Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Central Ohio Open Gym Continues to Prosper

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to the checkout some of the action at Victor Dandridge’s open gym at the USA Sports Academy in Columbus, and as expected, the gym was brimming with elite level talent. Since Dandridge, known as “Coach Vic” by most of us basketball junkies, started the open gym six years ago as a platform for competitive play, the local concept has grown into a statewide phenomenon that now attracts top high school varsity level players from across the state.

Each Sunday at about 5:30pm between the second week in August and the 2nd Sunday in October, many of the state’s top young ballers can be found battling out to see who can get to and stay on what Dandridge calls the “winners court.” According to Dandridge, the success of his event is simple, “Great players want to play with and against other great players. They get a chance to do that here,” said Dandridge. When Coach Vic talks about great players, he’s not just talking about high school stars, but the fact that college and pro guys who have played in the open gyms often return to play against the young guns. 

Jae'son Tate

The criteria to participate in the open gyms are simple; you must be a varsity level player; you must show up if you say you will, and you must obey Dandridge’s rules. That has not been an issue so far. “The kids here respect the game and are reliable and responsible. In the 5-6 years I have been doing this we have never had a fight,” boasted Dandridge.

In terms of last Sunday, there were 70 kids in the gym, about 10 more kids than is ideal. “With the growth of the open gym, I have to turn kids away,” said Coach Vic. Some of the standout performers I saw while I was there included Ohio State commits Jae’Son Tate (6’5 WF Pickering Central) and AmosAJ” Harris (5’9 PG Dunbar). Harris has clearly established himself as the top PG in the state, and his ability to separate from his defender is unmatched in the Buckeye State.  I saw him putting guys on skates for the short time I was there.  Tate is a straight man! According to another scout in the building, Tate may be playing his way into the McDonalds All-American game! Extremely athletic with an elite motor best describes Tate. 

Kipper Nichols

I was also really impressed with Kipper Nichols (6’5 PF St. Edwards). I always knew the kid was athletic, but his skill set has caught up with his athleticism. I saw the kid hitting pull-up jumpers in transition and dropping dimes to teammates. I’m not sure what schools are on Nichols, but I have to believe high majors are in the hunt. I always liked the kid; now I love him! According to Dandridge, Gahanna’s Manny Powell (5’5 PG Gahanna) is not getting enough credit for how is game has developed as of late.  I also heard from another source that Powell played very well on Sunday and actually outplayed some other guards. I saw him do a couple of nice things as well in the short time I was there. Esa Ahmed (6’6 PF Shaker Heights) and Javon Bess (6’6 WF Gahanna) both had solid performances according to sources who watch them more than I did.

I have to give some props to some of the young guys who were getting it done as well. Seth Towns (6’7 WF Northland), Derek Daniels (6’7 PF Thurgood Marshall), Matt Moyer (6’6 WF Gahanna) and Xeyrius Williams (6’8 PF Wayne) are all stars in the making. Of course there were many other guys who played well on Sunday, but I was only there for a little while, but I expect to return to take a much closer look at all of the talent that Dandridge keeps assembling at his event. Look for many of the above players to return to central Ohio for the Buckeye Prep Elite Showcase and the Ohio North vs South All-Star Game on September 21st!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Ohio Players Excel at National Camp

Last week, several of the Buckeye state’s top 2017 and 2018 prospects participated in Cross Road’s Elite 125 Camp in Nashville, TN. and represented the state well. In the class of 2017, Ohio was represented by Tyler Mitchell, L’Christian Smith, Jayvon Graves, Jayden Sayles, Alec Holtry, Turner Horn, Storm Cook, Kaleb Wessen and Caden Sanchez. Mitchell, Smith and Cook played their way into the camp’s Top 20 game, while Graves and Sayles received Top 40 game nods. Sanchez, Wessen, Holtry and Horn all made the camp’s Honorable Mention list. Piqua’s Storm Cook received added recognition, as he was list as one of the event’s “Standout Players” and received the following evaluation:

Storm Cook C/O 2017 5’11 CG (Piqua, OH/Piqua HS)
A guard with superior confidence and the ability to score from the point guard spot, Cook earned his way into the Top 20 Game. One possession that summed up the success of his weekend was when he hit a three-point shot while being fouled and falling to the ground. He just kept making shots and used his sturdy frame to defend and finish through contact. At Piqua High School he will be an immediate impact.

Congratulations to all of the above players spotlighting Ohio basketball!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Buckeye Prep Elite Showcase Shaping up Nicely

Below is an email I sent out to everybody on our bulk email list with updates on the September 21st & 22nd elite showcase. If you have  a son or player who intends to attend the event please make sure you read the email. Also, the event is shaping up to be our biggest and most competitive ever! People will be talking about this event for many years! If your are not in the house, you will truly be missing something special. Remember I warned you!!

Parents & Coaches,

Below is a link to my preliminary commitment list and showcase updates.  As it reflects, if every player on the list were to register and show up, the event would now be SOLD OUT. However, everybody listed on the committed list has not paid and/or sent in their registration forms; consequently, they are not listed on the event’s “official/paid list,” and will not be placed on a roster when I begin that process next week. By next week I will begin preparing to put together the final showcase rosters and ordering jerseys. I cannot place a player on a roster or order a jersey for any player who has not paid the registration fee and sent in the forms, nor can I hold a roster spot if the entry fees have not been paid. After I have received 380 paid registrations, and the rosters are set, I can't add any additional players based on the size of the facility. Also, because of “no shows” the day of the event, I can't turn down anybody who is prepared to pay the fee now.  Therefore, it is “first come first served” for the remaining spots. Since the deadline has passed, if I get a call today and the parent can pay the registration fee using Pay Pal, I will bump someone listed on the committed list and give them a spot. Also, there will be no "walk ups" additions, as the event will be sold out. YOU MUST ACT NOW to get you son/player in this event! We must have registration forms and entry fees for every player without exception!

In addition, several parents have paid the registration fee using the Pay Pal link in the upper right hand corner of the website, but they have not yet sent in the registration forms.  Consequently, their kid's name has not been added to the official list.  If you have paid the fee that way, I need to match the payment with your child's name, so I need the completed registration forms ASAP! Some of you are going to be upset with me when your son is not listed on a roster, but in order to keep things organized, everything needs to be wrapped up prior to the event.

Enough about the administrative matters; the showcase is really shaping up to be special! In fact, this will be our biggest and most competitive showcase in the history of Buckeye Prep! The talent that will be in the gym will be something truly special! In addition, new features are being added weekly to help make this a fantastic event. Right now, we are considering adding a 2-hour recruiting workshop for parents on Saturday morning. The workshop would begin around 11:00am and run until about 1:00pm. Although the presenter ordinarily charges parents $75 apiece to attend his workshops, Buckeye Prep would absorb the cost of bringing him in as part of the event if the interest is there and parents will come in early Saturday morning to attend. Please send feedback to so we know the level of interest for the workshop.

Please continue to visit the website for showcase updates, as I will be updating the above link as things occur. I hope to have the rosters and schedule posted 2 weeks prior to the events, but that will be dictated by the parent's prompt responses to my requests. The Ohio North vs South, Ohio vs Indiana/Kentucky and other Saturday all-star game rosters are just about completed and will be posted within the next 2 weeks.  If your child is not committed to the event, or the registration forms and fees are not paid soon, they cannot participate in the all-star games. As always, please help pass the word to those parents and players who might not have internet access so everybody has the opportunity to participate. If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to email me. Thanks for your time!


Below is another piece in a series of original articles written by Dr. Ken Ransom exclusively for the Buckeye Prep Report all designed to help educate parents, coaches and players about their child/player’s physical, mental and emotional development. Enjoy!

“90 Percent of the Game is Half Mental.”  Yogi Berra

The Nationals are over, showcasing great young basketball talent from all over the country.  There were many great performances but undoubtedly, some players had disappointing games and felt that they could have played better. What makes a player consistently perform at the top of his game? It can’t be skill level; physical abilities are not going to change from day to day. It is often “mental toughness” that determines how well an athlete performs in competition. So what is mental toughness and how do you get it? Some players naturally have a “no fear” attitude and will play hard at all times, with or without good skills. There are however, many players that may demonstrate tremendous skills and physical ability but don’t always bring it to the game. Mental toughness can be developed just like physical skills through training and practice.

Developing strong mental toughness starts long before game day.  It begins with the player’s state of mind. He must have a positive attitude about the sport and confidence in how well he is able to perform:  

Positive attitude comes from a strong feeling of relatedness to other people and to the game. A young athlete needs positive feedback and support from friends, family, team mates and coaches.  He needs to have a strong self-image as a basketball player and passion for the game.  Psychologists claim that these concepts are especially important to teenagers which are also the best years to foster motivation and mental focus necessary to become an elite athlete.

Confidence comes with competence in playing the sport. This takes commitment to practice and preparation. Neuroscience researchers have identified actual physiologic pathways that develop in the brain with repetitive physical tasking (shooting free throws, three point shots, etc., etc.). We call it muscle memory, but it is really brain memory. To become a true expert in anything, including an elite athlete, much time needs to be spent on practice and mastering the fundamental skills.  A player that plays fundamentally strong will be competent and have confidence in his game.  His play becomes automatic allowing his body to go on autopilot.
Almost all elite players have experienced the joy of “being in the groove” or “going with the flow” and wonder why they can’t play like that every game.  It’s impossible to play great all of the time, even the Pro’s have bad games. There are many distractions that can prevent the brain and body from achieving that ultimate level of performance and focus. 

Firstly, it is important for the player to spent time before the game to relax and clear his mind of external distractions like girlfriends, school, home, etc.  There are different ways to mentally prepare for a game such as self-talk and self-imaging.  Some players like music, others meditate.  The mind needs to be at ease and focused only on basketball when the whistle blows.

Finally, the player has to deal with all of the demons that can distract him while actually playing the game. Stress and emotion are part of any competitive sport and must be controlled. Comments from other players, missed shots or mistakes, upset coaches, unruly fans must all be kept in check. The body must stay on auto pilot so the mind is free to focus on the game.  This is especially true in a sport as fast and intense as basketball where there is no time to overthink or tense up.  Phrases like “let the game come to you” and “see the game, not watch the game” describe this mental state.  Mental toughness requires the player to have a positive attitude, confidence in his skills and a clear mind in order to let his body do the work and his mind focus on playing the game.

By Dr. Ken Ransom