middle division league in central Ohio has been Canal Winchester senior
B.J. Mullens, an Ohio State recruit.
CANAL WINCHESTER – A solar eclipse is special because it doesn’t happen very often.
So too is having a major Division I college recruit in a mid-size league of schools.
Welcome to the Mid-State League Buckeye Division.
The special draw for the past two years around this largely middle division league in central Ohio has been Canal Winchester senior B.J. Mullens. After giving a verbal commitment to The Ohio State University during his freshman year, Mullens officially signed his letter of intent last month to become a Buckeye.
“It felt good to finally sign,” Mullens said. “I committed to Ohio State when I was a freshman and it has always been there. It was nice to make it official.”
Mullens is the biggest name to come out of the MSL since Hamilton Township’s Gary Trent dominated play in the early 1990s. Trent went on to star at Ohio University and had a stellar career in the NBA.
Mullens is in the middle of another special season for the defending league champion Indians, averaging 25.5 points per contest. In Canal Winchester’s last win, an 82-55 verdict over rival Logan Elm, Mullens posted a double-double of 34 points and 19 rebounds.
Those eye popping numbers only go so far for Mullens, however. The 7-foot-1 center is determined to continue and refine his game before hitting the Oval next school year.
“I’m working on my strength and conditioning,” Mullens said. “In the Big Ten, and at the college level in general, players are going to be strong.
“I’m also working on my hook shot, which is something that will help at the next level as well. The hook shot is a hard shot to block.”
There are also some other areas where Mullens has improved on for this season.
“We've worked on his positioning and where he catches the ball,” Canal Winchester coach Kent Riggs said. “B.J. is catching the ball a lot deeper in the post, and he is learning the game.
“He's also worked on getting in better shape. He's put on about 15 pounds from last year and continues to develop in that area.”
To help prepare for the collegiate ranks, Mullens has gone up against some of the best talent in the nation. One of the names that stand out in the Buckeye state is former Ohio State center and No. 1 NBA draft selection of the Portland Trailblazers, Greg Oden.
“I played against Greg while he was there,” Mullens said. “He was a monster to play against, and he taught me some good lessons about the next level.
“I’ve got to come a long way to get there.”
One of the area Mullens is having a harder time to work at is defense. In the MSL-Buckeye, Mullens typically faces center ranging from 6-2 to 6-5.
“I want to work on my defense, in general,” Mullens said. “That’s harder in high school because I’m not typically going against a big man I can go one-on-one with.”
So far this season, the Indians are 7-1 and 5-0 in the MSL-Buckeye – holding a one-game lead over Logan Elm.
One of the big differences this season for the Indians is experience at the varsity level, according to Mullens.
”Last year we didn’t have very much varsity experience, but everyone got to play and gained experience,” he said. “This year, we have more experience and are using it.”
Another key difference for Canal Winchester is the addition of senior guard Remon Nelson. Nelson, who helped Harvest Prep to the Division IV state championship game last season, played with Mullens for two years at Prep.
“It’s nice having Remon,” Mullens said. “We played together in eighth grade, ninth grade and 10th grade so we know each other pretty well. He can pass, he can shoot, he is just so fast and that presents a problem for people to handle. He adds to our team.”
The goals for Canal Winchester are high following last year’s loss to Beechcroft in the Central District Division II championship game. Aspirations of returning to the Fairgrounds or reaching the Schottenstein Center are kept in the background, however.
“We have set the bar high. We’d like to win the league, get to districts and the state tournament, but we have to take it game by game and day by day,” Mullens said.
“We don’t want to look too far ahead. We want to worry about the next opponent.”