Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Luster Drawing Comparisons to Lima Great

Khalil Luster-2022 PG Lima
We’ve had the opportunity to see him ball on multiple occasions, and each time, Khalil Luster (4’6/PG/Lima/2022) was nothing short of impressive.  Not only has he excelled at our Buckeye Prep Elite Showcases, where he has consistently taken home MVP honors, Luster’s dynamic style of play has drawn raves at other elite events as well. Currently, Luster is ranked in the top 10 of our statewide rankings, and is poised to move even higher when we get a chance to see him again this spring.  We’ve wanted to feature Luster for some time now, but it wasn’t until we viewed a recent highlight video of the Lima guard that we decided it was time to shine the spotlight on this unique talent.

He may be diminutive at only 4’6, but Luster more than competes against bigger and older opponents. With an impressive skill set that includes an elite handle, excellent court vision, a mid-range game and a high basketball IQ, Luster looks a lot like Kentucky’s Tyler Ulis did at the same age.  Like Ulis, another undersized floor general who began his career in Lima, Ohio before moving to Chicago, Luster has the ball on a string, is adept at finding open teammates, can score in the paint or from the perimeter, and plays with poise beyond his years.  Having observed Ulis from an early age (see video), Luster comparisons come easy to us.  Not only does he possess many of the same physical tools that Ulis has, Luster’s on court leadership and understanding of his size limitations mirrors that of Ulis’. He’s not just a scorer; Luster is the type of pesky defender coaches require in undersized guards.

According to Quincey Simpson, who has worked with many of Lima’s elite basketball players in the past, “comparisons to Ulis are pretty accurate.”  “Like Tyler, Khalil’s IQ is off the charts.  He [Luster] shoots well, plays hard and is a gym rat” said Simpson. “Kahlil stays in the gym and has the desire to get better.  He understands better than some high school kids how to get better,” Simpson said.  As the head coach at Lima Senior High School and father of Michigan bound Xavier Simpson, the Simpson knows a little bit about Luster and basketball in general. So, when he says Luster projects well as a D-I athlete, we’re inclined to believe him. If Luster has the kind of season we expect him to have, selection to the Buckeye Prep Ohio North vs South All-Star Game and All-State teams is a probability.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Dayton Swish Claim Title

2023 Dayton Swish-Christmas Crossover Tournament Champions
Sam Anderson’s 5th grade Dayton Swish squad finished 5-0 on their way to the championship of Kingdom Sports Center’s Christmas Crossover Tournament in Franklin, Ohio yesterday.  In the semi-finals, the Swish got by a tough Cincy Shock team before getting an easy victory over the Columbus-based LBC in the championship game. Standouts for the Swish included Tyron Brown (5’3/SG/Dayton), Storm White (5’3/SG/WF/Dayton) and Paul Woodard (5’0/PG/Trotwood). When we publish our 2016 Pre-Season Power Rankings in March, Anderson’s team is likely to occupy a top spot. Finally, Anderson’s 4th grade team is currently 4-0 and will attempt to claim their own championship tomorrow.  Congrats to the Swish players, coaches and fans.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Truth Secures Game Changing Sponsor

2015 The Truth
In 1997, Mark Twain quipped, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” Last week when we alluded to the fact that the 2023 Truth might be the team most negatively affected by the departure of three of their top players to the North Coast Blue Chips, it was assumed then that The Truth [ranked 21st in AAU Power Rankings] might have relinquished their position among the elite.  Fast forward 1 week and we have learned that with sponsorship of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Moe Williams, The Truth has a new lease on life based on  the return of Adisa "Desh" Molton II, Jayvion Moore and Cody Head, all key pieces to The Truth’s enormous success last season.

According to Coach Andre Wheeler, Sr, he and the Cleveland guard’s long-standing friendship has resulted in an agreement, wherein The Truth will run as Mo Williams Academy Elite (MWA) during the upcoming 2016 season. Williams’ MWA organization is Texas-based; Nike affiliated, and has a history of success. In fact, last season, MWA’s U-17 high school squad participated in the Under Armor Association Circuit, but will join Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League starting in 2016. With the addition of a second major sponsor in Mo Williams, coupled with the return of the three aforementioned players, Wheeler is both excited and confident The Truth will be back on top come March. “I think we will be the top team in the state,” said Wheeler.

When we post our preseason Power Rankings in early March, MWA Elite should be well represented near the top.  Needless to say, when MWA Elite and the North Coast Blue Chips hook up at the Buckeye Prep Invitational tournament in April [super pool], no extra motivation will be required.  We plan to be front and center for that one!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Livingston off to a Great Start

Chris Livingston
It’s only 2 games into the middle school season, but so far, Chris Livingston (5’8/WF/2022/Akron) is already one of the standouts for his 2-0 Akron based Emmanuel Christian Academy team. Although he’s only a 6th grader, Livingston is running the point against 7th and 8th graders, and currently packs a hefty scoring average of 23 points, after dropping 22 and 24 points in his first 2 games. We know he’s a great basketball player, but Livingston it also getting it done in the classroom as evidenced by his 3.9 GPA and his consistent spot on his school’s Honor Roll.

Livingston has experience playing up and excelling against older kids, as he held a prominent role with the 2021 Bedford Raiders last summer.  When the 2016 travel season tips off in a few months, Livingston will be taking his talents to the Tennessee based We All Can Go program.  That will come as bad news to the many Ohio based teams were hoping to receive his services. Livingston really burst onto the national scene last spring with standout performances at the Buckeye Prep Elite Showcase and other elite events. A gifted and fluid athlete, with good length, skill and an elite motor, Livingston projects well going forward with continued work and development.  Expect to read a lot more about Livingston’s development on this website, as we pan to follow his progress over the next several years.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

National Elite Showcase Recap II

Sammy Anderson, Trotwood Madison, Ohio, has been regarded for years as one of the top SG’s in the state.  Sammy continued his all around basketball success at the event.  Sammy has nice ball handling skills and a scoring mentality.  He had 34 points in the opening game of the event and maintained that level of basketball throughout the weekend.

Carter Gray, Arcanum, Ohio, has flown under the radar since grade school, but that is beginning to change.  Carter remains the best scorer for his age and size that we have seen to date.  At 6’2, he has range from just inside 30′ and can pull up off the dribble and with a hand in his face.  We are pleased to see his “attack” to the rim has made huge leaps, and his overall ball handling has as well.  Carter has the potential to be a big time player, and has already begun to draw college interest before his 8th grade season.  He is already dunking the ball and has now scored over 40 in over a half dozen occasions at a high level of competition.

Jordan Howard, Springfield, Ohio has not been seen playing since a 6th grader, nor has he been seen in a highly competitive situation until this weekend.  He has improved nicely since that time, and was an impressive force all weekend.  Jordan is long and plays facing the basket well.  He can put the ball on the floor, or he can distribute it as well.  Jordan has a big upside, and with continued development, he can be a big time player.  The sky is the limit for this kid if he continues to work hard.

Savon O’Neal, Dayton, Ohio, has the rock on a string.  His ball handling skills are off the chart.  Savon has been regarded by many as one of the best point guards in the State for several years.  He is a cold-blooded shooter and scorer that can finish downhill at a high rate of speed.  He will be interesting to see O’Neal grow over the next few years.

Kareem Jett, Richmond, Indiana, had a nice weekend.  Coach Wedlow at Richmond has a real gem headed his way.  Kareem is very comparable to Savon O’Neal, with an aspect of “nastiness” on defense.  He can, will, and does jump the dribble on a regular basis for clean steals and to create breakaway lay ups.  Kareem is not as tall as some, but he makes up for it in his quickness and strength.  Kareem will do great things in high school for the historic Richmond Red Devil program.  We look forward to seeing that develop as well.

Larry Stephens, Springfield, Ohio, is a great all around basketball player with above average athletics and a very high court IQ.  Larry is a tough match-up to have to defend. 

Yousef Selah, Beavercreek, Ohio, is nicely skilled point guard that could surprise a lot of people in two years.  He can score and has a very quick first step going to the hole.  He shoots well, has great vision and is a willing passer.

Ryan DeLong, West Alexandria, Ohio, who at 6’2″, 200lbs, is at his best in a full court game going down hill.  For his size he has outstanding speed with the ball on a string and finished several full court plays beating everyone down the floor for wide-open layups taking less than 5 dribbles.  His length and speed is off the charts for his linebacker frame.

Jalen Minney, Dayton, Ohio, is a lot like DeLong, with maybe a touch better outside shot.  Jalen is a nicely skilled player.

Grant Delk, Arcanum, Ohio, is the best pure big 5 man at the weekend in this age group. Standing 6’4″ and weighing an estimated 230 pounds, he can run the floor with the guards.  He can finish downhill facing the basket and is not clumsy.  Grant is a real competitor.

Allen Lattimore, Dayton, Ohio, has a bright future running the point guard position in the guard-rich Miami Valley.  He is a nice all around player.

Justus Thomas, New Madison, Ohio, has a lot of upside.  Tri-village went 30-0 last year on a historic run to a state title.  They had some kids that could put the ball in the hole.  Thomas will continue that tradition, being the younger brother of a 1000-point scorer in Ms. Shay Thomas.  He is a very versed scorer, and with age, time and maturity, his game will be recognized by many.

KJ Swain, Fairfield, Ohio, is actually a grade younger (2021), but played up all weekend.  KJ has been around the country and has played in some high “blue chip” style camps and his reputation preceded him.  He played very well all weekend against these elite level players above, despite have been at a disadvantage weight wise.  KJ will do big things and make a lot of noise over the next few years.  He made a lot of noise at Duke last summer at their basketball camp, impressing several college coaches from different universities. Swain is already on radars of big time programs.  Good luck to him in his first junior high season.

Others Standouts:

Carter Mims, Dayton Ohio
Caleb Kinney, Parkway, Ohio
Logan Mauer, Springboro, Ohio
TyAren Brown, Dayton, Ohio
Ragan Davis, Dayton, Ohio
Jackson Haynes, Richmond, Indiana
Jaion Vaughn, Dayton Ohio
Gabe Crowe, Richmond, Indiana
Colby Swain

Invitations to the Spring Buckeye Prep Elite Showcase (March 12th) are extended to all of the players featured in this recap.  For an invitation, email us at

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Team Teague Wins Indiana Showdown

After going down in defeat to North Coast Blue Chips (NCBC) in Akron in mid November, Coach Josh Helvie’s 2023 Team Teague squad exacted a little revenge in front of a standing room only crowd at the Best Choice Fieldhouse in Indianapolis this past weekend. With an incomplete roster of only 7 players, Team Teague stood toe to toe with NCBC for most for the first half, and found themselves down by only 1 point entering the break. Three times during the second half Teague Team led by 10 points before NCBC would eventually cut the lead to 2 points.  By midway through the second period Team Teague started to pull away for good and would go on to get the 62-49 win.

According to Coach Helvie, the keys to the game were NCBC’s inability to stop penetration and to handle their pressure, which limited NCBC’s ability to get open looks. Reed Sheppard (5’3/PG, London, KY) was a monster for Team Teague, finishing with a game-high 25 points. Other Team Teague standouts included Boogie Helvie (4’11/P/SG/Zionsville, IN) who added 12 points and Merrick Macol (5’3/PF/Zionsville, IN).  Despite their win, Helvie has a lot of respect for a loaded Blue Chips squad.  “Hands down, they [NCBC] are a top 10 team nationally,” said Helvie. If the 2 nationally ranked teams don’t meet at the MLK tournament in Fort Wayne next month, look for the rematch at the Buckeye Prep Invitational April 1-3rd.

Monday, December 14, 2015

National Elite Showcase Recap

In our continuing effort to serve as a platform for exposure for aspiring young basketball players, we are pleased to publish a post event recap of National Elite recent showcase event written by Jason Delong.  Enjoy!

Jansen Kincer (2021) New Lebanon, Ohio was the consensus MVP.  In our opinion, Kincer compares to a young Russell Westbook.  Huge motor, 100 mph wide open all the time. No mountain too high; no task too great.   He finishes at a high rate of speed, he’s, stronger, he’s a big guard.  For his age his skill set is good, but its his overall awareness, and court IQ.  For a 7th grader, he’s off the charts.  Physically imposing.  Actually after a little more thought.  He’s a combination of Damon Bailey and Russell Westbrook.   We have not seen a better guard in the Dayton area in his grade, period.  There may be some we are unaware of, but none known.

Cameron Miles (2020), Lima Ohio.  We have heard about him, and he didn’t disappoint.  Cameron is a big physical prototype 4 man.  Big motor, hard playing, rebounding, slashing 6th grader.  He is way above most any kid his age in athleticism and game.  Outstanding player with outstanding potential.  It’ll be interesting to watch this guy development.

Payton Sparks (2021), Winchester, Indiana.  Dominating Post player with a huge wingspan.  Payton looks like he’s going be a monster.  I don’t have any idea if he will grow to 7 feet, but we would guess he may get to way over 6’6″.  This kid is a rebounding machine, with a nice touch around the bucket.  In time, with his size and reach, he has the ability to be a big time rim protector with his length and awareness.

Dylan Stinson (2021) Lewisburg, Ohio.  No quit, with a competitive spirit describes Stinson.  Dylan is a true scorer.  He just has a knack to get the score.  Deep ball, twisting in mid air on a lay-up, or hitting a floater, he has game.  Dylan is a great talent and continues to improve.  He has played up on AAU teams, and plays up in the driveway against his older brother also National Elite alum, who now plays varsity ball at TCN.  Dylan will be one of the top two if not the top player in the conference this winter in the 7th grade class.

Khalil Luster (2022), Lima Ohio.  He’s going make 419/Bean City proud.  This kid has some of the best handles of a 6th grader we have ever seen.  He has the ability to score, but will also make the pass.  Khalil is a pleasure to watch with his cold-blooded relentless spirit.  He is a great player, but great will be an understatement for this kid in 4 year.

Trey Robertson (2022), Waverly Ohio.  Trey like all mentioned above has a huge 100 mph motor.  He is a lot like Khalil, great game IQ, composure, great deep ball shooter. It is hard to talk about this kid, and not reference to his buddy Mark Stulley, he didn’t make the first 6, but he would be like 6B.  At times, Mark is the best on ball defender we have ever watched.  But with that said, all the kids making the list of final all-star game can flat play.

Other Standouts:

Wayde Sickels, Winchester, Indiana, previous showcase 1st teamer
Justin Triplett, Dayton, Ohio, previous showcase 1st teamer
Evan Unruh, Elida, Ohio
Andrew Whittaker, Pleasant Hill, Ohio
Sam Case, Arcanum, Ohio
Aidan Brogan, Dayton, Ohio
Brandon Pooler, Montgomery County Ohio
Gabe Mirovsky, Eaton, Ohio
Gabe Goins, Cincinnati, previous showcase 1st teamer
Wilson Suggs, Eaton, Ohio, previous showcase 1st teamer

Invitations to the Spring Buckeye Prep Elite Showcase (March 12th) are extended to all of the players featured in this recap.  For an invitation, email us at

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

North Coast Blue Chips Building for 2016

In recent years the 2023 basketball landscape in Ohio has been dominated by a handful of teams including the Cincinnati Royals, All-Ohio Red, Truth Basketball, Toledo Wildcats and King James.  However, a new storm is brewing, which could possibly blow away the competition when the 2016 travel season roles in in March.  Most youth basketball fans are familiar with the national success of the Texas based Gulf Coast Blue Chips organization; well, we can soon expect the emergence of the North Coast Blue Chips (NCBC), an Ohio based team next season built around LeBron James Jr.

It’s been no secret that such a team is forming, and that a roster is currently being constructed.  In fact, we alluded to as much in a recent story (See Random Thoughts Article).  However, it’s starting to become a little clearer what that team might look like. As we pointed out a few weeks ago, the foundation of the team is King James’ son, and if what we have seen in the numerous highlight videos is any indication, that’s one heck of a start.  Alongside LBJ Jr. are Khori Thurman (Illinois), one of the top guards in the country, Jahkari Towsend (Michigan), Adisa "Desh" Molton II (Cleveland), Jayvion Moore (Maple Heights), Cody Head (Shaker Heights), Sean Thigpen (Dayton) and Gabe Cuppe (Dayton).  Of course there will be additional talent added to the roster over the next couple of months, as Coach David Lane expects to carry 10-12 players.  Although we still don’t have a complete picture of the team’s make up, from what we know right now, I think we can all agree this team has the potential to be pretty darn good.

David Lane, the team’s head coach, is no stranger to coaching talent, as he has high school coaching experience with Akron St Vincent St Mary’s High School.  In fact, Lane only recently stepped away from his coaching duties at the Akron institution to focus more on other ventures, including coaching the Blue Chips. With the level of talent this team is likely to field, coupled with great coaching and skill development, the top spot in the state, and county for that matter, maybe up for grabs. “Our focus will be playing together, playing smart and playing defense,” Lane said.  “We don’t have a point guard; we have five guys who can all push it [basketball] and score,” said the coach. In terms of his roster, “we are an Ohio based team with a couple sprinkles from Indiana, Michigan and elsewhere,” Lane said.

NCBC intends to play an aggressive schedule in 2016, including the AAU Nationals as well as other competitive tournaments around the country. “We want to play the best,” continued Lane.  You can get an early look at NCBC this weekend as they take their show on the road to Indianapolis where they will get some work in at the Fieldhouse Winter League.  Also, Ohio’s other elite 2023 teams can get their shot at the upstarts at the Buckeye Prep Invitational April 1-3rd. Can you say super pool!

With the arrival of a new basketball organization in the Buckeye state, the obvious question centers around future expansion plans as well as the possible impact to traditional basketball powers such as All-Ohio, King James/NEO and OBC. At least at the youth level, NCBC seems to have cherry picked some of the best talent in the state. Most impacted short term appears to be the 2023 Truth, one of the top teams in the state last year, who may have lost several key pieces to NCBC.  According to Clyde Jackson, program director for both the Texas and Ohio based programs, long-term, NCBC plans to follow the 2023 and 2025 teams all the way through high school.  From there, “we plan to see how theses 2 teams [2023 & 2025] go then possibly expand into the younger age groups,” said Jackson. “We will carry the team [2023] for as long as they want to stay with the program,” continued Jackson.  The fact that the Blue Chip organization is “Nike sponsored” is significant, particularly if the program becomes a fixture at the high school level a few years from now.

We asked Jackson about his motivation to expand his organization northward and it seemed pretty simple, “we wanted to make a program where LeBron James Jr. could compete nationally, since we will be an Ohio based team next year [per AAU rules],” said Jackson. As you would expect, Jackson has high hopes for his new venture. “I’m really high on this team.  I think we will be top 5 in the country.  I’m really impressed with them,” offered Jackson.  Well there you have it, the low down about the North Coast Blue Chips. As far as we are concerned, we welcome the new organization to Buckeye State!  We’re sure the level of basketball will be elevated, and we look forward to the opportunity to covering the teams and players in this class.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Abuhamdeh Paces North Royalton in Win

Omar Abuhamdeh-2021
Finishing with a game-high 36 points, North Royalton’s Omar Abuhamdeh (5’6/P/SG/2021) paced his 7th grade squad to a 59-58 victory over Barberton Middle School this past Tuesday. Trailing by 17 points late in the 4th quarter, Abuhamdeh’s six treys proved to be the catalyst in the win.  Abuhamdeh is no stranger to success, as evidenced by standout performances at past Buckeye Prep Elite Showcases, and most recently Ty Kish’s Middle School TV Camp in October. Abuhamdeh’s stock is currently on the rise, as his reputation has garnered him both statewide and national recognition.  In fact, the Buckeye Prep Report lists him as a potential top 10 player in the class of 2021 in the state.

Abuhamdeh is strong, skilled and possesses an elite motor.  He’s not just a catch and shoot threat, as he’s more than capable of shooting off the bounce and off picks. A solid handle and excellent vision makes him a excellent player maker as well. Blessed with solid stroke from the perimeter, Abuhamdeh also excels at powering his way to the bucket.  Below is video footage of Abuhamdeh in a recent middle school game. This past summer, Abuhamdeh split time between SMAC and the Bedford Raiders. We plan to continue tracking Abuhamdeh’s development.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Johnson Drops 44 Points in Middle School Debut

Meechie Johnson Scored 44 Points in Debut
Meechie Johnson is well known on the national basketball scene as a prolific scorer with a dynamic handle, and his middle school debut for St Benedict Middle School in Cleveland demonstrated that dominance on the summer circuit often translates to school ball. Last night, Johnson brought his St. Benedict squad back from 15 points down late in the final period to edge out Scared Hart 57-54 in CYO action.

Johnson was smoking hot from deep, as evidenced by his 8 three pointers.  When he wasn’t knocking down deep bombs, Johnson stayed in the paint and finished at the cup. Already nationally ranked and widely considered as one of the top 7th graders in the state, Johnson projects well based on his elite skill set.  In addition, Johnson is already building a case for inclusion in Buckeye Prep’s season ending All-State Team and selection to the prestigious Ohio North vs South All-Star Game scheduled for September 2016.  We plan to track as many elite players and performances as we can, so please email us at with credible information.

"Who's In?"

Monday, November 30, 2015

Laker’s Late Surge Results in Title

R4L Lakers-6th Grade Champions
This past weekend’s Thanksgiving Shootout in Dayton proved to be just that, a shootout, as Carlos Davis’ RFL Lakers were able to hold off Scott Bradley’s New Birth Warriors to claim a 35-34 victory in the 6th grade division finals. Entering the championship game with a 3-0 record, the Lakers raced out to an early 9-point lead. However, by halftime, the Columbus based Warriors had whittled the lead to only 4 points.  The start of the second half saw New Birth gain early momentum with their own 9-0 run; however, by midway through the second half the Warriors would be plagued by turnovers and missed point blank opportunities as the Lakers maintained their composure and went on to collect the 1-point win. Standout performers for the Lakers included Andre Simmons (5’1/P/SG/2022) who finished with a game-high 11 points and Justin Wympe (4’9/PG/2022) who added 8 points. New Birth was paced by Robert Dorsey (10 points), Drey Carter (8 points), and Alex Styles (4 points and 10 rebounds).   Congratulations to both teams for making the championship game.

Clark Kellogg Classic Returns

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Random Thoughts

As the middle school basketball is about to tip off, thoughts start to creep toward the upcoming AAU season.  Ordinarily, at this time of the year coaches are starting to develop their schedules and contemplate roster upgrades and/defections.  As has been the case for as many years as we can remember, parents are evaluating their kid’s future with former and prospective teams.  Often times, parents of talented and not so talented players are both receiving and making recruiting-related phone calls. Visions of, “super teams’ are being sold to kids and players along with promises of undefeated seasons, unlimited playing time, prime roles and positions.  With that said, the old adage, “the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the street” is most relevant this time of the year.  In our experience, parents will chase perfection and move their child from what appears to be a good situation (good coaching, competitive, skill centered development, participation in quality events & healthy environment) to situations that appear to be better based on anticipated win totals, more playing time, playing with better players, free gear, better brand name, etc.  In our opinion, all that glitters is not gold, and we would caution parents about switching teams based on promises and perceptions.  Your kid’s current situation may not be perfect, but it could be good enough, and at least you know what to expect. 

Middle School Ball is Tough to Watch

During a recent opportunity to watch middle school basketball we were reminded just how fortunate we are to be able to watch some of the most elite middle school basketball players in the county compete week to week.  We are also reminded just how bad middle school basketball can really look at the local level.  Many parents of elite middle school-aged players are shocked at the level of play in middle school, as from November through February they are forced to endure a much lower level of basketball than they are accustomed to seeing during the AAU/travel basketball season.  Although the elite middle school circuit of tournaments, camps and showcases provide us an opportunity to watch high flying dunks, elite skill level, high scoring and exciting games, middle school ball is often plagued by slower pace, fewer skills, below the rim play and low scoring contests.  In addition, in many cases, elite players are held back from fully demonstrating their talents as middle school coaches tend emphasize team-oriented play over individualism.  Of course that’s not the case with every middle school program, depending on the area of the country, but in at least in the Midwest it seems to be a common occurrence.  Although middle school ball may not be as exciting as travel ball, it still serves a purpose in the overall development of a player’s game, and it’s still exciting for you to watch your child play with his neighborhood friends, while representing the local school and community.  Also keep in mind, middle school ball may offer many players a greater opportunity for skill development through more frequent and consistent practicing.  At the end of the day, middle school basketball never killed anybody, and the AAU season is right around the corner.  One last note, we are always thrilled when we discover a talented player during middle school ball that was flying under the radar during travel season!

Questions Abound for 2016

With the 2016 travel basketball season only a few months away, there are a lot of questions and uncertainty with some of the major AAU programs in the state.  First and foremost, people are waiting to see the possible ramifications of King James’ branding change from King James Shooting Stars to the NEO Shooting Stars.  Because we only recently addressed the issue, we won’t spend much time on the subject, but the move has raised a number of legitimate questions about the possible makeup of King James’ youth teams.  Will they stay or will they go is on a lot of peoples’ minds right now.  Also, the recent merger between King James and Ohio Varsity will be effected, as Ohio Varity teams will remain with their original program names.

Prospects for OBC’s 2020 team are looking up, as the team will merge with keys pieces of Jay Younkin’s Cincinnati-based SWO Elite squad from last year. Coming over from SWO Elite are Jake Younkin, Evan Prater.  The big addition to that team is 6’9 Zach Loveday who comes over from All-Ohio Northeast.  Loveday’s addition along with 6’2 Andy Barba, 6’3 Anthony Maxie and 6’5 Ryan Kerns will give OBC one of the biggest front lines in the state.

Some of All-Ohio’s middle school teams have questions marks as well.  The biggest issue at the moment centers on the 2020 team in terms of who will coach the team as well as what players are left as possible building blocks.  Although there were encouraging signs from All-Ohio’s City Series squad, thought to represent the future of a team in that class, there seems to have been a loss of momentum for now. Aside from securing a coach, the next big question is where will the players come from.  Dave Migron’s Puma program has done a great job of locking up local talent, while King James has an elite team in the class and the Ohio Basketball Club (OBC) has merged with a Cincinnati group to field a quality squad.  Needless to say, All-Ohio has an uphill battle on its hands.

There are also some questions concerning All-Ohio’s 2021 team(s) going forward.  As most observers in that class know, there was a split of sorts early last season, resulting in 2 All-Ohio Red teams in the class.  Marti Fenta kept the bulk of last year’s squad, while Al Mobley created his own team.  The big question for 2016 is who will get the best players and field the most competitive team for All-Ohio.  King James has arguably the top team in the class, while the Mid-Ohio Pumas and Buckeye Prep have talent in central Ohio locked up. Questions also exist for OBC’s entrant in the class as well.  Dennis Barba appears to be at the controls of OBC’s youth program at the present, but it’s unclear what his recruiting efforts will garner for 2016.

All-Ohio’s 2022 team appears to be the early favorite, as Coach John Mobley has secured the services of Cincinnati’s Paul McMillan IV to go along with a solid core of returning players.  With that said, word on the street has it that Sean Jones may not be returning to the team.  This is a big loss as Jones is a consensus top 5 player in the state.  There have also been some suggestions that Garfield Height’s Sonny Johnson Jr. may make a few cameo appearances for Mobley’s team in some of the bigger tournaments.  In any event, All-Ohio’s 2022 team should be in great shape.

The biggest story for the class of 2023 involves the Blue Chip All-Stars and a possible Ohio-based team built around LeBron James Jr.  Information is still very limited, but word has it that Ohio’s elite players are being heavily recruited, and a team will compete in 2016.  We’ve heard a few individual names, but it’s still way too early to determine the makeup of that team.  Needless to say, if that team happens as expected, the number 1 spot is up for grabs between Blue Chip, Cincinnati Royals and All-Ohio Red. Stay tuned for more information.  Also, in preparation for preseason team rankings, Buckeye Prep is currently talking with coaches in order to build a foundation for a mid-February release.

Well that’s all for now. In our next installment of Random Thoughts we will talk about individual players and provide updated information on next year’s team rosters and potential.

Monday, November 23, 2015

IBT Middle School Preview Recap

VC Davis, G. Keys, J. Fulcher, M. Williamson, R. Rowe, L. Sims & L. Keether
By most accounts, the 3rd Annual IBT Middle School Preview was a complete success. Right from the onset it was clear the event was well organized and professional run. Although the event was a team-oriented event, and attracted many of central Ohio’s top boy’s and girl’s middle school basketball programs, as is often the case there were a number of notable individual performances on display on Saturday. Early in the day, Walnut Springs’ boy’s squad faced off against St. Matthews, and despite the fact that Walnut Springs was down 7-5 at the end of the opening period, a 5-0 run in the second propelled the Wolves to a 20-12 victory. Lee Sims (5’2/PG/2020) was the player of the game with 6 points on two three-pointers.

Game 4 of the day featured a matchup between Walnut Springs and Our Lady of Peace.  Walnut Springs jumped out to a 6-0 lead and would finish the first period up 12-8. A 12-0 Walnut Springs run to start the second period ran the lead to 24-8, and the Wolves would later collect their second victory by a score of 26-15. Myles Williamson (5’6/PG/2020) took home unofficial Player of the Game honors with 6 points, while Lee Sims added another 7 points to lead all scorers.

Probably the best game of the day pitted a much anticipated matchup between the Berwick Lady Bulldogs and the Reynoldsburg Lady Raiders. Judging from the size of the crowd and the buzz in the gym, there were high expectations for this game. Soon after the opening tip it appeared the game may have been over hyped, as the Reynolssburg dominated and closed the opening period up 20-5.  Just when you thought this game was over, Berwick turned up the heat and made a furious comeback before falling just short by the score of 25-23.

Nyam Thorton, K'Nisha Godfrey, Kyria Walker & Kennadi Harris  
We don’t often feature female athletes on the Buckeye Prep Report, but when we do, they have to be special. Well, add Nyam Thorton (5’7/SG/2020) to the special list. Thorton has the complete package of size, athleticism, IQ and skill.  Not only can she get you buckets, she has great vision and the ability and willingness to find open teammates.  In addition, she pushes the rock in transition at break neck speed and is strong enough to finish with contact.  Thorton finished with a game-high 12 points. She’s not the only D-I college prospect on that Berwick squad, as K’Nisha Godfrey (5’8/PG.2021) is an athletic specimen as well. Graced with good length and explosiveness; Harris excels at attacking the basket.  We also really liked Reynoldsburg’s Kyria Walker (5’4/PG/2020) and Kennadi Harris (5’6/SG/2020),  both of whom are very skilled and represent solid college prospects going forward. Walker finished with a team-high 10 points, while Harris added 9 points

Next game on the slate featured Reynoldsburg Waggoner vs Upper Arlington Jones (boy’s).  After racing out to a 6-2 lead and finishing the first period up 10-4, Upper Arlington never looked back, eventually winning the contest 16-9. Liam Keether (5’8/PG/2020) led all scorers with 7 points.  Game # 7 offered a Reynoldsburg Baldwin vs Wellington matchup.   This game was never really in doubt, as Reynoldsburg dominated the opening period 12-2 before finishing it out 23-9. Baldwin’s Roland Rowe (5’5/PG/2020) had high game honors with 9 points. The Berwick Lady Bulldogs had a second chance at victory as they faced off against Pickerington Ridgeview later in the day. Unlike their first game, the Lady Bulldogs got off to a fast start, finishing the first period up 18-10. A 6-1 run to start the second period allowed Pickerington to trim the lead to 3 points (19-16). By the time the horn sounded Berwick was up 26-22. Both Nyam Thorton and Keeendy Harris were catalysts of the win.

The most highly anticipated game of the entire event featured a showdown between the Berwick boys against Pickerington Ridgeview. Making the game even more interesting was the fact that the two team rosters featured at least 5 players listed on Buckeye Prep’s list of top 7th and 8th graders. The game was tight early, and by the end of the opening period the game was knotted at 8-8. The game was still close at the 3:03 mark as the score was still tied at 20-20. A Tahleik Walker layup put Pickerington up 22-20 and would propel the team to a 25-23 win.  Berwick's Van Cameron Davis (6’1/PF/2020) was dominate in the paint and finished with 7 points and several rebounds, while Pickerington's Josiah Fulcher (5’10/P/SG/2020) handled business on the perimeter to the tune of 9 points.  Aaron Brown (5’2/PG/2021) and Makhale Massie (5’6/WF/2021), both 7th graders, had bright moments for Berwick.

We finished our coverage with the AIMS vs Hilliard Weaver (boy’s) contest. Weaver led 10-7 after the first period and would go on to win it easily 27-12. We were very intrigued with Gage Keys (6’0/PF/2020/Hilliard) who impressed us with his size, strong frame and aggressiveness to the cup. He rebounds at a high level and gets up and the court very well.  We plan to keep an eye on Keys going forward. Our hats go off to the IBT team for hosting such an outstanding event!

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

IBT Middle School Preview Set for Saturday

One sure sign the middle school hoops season is upon us is the annual tip off of local basketball previews. Returning for their third year, the Intense Basketball Training Academy (IBT) will be hosting their 2015 Middle School Preview event this Saturday from 11:00am until 6:30pm at Wellington High School in Columbus. As was the case in years past, the event is loaded with talent as many of the area’s best middle school programs are set to participate.  Saturday’s event will include ten, 45 minute matchups between some of the top boy’s and girl’s middle school basketball programs in central Ohio.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with IBT, the organization has been training many of central Ohio’s top basketball prospects for several years.  Among the program’s many alumni are Seth Towns, Matt Moyer, Kalob Wesson, Nick Ward and Rob Brandenburg, all of whom received division I scholarships. Built on a primus that “hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard,” the IBT team of Renny Tyson, Lamar Thornton, Mike Petrie and Coach Artie Taylor strive to develop a respect for hard work with in a family atmosphere. 

In addition to events like the preview, IBT Academy offers various basketball training options including individual, small group, team training and college “grind” sessions.  For additional information about the IBT program, visit their website at Stay tuned to Buckeye Prep for a post event recap.  Below is the event schedule.

Game Schedule:

Game 1 @ 11:00am: Walnut Ridge (Westerville) vs St. Matthews
Game 2 @ 11:45am: All Saints Academy vs Our Lady of Peace
Game 3 @ 12:30pm: Columbus Berwick (Girls) vs Reynoldsburg
Game 4 @1:15pm: Upper Arlington Jones vs Reynoldsburg (Waggoner)
Game 5 @ 2:00pm: Wellington vs Reynoldsburg (Baldwin)
Game 6 @2:45pm: Pickerington Ridgeview (Girl’s) vs All-Saints Academy
Game 7 @3:30pm: Pickerington Ridgeview (Boy’s) vs Columbus Berwick
Game 8 @ 4:15pm: Columbus City Arts Impact vs Hilliard Weaver
Game 9 @ 5:00pm: Grandview Heights vs Columbus Boys Preparatory
Game 10 @ 5:45pm: Columbus Woodward Park vs Marysville