JJHuddle’s Division IV Boys Basketball Preview: All-Ohio, Teams to Watch and more…

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JJHuddle Ohio High School Boys Basketball Previews

Sleepers, Studs, Notes and more…Everything you need to know about the
upcoming D-III basketball season is here.


The 2010-2011 campaign ended with the Hiland Hawks hoisting the gold trophy amongst Ohio’s small schools. The Hawks did so with an excess of underclassmen defeating the likes of Zanesvivllle Rosecrans, McDonald, Continental, and Harvest Prep along the way.

Hiland’s effort marked the first boy’s basketball state championship for an Eastern District school since Zanesville captured the Division I banner in 1995. Prior to that, it was the Hawks in 1992 under the late Perry Reese Jr.

The Berlin-based high school steamrolled its way through the tournament winning its eight games by an average of just over 31 points per game. The Hawks closest game came in a nine-point district final victory over a very good Zanesville Rosecrans’ team.

Fast forward to this season and Hiland is the probable favorite to replicate, but as we know, repeating isn’t easy and almost improbable in DIV. Columbus Wehrle (1988, ’89, & ’90) is the only team in the history of Division IV (inception 1988) to obtain the feat.

Two teams making their way down from Division III are ready to challenge the Hawks for their state title. Cleveland VASJ and Columbus Africentric drop down to the state’s small division following a DIII district finals showing for VASJ and a state semis appearance for Africentric. Both teams are stacked with talent and will play a rigorous schedule preparing them for tournament play.

Amazing to ponder, Cleveland VASJ won the “Division I” state championship in 1991.

 Several others will be vying for a chance at supremacy. Richmond Heights, Kalida, Bishop Rosecrans, Lockland, Vanlue, Malvern, Toledo MVCD, and Fort Recovery just to name a few.

TEAMS TO WATCH

Berlin Hiland
Berlin Hiland appears to be the most complete unit with the return of D2 Findlay signee Dylan Kaufman, West Liberty signee Seger Bonifant, Neil Gingerich (6’7/Sr.), Jason Miller (5’11/Sr.), and Luke Burch (6’2/Sr.). The Hawks are by far the biggest team in DIV and arguably the most talented. It would be shocking to not see them in Columbus, but don’t undersell the loss of Jalen Miller and Noah Boyd to graduation. Hiland will likely start a line up of 6’4, 6’7, and 6’7, which is unmatched by any DIV team. Not only will those kids start, but they can all “play.”  Depth will be provided by seniors Chaise Gerber (5’10), Cody Gerber (6’1), and Cameron Miller (6’0) along with a trio of sophomores in Todd Ropp (6’1), Lucas Mast (5’8), and Jordan Yoder (5’10). The Hawks beefed up the schedule adding DII Akron SVSM, DII Columbus Brookhaven, DIII Worthington Christian, DI Canton Glen Oak, and DIII Orrville to go along with a tough Inter-Valley Conference slate with the likes of Garaway, Malvern, and Ridgewood.

“We have a chance to be a good team again by the end of the year,” said Hiland boss Mark Schlabach.  “Our biggest keys offensively are developing depth, and finding scorers other than Dylan (Kaufman) and Seger (Bonifant).  This summer we were not a good defensive team, so we will need to come together defensively to be able to win any of our big games.”

Schlabach spoke of this past summer and he may be correct about his defense, but in a game we witnessed against Dayton Dunbar it was clear this Hawks team can play with anybody. Dunbar, who is easily one of the best three or four teams in Ohio regardless of division, was taken to overtime by a game Hiland squad at the Dunbar shootout back on June 11th. Freshman Amos “AJ” Harris dropped a floater with nearly seconds remaining to give the Wolverines a two-point triumph.

Cleveland VASJ
• VASJ (15-8) is loaded for a tournament run led by a trio of juniors in Demonte Flannigan (6’7), Karl Garner (5’11), and Duane Gibson (6’2). Flannigan, who averaged 17 points and 11 rebounds a year ago, is a Division 1 prospect. Garner was good for 15 lightings a night including 71 three-point makes, while Gibson added 12 points, five assists, and five boards. The Vikings’ depth will come from seniors Mel Burke (5’10), Adam Scott (6’0), and CJ Germany (5’10). Three talented freshmen should also see minutes counting Brian Parker (6’1), Carolton Bragg (6’6), and Derek Pardon (6’5). VASJ will lock up with likes of DI Cleveland Heights, DII John Hay, DI Brush, DI St. Ignatius, DI St. Edward’s, and nationally-ranked Huntington Prep (WV) and Simeon (IL). No DIV school in Ohio will play a schedule this demanding.

Richmond Heights
• Richmond Heights finished (24-1) a year ago falling in the regional semis to an unbeaten McDonald squad, 54-52.  The Spartans return four all district performers including two first and two second teamers. 5’11 junior Rico Jones and 6’6 senior Tommy Scales lead the way along with seniors Ishaam Smith (5’10) and Kareem Rock (5’9). Heights have some unfinished business to take of, but will likely be forced to get by VASJ at some point to advance.

Columbus Africentric
• Columbus Africentric and Cleveland VASJ really change the landscape of this division. Africentric (18-8) made the state tournament in DIII a year ago, but will have to replace top guards Marcquise Taylor, Darrion Bell, and Kalomo Figueroa-Jackson. The Nubians are very well coached under Michael Bates and he will welcome back some nice talent in FuQuan Tucker (6’3/Sr./11 ppg.), Justin Miller (6’0/Sr.), Hosie Smith (6’5/Sr.), and Trevon Saunders (5’10/Jr.) along with Harvest Prep transfers Kenny Robinson (6’1/Jr.) and Kejuan Skinner-Byrd (5’8/Jr.). Incoming freshmen Jaquan Harrison (6’3) and Shawon Wilson (6’0) should also contribute for the Columbus City League’s smallest team. Five others will be in the rotation as well with Neshaun Walls (5’9/Jr.), Jasean Lewis (6’5/So.), Akil Cornish (6’0/So.), Cameron Waddy (5’10/Sr.), and newcomer Delquan Black (6’4/Sr.). The Nubians will play DIII power Bloom-Carroll, DI Marion Franklin, DI Walnut Ridge, DII Eastmoor, DII Granville, and AAA Cabell-Midland (WV).

Fort Recovery
• The MAC usually has at least one dominant team per year and perhaps Fort Recovery will be that team in 2012. The Indians finished (13-9) a year ago falling to New Knoxville in the sectional final. 6’6 junior Wade Gelhaus (Findlay) returns coming off a sophomore season where he averaged 13 points and eight rebounds a game. 6’6 Senior Jared Kahlig (12 ppg.) is welcomed back along with 6’2 sophomore Elijah Kahlig (13 ppg.), and 6’2 senior Jason Pottkotter (8 ppg.). Coach Brian Patch also welcomes back Derek Gaerke (6’2/Sr.) and newcomers Trent Kaiser (6’0/Jr.) and Alex Kaiser (6’2/So.). The Indians return 95 percent of their scoring and 97 percent of their rebounding. Fort Recovery will play DI Walnut Ridge at the prestigious Flyin’ to the Hoop tournament and DIV power Kalida along with MAC games with Minster, Versailles, Delphos St. John’s, St. Henry, and Marion Local.

Zanesville Rosecrans
• Hiland may be the cream of the crop among the state’s best, but Zanesville Rosecrans and Malvern won’t be too far behind in the Eastern District. Rosecrans returns four starters, but it will have one glowing absence with the loss of junior point guard Jake Phillis. The lefty decided to transfer to nearby Zanesvillle High School leaving the Bishops without its top floor general. Coach Todd Rock won’t be without talent as the long time sideline veteran returns the DIV Co-Player of the Year in 6’7 senior Zak Kirkbride. The rangy Kirkbride averaged better than 20 points per game as a junior along with drawing the opponent’s best offensive threat. He will be joined by seniors Aaron Parry (6’6), Zack Hill (6’4), Jared Dalton (6’0), and Ian Durant (6’1). The Bishops finished a stellar 2010-2011 campaign with a 23-1 mark losing to Hiland in the district championship game in front of an overflowing crowd.

Lockland
• A season ago, Lockland struggled through a difficult schedule, but the Panthers once again managed to make a run come tourney time. Lockland won three contests and advanced to the district finals before succumbing to Houston, 62-56. The Panthers return their entire starting five led by highly touted 6’5 junior DJ Wingfield. Wingfield is drawing an assortment of D1 interest along with being one of the best players in his class. The elite prospect will be joined by 6’5 senior Avery Barnes, 5’10 senior Mike Beasley, 6’1 junior Dylan Wedlock, and 6-foot sophomore Tyrell Gilbert. 5’9 senior Milan Riddle returns as well spending much of last year as the 6th man. Lockland will once again play a demanding schedule, but a run to Columbus is definitely within reach.

Kalida
• Kalida should be at the head of the group in NW Ohio with a very strong senior class that head coach Dick Kortokrax, who is the state’s all-time win leader, has been waiting on. The seniors are led by Ben Schroeder (6’5), Kevan Unverferth (6’1), Drew Stechschulte (6’4), Paul Utendorf (5’11), Tyler Kortokrax (6’1), Austin Roebke (6’3), and Nathan Jorrey (6’4). Junior Austin Horstman (6’3) will also play a big role. Kalida (16-5) had a strong season a year ago, but came up short in the sectional title game to Continental (32-29). The Wildcats will once again face a tough slate with DIII Archbold, St. Henry, Fort Recovery, DIII Tinora, Columbus Grove, Leipsic, DIII Wayne Trace, DII Van Wert, and Continetnal.

Malvern
• Malvern welcomes back all five starters led by 6’3 senior Travis Tucci and his 19.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per night. 6’1 senior Shawn Ball (9 ppg.) and 6’5 junior Max Kapron (12 ppg./10 rpg.) also return along with Tyson Tucci (6’1/Sr.) and Clay Davis (6’6/Sr.). Trey Tucci (6’2/So.), Nick Mohr (6’1/Jr.), and Jordan Glick (6’1/Sr.) give the Hornets depth. Malvern finished (18-5) a year ago losing to Rosecrans in the district semis.  Look for a similar district tournament this season with Malvern, Rosecrans, Hiland, and one other team hoping to join the party. The Hornets will face DII Minerva, DIII power Bedford Chanel, and DIII Youngstown Ursuline along with fierce rivals Hiland and Garaway.

Vanlue
• Vanlue should be very good with Zach Garber (6’8/Jr.) and Jonathon Kloepfer (6’5/Sr.) returning. Garber was mainly an unknown outside of his area before a very productive spring and summer with the Ohio Hoopsters on the AAU circuit. Garber, who is drawing serious D1 attention, was joined on the Hoopsters by Kloepfer.  The Wildcats were (19-3) last season with its two regular season setbacks totaling a deficit of just 10 points. Vanlue fell to Leipsic in the district semifinal. This may be ranked too high if the guard play can’t equal the inside production. If they can get adequate guard play this team has a chance to do some big things. The schedule isn’t overly demanding with two of its toughest games coming at home (Leipsic and Arlington) before playing DIII Liberty-Benton on the road in mid-February.

Toledo Maumee Valley Country Day
• Toledo MVCD returns all but two points per game from last year’s (16-4) squad. The Hawks lost a heartbreaking 54-51 overtime contest to rival Toledo Christian in sectional play.  MVCD and Toledo Christian decided its three games by just seven points. Leading the group of returnees is 6’6 senior Jared Sturt (12.6 ppg.), 6’0 senior Rick Deichert (12.5 ppg.), 6’1 senior Julius Turner (9.9 ppg.), and 5’6 junior Dave Brown (5.4 ppg.). 6’2 senior Dixon Stoddard and 5’10 senior Jonathan Krueger also return. MVCD will be involved in a tough sectional with the likes of Toledo Christian, Ottawa Hills, and Gibsonburg who has dropped down from DIII. The Hawks will meet the above mentioned teams in the regular season as well.

DON’T SLEEP ON THESE TEAMS

• Newark Catholic, Delphos St. John’s, Minster, Dayton Jefferson, Lutheran East, Dalton, Windham, Barnesville, Gibsonburg, Arlington, Toledo Christian, Ottawa Hills, Edgerton, Leipsic, South Webster, Racine Southern, Manchester, Jackson Center, Yellow Springs, Tri-Village, Lehman Catholic, and Columbus Grove.

PRESEASON NOTES

• Dylan Kaufman (Berlin Hiland) and Zak Kirkbride (Rosecrans) return as First Team All-JJHuddle performers, while Seger Bonifant (Berlin Hiland) and Travis Tucci (Malvern) were awarded second team.  Travis Combs (Manchester) was third team and Flannigan (VASJ) was third team DIII.

• Two of the Associated Press’ Players of the Year return in Kaufman and Kirkbride.

• Kaufman, Kirkbride, and Combs are returning AP First Team All-Ohio performers.  Andy Hoying (Jackson Center) and Rico Jones (Richmond Heights) were second team and Travis Tucci was on third team. Flannigan was second team in DIII.

• Berlin Hiland started the year No. 3 in our JJHuddle Power Poll and ended the regular season in the same position before winning the tournament.

• Moving up to DIII from DIV (15): Attica Seneca East, Bedford St. Peter Chanel, Bucyrus Wynford, Carey, Cleveland Martin Luther King, Jr., Cleveland St. Martin de Porres, Columbiana, Covington, Harrod Allen East, Haviland Wayne Trace, Lisbon David Anderson,
New London, New Paris National Trail, Spencerville, and Van Buren.

• Moving down to DIV from DIII (12): Barnesville, Cleveland VASJ, Columbus Africentric, East Canton, Felicity-Franklin, Gibsonburg, Lewisbrug Tri-County North, Mineral Ridge, Mt. Blanchard Riverdale, North Colonel Crawford, Plymouth, and St. Henry.

PRESEASON ALL-OHIO TEAMS

1st
Team:

Dylan Kaufman (6’4/Sr.)- Berlin Hiland
Seger Bonifant (6’7/Sr.)- Berlin Hiland
Zak Kirkbride (6’6/Sr.)- Zanesville Rosecrans
DJ Wingfield (6’5/Jr.)- Lockland
Demonte Flannigan (6’7/Jr.)- Cleveland VASJ

2nd Team:
Travis Tucci (6’3/Sr.)- Malvern
Rico Jones (5’11/Jr.)- Richmond Heights
Devin Foster (6’2/Sr.)- Dayton Jefferson
Duane Gibson (6’2/Jr.)- Cleveland VASJ
Zach Garber (6’8/Jr.)- Vanlue

3rd Team:
Tommy Scales (6’6/Sr.)- Richmond Heights
Jared Sturt (6’6/Sr.)- Toledo MVCD
Travis Combs (6’1/Sr.)- Manchester
Jett Speelman (6’7/Jr.)- Newark Catholic
Wade Gelhaus (6’6/Jr.)- Fort Recovery

Honorable Mention:
Aaron Parry (6’5/Sr.)- Bishop Rosecrans
Alton Frizzell (5’11/Jr.)- Millersport
Andy Hoying (6’4/Sr.)- Jackson Center
Anthony Gillem (6’0/Jr.)- Fairlawn
Austin Loop (6’4/Sr.)- South Webster
Brandon Bailey (6’6/Jr.)- Conotton Valley
Cole O’Dell (6’3/Sr.)- Vienna Mathews
Dave Brown (5’7/Jr.)- Toledo MVCD
Ishaam Smith (5’10/Sr.)- Richmond Heights
Jonathon Kloepfer (6’5/Sr.)- Vanlue
Kareem Rock (5’9/Sr.)- Richmond Heights
Karl Garner (5’11/Jr.)- Cleveland VASJ
Konnor Baker (6’3/Sr.)- Ada
Lucas Janowicz (6’6/Jr.)- Toledo Ottawa Hills
Matt Knight (5’10/Jr.)- Windham
Max Kapron (6’5/Jr.)- Malvern
Ryan Arington (6’6/Jr.)- Cincinnati Christian
Steven Carpenter (6’3/So.)- Fairfield Christian Academy
Thayne Recker (6’4/Sr.)- Arlington
Tyler Fitzpatrick (6’5/Sr.)- Barnesville
Zach Chatlain (6’3/Sr.)- Bucyrus Wynford

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