Tuesday, April 30, 2013

N.Y.B.L.’s Session #2 Tips off Friday in North Augusta, SC

Although many said it could not be done, 24 of the nation’s most elite 6th grade teams will reconvene in North Augusta, South Carolina this Friday for the second session of the National Youth Basketball League (N.Y.B.L.). As was the case in session #1 in Washington D.C., the gym is sure to be buzzing, as the competition will be intensified.   In the Nation’s capital, 3 teams got out of town without a blemish. Ohio Select, Carolina Preps and Carolina Chaos all finished 5-0 in the opening session.  Although they stumbled a bit, several other teams got off to great starts. Arizona Monsoon, Deron Williams Elite, S.C. Hornets, Metrolina Havoc, 6th Man Warriors and Southern Stampede all finished with impressive 4-1 records.

One of the big questions surrounding session #2 centers around whether any of the above teams will escape South Carolina without loss? Even money is on Ohio Select  to run the table, despite the fact the DeMarco Bradley’s squad has to face a murders row of teams chopping at the bit to take down the #1 ranked juggernaut. The team most likely to rip off the emperor’s clothes is Keyford Langley’s Carolina Preps squad. With good size, a roster full of talent and the poise to withstand Ohio Select’s intense pressure, by most accounts, Preps has the team to get the job done.  This match-up is slated for Sunday afternoon, and for those fortunate enough to be in the house, get there early if you want a seat.

Carolina Preps will arrive in North Augusta with a 36-0 record

I spoke with Keyford Langley, coach of Carolina Preps, and he, too, is very excited about the session #2 match-ups. “Everybody is talking about it [session #2], I have gotten a lot of calls from various coaches, both inside and outside of the league talking about the match-ups,” said Langley. There are a lot of guys not in the league planning to drive up to North Augusta to watch the games,” Langley continued. Although Langley and his players are looking forward to their match-up with All-Ohio, they don’t have a master plan. “It’s more about what we do, not what they do,” added Langley. “We’re not going to do anything special; it will be about our style [of play] versus their style of play’” the coach said. Although Langley’s team will face several quality teams over the course of weekend, the  Ohio Select game sticks out the most. “I don’t won’t to over look the other teams, because they all can beat you, but it’s hard not to think about the Ohio Select game,” continued Langley. Carolina Preps has a good reason to feel confident, as they will be rolling into North Augusta rocking a 36-0 record. They have won 8 tournaments so far this season and have played up and beaten a number of 7th grade teams.

Will Each 1 Teach 1 make any noise?

Let me make this clear, Carolina Preps is not the only squad who can take down Goliath, as 5 teams in the league’s South Division have a resume that suggests they have a chance also. The S.C. Hornets, Southern Stampede, Metrolina Havoc and Carolina Chaos will all get a shot at shocking the world. Although most people point to the All-Ohio vs Carolina Preps match-up as possibly the game of the weekend, Langley feels the game to watch is All-Ohio vs the S.C. Hornets. This game would serve as a rematch of sorts, as the Hornets defeated All-Ohio Red in the first round of bracket play at the AAU Nationals last year.  Also, the Hornet’s big man has returned to the squad for session two, and could have a major impact on the game. “That may be the game of the session,” added Langley. The Preps coach is also anticipating his team’s match-up with ETU Select and others. “I want to see ETU and Ohio Select; hell, I want to see all of the games," Langley said.

Although All-Ohio vs the South Division is the big ticket for the weekend, session #2 will feature other key match-ups, and will answer a few additional questions. Question two; can Deron Williams Elite and the Arizona Monsoon duplicate the success they enjoyed in Maryland? Question 3; just how strong is the East Division and can they bring pride and respect back to northeast basketball?  Is the South Division really that strong or can teams like 6th Man Warriors, ETU Select or Each 1 Teach 1 take away a little shine from their southern brethren? Question 4; who are the top kids in the league? Ohio Select’s Gerard Reynolds was the consensus MVP just a few weeks ago. Thomas Brunner (S.C. Hornets), Chris Harris (D-Will Elite), Wendell Moore (Carolina Preps) and Isaiah Watson (Carolina Chaos) were all first teamers in session #1, but were they just lucky, or can they excel a second time around and punch their ticket to the NYBL All-Game Star in September in Columbus?

Can the S.C. Hornets get it done in S.C.?

Session #2 will also feature some upgrades off the court. This weekend, all of the games will be played under one roof so everybody will get a chance to watch most of the match-ups. I can almost hear the oohs and ahs coming from every court.  I can see the crowds packing the gym to watch the action. Oh by the way, the facility for the event is the Riverfront Park Activities Center, the same facility the Nike uses to host the Peach Jam, their most prestigious event!  Also, on Saturday night, the league will host a coach’s social at the host hotel. The social will be catered, and beverages will be flowing! After they beat each other up on the court, the event will give coaches a chance to socialize, fellowship and simply unwind after a hectic day of competition. 

If you can’t make the trip to North Augusta, make sure you stop back by this site, as there will be a ton of stories, recaps and special features, all designed to fully document what went down in South Carolina In closing, “CAN’T WAIT!!

Monday, April 29, 2013

King James Classic-Final Day Report

Indy Hoosiers-8th Grade Champions

The final day of the King James Classic saw 3 Ohio-based middle school teams competing for silver and gold championships. In the 8th grade division, All-Ohio Red was the last Ohio team standing as they faced off against an undefeated Indy Hoosiers. Although the game was relatively close from the tip, with about 5 minute left in the first half, Indy turned up the heat, forced about 5 turnovers in a row which led to an 11-0 run. By half time, it was already 33-20, All-Ohio would score to open the second half, but the Hoosiers had already tasted blood and would eventually collect a 58-36 blowout win and the 8th grade title. Paul Scruggs (6’3 PG/SG Indianapolis) was a beast, finishing with a game-high 22 points. Scruggs is a big guard who excels at beating his defender off the bounce and finishing with contact. He’s just too strong and skilled for most defenders! Right behind him in scoring was Christopher Wilkes (6’5 WF Indianapolis) who added 13 points. Paris Ford’s team-high 12 points made him the top man for All-Ohio.

Paul Scruggs-6'3 PG/SG Indianapolis

The 7th grade silver division championship pitted King James against New York’s Eastside Hoops. This game lacked much intrigue as King James took control early; so much so, I left the game early to go watch the 7th gold bracket championship. When I left, King James was already up 20-6 and was cruising. I later learned that King James got the win. Earlier in the day it was not as easy for King James, as they had to battle a very scrappy Michigan Titans team to advance to the title game. The game was close until about midway through the second half when King James mounted a 7-0 run which eventually led to a 35-45 win. Sincere Carry was the catalyst as his play making ability is what powers this team. Whenever things get close for King James, Carry seems to make a big play, whether it’s knocking down a trey or breaking down the defense and dropping off a sweet pass for a layup. I also saw some good things from Greyson Green (5’10 WF Cleveland Heights). He is nowhere near as flashy as Carry, but he’s just as important to this team, as he is the work horse who gets the kind of tough buckets every team needs to get the win.

Xavier Castaneda-5'5 PG Chicago

One of the best games I saw all day was in the semi-finals of the 7th grade gold bracket, as Gene Reddy’s SMAC U team hooked up with Chicago Select. This game was contested from the tip, with neither team being able to go up much more than 5 points. As soon as you thought a team had seized momentum and was about to run away with the game, the other team responded with a run to close the gap or take the lead. With that said, Chicago Select played with a slight lead for most of the first half, but SMAC U would always seem to cut into the lead, tie the game, or go up a few points. Credit several big treys from Jaret Pallotta and another solid performance from Cooper Crawford for keeping the game within reach. Chicago Select made a late run in the first half to extend their lead to 28-22. SMAC got out of the gates quickly with a 4-0 run to start the second half and cut the lead to 26-28. Despite SMAC’s grittiness and refusal to loose, Chicago Select would continue to make big plays every time SMAC closed the gap. In the end, Chicago Select was the better team and made bigger plays down the stretch on their way to a 45-35 victory. They did not keep individual scores, but Chicago’s Xavier Castaneda (5’5 PG) was the difference in this game. Not only did he knock down several timely treys, he consistently got into the teeth of the defense, drew contact and finished with an athletic shot. I have to mention the 32-point performance Cooper Crawford logged in against the Shining Stars early on Sunday. The Shining Stars is a good team, so 32 points is BIG! I also understand that Chaz Hardin played an important role in the win as well. With SMAC’s final 4 finish, including a 48-32 win over Murphy AC in the elite 8, there will be some changes in the team rankings when I update them later in the week.

New Rens-7th Grade Champions

I stuck around to catch the 7th grade championship between Chicago Select and New York’s New Rens. This one was another close one with New Rens controlling most of the game. However, late in the second half New Rens seemed to be on cruise control until a late run by Chicago trimed the lead to 42-43 with 1:02 left in the contest. With 50.4 seconds remaining, Chicago was down 42-45 with the ball. However, they could not convert, and New Rens won it 47-42. Nayshon Kane (6’4 PF Brooklyn) was a horse in the paint and led his team with 10 points. Chicago Select’s Drake Raekwon (6’4 PF/C Huntsville Alabama) got it done in the post for his team, finishing with a game-high 12 points. Keep an eye out for Jalen Cary (5’9 BG Harlem) and Walter Talley (6’6 C Brooklyn), both of whom showed potential. Finally, you might want to track Markavis Nowell (5’6 PG Kentucky) as well.

All-Ohio Red-6th Grade Champions

As predicted, All-Ohio’s 6th grade team ran the table in their division all the way to the championship. In the final game, although All-Ohio jumped out to a 6-0 lead, Kentucky’s Derby State Racers fought back and actually had All-Ohio tied at 7-7 at about the 4 minute mark. From there, Chris’Seon Stringer, DeMarco Bradley Jr. and Omari Davis came off the bench and added a spark. There was no turning back, as All-Ohio dominated the rest of the game. According to Coach Bradley, Gahanna’s Jordan Mitchell “played his best game of their year and showed everybody why he’s the #1 player in the country. Jordan put on a clinic, and every facet of his game was clicking,” added Bradley. All-Ohio would later win the championship by a final score of 70-31. All-Ohio’s attention now turns to session #2 of the NYBL set to tip off this weekend in North Augusta, South Carolina. After running through the competition this weekend, and having to play with a running clock every game [the clock runs when a team is up 20 in the 2nd half], Bradley is very appreciative of the level of competition his teams get in the NYBL.

Final Day Photo Gallery
Whats Happening Around the State

Sunday, April 28, 2013

King James Classic-Day Two Report

Caveman Baskeball

I started my day off checking out teams in the 6th grade division. When I walked into the gym, DC Assault was already well ahead of OBC 34-16.  Unfortunately for OBC, things did not get much better from there, as DC Assault simply overpowered OBC on their way to a lopsided 40-18 win. For the record, OBC was formally known as Team Get Ryte out of Cincinnati. The player of the game for DC Assault was Jonathan McGriff (5'7 PG Bowie, MD).

Josiah Hudgins, Ratez Roberts & Andre gordon

Next up was a match-up between Ohio Rising Stars and the Indiana's G3 Hoosiers. The Hoosiers got on the board first which sparked an 8-2 run. The Rising Stars responded with a mini run to cut the lead 8-10 to close the 1st quarter. The Rising Stars tied the game at 19 midway through the 2nd quarter. A Josiah Hudgins (5'9 C Sidney) jumper put the Rising Stars up 22-20, but G3 came right back with a trey to take a 1 point lead (23-22). By half time, the game was knotted at 25. The Rising Stars struck first in the 3rd quarter both teams shared the lead. A Rising Stars spurt put them up 37--34 heading into the 4th. The Rising Stars started where they left off to start the final period. The Rising Stars stepped on the gas early and extended their lead to 41-34.  A few minutes later, sensing time was running out, G3 turned up the heat, then turned over the Stars' guards to close the gap and keep the game close. In fact, G3 cut the lead to 46-44 with 2:50 left. The Rising Stars would hold off a hard charging G3 Hoosier to claim the 54-48 win. Ratez Roberts (5'8 WF Sidney) led a trio of scores with 16 points, followed by Josiah Hudgins (5'9 C Sidney) with 16 points and Andre Gordon (5'7 PG Sidney) who added 11 points. G3's Dexter Shouse was the man for his squad, finishing with 16 points. I was very impressed with the Ohio Rising Stars. They have good length, are well coached, and their point guard play is as good as any in the state. Look for Gordan to be added to our top 30 list when we publish it later in the year. Also, there is little doubt how Sidney MS went 16-0 last season with the 3 studs from the Rising Stars.

Phillip Jurkovec, Torian Leak & Robbie Carmondy

Later, I caught up with Buckeye Prep in their 2nd pool game against Caveman Basketball out of Pittsburgh. I had heard a lot of good things about the Caveman, and everything I saw during this game confirmed what I had heard. The general consensus is that Caveman is the top 7th grade team in PA.  Although Buckeye Prep tried to hang close early, at the end of the day, Caveman was much bigger, much more talented, and much deeper. In addition their size, just about everybody on the floor can shoot. Also, they have great guard play.  Oh yea, Caveman busted Buckeye Prep by 20 plus. Phillip Jurkovec (6'3 WF Pittsburgh) was big for the Caveman, finishing with a game-high 19 points. Robbie Carmody (5'11 SG Pittsburgh) added 11 points.  Toriaon Leak (5’6 PG Pittsburgh) may not have put up big numbers, but he ran the heck out of the point.  Leak does a good job of running the offense; he controls the game and makes good decisions.  Seth Goodson was the high man for Buckeye Prep with 11 points. 

Braden Norris Got Hot

Excel (7th) found themselves in a dog fight with Michigan's Just Do It Again (JDIA) in the second pool game. The game was nip and tuck well into the second half.  About that time, Upper Arlington's Braden Norris went off, knocking down 5 treys for the game.  He not only shot the cover off the ball, Norris got to the cup several times as well. Excel eventually pulled away to grab a victory.  Norris dropped a game-high 24 points. David Kellah (6'0 WF Grand Rapids) paced JDIA with a team-high 16 points. In their second game of the day, in bracket play, Excel beat Indiana Gym Rats 47-35. That win set up a rematch with Murphy AC. Earlier in the season, Murphy held on to beat Excel in the Grassroots tournament in March.

Alfonse Hale-Maple Heights

Early on Saturday, the 7th grade Ohio Hoopsters went down by 2 points in OT to Indiana Faith. The loss was even more disappointing because the Hoopsters were up at one time by about 18 points. Team Toledo's 7th grade team lost a close one to a team out of Redding PA. Toledo made a furious comeback to erase a 12 point deficit, but fell just short of the complete comeback. Christian Smith and Dallas Grant played well in the loss. In the first game of the day, Murphy AC's 6th grade team got by Illinois Gold rush 50-30. Josiah Hitchens and Alfonse Hale had monster games, scoring 18 points apiece. In game two, Murphy defeated Maryland Playmaker 40-33. Alfonso Hale and Justin Smith lead the way. Kevin Jackson's 7th graders got a 65-51 win over Eastside New York early Saturday, Tyree Harris and Yeal hill both finished with 18 points.

Sincere Carry Came Up Big

King James (7th grade) took a big hit from Metro Sixers early on Saturday with a 56-38 drumming. King James raced out to a 12-0 lead, but the Sixers mounted a 17-0 run of their own to take the lead. By halftime, the Sixers’ lead was only 23-25. However, later that night in silver bracket play, King James would mount a serious late game comeback to knock out my Buckeye Prep Team. The game was tight throughout, as both teams shared the lead on multiple occasions. By halftime, the game was tied at 25-25. It was the same situation in the second half, as both teams refused to lose. The game was still tied by the 7:09 mark, but Buckeye Prep would go ahead 47-43 with 2:07 left.  That’s just about when the drama began. Although it briefly appeared that Buckeye Prep would avenge and earlier loss to King James in the Grassroots, King James instituted a run and jump, forced Prep into turnovers, and quickly erased a 4 point deficit to tie the game at 47 with 10.9 tics left on the clock. After a King James desperation shot missed its mark, the game was forced into overtime.  King James dominated overtime, holding Prep scoreless to claim to 52-47 victory. Credit Sincere Carry for the win, as he was big down the stretch for King James. He made a number of big plays, finishing with a team-high 12 points. Seth Goodson was the man for Buckeye Prep and finished with 16 points. Teon Jennings had his best game of the season, finishing with 11 points and a handful of big rebounds. King James will face the Shining Stars tomorrow in the third round of the silver bracket.

Dwayne Cohill Jr.

Quincy Simpson’s Tier 1 Sports team is still alive in the silver bracket and will face Team Final in round 3 on Sunday. To get there, Tier 1 defeated the Cincinnati tar Heels and the Akron Bobcats. Team Final knocked out the Ohio Hoopsters to advance to the game. The Mansfield Cavs are also still alive in the same bracket with wins over Team Toledo Illinois Speed Blue. They will face the Michigan titans on Sunday. In gold bracket play, Murphy AC and SMAC U will hook up for a good one on Sunday in the 3rd round. Murphy AC defeated the Gym Rats and Excel to advance. While I’m on the subject of the game, I caught the very tail end of the same. When I got there, Murphy AC had just gone up 59-57 with 1:18 left in the game. By that time, Murphy was ahead for good, and would eventually take it, 65-57. From what I understand, the game was close all the way until midway through the second half, when Murphy started making money with their press, and was successful at speeding Excel up. Dwayne Cohill Jr. and Tyree Harris led Murphy with 14 points, followed by Yael Hill who added 12 markers. Isaiah Speelman had another big game with 22 points. 

Korbin Spencer-Elliott County, KY.

I had the chance to catch the match-up between Murphy AC's 6th graders and Kentucky's Derby State Racers in the second round of bracket play. When I arrived, Murphy was already down 16-6 in the first quarter. Murphy started the 2nd quarter strong and used that start to get back in the game. By the end of the 2nd quarter, Murphy had cut the lead to 28-25. Jackson's team scored first to start the second half on an Alfonse Hail layup.  The lead would change hands several times during the period, and the lead would only be by 1 point (42-40) to close the third period. The 4th quarter was a back and forth affair as both teams took turns possessing a lead. In the end, Derby State would open it up late to claim the 64-55 win and advance to the third round of bracket play. Elliott County’s Korbin Spencer (5’8 PG) was stroking it for Derby State, and finished with a game-high 19 points. Alfonse Hale (5’7 PG Maple Heights) was the leading scorer for Murphy AC and he looked great. This game was the first time I really had a chance to sit back and watch this dynamic PG, and I was more than impressed.  I loved the kid’s vision and willingness to make the pass. Also, he did a great job of getting into the paint and finding guys for easy buckets. He also made great decisions with the rock and he has ample dribble moves to get by his man. A no doubt top 30 player when we release our rankings in a few weeks.  For the record, Derby State defeated Team Nelson in the first round, and would later knock out the Ohio Rising Stars in the third round to move on to face Team Takeover Brown in the semi-finals.

David Kellah-6'0 WF Grand Rapids, MI.

As you would expect, DeMarco Bradley’s All-Ohio Red team is running through the 6th grade division with little resistance.  In fact, most teams in their wake have been unable to put more than points 20 on the board.  Well, add Huntsman Select Black to that list. Most people in attendance at this game already knew what was in store for the Urbana-based team as they took the floor against the #1 team in the country.  As expected, the first half was ugly, as Huntsman was rarely able to advance the ball across half court. By half time, the game was already out of reach at 38-4. I have to give credit to Huntsman, as their players never seemed to quit.  In fact, they actually went on scoring spurt to start the second half. Of course that spurt only consisted of 4 points, but it showed they were still trying to compete. There should be no shame in the final score (61-15), as many teams have, and will eventually experience the same pressure before the season is over. Only the Ohio Hoopsters Elite, Derby State Warriors and Team Takeover Brown remain in the path of All-Ohio’s crown. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

King James Classic-Day One Report

All-Ohio Red vs Excel

The King James Shooting Stars Classic tipped off Friday night at multiple sites around northeastern Ohio. As usual, the annual event attracted boys and girls teams from across the country in grades 2nd-11th. I started the night off watching my 7th grade Buckeye Prep team battle against Sacramento’s 916 Select, one of the top teams in the nation last year.  Buckeye Prep got out of the gates quickly by jumping to an early 5-0 lead, but 916 would answer with a 9-0 run to seize a 9-5 lead. A 4-0 run by Buckeye Prep knotted the game at 9-9 by the 8:02 mark. 916 would go on a spurt to grab a 21-11 lead with 2:22 remaining in the half. Prep would score one more time to close the period down 23-16. A Garrett Tipton layup started the second half and cut the lead to 23-18. A 7-2 Buckeye Prep run closed the gap to 30-29 by the 8:11 mark. The game would seesaw for the rest of the half, but Prep would eventually squeak out a 41-39 win over a very good opponent. Besides the win, the big story of the game was the outstanding play of 916’s Kiiwon Bradford, a 6’3 point forward from Sacramento. This kid has the full package, including ample athleticism; the ability to play all 5 positions, and he can shoot it.  In fact, Bradford tried to punch it on the break and barely missed. Remember the name; the kid has a ton of potential! Gahanna’s Seth Goodson drained a couple of big time treys in the second period and led Buckeye Prep with 16 points. Despite 916’s clear size advantage in the paint, Big Walnut’s Kaleb Phillips had a big game, finishing with 9 points, followed by Garrett Tipton who added 7 markers.  Next up for Buckeye Prep is Pittsburgh’s Caveman Basketball.

Seth Goodson Paced Buckeye Prep

With 63 teams in the 7th grade division alone, you would think no team would have to play a team from its own city.  That was not the case for All-Ohio Red and Excel, as the 2 cross-town rivals squared off on Friday night. Although the 3rd ranked Excel was the overwhelming favorite to get the opening night win, All-Ohio came out smoking and led the game until the 5:10 mark (13-13). Excel would take a 15-13 lead on a Dane Goodwin layup with 3:45 left in the half. All-Ohio would battle back and tie the game at 21 on a Houston King 3-ball. Excel would respond with a 9-0 run and take a 30-21 lead into the break. Excel’s 6-0 run to start the second period eventually resulted in a 54-35 blowout win. Not only does Excel play great team defense, but inside scoring by Hilliard’s Isaiah Speelman and perimeter scoring by Dane Goodwin is often too much for most teams. Goodwin is highly skilled and has a nice all around game. He shoots the three very well, but he can also put the rock on the floor and get to the cup. He finished with a game-high 24 points. I’ve praised Speelman’s game a lot on this site, but he deserves it! The kid’s spin move on the baseline is his signature, but he is so active in the paint both offensively and defensively that most post players can’t contain him. There is simply no other big man in the state doing quite what Speelman is doing.  I will close with this, if he gets to 6’7, high major coaches better have him on their boards!

Isaiah Speelman & Dane Goodwin Led Excel

Although I missed it, I understand there was a big time battle between the Queen City’s top 2 teams, as the #1 ranked Queen City Prophets (QCP) and the #7 ranked Shining Stars matched-up for the first time this season on opening night. From what I understand, the score was tight throughout the game, with no team able to sustain a lead of more than 6-8 points. Down 59-57 with time running out, the Shining Stars had a chance at the tie or win, but Isaiah Payton’s last second jumper missed the mark. QCP would get the 59-57 win as well as local bragging rights. Big EJ Williams a force in the paint again to the tune of 25 points, while Xavier Peters added 10 points. Jack Cravaack led the Shining Stars with 17 points, followed by CJ Fredrick who contributed 14 points. Although they lost, the Star’s performance may warrant a jump in the rankings!

Kiiwon Bradford-6'3 WF Sacramento

Kevin Jackson’s Murphy AC squad road balanced scoring all the way to an easy 65-34 win over Indiana’s BattleCats. Also, Dayton Metro started off the tournament 1-0 with a blowout victory over the Detroit All-Stars. DeMarco Bradley’s All-Ohio Red #1 ranked juggernaut began their trek to the 6th grade title with a convincing 72-22 win over the Battlecats from Indiana. As most teams do, the BattleCats came out in a 2-3 zone, but hot shooting from Jaiden Lipscomb and Malachi Matthews and a 19-0 run to start the game doomed that strategy early. Jim Schmock’s 8th grade King James went uncontested with a 60-33 beat down of Grove City’s Ohio Sting.  The competition will get a lot stiffer for King James, as they have a match up with New York’s New Rens on Saturday afternoon.  Some people have the NYC squad as the top team in the country.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Ohio North Vs South All-Star Games Return

Again this year, Buckeye Prep will be hosting the Ohio North vs South All-Star Games on day one of the Buckeye Prep Fall Elite Showcase. Last year, the games were a huge success so we are going to do it again! The games are scheduled for September 21st, and will include grades 6th-10th. Rosters will be announced later this year, but will include players listed in our Top 30 Player lists. Those lists will be updated throughout the summer, as we scout and evaluate players during various tournaments.

New this year are 2 NYBL All-Stars games (top 20 and top 40) for the top 6th graders in the country which will be added to the slate of all-star games for the day. We will also be featuring another Ohio vs Michigan game, and we may even bring in a Canadian all-star team for the final game. We will be handing out invitations starting in July. If you are listed on one of our Top 30 lists, email us at Taylorobe@aol.com and let us know if you are interested in participating in the games. These game will offer a very high level of competition and exposure!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

2013 Capital City Hoopfest-Saturday Action

Ohio Hoopsters in the Huddle

On Saturday, I spent a few hours at Reynoldsburg High School in Columbus as part of the 2013 Capital Hoopest, Although the field was relatively small (about 35 teams), there were a couple of games I wanted to see. I didn’t much of the game, but when I walked in, Dayton Metro was putting the finishing touches on 63-50 smack down of All-Ohio’s 7th grade team. This was a revenge game for Chuck Painter’s Metro squad, as All-Ohio beat Metro in the Grassroots tournament a few weeks ago. Beavercreek’s John Alessando had another monster game to the tune of 25 points. TK Robinson added 8 points, and Jimmy Weireck and Jamiel Goliday led All-Ohio with 11 points each. In addition, in a later game on Saturday, All-Ohio was in a heated battle with Ohio Hoopsters’ B team. When I left, All-Ohio was only up 49-45 with a little more than 8 minutes left in the game.
John Alassendro Dropped 25 points on All-Ohio

The game I really wanted to see featured the first match-up of the season between Lamonte Tillman’s Ohio Hoopsters squad and Excel.  The game marked the return of Ty Wiley and the debut of Jabari Perkins. With Excel playing without Dane Goodwin, I though the Hoopsters might pull this one out. In the first half, both teams traded blows, and took turns playing with a lead. In front of a spirited crowd, momentum changed hands often as each team enjoyed mini runs. An Excel run at about the 3:47 mark stretched their lead to 10 points (28-18), but the Hoopsters answered with a run of their own to cut the lead to 35-29 to close the half.  The big story of the 1st half was the outstanding play of Hilliard’s Isaiah Speelman (6’4 PF), who dominated the game with 18 halftime points. David Madison was the early catalyst for the Hoopsters with 11 points at the break.

Isaiah Speelman 6'4 PF Hillard

The second period was also about runs and multiple lead changes, as both teams enjoyed great shooting and clutch plays. There were too many momentum changing plays to count, but trust me; this game was dramatic until the very end. Because Excel made the final run, they got the 63-50 win.  Speelman was great the second half as well, finishing with a game-high 33 points.  With this performance, Speelman is easily one of the top 2 bigs in the class. You have to give EJ Williams the nod right now because of his sheer size and dominance, but the things Speelman is doing separates him from his peers. Speelman has great footwork; he’s quick, can pass, dribble and finish at this point of his development. David Madison was also very impressive in this game, finishing with a team-high 15 points.  He may not have gotten much Buckeye Prep ink up until this point, but his upside potential might be the best of anybody on a very talented team.

Paris Ford & Terrell Crowder

Although most of the top 8th grade teams were in Pittsburgh at the Jam Fest, All-Ohio Red hung around town to participate in this local event. I have to admit, it was hard to get real excited about the 5-team division that didn’t really feature any compelling match-ups. Case in point, the game I watched between All-Ohio Red and the Ohio Hoopsters is not very story-worthy, as All-Ohio cruised to an easy 64-34 victory. What is new-worthy is the play of Paris Ford (6’1 SG/WF Pittsburgh). I hadn’t seen Ford play before, but I had heard some good things about his game.  Needless to say, he lived up to his billing on Saturday, dropping a game-high 19 points. Ford has good length for his position, is athletic, has a solid handle and can get to cup on the regular.  He appears to be more of a slasher than a shooter from what I saw on Saturday, but he is a good looking prospect.  I also saw some good things out of Terrell Crowder (5’11 SG Columbus), who used his strong frame to get to and to finish with contact. Crowder finished with 15 points.

In other tournament action, Buckeye Prep’s 7th ranked Shining Stars are cruising along at the AAU Super Regional in Cincinnati. So far, the Shining Stars are 3-0 with wins over Detroit Thunder (80-41), Ohio Unity (60-43) and Cincinnati Vikings (50-42). Jackson See and Jack Cravaack are at again and are leading their team in scoring.

The #2 ranked Murphy AC (7th grade) is playing up in the 8th grade division at the Pittsburgh Jam Fest this weekend. On Saturday they started with a win over Fairfax Stars (61-42), but lost to the Detroit All-Stars 81-69. On Sunday, they lost to the Cavemen 81-79 in overtime. Dwayne Cohill Jr. was reportedly a beast in game one on Saturday. OBC’s 8th graders finished 1-1 on Sunday after playing to Canadian teams.

Summer Showdown Will Answer Questions

In conjunction with the NYBL Finals scheduled for May 31st-June 2nd here in Columbus, Buckeye Prep will be hosting the first-ever Summer Showdown.  With the recent release of the state middle school rankings, there has been a lot if debate about where teams are ranked. The Summer Showdown will answer those questions, as the top middle school teams will be invited to a round robin format which will match-up the state’s top middle school teams.  No excuses! If you want to be considered the best, come play the best. Details will be forthcoming, but save the dates!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Buckeye Prep Middle School Team Rankings

King James Shooting-#1 Ranking 8th Grade Team

Although the AAU season is really only about 4 weeks old, several middle school travel teams have already started to separate themselves from the pack, and the AAU landscape is just starting to become a littler clearer. Having scouted several major events recently, including the Nike Grassroots, Buckeye Prep Invitational and Bearcat Classic, I’m a little more comfortable publishing my initial rankings of the top middle school teams in the state. As a disclaimer, I have not seen a couple of teams in each respective class a whole lot, so there is still a slight margin of error. However, with the King James Classic scheduled to tip off next week the picture may become a little clearer.

Let’s start with the 8th grade division. Right now, I’m giving the #1 nod to the King James Shooting Stars. They won the Nike Grassroots tournament that hosted several of the state’s top teams, and in the championship game, they squeaked by All-Ohio Red despite having amassed an early, double digit lead. They also won their own tournament in Cincinnati a few weeks ago. King James’ roster is loaded with top 30 talent, including Tommy Schmock (one of the top 2-3 PGs in the state), Jaylen Harris (arguably the top kid in his class along with Logan Hill) and Kelvin Calhoun II (one of the top bigs in Ohio). The # 2 spot is really close, but I have to go with Dayton’s Next Level. They lost in the semi-finals of the Grassroots, but they beat a very good M.A.T.T.S. Mustangs team in the championship game of the Buckeye Prep Invitational. Next Level has several top 30 players of their own including: Danny Davis, L’ Christian Smith, Ethan Bradds and Ryan Proffit.

All-Ohio Red is in at the 3rd spot. Red has not claimed a title yet, but they have been in the hunt. Besides Logan Hill, All-Ohio’s best players may reside outside of the state, with both Paris Ford and Kenny Robinson driving in from Pittsburgh to run with Red. It’s hard to rank OBC 4th with all of the talent they have on that team; plus the fact they finished so high at the AAU Nationals last year. However, at this point in the season, no one has really seen them play. They passed on 2 of the biggest tournaments of the season so far, so it’s hard to gage exactly where they are right now. With that said, they did have a great showing at the OBBL last weekend, and actually played up a grade. That goes a long ways, but until they match up against one of the top 3 teams in the state, it’s tough to say just how good they are this season. Their top 30 players include: Tyrell Ajain (arguably the top floor general in the class), Dylan Dupler, Jaden Sayles (a big with serious upside), Antwon Smith Jr., Tyler Knetch and Trey Pugh. No disrespect to OBC, but if you care where you are ranked in the state, your schedule has to include tournaments where you are likely to play the other top teams. I have to assume they will play in the King James Classic; if so, they could move up with a good showing.

Queen City Prophets-# 1 Ranked 7th Grade Team

There should be little debate relative to the top spot in the 7th grade division, as the Queen City Prophets (QCP) has owned the division so far this season, with 3 tournament victories that I know about. A virtual unknown last season, QCP has added possibly the top point guard in the class in Kane Cooper, plus the top big in the class in EJ Williams (who has really gotten better); then throw in the sleeper of the year in Middletown’s Xavier Peters, and you have a dominate force. Right behind QCP is Murphy AC who has played the bride’s maiden to QCP twice this year so far. Like QCP, Murphy AC is athletic, brings a lot of pressure, and likes to get up and down the court. However, until they solve the EJ Williams puzzle and find a way to contain Cooper and Peters, they might be spending a lot of time at number 2! Murphy AC’s top 30 guys include: Jerry Higgins, Coryon Rice, Dwayne Cohill Jr., Tyree Harris, Yael Hill and Derrick Veasley Jr.

I saw a lot of SMAC U this past weekend, and I really like the way that team is constructed with Cooper Crawford, Anthony Johnson, Luke Brand and others, but the # 3 spot goes to the Columbus-based Excel for now. The team is not full of high risers, nor do they have a roster full height, but those guys know how to play basketball. I thought they were on the verge of getting blown out against Murphy AC in the Grassroots, but they refused to quit, and fought their way back into the game late. Their top 30 representatives include: Isaiah Speelman & Dane Godwin, but guys like Braden Norris and Matt Allacco (5th grade) are very good.

Although the Ohio Hoopsters are ranked fifth in our initial rankings, that could change very quickly with the return of Ty Wiley and the addition of Jabari Perkins from OBC. Once they match-up with the top 3 teams in the class, the landscape may change. This weekend could usher in that change, as the Hoopsters and Excel are both in the same tournament. Stay tuned for a report on that game if it happens! For the record, King James is loaded with top 30 talent, but they lost to the Hoopsters in the Grassroots, so they can’t be ranked above them. I hope to watch them again in their tournament in a few weeks.

All-Ohio Red-#1 6th Grade Team

The 6th grade class is on lock, and is likely to be so until well into high school. All-Ohio Red is not only the clear number one team in the state, but arguably the country. Session #2 of the NYBL may crown the early favorite for the national championship, but the Ohio crown was solidified right after All-Ohio Red and Purple joined forces during the off season. Red’s nonstarters would form the second best team in the state with no problem. For this team to get pushed in Ohio, they would need to play up in the 7th and maybe 8th grade divisions on a regular basis. I know there is a lot of debate about this team, but I would suggest that people just relax and enjoy the show this team puts on every time they take the court. Potential top 30 players include: Jordan Mitchell, Gerard Reynolds, Jerome Francis III, Chris’Seon Stringer, Jaidon Lipscomb, Chris Payne and DeMarco Bradley Jr.

In a distant second is SMAC Showtime. I’m not sure #1 and #2 will ever meet up this year, but it really doesn’t matter, does it? Mike Bekeja and Pittsburgh’s Kyi Wright are the stars, but there is a great supporting cast on this team. Dayton Elite, formally known as Salvation Army, grabs the third spot. Having recently lost to SMAC just last weekend, there’s not much debate between #2 and #3. Kendall Matthews, Jaren Smith and Noree Uloho will all be top 30 players once we publish our list later this year.

Below is a link to our complete rankings. I know the comment section will blow up as soon as we drop this list, so allow me to say this first; if you want your team to be ranked and considered as one of the top teams in the state, you have to play in tournaments that feature the top teams! For the coaches and directors reading this article, like the NCAA tournament, you are judged by whom you play and who you beat. If you have not beaten, let alone played, anybody ranked above you, you can’t expect to be ranked higher. In addition, if your team does not participate in more competitive tournaments, then you can’t complain about a lack of exposure. Win/loss records are great for you coaches, but if you compile them against inferior talent they don’t really mean much; more importantly, your kids are probably not developing at the rate they could be if they played against the best. If you are a parent and your team isn’t playing in the top events, then voice your concerns to the coach. On May 31-June 1st, in conjunction with the NYBL Finals here in Columbus, Buckeye Prep will be hosting the “Summer Showdown.” If you want a shot at the top middle school AAU teams in the region they will be there! You have to play the best to be the best! Let the debate begin!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Murphy AC Runs Table at Solan Cage Classic

Murphy AC-7th Grade Champions

Kevin Jackson’s 6th & 7th grade Murphy AC squads both finished 7-0 on their way to championships of the Solon Cage Classic in Cleveland. Approximately 27-30 teams competed in the 3 middle school divisions, and the sites included Garfield Heights High and Middle Schools, Streetsboro and Independence High School.

In pool play, the 7th grade unit downed Mr. Basketball (69-20), DB Hoops (56-26), and Mrie Swag (62-28).  Once in bracket play, Murphy defeated Rise High (20-56), Pittsburgh Flight (55-13), King James (60-64) and Caveman-Carmody (66-65) in the championship game by 2 points on a buzzer beater. Tyler Golphin was named MVP, while Jerry Higgins, Yeal Hill and Tyree Harris all made the All-Tournament Team. Word has it the King James’ Jordan Coovert was an absolute stud the entire weekend.

Murphy AC-6th Grade Champions

Murphy’s 6th grade team had similar success, finishing 7-0 on their trek to the title. The younger team defeated TNBA West (31-22), Western PA Wildcats (34-29), BSA (45-9), Cleveland Heights Tigers (21-45), Truth Basketball (46-25), Ohio Hoopsters (47-37) and the Pittsburgh Storm (46-31). Alfonse Hale was selected as the MVP, and Tevin Jackson, Justin Smith and Josiah Hitchens made the All-Tournament Team. Congratulations to both teams!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

OBBL Debuts in Cincinnati

The first session of the Ohio Best Basketball League (OBBL) tipped off this past weekend in Cincinnati, and from what I hear, the competition was fantastic! The league is comprised of 28 teams and 3 divisions in grades 9-11th. U17 teams include: Columbus Kings, Hidden Gems Black, Hidden Gems Orange, OBC, OBC Blanks, Ohio Gators, Ohio Phenoms, Ohio Stampede, Ohio Varsity Blue, Ohio Varsity White & Team Nitro USA 2014. U16 teams include: Columbus Kings, Hidden Gems Black, Hidden gems Orange, OBC, Nova Village, Ohio Gators, Ohio Hoopsters, Ohio Legacy, Ohio Varsity Blue, Ohio Varsity White, U15 teams are: Hidden Gems Black, Hidden Gems Orange, OBC, OBC 2017, Ohio Gators and Ohio Varsity. Below is a scouting report highlighting a few standout performers.

“The first session of the OBBL was simply amazing. The level of competition and passion involved in literally almost every game played was exactly the goal intended for this league, and all signs point to an astounding success in the goal's accomplishment. Here are some "Hidden Gems" from the weekend:  

U17 Division:

* Geoff Beans - Hidden Gems Black - This kid has a better all around game than advertised and his ability to make shots is just as good as advertised. The 6'7, D1 prospect played some quality ball this weekend.
* Anthony Glover - Hidden Gems Black -  A smooth wing guard who is capable of initiating the offense as well. Athletic and smart on the court, this prospect shows flashes of D1 potential.
Mario Davison - Hidden Gems Orange - "Muscles" is a point guard who possesses that certain 5th gear that all guards do not have in their game. Underrated guard who should climb the rankings this AAU season.
* Teddy Metzen - Ohio Varsity White - Deceptively strong and athletic kid who gets a lot done in the trenches and has obviously been well coached. Colleges should take notice.
* Connor Kern - Columbus Kings - Shooter didn’t disappoint at all in that area and even showed some flashes of a more diverse game than previously noted.
* Andre Kizer - Ohio Gators - Scored at will most of the weekend and led his team to a great initial showing.
* Justin Blanks - OBC Blanks - Shot the ball very well from deep most of the weekend.
* Michael Kaminski - Ohio Stampede - Hit 19 3's over the weekend.......nuff said about his shooting.
* Tyler Primmer - Nitro USA - Hard working scrappy player who can get hot at times.
* Trey Miller - Nitro USA - Shooter can really fill it up when hot.

U16 Division

* Doug Taylor - Ohio Varsity White - Athletic post player with immense potential. Must get more consistent........if he does, it'll be scary.
* Khalil Iverson - Elite Basketball Club - This combination forward is a matchup nightmare for most teams. Strength and athleticism by the bunches. If his skill set improves, he's a great 3man.
* Nic Bapst - Hidden Gems Black - Wing guard who showed some new-found bounce in his step with a few highlight worthy dunking moments, as well as quality guard play.
* Tristin Tillman - Hidden Gems Orange - One of the highest IQ guards of any age group. An underrated guard who should become more and more known this season.
* Kyran McClure - Nova Village - My choice for #1 PG in Central Ohio in his Class. A heady guard who plays with poise and yet also with determination too.
* Rodney Willis - Columbus Kings - scored an insane amount of points in one half and showed great scoring ability all weekend.
* Alex Sparks - Ohio Varsity Blue - Got alot of things done over the weekend for his team.
* Alonzo Campbell - Columbus Kings - D1 frame with needs in the areas of strength and skillset.   
* Anthony Slappy - Ohio Varsity Blue - Athletic sleeper who plays hard.
* Jenisys Battle - Ohio Legacy - Stepped up to lead underrated group in quality competition.
* Ni'Quille Bell - Ohio Legacy - Unheard of player before today to many. Should change that by July.

U15 Division:
* Austin Armwood - Ohio Varsity White - Penetration and vision in abundance. Guard can also score when needed. Fairly complete game so far.
* Allen Roberts - Ohio Varsity White -  Lit up several teams over the weekend.
* Kam Miller - Hidden Gems Black - All around talent with a very high ceiling of potential. 
Max Huber - Hidden Gems Orange - Shooter is also an athletic player who consistently competes. 
* Mason Durden - Ohio Gators - Displayed some potential.”

Monday, April 15, 2013

Bearcat Classic-Final Day Report

SMAC U-6th Grade Division Champions

The final day of the Bearcat Classic saw few surprises, as the final results of the middle school divisions went about as expected. In the 7th grade division, Gene Reddy’s SMAC U squad pretty much manhandled Indiana Ice 57-35 to claim the 7th grade title. Just when you thought SMAC U might be challenged (it was 7-1 early in favor of the Ice), with the help of a 11-0 run orchestrated in large part by Luke Brand, SMAC pressed on the gas and never looked back. In the first half, Brand was dominate in a 5 minute stretch that included consecutive buckets (9 points), multiple rebounds and a couple of blocked shots. It was easily his best performance of the weekend. For the game, Brand finished with 12 points. Although Brand had a breakout performance, Avon Lake’s Cooper Crawford had another great game, finishing with a game-high 14 points.

Cooper Crawford-Avon Lake, OH

Although I led this report off with a short recap of the 7th grade championship game, the real game of the day featured a slugfest between SMAC U and the Shining Stars. This game had a little bit of everything, including a 25 minute delay caused by a fire alarm. This was a seesaw battle from the tip, and the game was contested until the final seconds. In fact, with less than a minute left in the contest, and SMAC clinging to a 4 point lead, the fire alarm went off. After the break, the real drama began, as the Shining Stars, down 44-42 with 14 tics left, had a chance at the tie or win, but could not convert, and was forced to foul. Two free throws later the final score of 45-42. This game featured several players from Buckeye Prep’s Top 30 Player list. The game also featured a great match-up of some of the elite bigs in the class in Jack Cravaack and Luke Brand. I have to give big props to Cravaack who had a big game, finishing with a gaudy 16 points. Cooper Crawford added 13 points and Jackson See led the Stars with 8 points.

Earlier in the day, SMAC U knocked off the Indiana’s Team Tempo. In that game, SMAC got out to a 12-0 start and never let off the gas. I learned a few things about this team over the weekend, including the fact that they are so well balanced that a different kid seems to step up and lead the team in scoring in every game. One game it might be Cooper Crawford, the next Luke Brand. Garret Houser is capable of controlling a game, or a guy like Gavin Blunt might lead the team in scoring, or Jaret Pallotta might get hot from the three point line. Throw in solid guard play from Zane Reis and Chaz Hardin and you have a well-rounded team.

Justin Oden-6'1 WF Springhill, TN

My 7th grade Buckeye Prep team made a nice run through the Silver Bracket before running into Chuck Painter’s Dayton Metro team for like the 4th time this year. For the record, Dayton Metro was relegated to the Silver Bracket after a loss to Nashville’s AAG in the 3rd game of pool play on Sunday. Justin Oden (6’1 WF Springhill, Tennessee) is a player to look out for on the AAG squad. I caught a glimpse of him on Friday and was intrigued by his length and athleticism. Ok, back to the Buckeye Prep versus Dayton Metro game. Although this game was very close, and Buckeye Prep had a chance to win it before committing 3 turnovers in the final minute of the game, Dayton Metro would go on to grab the Silver Bracket crown. Dayton’s Deshan Parker would convert 2 free throws with .6 seconds left to get the 2 point win. Gahanna’s Seth Goodson was big for Buckeye Prep. To get to the championship game, Buckeye Prep narrowly escaped with a win against West Virginia’s Southern Exposure. Although Prep enjoyed a comfortable 12 point lead in the first half of that game, Kermit, West Virginia’s Tyler Mayes heated up from beyond the arc and led his team all the way back to make this one a nail biter. Mayes led his team with 13 points, almost all from 3 pointers.

In the first round of Gold Bracket play, Ohio Unity’s 7th grade team held off Kentucky’s Tri-State Warriors in overtime to advance to the semi-finals. The final score was 55-53 in favor of Ohio Unity. A shout out goes to Sal LaRubbio (5’6 SG Lakota), who looked really good in the game, finishing with a game-high 15 points.

Keegan McDowell-8th Grade

The Cincinnati Royals’ White squad was victorious over Ohio Unity Holtry in the championship game to stake claim to the 8th grade championship. It may have been a championship game, but the eventual outcome was in little doubt by halftime, as the Royals were already comfortably ahead 30-13. Playing without key players such as Alec Hotlry (back), Tyler Mitchell (neck), including a player who was suffering from the flu, Ohio Unity had little chance of defeating a hot Royals squad. Matt Dotson (6’5 C Centerville) saved his best game for the championship, as he logged in a near double-double of 10 points and 9 rebounds. The rest of the contributors included: Keegan McDowell (13), Matt King (8 points & 4 assists), Adam Baker (6 points), Matt Sichterman (6 points) and Jaeden Orr (5 points & 4 steals). On their march to the championship, the Royals knocked off the NKY Shining Stars (61-39), Columbus Crusaders (61-30), and Indy Hustle (45-36). This team is blessed with several talented players who can all lead in scoring in any given game. They may not scare you getting off the bus, but they execute well, and you had better have a couple of zone offenses teed up if you expect a win! For the record, Ohio Unity defeated the Royals’ Blue team by 18 points to punch their ticket to the final game.

SMAC Showtime-6th Grade Champions

SMAC’s 6th grade team went undefeated over the weekend to seize the 6th grade championship trophy. Although it was pretty easy sailing for most of the tournament, Showtime found themselves in a battle with Dayton Elite in the championship game. The game was nip and tuck the entire way, with no team gaining more than a point or two edge the entire game. In fact, Dayton Elite actually had a chance to win it, but missed free throws late was the difference. SMAC Showtime would outlast Dayton 32-31. Kendall Mathis and Brian Johnson were standout performers for Dayton Elite, while Mike Bekelja and Kyi Wright stood out for SMAC.

Carson Williams-6'5 WF Owen County, KY

I caught a couple of 9th grade games on Sunday, including a semi-final showdown between SMAC and Kentucky’s Hoop Dreams. That SMAC team features one of Ohio’s top 2016 bigs in Omari Spellman (6’8 C North Royalton). Although Spellman had a big game with a team-high 15 points, the Hoop Dreams advanced to the finals with the 58-53 victory. Carson Williams (6’5 WF Owen County HS) paced Hoop Dreams with a game-high 18 points. In an earlier game, SMAC bum rushed Legends Elite 42-26 to advance. The high man for SMAC in that game was Devon Stover (6’3 SG St. Ignatius) who finished with a game-best 14 points. For full tournament results, click on the link below.

Final Results
Final Day Photo Gallery