Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Stars Shine at Elite 60

Team Ohio-Elite 60 Midwest Challenge Champions
Judging from the feedback we received on Sunday, the inaugural Buckeye Prep Elite 60 Midwest Challenge was a complete success! Of course it’s much easier to pull off a successful event when the talent in the gym is the best in the Midwest.  With select kids from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio, this event was one of the most competitive we‘ve ever held.  Although the event was more of a team event, as the players were placed onto teams based on their state of residence, players had the opportunity to display their individual talent in front of local and national media outlets   Specifically, Bill Francis, the Hoops Scoop’s Chris Johnson and Middle School Hoops’ Ty Kish were all in the house taking in the action.

Because of the event’s primary focus a champion was crowned.  Coached by Rob Taylor Jr., Team Ohio finished a perfect 4-0 on their trek to the championship.  As was the case with all of the teams, Team Ohio was absolutely loaded with talent.  As an example, Team Ohio’s roster contained 4 of Buckeye Prep’s top 10 players in Jack Pugh, Chris Mayfield, Grant Huffman and Matt Allocco.  Add to that top 20 Montorie Foster Jr., Evan Prater, Joey Holifield, Mark Wise, Fred Wilkes III and Jamal Walker, you have a very formidable squad.  Finishing as runner-ups, Coach Ed Lyshe’s Team Scarlet finished 3-1 and also boasted a talent-filled roster,including top 10 Devonte Blanton, Marcus Johnson, Von Cameron Davis, Blake Lloyd, Sam Anderson, O’Mahn Dobbins, BJ Bradford, Ryan Delong and Michigan’s Vontray Nickerson.  A Colin Crothers-led Team Illinois finished 3rd with a 2-2 record, followed by 2-2 Team Indiana, 1-3 Team Michigan and a 0-4 Team Buckeye.

Jack Pugh, Matt Allocco, Devontae Blanton, Montorie Foster Jr. & Jeremy Baker
In our experience, the most truly elite are those players who are elite when the entire gym is full of elite players.  That was most certainly the case with the 22 players selected to the event’s all-star game.  To take it one step further, the players selected to the All-Tournament Team and the MVP really separated themselves from the elite pack.  Jack Pugh, who only recently returned to action after an injury was fantastic and played his way to MVP honors.  Fellow Mid-Ohio Pumas teammate Matt Allocco made the All-Tournament team, as did Montorie Foster Jr., Devontae Blanton and Indiana’s Jeremy Baker. All-Star scoring is as follows: Montorie Foster (13), Matt Allocco (12), Jack Pugh (10), Jeremy Baker (10), Devontae Blanton (10), Von Cameron Davis (9), Isaiah Kennedy (8), Nic Smith (8), Kevin Rice (7), O'Mahan Dobbins (7), Sam Anderson (6), Marcus Johnson (5), Grant Huffman (5), Colin Crothers (4), Jack Townsend (4) Zeb Jackson (3), Jonzell Norills (2), Chris Mayfield (2), Justus Salaam (2), Jahqueza Williams (0) Cleveland Neal (0) and CJ Anthony (0). 

The leading scorer at the event was Jack Pugh (6'4/WF/Plain City, OH) who scored 65 points in 4 games and averaged 16.25 points per game and a high of 23 points vs Team Buckeye.  Pugh has recently been sidelined with an injury, but you could not tell it by his play.  Pugh has continued to stretch out, and his length, skill and IQ allow him to score at will around the basket. Based on his play on Sunday, from a production perspective, Pugh is the top guy in the state in 2020.  His Mid-Ohio Pumas teammate, Matt Allocco (5'10/PG, Hilliard, OH) has not done a lot of showcases or camps, but his team-oriented and highly skilled game translates well to this format. Allocco really understands all phases of the game and he is the consummate floor general. But don't be fooled, Allocco may be more than proficient at setting up teammates for easy shots, but he can go get his own when he needs to.  Another Puma, Chris Mayfield (6'3/WF/Columbus, OH) had a big time performance on Sunday.  Mayfield is a horse with explosive athleticism.  Mayfield is best using his linebacker-type frame slashing to the basket, but he's more than capable of hitting the 3-ball or the mid-range jumper.  Mayfield is also productive in transition and is a willing and capable passer.  

I. Kennedy, K. Rice Jr., J. Baker, Z. Jackson, O. Dobbins & S. Anderson
Sam Anderson (6'0/combo guard/Trotwood, OH) had the event's game-high of 25 points vs Team Illinois.  From what we saw this weekend, Anderson is more than comfortable running with the big dogs. Good length, athletic, with deep range are just some of Anderson's strengths.  The second leading scorer was Von Cameron Davis with 53 total points (13.35 pig).  Because he was on a stacked team, Mark Wise did not make the all-star game, but the books reflected he scored the ball with 44 total points (11 ppg). Wise has the ability to knock down the trey, get to the cup and is very active both offensively and defensively. I 'm not sure there were many players who played better than Isaiah Kennedy (5'11/combo guard/Beavercreek, OH) did on Saturday.  Because we will be breaking down his performance in our UA Next Combine recap, we won't be repetitive here but we will say this, Kennedy's stock will soar after what we saw this weekend.  Grant Huffman (6'2/PG/Aurora, OH),  just like Kennedy will be featured in out UA Next Combine recap.  Just like Kennedy, Huffman balled out on Saturday as well.  Long considered a top 5-10 player in the state, Huffman's performance on Sunday more than justified his ranking.  A solid handle and a quick first step allows Huffman to stay in the paint. Sneaky athleticism, Huffman excels and every phase of the game.  Supper smooth, skilled with good size, makes D-1 college ball a certainty.

A majority of the players at this event had already established themselves on the statewide and national stage, while a few had been flying under the radar to some extent.  One such player was Marcus Johnson (6'2/WF/Columbus) who is super smooth with freakish athleticism.  Johnson is more than explosive, as he can handle the rock, and he demonstrated the ability to hit the mid range shot.  When his motor is in full gear, Johnson is often the best player on the floor.  Finally, Johnson's upside is tremendous, and with continued growth and development, D-I college basketball is a probability.  Some of the same things can be said about his Ohio Bulldogs teammate, Von Cameron Davis (6'2/PF/Columbus, OH).  Davis is not a freak like Johnson, but he is athletic, has good size and is fluid around the bucket. Davis also has great footwork and finishes well around the rim.  He runs the floor like a guard and although he's most productive in the paint, he can step away from basket and knock down the short jumper.  Like Johnson, Davis has tons of upside potential.  

Johnson, Davis, Williams, Salaam, Crothers & Townsend 
Jahquez Williams  (6'1/combo guard/East Chicago, IN.) is another explosive athlete with big time potential.  Williams has a strong frame and is best when slashing to the basket.  He has good length for the off guard position and moves well laterally on defense.  From what we saw on Sunday, college coaches might want to get Williams on their boards. Big Colin Crothers (6'8/PF/C/Arlington Heights, Ill) is another one to watch.  Big, skilled with good feet and hands, Crothers s very productive in the paint.  He's not a high riser, but with excellent timing, he still manages to pose a problem to would-be shooters.  He's big, but he moves well and can handle the rock away from the paint.  Crothers is another big time prospect. He wasn't as hot as he was on Saturday, but Jack Townsend (6'1/SG/Odam, IN) hit enough 3-balls on Saturday to warrant mention. Townsend was the best shooter in the gym on Saturday and proved he can constantly shoot a high percentage from beyond the arc.  Although he's a zone buster, he's not just a catch and shoot threat, as Townsend can create his own shot, can score off pick and roll and can hit the mid range off the bounce.  He has a quick release, handles the ball very well and can slip into the play maker role if he can't get his. He's confident with a little swag because he knows he's good.  Because he has been playing up a couple of grades, he's virtual unknown in the class of 2020.  Now you know, Townsend is a baller! 

Devontae Blanton (6'3/WF/Nordonia, OH) logged in an impressive performance on Sunday as evidenced by his all-star game and All-Tournament Team selection.  Blanton has that rare combination of size and quickness.  When he gets that big frame heading to the cup he's tough to stop.  Although he makes his money in the paint, Blanton has great ball skills for his size and is more than equipped to knock down the open jumper. Blanton also has the ability to initiate the break and to deliver a pass on time and on target.  Blanton's performance solidified his spot in the state's top 10. We also really liked Justus Salaam (5'9/SG/Farmington Hills, MI).  He arrived in Columbus determined to "get his name out there" and that's exactly what he did.  Salaam is a dynamic lead guard who can light up the score board.  On Saturday, he put up gaudy numbers.  Quick, athletic and always in attack mode best describes Salaam's game.  He can hit the deep ball or hit the mid range shot. We also like Salaam's upside going forward.  Zeb Jackson (5'8/PG/Toledo, OHwas on point this weekend.  Aways a threat to get hot, Jackson is best known for his ability to hit deep treys.  His elite handle and craftiness also allow him to get into then pant and score or dish.  Jackson works well of the screen, and with continued growth and development, he could be a good one. We were also super impressed with O'Mahn Dobbins (5'5/PG/Cleveland, OH), who proved to be one of the best lead guards at the event.  He's not the biggest kid on the floor, but his game is.  His showcase coach loved the kid for his play-making ability, his ability to hit the long ball, the fact he made few mistakes and ran his team with precision. We knew he could play, but we have a lot more respect for Dobbin's game!
CJ Anthony, M. Wise, E. Seeger, J. Norills,  T. Brelsford & J. Younkin
We absolutely love Jeremy Baker's game.  Baker (6'2/WF/Kokomo, IN) is big, strong and very aggressive to the cup. With good size, a solid handle and determination to get to rack, Baker is almost unstoppable.  Baker is more of a slasher, as he can stroke it if left open.  If we can keep the football coaches away from him, D-I college basketball is in his future. We also have to mention Montorie Foster Jr. (5'9/PG/Warrensville, OH), who has turned out to be one of the most prolific scorers in the state.  With his quickness and skill set, Foster can score at all 3 levels.  We also saw some real good things out of Kevin Rice Jr. (6'2/SG, Flint, MI), who already has great size for an 8th grade shooting guard. Rice is best at scoring the ball, but he can also find open teammates.  Rice can create his own shot, and he shoots it well off the catch and shoot or bounce. A good looking athlete with D-1 potential. Tyler Brelsford (5'10/PG/Maryland) has all the tools required to run a team. He's smart, a scoring threat and has the ability to set up and find open teammates.  As he grows and gets stronger, Brelsford stock will continue to rise.  Cleveland Neal (6'3/WF/IN) was a late arrival, but his explosives was on full display when he dunked on a defender in transition.  A supreme athlete, Neal will continue to garner attention going forward. Toledo's Jonzell Norills put his name on the map with a solid performance. Norris always seemed to make the right play, passed the ball forward and did all the things a player needs to do to get his team a win. CJ Anthony (5'10/combo guard/Columbus, OH) followed up a solid performance from Saturday. Anthony is at his best attacking the basket, but he can also heat up from the perimeter as well.  Not only is Anthony considered one of the best players in Columbus, his state-wide rep is growing as well.  Big Nic Smith's (6'3/PF//Cincinnati) performance on Sunday proved his name should be among the best players in the state.  With good size and a short touch around the basket, Smith is a productive big. We also saw some flashes of Elliott Seiger (5'11/PG/Naperville, IL).   Seiger not only was aggressive to the basketball, he was a great on ball defender as well.  Good size and athletic, Seiger has a chance to be good. Cleveland Tevin Jackson (5'7/PG/Cleveland) got great praise from his showcase coach.  Jackson does a great job running his team.  He plays hard, gets his teammates involved and he has a good attitude and approach to the game. Because he was on a stacked team, Evan Prater (6'1/WF/Cincinnati) did not get the love he deserved.  According to his showcase coach, Prater "does it all. He can shoot the ball, get to the rack and can guard multiple positions.  By the time it's all said and done, he [Prater] may be one of the best players in the state," said Rob Taylor Jr.  We plan to keep a closer eye on Prater in the future!

Although this event was only in it’s first year, the response was tremendous, which suggests the event will only grow in stature and prestige going forward.  Next up is Buckeye Prep’s Summer Showdown Tournament of Champions, where once again the elite teams and players will gather to compete at the highest.  This event is “invitation only,” for those teams ranked in our Power Rankings and/or tournament champions.  Finally, our Fall Elite Showcase is scheduled for September 17th & 18th at Otterbein University.  The event will attract up to 500 players and will feature the prestigious Ohio North vs South All-Stare Games as well as the ultra competitive Ohio vs Michigan Game for the class of 2020.  Remember this, “iron sharpens iron.”  If you want to be the best you have to play the best!


  1. Can u post the top 5 scorers of the event please ps thanks would like to see who stood out the most

  2. Rob this is Kevin Jackson. first I want to say great event a lot of talent and ran well as always. I've been coming to or working your events since my son was in the 3rd grade and you and your staff have for the most part always gotten it right as far as all stars and top performers. So it really shocked me not to see EVAN PRATER from team Ohio in the all star game or not get any ink at all? I watched all of team Ohio games he was outstanding he had to be one of the top scorers on that stacked team if not the top scorer. I'm just wondering how could you drop the ball on this kid?

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  3. Kevin, as we have since discussed on the phone, Prater was more a victim of being on a stacked team and in a stacked event than anything else. With there being an "Elite 60" players, many guys had a legit argument. We know Prater can play, but everybody on his team can play. For the record, a media panel chose the all-star teams, so they may not have seen Prater in all-star terms with so many top players on his team. With all of that said, since your initial comments, I have spoken to his showcase coach who praised Prater's game. Consequently, the report has been updated to reflect his coach's comments. Also, a review of my report reflects that over 30 kids received a write-ups. No other media outlet in the business covers that many kids in a single-day event.

    1. I have to tip my hat to you Mr Taylor you have always tried to do the right thing. That's why your events continue to do so well. And I agree with Robbie by the time it's said and done Evan prater will be one of the top recruits in the state. I am looking forward to seeing more up and coming stats at your fall event.

  4. Just to harp on all star snubs, the kid Lattimore had a very impressive showing. Had to be best and most consistent performer from that team Illinois in my opinion, I'm sure he lead them in scoring!