Monday, October 6, 2014

Local Fall Leagues in Full Gear

Jeremiah Francis, Alex Williams & John Mobley Jr.
Now that the AAU basketball season is in the rear view mirror and school ball is still several weeks away, the fall basketball season is in full swing, and heading down the stretch. In most communities, fall basketball leagues offer an opportunity for players to get in more work in preparation for the upcoming middle and high school season.  In central Ohio, Lamont Tillman’s Ohio Hoopsters League and All-Ohio’s Nike League are the 2 best options in terms of size and competition. 

On Saturday, I spent a couple of hours over at Whitehall High School taking in the action at All-Ohio’s Nike League. Once there, it was clear that the 2 local leagues are splitting the talent pool.  In terms of sheer numbers, the Hoopsters’ league appears to have the most kids, and conversely, the most talent; however, there was plenty of talent at Whitehall.

Although I spent most of my time watching Aaron Brown’s 6th grade team, I took a peak at some of the high school games. As is the case most times I walk into a gym in central Ohio, 2019’s Jeremiah Francis was there putting in work.  On this day, Francis was playing up on a 9th grade team and was still giving guys the business.  Although Francis has mostly been known for using his strength and big frame to attack the basket, he has continued to hone his perimeter game. On Saturday, Francis’ ball handling and his ability to create his own shot was evident.  Francis is now equipped with a nice looking pull up jumper and a sweet step back move. Now that he is a legitimate duel threat to score at the rim and from the outside, Francis is tough as hell to guard. We know he could do it against the best in the class of 2019, but his play on Saturday proved he could get it done against high school guys.  Look for Francis to make an impact on a high school program next year!

As I mentioned earlier, I mostly watched 6th grade games on Saturday. One of the best 6th graders I saw was Alex Williams, a sturdy built 5’5 WF from Xenia, Ohio. Williams will be running with All-Ohio next season, and makes the 1 hour trek from Xenia to Columbus on weekends to get some run in the Nike League. Although a bit undersized for his position, Williams plays strong around the basket and finishes with contact at a high rate.  Tough and aggressive with the ability to score best describes his game right now.  I had not seen him play before Saturday, but from what I saw, Williams has to be considered one of the best players in the class of 2021 in the state.  I plan to keep an eye on Williams’ development.

I also saw some good things out of Josiah Mobley (5'1 P/SG Columbus) who hit several big time shots in the loss to Bowling Green.  I also continue to be very impressed with his little cousin, John Mobley Jr. (PG 2024), who is off the charts in terms of his skill set, but who also has the heart of a lion. Mobley is widely considered to be one of the top players in his class nationally, and his play on Saturday was consistent with his status. Mobley consistently makes the right play rather that’s scoring the ball or finding a teammate in position to score.  He’s still very young, but his vision and passing skills are elite!

Aaron Brown’s squad, Bowling Green, consists of players from his spring and summer Buckeye Prep team, in addition to some prospects for next year.  Although no one player ever seems to dominate in any of the games I’ve watched, his team-based approach has several players who contributes to their success.  On Saturday, Brown’s team finished 2-1 with wins over All-Ohio’s top 5th grade team.   Daron Brown (4’8 PG Columbus) is a consummate PG who runs the team with poise and is an able and willing passer with a high basketball IQ. Brown shares the point guard duties with Azzan Daniels (4’6 PG Columbus) who is a bit quicker and more aggressive, but also does a good job of running the squad. Also in the back court is Courtney Blake (5’1 P/SG Dayton) who shares the ball handling duties but also scores the ball. On the wing are Makhale Massey (5’4 WF Columbus) and Jayden Hawkins-White (5’0 WF Columbus).  Massey knocked down several jumpers on Saturday, while Hawkins-White was more about slashing to the basket. Patrick Daniels (5’1 W/PF Columbus) is a key component to this squad; when he’s on his game there is a good chance this team gets the win. New to the team is Kobe Buford (5’7 PF Dublin), who plays in the post and gives this team more size, rebounding and post scoring.  By most accounts, Buford may be one of the top 2 post players in central Ohio. Last but not least, Mark Small (4’9 W/PF) is another kid who can get streaky from game to game, and can be the key peace to winning or losing.  With the talent from last year and the possible new additions for 2015, Brown’s squad could make some nosie in the NYBL next season!

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