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!

Photo Gallery

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

Thursday, November 12, 2015

President's Day Tournament Returns

The Buckeye Prep Report will be covering Hoop Source's President's Day event, one of the top middle school tournaments in the nation.  Below is information about the event.  See you there!

February 13-15, 2016
Portland, OR
7 Game Maximum
$379/team (Discounts do apply)
Highly Rated Gym Facilities
7U-14U (We will not adopt current AAU Rules) Exceptions will be allowed
This Tournament will be covered by SLAM & our Partners
National Rankings Impact
Rankings committee in attendance
This tournament has an involvement from leadership, who have produced over 42 NBA Lottery Picks in its strong history

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Simpson Signs with Michigan

Xaver Simpson-Michigan Pledge
Today players from across the nation pledged their commitment to colleges and universities with their signatures affixed to National Letters of Intent (NLOI). One such player was Lima’s Xavior Simpson, who committed to the University of Michigan.  Although their have been numerous players who have honed their skills through participation in Buckeye Prep Elite Showcases, we’re not sure any one player had more success or attended more events in their career than did Simpson.  A look though the Buckeye Prep archives reflects that Simpson was selected as a MVP in every elite showcase he attended from about the 5th grade though his high school career. Not only did Simpson excel at an unprecedented level, he did so with class and grace. We at Buckeye Prep are extremely proud of Simpson’s accomplishments and consider him a huge part of the Buckeye Prep Family!

D. Funderburke, S.Towns, M. Moyer, C. Wimston, N Ward, W. Jackson, O Speelman, A. Eichelberger, J. Cumberland

Along with Simpson, we congratulate all of the players in the class of 2016 (there are many) who realized a dream today with their commitments!  As most Ohio basketball fans well know, the class of 2016 was one of the most talented classes in the history of the state, and Buckeye Prep had the opportunity to watch them develop from the time they were in the forth grade. Below are some links to a couple of lists, one of which is a list of some of the top 2016 players who attended our events, a number of whom signed NLOIs, and a list of Buckeye Prep Elite Showcase alumni.  We are extremely proud of our long history of providing a platform for players to receive elite competition and national exposure!

King James Shooting Stars Refocuses Youth Efforts

For as many years as we can remember, Dru Joyce has fielded quality elementary and middle school travel basketball teams under the King James Shooting Stars brand.  Well, starting in the 2016 season, the King James Shooting Stars brand will no longer be associated with middle school basketball, as the LeBron James family has requested the organization baring his name no longer field youth basketball teams. “The family was concerned about the pressure/perceptions associated with LeBron James Jr. competing against teams baring the LeBron James name, so they requested the change,” said Dru Joyce, King James Shooting Stars founder. “LeBron has been very good to us and we respected his request,” continued Joyce. As most youth basketball fans know, LeBron James Jr. has been running with the Gulf Coast Blue Chips, a Texas-based travel team program for the past couple of seasons.

The obvious question for many youth basketball fans around the state, is where will the players currently committed to program play next season and beyond. According to Joyce, many of the players will remain with the program, but will play under the N.E.O. Shooting Stars brand name.  As we all know, many players, parents and coaches are attracted by the “big name” programs such as All-Ohio, Ohio Basketball Club and King James; consequently, there’s a good chance the program could loose some of the significant talent the program has attracted over the past several years, as parents gravitate to the more recognizable brand named programs.

By most accounts, in recent years the King James program has made great strides in attracting some of Ohio’s most elite players to their youth programs.  This trend is important, as players tend to transition from a program’s youth programs to their high school-aged teams. “There will be no changes to our high school program.  We will continue to position our players for scholarships; what we have always done,” said Joyce.  What’s in a name? Only time will tell what impact the branding change will have on parent’s decision making, as well the balance of power in middle school basketball around the state and the country.