All-Ohio Red winning the AAU National Championship was not a big surprise, however, most would expect that title to belong to the 17-and-under unit which has won the last two championships. This time, though, it was AOR’s U-16 delivering the goods. Head Coach Benji Burke’s crew hung on for a 57-50 win Thursday over Nike Team Florida for the prestigious title.
All-Ohio Red winning the AAU National Championship was not a big
surprise, however, most would expect that title to belong to the
17-and-under unit which has won the last two championships. This time, though,
it was AOR’s U-16 delivering the goods.
Head Coach Benji Burke’s crew hung on for a 57-50 win Thursday over Nike Team Florida for the prestigious title.
“It was hard, but we got it done,” said U-16 boss Benji Burke.
Columbus Northland’s Trey Burke led the victors with 17 points, while Columbus Marion Franklin’s Elijah Macon dished in 16 markers, and Teays Valley’s Nate Anderson accounted for 10 counters.
All-Ohio has plenty of talent as does all nationally known AAU units, but one thing appeared to separate it from the competitors.
“I thought we had the best guard tandem in the tournament,” Burke noted. “I thought that would be an advantage for us going in, but our guards proved it this week. We got leads and were able to spread it out with a four guard line up and that made it tough on our opponent.”
One of those guards was Northland’s Trey Burke, who even furthered his nationally known credentials.
“Trey took a leadership role this weekend, made plays, and really elevated his game even more,” Burke stated. “He does not like to lose and is really blessed with good people around him.”
Burke has had quite a year winning the Ohio Division I State Boy’s Basketball Championship, finishing fifth in the 1,600 relay at the Ohio State Track Meet, and now winning an AAU National Title.
Another one of the fantastic guards was Westerville South’s Traevon Jackson, who raised his stock. Jackson, the son of Ohio legend Jimmy Jackson, was followed by Wisconsin for most of the week.
“Wisconsin really liked what they saw in Traevon, and I’m sure he will be hearing a lot more from them,” Burke said.
The other two in the four guard line up was Garfield Heights’ Trey Lewis and Toledo St. John’s Cheatum Norrils.
The guards were great, but perhaps the most dominating force came from the youngster, Columbus Marion Franklin’s sophomore-to-be Elijah Macon.
“Elijah has committed to West Virginia, but he can play anywhere in the country,” Burke relayed. “This kid, in my opinion, has the potential to be a professional. He is that good. He plays hard, is a monster on the boards, blocked shots, and in our last three games he just dominated the interior. He pushes Raphael (Carter) and Nate (Anderson) to raise their level of play.”
Perhaps no one got more out of this tournament than Teays Valley’s Nate Anderson.
“Nate is 6-foot-9, so he was naturally getting looks because of his size, the All-Ohio boss said. “He is now taking his game to a new level. Nate is our most improved player. He is stronger, willing to dunk on people, and knocking down the three ball. This week took his exposure to a new level and was bigger for him than anybody.”
Interesting to note, this group of kids finished runner-up to the Memphis Stallions last year as 15-year-olds, but the Stallions boss told Burke next year would be his turn.
“He reminded me of that before the game yesterday,” Burke joked.
With the victory, All-Ohio continues to take its organization to another level joining All-Ohio Purple’s U-15’s as champions. The 17’s are in the Final Four and the 14’s will begin play next week.
“We had a meeting last night with myself, Jerry Watson, and some others to discuss some things and that came up,” Burke lamented. “Top to bottom All-Ohio is the best program in the country over the last five years. Ohio is not a major market compared to New York or California, but this proves just how much talent we have right here in our state.”
One other note, Ohio State was on hand for well over half of the U-16 games.
“I saw Brandon Miller at a lot of our games and Thad (Matta) was at our Elite Eight game, so yeah they came out and supported us,” Burke stated.
In the 17-and-under sector, All-Ohio Red remains as the only Ohio-based team still alive. As mentioned before, it wasn’t really as surprise considering they were the odds-on favorite. Though, some would argue after the Reds’ lackluster performance last week in the Super Showcase.
AOR made a statement to the rest of the field via 101-48 stomping of the Old Gold Dream Team followed by a 53-49 win over Youth Interlock Society to advance to the Final Four
All-Ohio will now face the highly regarded and talented New York Gauchos at 5:30 p.m in one semifinal.
The only other Ohio-based team remaining was the King James Shooting Stars, but they fell to the Arkansas Wings (61-48) in the round of 16.
The National Championship game is slated for Saturday night at 7 p.m.