Sleepers, Studs, Notes and more…Everything you need to know about the upcoming D-III basketball season is here.
Division III is always the great unknown. It’s usually the forgotten division, but it has its years. For the most part, it is either extremely top heavy with a heavyweight dropping down from Division II or there is complete parody.
If we look at the past twelve years beginning at the turn of the century, it is clear to see when there is a heavyweight in DIII that teams usually raises the bar. Akron SVSM in 2000 and 2001 was a super team featuring Lebron James. We got parody again from 2002-2004 with SVSM moving back to DII. If they Irish remained in DIII they likely win all three of those titles including the year after James departed.
Following ’04 we went through another “super team” era when North College Hill won back-to-back-to-back championships. The first two led by NBA players OJ Mayo and Bill Walker and the final championship spear-headed by cat-quick guard Damon Butler.
In 2008, Ottawa-Glandorf got hot right at tournament time and the Titans stormed their way to gold. Cleveland Central Catholic joined the party with a championship in 2009 with Cleveland State forward Anton Grady. The following year Columbus Bishop Ready pulled the upset of the season knocking heavy favorite Cincinnati Taft off in the regional championship allowing for a much more competitive state tournament, which ended with Lima Central Catholic cutting down the nets. Finally, this past season, Taft came back with vengeance, leaving no doubt of the best team in the field.
This season, we should have parody once again with Cincinnati Taft bumping up a division, Cleveland CC doing the same, and Cleveland VASJ and Columbus Africentric moving down. Those teams are heading out, while Roger Bacon, Bedford Chanel, Bishop Fenwick, Cincinnati NCH, and Coshocton are a few of the new competitors entering. Not to sell those teams short, but it’s likely the usual DIII competitors will gladly accept the new as opposed to the old.
The team benefitting the most from the new enrollment figures may be Cincinnati Summit Country Day. The Silver Knights took Taft to the brink in last year’s Kettering Regional Final, but came up a little short (49-45). Summit’s effort was the closest anyone came to beating the juggernaut Senators outside of Hamilton Southeastern’s (IN) 71-70 victory over Taft at the Flyin’ to the Hoop. Summit returns a nice core of players from last year and will look to take the next step under second year head coach Michael Bradley.
Summit will be joined by an overabundance of teams looking to cut down the nets in late March making this is one of the hardest years to analyze. There won’t be any great teams, but plenty of good ones.
TEAMS TO WATCH
Cincinnati Summit Country Day
• The Silver Knights finished last year with a sparkling (21-4) mark falling just short of a trip to Columbus. Summit will have to replace Wake Forest walk-on Ryan Glass, Jack Gustafson, and Christian Melson. However, the dynamic backcourt of Kevin Johnson (6’2/Jr.) and Antonio Woods (6’0/So.) return to help the cause. Johnson has plenty of D1 interest, while Woods is starting to draw looks. 6’3 senior Tommy Kreyenhagen returns to his wing position, but his immediate availability is unknown due to injury. Kreyenhagen is one of the better perimeter shooters in Ohio. The other returnees are sophomore Mike Barwick (6’0), Holden Hertzel (6’5/Sr.), Matt Fry (6’7/Sr.), Brett Tepe (6’3/Jr.), and Jake Rawlings (5’11/Jr.). Look for newcomer Joey Kreyenhagen (5’11/So.) to step in and knock down shots, while his brother is on the shelf. Juniors David Herring (6’0) and Michael Dorsey (6’3) will also be counted on for minutes. The schedule for the Silver Knights isn’t overly demanding, but they will get tests from DI Woodward, North College, Dixie Heights (KY), Lockland, and Dayton Jefferson. The district and regional will be challenging, but if they get to Columbus, look out.
“After making a nice run last year, we have lost three key players but have some younger guys who will fill in nicely in due time” said Summit boss Michael Bradley, a former NBA player. “We will be young with only three seniors, but have our starting backcourt back. We look forward to a challenging year and trying to duplicate last year’s accomplishments and then some.”
•The Bulldogs finished (16-7) a year ago losing to Columbus Africentric in the district championship. Ironically, Bloom-Carroll will open up this season with Africentric at the Zane Trace Tip Off Classic. Though, they will be doing without the graduated Steve Bridgeman and his 16.5 points per game. With the 6’5 Bridgeman now at Ohio Dominican, the Bulldogs will turn to crafty junior point guard Isaac McGlone (6’1) and senior wing/forward AJ Ireland (6’3). The old school McGlone averaged 14.3 points a game last season and Ireland has the ability to be a deadly shooter but at times streaky. 6’0 juniors Dalton VanAtta and Rob Watts are returning starters as well. The key could be sophomore guard Joey Schmitz. He logged several minutes a season ago, but after a solid spring/summer Schmitz should be primed for a break out campaign. B-C plays in a good conference for a DIII team battling the likes of DII Logan Elm, DII Canal Winchester, and DI Teays Valley along with out of conference encounters with DII power Bishop Hartley, Columbus Horizon Science, and Newark Catholic. The Bulldogs always seem to get better as the season goes along under the stellar coaching of veteran Tom Petty and assistant Joe Goodyear. B-C’s only trip to Columbus was in 1994, but that could change in less than four months.
• The Trojans are the only team returning from last year’s Division III state tournament with the others moving divisions. Portsmouth finished (21-5) last season losing in the state semis to Cleveland Central Catholic. It was the Trojans first trip to Columbus since finishing runner-up in 1990. The Trojans welcome back three starters which includes leading scorer Wayne Evans and their second leading scorer in Dion McKinley. Evans, a 6’1 senior, averaged just over 20 points per game scoring in a variety of ways. McKinley, a 6’5 senior, was good for 17.4 ppg. 6’1 senior Zaide Whitley is the other returning starter. 5’9 senior Len Collins and 6’0 senior Seth Bratchett will likely be the two new starters. Coach Eugene Collins has a plethora of kids to put into the game including 12 seniors in all. The only junior on the roster is Jayllen Carter (6’2). Newcomers Kyle Ratcliff (6’5/Sr.) and JW Horsley (6’2/Sr.) should help on the interior along with seniors Trevor Violette (6’5) and Robert Grubbs (6’4). L.J. Adams (5’9/Sr.) and Duke Edwards (6’2/Sr.) give perimeter depth with the ability to knock down shots and Mason Jordan (6’3) can play inside/out. Returning to Columbus won’t be easy with Chesapeake, Ironton, Lucasville Valley, Eastern Brown, and Coshocton lurking, but the pieces are there for another deep run. Portsmouth opens with a tough test from DIV South Webster along with games with Ironton, Vincent Warren, Chillicothe, Wheelersburg, Piketon and Peebles.
• The Badgers were (15-9) last season falling just two games short of a state tournament appearance losing to Cleveland Central Catholic in the regional semis. Berkshire welcomes back five of its top six players including player of the year candidate, Tim Goff (6’7/Sr.). Goff averaged 18 points per game as a junior earning 3rd Team AP All-Ohio. Tim Ludlow (6’5/Jr.) is another returnee and should be primed for a big year after averaging 10.6 points a night as a sophomore. Kyle Blair (5’8/Sr.), David Mayer (6’2/Jr.), and Travis Smetena (6’0/Sr.) round out the top returning performers. If Goff raises his level of play even more, which we think he will, the Badgers have a chance at their first trip to Columbus. Berkshire will get tests from Leavittsburg LaBrae, Cleveland VASJ, Kirtland, Grand Valley, and Richmond Heights.
• The Tigers (17-6) run ended a year ago with a heartbreaking 78-68 overtime loss to Clark Montessori in the district finals. Versailles was in complete control before faltering late in the contest. The Tigers welcome back seven of their top nine players from that particular game. 6’4 junior Chad Winner leads the list of returnees. Winner scored a game-high 25 points in the loss to Clark. 6’4 senior Mitchell Campbell was 1st Team All-MAC as a junior, Ethan Bruns (5’10/Sr.) and Zach Niekamp (6’0/Sr.) were 2nd team, and Aaron McNeilan (5’10/Sr.) was honorable mention. 6’5 senior Casey Rismiller and 6’2 junior Jacob Heitkamp return to provide depth. The MAC schedule is never easy, and always prepares teams for the rigors of tournament play. The Tigers will see Fort Recovery, Anna, St. Henry, Delphos St. John’s, Minster, and Marion Local along with games meeting Covington, Russia, Lehman Catholic, Fort Loramie, and Franklin-Monroe. Versailles finished state runner-up in 2004 to fellow MAC foe, St. Henry and has the make up of a team set for another lengthy run.
Lima Central Catholic
• The Thunderbirds were a favorite to get back to Columbus in 2011 following their first state championship in 2010, but LCC suffered a two-point loss in the district championship to Ottawa-Glandorf. Under first-year boss Frank Kill, LCC finished (19-4). The Thunderbirds return three 6’4 senior starters in Ty O’Connor, Billy Taflinger, and John Kidd. O’Connor averaged 12.8 points a game as a junior and has committed to play quarterback at Michigan State. Perhaps the biggest key will be the emergence of junior point guard Tre’on Johnson. If Johnson delivers, the T-Birds have a chance to be very good. 6’2 senior Tank Wilkerson is another returning lettermen. Four talented sophomores will be counted on for valuable minutes led by 6’4 Cory Stewart, 6’0 Bruce Hodges, 6’0 Martyce Kimbrough, and 6’0 Darius West. LCC will have to replace some key pieces, but the talent is definitely there for a deep run. The T-Birds always play a demanding schedule and this year won’t be any different with Ottawa-Glandorf, DI Lima Senior, and DII Elida appearing on the slate. LCC will likely have a bad taste in its mouth following a disappointing playoff run in football after finishing the regular season No. 1 in almost every poll.
• The Blue Streaks are one of the most underrated programs in the state. Need proof? How about 11 consecutive sectional titles included in that period are five district championships and two regional titles. Head Coach Doug Krauss is in his 28th year at Archbold winning 435 games including last year’s sparkling (23-2) campaign. The Blue Streaks came up one game short of making another trip to Columbus last season falling to Columbus Africentric. Archbold’s best finish was a (26-1) season in 1995-1996 resulting in a state runner-up. The 2011-2012 version of the Blue Streaks should be another solid group led by Luke Kammeyer (6’7/Sr.) in the post. He is joined by fellow returning starters’ juniors Zeb Frank (6’0) and Tyson Dietrich (6’3). Kammeyer averaged 7.5 points and 6.3 rebounds a game as a junior. Frank was good for 8.7 points and Dietrich added 6.7. Gabe Rodriguez (5’9/Sr.) had some spot starts and Tanner Wyse (6’0/Sr.) and Hayden Stamm (6’3/Sr.) came off the bench. Juniors Jay Miller (5’10) and Taylor Price (6’2) along with sophomores Evan Wyse (5’10), Jace Grosjean (5’8), and Tyson Schnitkey (6’3) will be competing for minutes. Archbold will have to replace three-year starter at point guard Telly Fricke and fellow 1st Team All-NWOAL performer Garrett Morton. Rodriguez and Grosjean will look to fill the point guard duties. The Blue Streaks play in the Northwest Ohio Athletic League, which is always highly competitive. Wauseon, Patrick Henry, Delta, Evergreen, Bryan, Liberty Center all return key pieces. Kalida, Elida, Ottawa-Glandorf, Defiance, and Tinora make for a rugged out of conference slate.
• The Panthers were phenomenal for much of last year finishing (23-2) losing to Portsmouth by a single point (69-68) in the Athens Regional championship game. The Peake’ will need to replace graduates Nathan Copley and 6’7 Colin Kennedy. The former was Co-Southeast District Player of the Year. Though, a good place to start would be 6’5 senior Austin McMaster. As a junior, McMaster led the Panthers in scoring at 18.9 points per game. McMaster is a lengthy kid, who likes to play face up and creates a lot of match up nightmares. Senior Patrick Hintz (5’9) returns at the point and junior Javon Thompson (6’1) will look to play a bigger role after starting as a sophomore. Look for Eric Kennedy (6’4/Sr.) to play a much bigger part this year, and he could be the x-factor on whether the Purple & White return to Columbus for a second time in three seasons. 6’2 senior Brandon Noble returns as well and newcomers Caleb Lindsey (6’1/Jr.), Chad Meadows (6’3/So.), and Taylor Banaei (6’0) will add depth to an already talented roster. Chesapeake should be a front-runner in the Ohio Valley Conference once again, but out of conference tests with Logan Elm, Ironton, and East Carter (KY) should prove to be some stiff challenges. The Panthers are always good, but when they have some talent they are really good. This year will be no different.
• Every year there seems to be one team that is a relative unknown, but has a chance to be a real dark horse and to us that team is Waynesville. The Spartans are coming off a (16-7) campaign, which ended in the district finals to eventual state champion, Taft. If the Spartans can take any solace in the 108-75 setback it was the fact they scored more points against Taft than any other team in tournament play. Waynesville returns four starters and eight of its first nine. 6’2 senior Luke Creditt returns to lead the way along with fellow starters Eli Rains (5’9/So.), Victor Boggs (6’6/Sr.) and Steven Jeffries (6’0/Sr.). Seniors Jake Elton (6’6) and Tyler Ledford (6’0) are back off the bench along with junior Ty Black (6’0). Newcomers Dakota Hargrave (5’10) and Mike Tarkany (6’4) will provide a lift as well. The Spartans are coming off a dazzling (11-1) football season as Rains, Creditt, Black, Elton, and Tarkany were all apart of that outfit. Waynesville will have a challenging schedule in the Southwestern Buckeye League. The Spartans will get a tall task on opening night against DII Franklin with the Rossi twins (Jacob and Justin) and prime time freshman Luke Kennard. Waynesville will also meet Valley View, New Lebanon Dixie, Preble Shawnee, Middletown Madison, and Bellbrook to make up a formidable schedule.
• The Tigers played a more than challenging regular season schedule a year ago, but lost most of the key games on their schedule. Ironton was eventually ousted in the district title game to Wheelersburg. If the Tigers are going to be a consistent Top 10 team this year, they will need to defend better than a year ago. Ironton will score points with juniors Zac Carter (5’9) and Trey Fletcher (6’5) being able to fill it up in a hurry. Carter may be the hardest guard in DIII off the dribble. He is ultra-quick and has the ability to stop on a dime knocking down a pull-up. Fletcher is also a match up nightmare with the lefty’s ability to play inside/out. Carter scored at 19 points per contest and Fletcher added just under 15 a game. Carter has been hampered in the preseason by some nagging injuries, but should be good to go in the near future. Unless something has changed in the past week, football players Trevor White and Nick Culbertson are not out for the team. The roster looks like quite a bit different from last season with Nolan Johnson (6’2/Sr.), Tanner Dutey (6’1/Jr.) and Josh Glover (5’11/Jr.) being the other returnees. Newcomers Darrius Boykin (6’1/Jr.), Dion Brown (6’2/Jr.), Aaron Steven (6’3/Jr.), Sean Lawless (6’0/Jr.), and Nate Garred (5’11/So.) will all be called upon to log minutes. Ironton’s junior class has been much ballyhooed, but Carter and Fletcher are the only ones with any real varsity experience. The others will need to get their feet wet before this team can reach its potential. Carter and Fletcher will need to carry them until then, and they are more than capable. The Tigers’ schedule is a meat grinder with the likes of Lucasville Valley, Portsmouth, Waverly, Huntington (WV), St. Clairsville, Columbus Brookhaven, Brook Point (VA), Chesapeake, Wheelersburg, and Chillicothe along with a game yet to be determined at the Adidas Classic in Huntington (WV).
DON’T SLEEP ON THESE TEAMS
• Bedford Chanel, Jamestown Greeneview, Cincinnati Madeira, Cincinnati Roger Bacon, Columbus Academy, Middletown Bishop Fenwick, Cincinnati Shroder, Ottawa-Glandorf, North College Hill, Newton Falls, Coshocton, Orwell Grand Valley, Sardinia Eastern Brown, Leavittsburg LaBrae, Lucasville Valley, Piketon, Columbus Horizon Science, Rootstown, Youngstown Ursuline, Cincinnati Clark Montessori, Miami East, New Lebanon Dixie, and Jeromesville Hillsdale.
• Ty O’Connor (Lima CC) and Austin McMaster (Chesapeake) are the only returning JJHuddle DIII All-Ohio performers. Both individuals were 3rd team.
• Ty O’Connor was also 2nd Team AP All-Ohio, while McMaster, Cody Dillon (Newton Falls), and Tim Goff (Berkshire) were 3rd Team.
• There will be a new DIII champion with Cincinnati Taft moving up to DII.
• Three of last year’s state semifinalists have changed divisions (Taft, Cleveland CC, and Columbus Africentric). Portsmouth is the only remaining team.
• The Southwest Region is the by far the deepest in DIII. Anna, Bishop Fenwick, Greeneview, Miami East, and Waynesville comprise one district, while the other has Clark Montessori, Madeira, North College, Hill, Roger Bacon, Shroder, and Summit CD.
• Moving down to DIII from DII (10): Beachwood, Cincinnati Finneytown, North College Hill, Coshocton, Elyria Catholic, Fostoria, Bishop Fenwick, LaGrange Keystone, Lorain Clearview, and Roger Bacon.
• Moving up to DIII from DIV (15): Attica Seneca East, Bedford Chanel, Bucyrus Wynford, Carey, Cleveland MLK, Cleveland St. Martin de Porres, Columbiana, Covington, Allen East, Wayne Trace, Lisbon David Anderson, New London, National Trail, Spencerville, and Van Buren.
PRESEASON ALL-OHIO TEAMS
Kevin Johnson (6’2/Jr.)- Cincinnati Summit CD
Isaac McGlone (6’1/Jr.)- Bloom-Carroll
Cody Dillon (6’4/Sr.)- Newton Falls
Austin McMaster (6’6/Sr.)- Chesapeake
Evan Bradds (6’7/Jr.)- Jamestown Greeneview
Zac Carter (5’9/Jr.)- Ironton
Wayne Evans (6’1/Sr.)- Portsmouth
Brandon Taylor (6’6/Sr.)- Coshocton
Peyton Aldridge (6’7/So.)- Leavittsburg LaBrae
Tim Goff (6’7/Sr.)- Burton Berkshire
Andrew Benintendi (5’11/Jr.)- Cincinnati Madeira
AJ Henson (5’10/Sr.)- Orwell Grand Valley
Blake Yates (6’3/Sr.)- Lucasville Valley
Ty O’Connor (6’4/Sr.)- Lima Central Catholic
Trey Fletcher (6’5/Jr.)- Ironton
AJ Ireland (6’3/Sr.)- Bloom-Carroll
Alan Andrix (6’7/Sr.)- Amanda-Clearcreek
Antonio Blount (6’4/Sr.)- Columbus Horizon Science
Antonio Woods (6’0/So.)- Cincinnati Summit CD
Austin Bruns (6’4/Jr.)- Coldwater
Austin Frentsos (6’3/So.)- Roger Bacon
Austin Mcbee (6’0/Jr.)- Minford
Blake Green (6’4/Sr.)- Delta
Brooks Weygandt (6’2/Sr.)- Worthington Christian
Bruce Williams (6’4/So.)- Georgetown
Carlas Jackson (6’3/So.)- Roger Bacon
Chad Winner (6’4/Jr.)- Versailles
Chase Lawson (6’2/Jr.)- Sardina Eastern Brown
Cody Berg (5’9/Sr.)- Garrettsville Garfield
Damon Jones (6’0/Sr.)- Bedford Chanel
Daniel Aronowitz (6’4/Jr.)- Columbus Academy
Dion McKinley (6’6/Sr.)- Portsmouth
Dylan Gragg (6’3/Sr.)- Chillicothe Huntington
JC Luncan (6’8/Sr.)- Blanchester
Jake Westerfeld (6’3/Sr.)- Roger Bacon
Jaylen Mann (6’4/Sr.)- Youngstown Liberty
Jeremy Quinlan (6’3/Jr.)- Brookfield
Jordan Jenior (5’10/Sr.)- Rootstown
Julian Johnson (6’1/Sr.)- Columbus Horizon Science
Kolby Snyder (6’0/Sr.)- Mt. Gilead
Ladell Griffin (6’9/Sr.)- Cincinnati Shroder
Levi Licata (6’6/Sr.)- Jeromesville Hillsdale
Louis Walker (Sr.)- North College Hill
Luke Creditt (6’2/Sr.)- Waynesville
Luke Kammeyer (6’7/Sr.)- Archbold
Mark Lieberman (6’1/Sr.)- Dayton Christian
Mitchell Campbell (6’4/Sr.)- Versailles
Noah Bramlage (6’6/Fr.)- Ottawa-Glandorf
Nolan Todd (5’11/Sr.)- Western Reserve
Randale Griffith (6’4/Sr.)- Cincinnati Shroder
Robert Caldwell (5’9/So.)- Dayton Stivers
Ryan Logan (6’5/Jr.)- Fredericktown
Shon Smith (5’10/Jr.)- Fort Frye
Tim Ludlow (6’5/Jr.)- Burton Berkshire
Tommy Kreyenhagen (6’3/Sr.)- Cincinnati Summit CD
Trey Dees (6’1/Sr.)- Cincinnati Shroder
Zach Chatlain (6’4/Sr.)- Bucyrus Wynford
Zack Ratcliff (6’4/Sr.)- Columbus Academy