Saturday, March 31, 2018

Emerge Elite is Still Elite

2023 Emerge Elite
A group of young bulls wanted to become a dynasty and at the end of the 2017 season they were amongst the top teams in Ohio. The 2018 season has started and the team is looking to EMERGE as one of the ELITE teams in the class of 2023. This year is the inaugural season for Emerge Elite. Although the 7th grade Emerge Elite Purple has moved on, their core has stayed intact and has acquired new faces that will EMERGE the team to the next level. 

Emerge Elite opened their season in Cincinnati at the Cincinnati Royals Invitational. Emerge Elite had a fairly easy road by defeating teams by an average of 20 plus points. They were not tested until the semi finals, they faced Tournament Time out of Huntington, West Virginia. It was a back and forth battle and with Emerge Elite’s deep bench they were able to outlast and advance to the highly anticipated grudge match vs Cincinnati Royals Blue. The championship game was a great game to watch with in your face defense throughout the whole game. Neither team backed down and fought until the very end. Emerge Elite pulled away with their first Championship of the season. 

Emerge Elite stayed home for their second tournament and played in the well known Parker Bernard. Emerge had yet another easy road as they took down local and out of town competitors. In the semi finals, they faced the Wayne Warriors yet again another highly anticipated match up. Wayne got off to an early start but Emerge’s defense was too much and ultimately earned them a spot in the championship game vs the Dayton Wolves. Emerge Elite and Dayton Wolves are no strangers as both teams have switched programs. Emerge Elite formerly MVP DYNASTY and Dayton Wolves formerly Dayton Swish are extremely familiar with each other and share a mutual respect. The championship game didn’t disappoint as it went into double overtime with The Dayton Wolves overtaking Emerge Elite. 

Emerge Elite accepted an invite to Huntington, West Virginia to play in their 3rd tournament. Tournament Time, the host put on a well ran tournament with their 5th annual “Fastbreak Shootout”.  Emerge faced teams from WV and KY and squared off with the WV Wildcats in the championship game. Both teams were undefeated coming into the game and neither team had any intentions of going home with a loss. WV Wildcats a well-coached team with a lot of fire power proved to be the hungrier team in the beginning and hit a buzzer beat three to end the half. Emerge Elite’s coaching lit a fire under its players and they came out with great intensity and tough defense as Emerge Elite declawed the Wildcats. Emerge Elite hailed the victory and increased their record to 16-1 on the season. 

Emerge Elite will be traveling to Columbus, Ohio next to take on some best in Ohio, Indiana, KY and MI at the Buckeye Prep Invitational. This tournament is loaded with exceptional talent each year and Emerge Elite is looking to leave its mark. 

Friday, March 30, 2018

All-Star Saturday Rosters Released

For over 20 years now, Richard Crocket has been hosting his All-Star Saturday event at the Bruce Howard Recreation Center in Columbus.  As in years past, the event will feature a citywide Easter egg hunt, followed by series of all-star games.  Once again, the Buckeye Prep has been asked to develop the rosters for the middle and high school games.  Below are the rosters of players who will be participating in the event this Saturday starting at 11:00am.  If you’re in town and want to enjoy free food and drink, while taking in competitive basketball games, make your way over to the Bruce Howard Rec Center.  Also, stay tuned for our post event report!

Buckeye Prep Elite Showcase Alums in Final Four

Xavier Simson & Omari Spellman
When the 2018 Final Four tips off this weekend in San Antonio, TX, two Buckeye Prep Elite Showcase alums will not only be taking the court, but may impact the games and be key to a NCAA National Championship for their respective teams.  Michigan’s Xavier Simpson and Villanova’s Omari Spellman both attended our showcases and were among the best players to ever wear the red and white!  Although the Buckeye Prep Elite Showcase has a long list of elite players as our alumni, Simpson and Spellman were 2 of the best, and both guys were projected to do something special at the next level!  We have to acknowledge that NOBODY attended more of our showcases than Simpson, who attended every showcase from the time he was in the 5th grade until he graduated from high school.  We will be watching this weekend with a great deal of pride and will be cheering for both players to make the state of Ohio proud!

SMAC Akron Winning Early

SMAC Akron
In only the second year of existence, SMAC Akron Elite 2022 is making a name for itself. After finishing 14th in the Buckeye Prep report last season, the team is off to a fast start in its first 3 tournaments this year. The team is using a heavy rotation and getting major contributions from all 9 players on both ends of the floor. 

Winning the Ohio Basketball Twin Cities Tipoff with a 5-0 record with a quality win over Ohio Phenom Academy and a 37-point win in the championship game against New Castle Red Storm.

In the Ohio Youth Basketball classic SMAC Akron went 5-1 finishing in 2nd place with a 4-point loss to Mid Ohio Pumas in the championship game. SMAC Akron beat Arctic Rush in a thrilling 2-point game in bracket play.

With disappointing pool play losses to All Ohio Black and The Family; SMAC Akron won the Silver Division All Ohio Grassroots tournament by winning 5 straight games. During that streak, Akron defeated Ohio Phenom Academy and SMAC Premier. Aidan Palmer was named Silver Division MVP. Connor Sams, Luke Denbow and Drew Dossi were all named to the Silver Division All Tournament team. 

SMAC Akron Elite will be playing in the upcoming Buckeye Prep tournament. 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Artic Rush off to Fast Start

2022 Arctic Rush 5th Annual Marshall University Fast Break Shootout Champions
So far this season, Artic Rush 2022 (AR) is already 12-1.  This past weekend, Artic Rush finished 5-0 at the 5th Annual Marshall University Fast Break Shootout in Huntington, WV. AR’s trek to the championship included wins over WV infinity Elite (62-55), WV Legends (66-30), Buckeye Storm Black (61-41), WV Team United (66-54) and WV Wildcats (62-49). 

Standouts for this event included Jared Frey, who already has 40-point game this season, Jaiden Cain, Trey Robertson and Doogie James.  AR’s lone loss came at the hands of SMAC Premier.  Arctic Rush was one of the hottest teams last year and rocketed up the rankings after an impressive run at the Buckeye Prep Summer Showdown in June. You can catch Artic Rush in Action at the Buckeye Prep Invitational Tournament scheduled for April 13th-15th.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

State of the Game-Is Anybody Having Fun!

I rarely write and publish these types of stories, but every now and then I feel so strongly about a subject that I feel compelled to share my thoughts with our readers about the state of middle school basketball.  Although the 2018 travel season is only a few weeks old, I'm already asking myself, “Is anybody having fun?” I’m sure that by now you’re already asking yourself what is Rob Taylor rambling about now. Please take a few minutes to ready this article and try to understand what I see week in and week out.

In terms of credibility, and in order to provide a little background on myself and my unique set of experiences in youth basketball before I wade into the deep end with this piece, it’s important that you know that as a parent, I have enjoyed youth basketball with my two sons since they were in the 2nd grade many years ago.   I have coached them in recreation leagues and at the highest levels of travel basketball, including AAU National Championships (8th grade), multiple AAU final fours and placement games.  I have traveled the country to attend elite showcases, camps and competitive tournaments and I have spent thousands of dollars in pursuit of my son’s hoop dreams.  I have sat in stands and bleachers and laughed and cried in direct proportion to the success or lack thereof my sons and their respective teams.  I have realized unbelievable highs and crushing lows.  I have met great people who remain friends to this day, and I have experienced relationships that were shallow, self-serving and short-lived.  Through all of the ups and downs my sons and I had fun and our relationship survived me pushing them almost to the brink!  We enjoyed spending quality time on the road, in hotels and at dinner.  We loved the fellowship with teammates, coaches and other parents.  We enjoyed the thrill of elite competition, and through it all, they became great human beings.  My sons are grown men now, one having finished basketball at the NAIA D-II level and graduated with two degrees, while the other played DI ball, graduated, and is currently playing professionally in Italy.  This is relevant because I have lived the game, understand the game, and have experienced the game in many roles.

Now the truth; over the past several years I have observed a disturbing trend.  In fact, over the course of just the last two weekends alone my observations have caused me great concern and despair!  The behavior of adults, including coaches, parents and fans as well as young players has continued to erode to the point the gyms are now dangerous places, similar to what you find in many crime infested neighborhoods! Specifically, parents are literally fighting parents, coaches are fighting coaches, kids are fighting kids, coaches are fighting kids, parents are fighting other people’s kids, coaches and parents are fighting officials.  It’s absolute madness, and it’s getting worse. To put it bluntly, there is a certain evil and hatred in many gyms I walk into, and I'm in a lot of gyms!  

Not only are coaches and parents turning a blind eye to escalating violence on and off the court, in many instances, they are encouraging physical and dirty play regardless of the negative consequences. What negative consequences you ask; try physical injury, ejection from the game or tournament and criminal charges just to name a few.  What is also disturbing is the lack of understanding that the kids are watching, learning and being influenced by the adults in their lives.  Through their own negative and inappropriate behavior, adults are socializing and teaching kids that it’s ok to yell, scream at authority figures, cheat and fight.  And when everybody else but the child is blamed for the fight or inappropriate behavior, it sends a message that it's perfectly acceptable to fight or engage in other inappropriate behavior.  Oh yeah, we understand that the the code of the street demands that we teach our children to fight and stand up for themselves, despite the fact by doing so it places our children at major risk long after the game has ended.  Simply put, adults who fight get arrested, get injured or killed, loose jobs and ruin relationships.  Is that really what we should be teaching and encouraging our children to aspire to? Well that's exactly what we are doing week in and week out at these tournaments!

Another dynamic of the game is the high level of mistrust of any and everyone, including coaches, officials, program directors, and media that permeates the game.  The “us against the world” mentality and deep-rooted conspiracy theories have turned gyms into powder kegs just looking for a match.  As I walk around gyms all around the country I see adults in the stands yelling and cursing at the top of their lungs at officials, coaches, their sons and other players; basically anybody who is perceived as the enemy.  In most cases, their venom is unwarranted, misdirected and not based on reality, let alone facts.  In most cases, the coach is unwilling and/or unable to control their parent’s behavior, either because they, too, are behaving inappropriately and don’t understand the impact they have on the player, or they are afraid to confront parents who are all too eager to switch teams next week or the next day under the right set of circumstances.  Coaches are virtually paralyzed to take action for fear of losing a stud player. Note to parents, coaches and players, from my perspective, officials just want to get paid!  They are not out to cheat your team; they are out their trying to supplement their income!

Oh, it's not just limited to gyms, you need only visit your local message board to experience the shear hatred and venom of parents and coaches who feel that either their son or team has been disrespected. So, from the cover of their homes, offices and smart phones, the angry anonymously express their displeasure with whomever and whatever represents a perceived impediment to their goals.

Why is everybody so angry and so hyped up? Can it be the high cost of a college education and a parent’s burning desire to educate their child?  Could it be the allure of a NBA contract and the riches and fame afforded to so few!  Could it be the parent’s own ego that thirsts for attention and adulation?  Could it be a way of reliving a childhood that fell short of expectations?  Could it be the high costs of participation, including player fees, hotels, equipment, tournament entry fees, gas, planes, food, etc and the pressure to realize a return on investment? Could it be a combination of all of these dynamics?  Whatever it is, it’s destroying youth athletics and it’s setting many of our youth up for failure!  Let the kids have fun and enjoy the game people!

From my perspective, much of what we’re seeing is about ego.  Everybody wants to be the parent or coach of the top ranked kid, from the top ranked team, and anything that remotely gets in the way will be viciously attacked.  Those parents and coaches who are fortunate enough to participate on a top team often walk in the gym with a sense of entitlement and the expectation that everybody owes them something, and when they don’t get the respect they think they deserve, watch out, somebody is going to be attacked!

There was a time when kids played outdoors on concrete courts or in dimly lit and poorly ventilated gyms with their friends; totally unsupervised by adults.  These days, if the gym is not college regulation, made of wood or their team does not play on the main court with seating for 5000, it’s unacceptable, yet another source of frustration and complaints, and represents further proof that “they are out to cheat and disrespect us!”  In addition, although parental expectations are at an all-time high, their willingness to pay the cost (i.e., invest) of everything is at an all-time low!  Parents expect for their son to play for free, travel for free, to attend tournaments for free, and if team A can’t provide a free ride, then team B just might.

For the sake of full disclosure, the Buckeye Prep Report and other media organizations like us could be construed as being part of the problem by providing exposure at such an early and at an impressionable age.  I acknowledge that, but I submit that early exposure, if used and managed appropriately, can be a powerful motivator.  In addition, the same way that the names of Honor Roll recipients are published as a reward for hard work and achievement in the class room, so to should excellence and hard work on and off the court be recognized and embraced. In our opinion, parents, coaches and other adults are responsible insuring that exposure is managed in a healthy and productive manor.

If I’m nothing else, I’m a realest, and the prospect that this editorial will change adult behavior is pretty slim.  I just ask that the next time you’re in the gym watching your child compete, please take a few minutes to look around and observe what’s happening.  Although most people struggle to see faults in their own behavior, they see with great clarity the faults of others!

In closing, I’m a positive person who tries to see the positive in people, and I fully understand that not every parent resembles the parent described above.  In addition, although there are not nearly enough of them, I do believe there are still some good people in the game who love the sport and want only what's best for our youth.  Although publishing this may be bad for business and may upset some folks, I feel compelled to articulate how I feel for the sake of the children and the sanity of the adults. My suggestion to the adults is to just relax a little, be conscious of how your behavior is/will affect you child long term.  Moreover, I wish we could be civil to one another and refrain for shouting matches and out and out fist fights. The kids are watching us! 

At the end of the day the ball is going to stop bouncing for everyone, so you should ask yourself; what kind of human being am I creating?  Will my child become a well-adjusted adult that I can be proud of? Also, don’t get to the end of the journey and realize you forgot to enjoy the ride.  Basketball is a great game and can produce enormous long-term positive benefits for you child; try to have fun people; it’s only a game people!

Ohio Teams Excel at Indiana Event

Ohio Kings
A pair of Ohio’s top 8th grade teams found success at the first-year Midwest Circuit in Indianapolis this past weekend, and were both one of 3 undefeated teams (16 total) over the weekend..  Danny Young’s Ohio Basketball Club 2022 (OBC) and Ed Heban’s TNBA Ohio Shooting Stars both finished 4-0 in the opening weekend.  OBC’s route to an undefeated weekend included wins over Columbus-based Nova Village (61-38), Michigan Mustangs (68-38), Manimal Elite (64-55) and Wisconsin United (62-51). The Shooting Stars took down Starz United (72-51), Wisconsin United (88-77), Wisconsin Rise (68-60) and Michigan Mustangs Allison (69-50). Raymar Pryor (6'1"/CG/2022/Canton) led the Shooting Stars in scoring, averaging 24 points per game and about 3 dunks per game.

It should be noted that both OBC and the TNBA Ohio Shooting Stars have upgraded their respective rosters for this season and should start right where they left off last year.  OBC has added Gabriel Iruh, Willie Stewart, Tyler Ganley, Antwan Woolfolk and Kyle Tipinski (PA) and “…now have a strong 10 guys” and a “Total revamped squad,” said Coach Danny Young Sr.  The Shooting Stars have added 6’2” Jalen Wenger, 6’3” Javar Simpson, 5’11” Joshua Jones and 6’0” Bryan Flannery.  We can’t watch these 2 teams in a couple of weeks at the Buckeye Prep Invitational Tournament!

In the 7th grade division, both OBC and Ohio Champion Basketball finished 3-1.  OBC finished with wins over the Great Lakes Warriorz (57-24), Queen City Prophets (49-47), Sky Digs Elite (63-54) and a loss to the Louisville Magic (42-60), while Champion Basketball defeated Sky Diggs Elite 2023 (68-52), Darius Miller Elite (75-57), Queen City Prophets (54-63) and a loss to Manimal Elite 63-67.  For the record, Ohio’s Gurus of Go and Ohio Dose finished the weekend 1-3, while the Queen City Prophets and Darius Miller Elite both went 0-4. A summary of some of those games is below.

OBC (coached by Ted Wypasek) had a good two-point win over the Queen City Prophets 49-47. OBCs lone loss was to the nationally ranked powerhouse Louisville Magic team. Ohio Champion Basketball (coached by Gary Hardewig former coach of the Shining Stars) also won a close game against the Queen City Prophets 54-53. Their lone loss was to Manimal out of Illinois. They open up the next session April 7-8 in Toledo against DOSE, which should be a good game to watch.

The Gurus of Go and DOSE (Jason Dawson) both went 1-3. However, do not let the records fool you. If you see either one of these teams in a local tournament they should be favored to win unless there are more national level teams in the field. DOSE had a tough opening draw for the weekend loosing to Manimal, Louisville Magic, and a tough triple OT loss to the Gurus. Kevin Hamilton was limited by injury. Having him healthy makes DOSE very formidable. 

The Gurus of Go are new to the big stage, but they are scrappy and getting better with every game they play. They also had a tough draw to open the Circuit. All three of their losses were to nationally ranked teams such as Indiana Elite, Team Uprising, Chicago Swish, and a two-point loss to Indiana Elite 2023. The lone win was over DOSE in triple OT. This team bears watching, as there are some players who will make names for themselves this year.  Solomon Callaghan and Kellon Smith are two former MWA (Mo Williams Academy) players and have already established statewide reputations. 

The Queen City Prophets had two tough losses, one game by one point and another game by two points. MWA Elite out of Michigan beat them and they had one forfeit. Although they went 0-4, they should not be taken for granted. They have the big man Griffey (FNU) who can play. In fact, he kept them in all the games they played.  

The following are the overall record for the 4th-6th grade divisions: 6th grade division:  Nova Village-Rice 4-0; Ohio Kings 3-1; Ohio Dose 2-2; OBC 2024; TAD 1-3; and R4L Pioneers 0-4. 5th grade division: Ohio Dose 3-1; Miller Factory 2025 2-2; Ohio Kings 2-2; R4L 2-2; and Nova Village and OBC 2025 0-4.  4th grade division: R4L 2-2; Ohio C2K Elite 1-3; Ohio Hoopsters 1-3; Ohio Juice 1-3; and the Ohio Kings 1-3. 

From what we heard, the Midwest Circuit is very competitive.  Ohio fans will get to see many of these teams in action at the Buckeye Prep Invitational in a few weeks!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Nike Grassroots Tournament-Championship Sunday

All-Ohio Phenom 2025 All-Ohio Nike Grassroots Champions
We returned to the All-Ohio Nike Grassroots Tournament on Sunday to check out some 5th and 6th grade teams, and we had a chance to catch a couple of really competitive semi-finals and championship games.  In the 5th grade division, we watched the Cincinnati-based Panther Elite get by All-Ohio White 38-33 in a quarterfinal game. We were really impressed with Jesse Eubanks (5’4”/C/2025/Cincinnati), who was too big and too strong to keep out of the paint or to keep from getting point blank range shots at the rim.  Even when he missed his first shot, he easily grabbed the rebound and either finished with guys draped all over him or was fouled and sent to the free throw strip where he converted at a high rate. Eubanks led all scorers with 13 points. Later in the day, All-Ohio Red would easily dispatch Panther Elite to punch their ticket to the 5th grade championship game.  In that game, Arness Lawson and RJ Bates were standouts.

The 5th grade championship was a barnburner as Jason Bates’ All-Ohio Red (AOR) faced off against Darryl Peterson’s nationally ranked All-Ohio Phenom (AOP) team.  AOP would draw first blood and race out to a 5-0 lead. After converting a pair of free throws, Red would close the lead to 5-2.  At about the 3.15 mark, the game was knotted at 10, before AOP re-took a 12-10 lead.  Just prior to the break, Red’s Arness Lawson went down with what appeared to be an ankle injury, resulting in an AOP 6-0 spurt to run the score to 16-10 and take a 6-point lead into halftime.

In the second period, Lawson retuned to the game and Red converted a pair of free throws as part of a 4-0 run to cut the lead to 16-14. By midway through the second half AOP had extended their lead to 22-16 and would not look back from there.  By the time the clock showed 00, Peterson’s team had secured a 30-18 victory and the 5th grade championship.  Darryn Peterson led AOP in scoring with 9 points followed by Clay Harvey who added 8 points late.  Steph Thomas, Russell Young, Reed Sims Jr., Arness Lawson and Mykell Murphy where all selected to the All-Tournament Team, while Darryn Peterson took home MVP honors. From what we saw on Sunday, All-Ohio Phenom should be our #1 ranked 5th grade team when we release are Power Rankings next week.

Cincinnati Royals 2024 All-Ohio Nike Grassroots Tournament Champions
After squeaking by the Lima Gators in the semifinals (47-45), the 2024 Cincinnati Royals found themselves face to face with Cleveland-based Marshall Warriors who advanced to the final game with a 43-35 win over All-Ohio Red in a semi-final game.  The Warriors would get on the board first as part of a 3-0 start, but the Royals would tie the game at 3 before mounting a 10- run with 13.21 left in the first half. About halfway through the first period, Cincinnati had run the lead to16-7, then finish the half up comfortably at 33-16.  Although the Warriors would start the second period with a 6-0 run (33-22), A Branson Copas lay-up would halt the run, followed by a Cincinnati 5-0 answer.  The Warriors would make one last stand with a run that cut the lead to 8 p oints (39-31); however, the Royal’s execution and balanced scoring was just too much, and they went on to claim the 6th grade title with a lopsided 54-30 win.  Jaylan Rigdom, Travis Kroman, Ryan Woods, Calvin Little and Darryl Bush all made the All-Tournament Team, while Branson Copas was selected as the game’s MVP. You can expect a few potential rematches between some of these teams as they will be participating in the Buckeye Prep Invitational April 13th-15th!