and weak which can prolong recovery. Typically 5 to 7 days of rest and therapy are needed with a minor injury before the player can resume some basketball play. It is very important not to re-injure the ankle so activity that produces inversion forces on the ankle should be initially avoided. 

A program of continued stretching and exercising the ankle and lower leg is an important part of rehabilitation and continued maintenance following an ankle injury. There may also be some benefit of wearing an ankle brace or taping the ankle for additional support when playing.  The highest risk factor for suffering an ankle sprain is having had a previous ankle sprain.  In one study 75 % of high school basketball players that sustained an ankle injury had had a previous ankle injury versus only 33% that had not had a previous injury. Repetitive ankle injuries can result in a chronic problem and hinder the player’s ability to progress in the sport.

When should the player be seen by a physician? Anytime there is swelling and associated bruising, especially in the adolescent.  Not only is initial treatment important to promote proper healing but continues rehabilitation and maintenance therapy is necessary to prevent further recurrent injuries and possible long term pain and disability. In addition, players that routinely stretch out and exercise their leg muscles have a decreased risk of sustaining an injury even if they roll an ankle.  And finally, good nutrition with plenty of carbohydrates, protein, calcium and vitamin D makes the bones and soft tissues stronger and less susceptible to injury, especially in adolescent athletes.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Tier 1 Sports MS Showcase Recap

On Saturday, I headed north to Lima, Ohio to cover Quincy Simpson’s Tier 1 Sports Middle School Showcase. By the time I got to Lima Central Catholic High School, the roughly 160 kids in attendance were still participating in skill and drill sessions. According to some of the parents I talked to, the skills portion of the showcase was top notch. Later in the afternoon, the games began, with each team playing 3 games. The format did not include all-star games. In addition to the Buckeye Prep Report, there were several other scouting services in the house including: Ty Kish, Ethan Knopp, Straight A Athletics and Zack Fleer.

Andre Gordon-2019 Sidney

Although the showcase featured kids in grades 4th thought 8th, for the most part, I concentrated on the younger guys. The best kid I say all day was Andre Gordon (2019) a 5’10 PG from Sidney. I’ve seen Gordon before, and have always been impressed with his game, but on Saturday, he was even better than I remembered. A bigger guard who is skilled, handles the ball very well, and does a great job of attacking the cup and finishing. I hear he is a fantastic football player and well, and his athletic and strong play is translates well to the hardwood as well. He is still flying under the radar right now, but once people really get a chance to see him play, he will take his rightful place among the top 2019 floor generals in the state. Trotwood’s Amari Davis (6’0 WF) was having his way in the 7th grade division. Davis has good length and can score in bunches. Davis is often over shadowed by all of the talent on All-Ohio Red’s 2019 team, but he can ball with the best of them.

Zeb Jackson-2022-PG Toledo

I really enjoyed watching some of the younger kids at the event. In the 6th grade division, Toledo’s Zeb Jackson Jr. was very impressive. The 4’11 PG has the ball on the string, excels at beating his defender off the bounce, and either getting to the rack or dropping a sweet dime to an open teammate. Oh yea, he has some flash to his game, but he’s still productive while giving his team a chance to win. I've had my eye on Jackson for several years, and he is still developing and is still one of the top lead guards in the class of 2021. I also liked Isaiah Kennedy, a 5’3 guard from Beavercreek. A big boded guard who is more about muscling his way to the basket right now than tricking his defender with dribble moves. But make no mistake, Kennedy can handle the rock, and he can shoot it as well. With his play at the fall Buckeye Prep Elite Showcases in September as well as Saturday’s event, it’s safe to say that Kennedy is among the state’s best. Some of the other standouts included: Joey Holifield (5’5 WF Toledo), Tahleik Walker (5’0 PG Columbus) and Kole Whitney (4’10 PG Sandy Hook, KY). I can’t forget about Tavion Harris (5’6 PG Mansfield). Quality player who can score.

Grayson Green-2018 Cleveland Heights

The 8th grade division had some gems as well, and one of the best was Trotwood’s Devon Baker, a 5-10 PG with size, athleticism and a solid jump shot. I had not seen Baker previously, but I plan to keep an eye on him going forward. Also, Cleveland Heights’ Grayson Green (6’0 WF) has been on my radar for a couple years now, and he just keeps getting better every time I see him play. Not only does his physical play standout in his play with King James, but you can see his talent in showcase-type events as well. Green does most of his damage in the paint where he is big and physical enough to bang and finish with contact. Green is an all-around good looking prospect. I also like Tyler Slash, a 5’5 PG from Roanoke, VA. Slash has a tight handle, great vision and is an excellent passer. In addition, Teas Valley’s Garret Tipton did several nice things on Saturday, and although I did not see him play, a scouting colleague told me that Diego Gray 5’11 SG/WF Oklahoma City, OK) had a big day as well. Explosive and strong was how Gray was described. I’m sorry I missed him! Also, I did not get a chance to see Keion Brooks (2019 PG Indiana), but someone I respected said he played well on Saturday.

Derrick James-4th Grade PG

When I say young guys, the event had some really good kids starting from the second grade. We don’t often write about kids below the 6th grade, but I have to mention a few kids who really caught my eye. Look out for Derrick James, a dynamic little PG with a game beyond his years! This kid can really handle that rock! I watched him put a couple of moves on his defender and was amazed with his skill set. I also like Sean Jones (4th grader), John Mobley Jr. (2nd grade) and Fred Wilkes (6th grade).

Other players to watch: Darius Quiszenberry (8th), Devin Meyers (7th), Josiah Hutchins (7th), Parker Vanarsdalen (7th), Caleb Rogers (7th), Ian Bull (7th), Soul Hines (7th), Jordan Moore (6th), Ketaan Wyatt Jr. (6th), Dai’Sean Saka (6’1 C Toledo), Khalil Luster (4th), Deuce Blake, Eearion Brooks and Reece Badgett.

All in all, it was a quality event, but of course I would expect nothing less from Coach Q!

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