JJHuddle Boys Basketball D-II Preview: All-Ohio, Top Teams & More

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JJHuddle Ohio High School Boys Basketball Previews

There’s a long time between now and the state finals in March, but as
the boys basketball season in Ohio tips next week, here’s how we see
things. Today we continue the third annual National Guard JJHuddle Boys Basketball Power
Polls. Who is No. 1 in D-II…


Division II Overview

Division II is one of the harder divisions to predict with loads of depth making it hard to separate the majority of teams. A total 180 from a year ago when Dayton Dunbar and Cincinnati Taft were heavy favorites coming into the year and neither team disappointed as the Wolverines won their fourth state championship in seven years and Taft finished regional runner-up losing to unbeaten Dunbar.

Dunbar along with Akron SVSM to a lesser degree has dominated DII since 2006. The Wolverines registered their first unbeaten season in the school’s illustrious basketball history going (28-0) capped off by a dramatic win in the state title game against a Reggie McAdams led Elida outfit.  When the final buzzer rang, Dunbar was once again hoisting the hardware thanks to a game-winning shot from graduate Andre Yates (Creighton).

The question will arise, can Dunbar repeat? The Wolverines will be up against history considering just three teams have repeated since the four-division inception in 1988, but Dunbar is one of those teams. The Wolverines are the last team to do so in DII completing the feat in 2006 and 2007.

Several teams are lined up to knock Dunbar off its throne most notably its biggest rival, Dayton Thurgood Marshall. The Cougars return the deepest team in the state regardless of division from a team that lost in the regional semis a season ago.

Outside of Thurgood Marshall, Southwest Ohio has plenty of solid clubs. Dunbar, Cincinnati Aiken, Trotwood-Madison, Kettering Alter, Franklin, Dayton Meadowdale, and Cincinnati Taft should all challenge a deep and talented Thurgood Marshall team.

Northwest Ohio continues its climb up the Division II ranks showing recently it is more than capable of competing with the state’s heavyweights. Elida, Port Clinton, Toledo Rogers, Upper Sandusky, Ottawa-Glandorf, and now defunct Toledo Libbey have all showed well in Columbus. This year should be no different with Sandusky Perkins, Elida, Bowling Green, Napoleon, Wauseon, Toledo Scott, Celina, Defiance, Lima Bath, Bellevue, Tiffin Columbian, and Willard making for a deep NW Ohio.

Northeast Ohio isn’t quite as deep as year’s past, but there are some quality teams nonetheless. Akron SVSM, Cleveland Benedictine, Cleveland Central Catholic, Mentor Lake Catholic, Cleveland John Hay, Norton, Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin, Akron East, Akron Buchtel, and Poland could all make some noise.

Central Ohio has a chance to have one of its better years in Division II a division it has never enjoyed much success in including nary a state title. A loaded Columbus Brookhaven squad will look to change that and teams such as Bishop Watterson, Bishop Hartley, Eastmoor Academy, Marion-Franklin, Granville, Centennial, Columbus South, and Big Walnut should make for good parody in Central OH.

East and Southeast Ohio, who usually struggle in DII due to a lack of Metropolitan areas, will get another team back to Columbus this year if the regions remain the same. St. Clairsville made its first trip to the state tournament last season, and returns its entire roster led by Associated Press Co-Player of the Year, Dan Monteroso. Returning to the Schottenstein Center won’t be easy with teams like Logan Elm, West Holmes, New Philadelphia, Vincent Warren, and some others looking to challenge the Red Devils.

Here is a look at some of DII’s top teams and players.

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Basketball Scores:

If you follow Ohio high school basketball, this is the place to share what you know, and to learn what you don’t.

JJ Huddle is expanding the same real-time fan-based coverage that you’ve enjoyed for Football’s
Friday Night Scoreboard
to Boys & Girls Basketball. The information for each school is
collected in a single page, with forms to submit your reports as well as
areas to
read scores and more from other fans, coaches and participants. Sounds
easy…and it is. Exteremly…

How To Report/Get Real-Time Scores

Customize Your Experience

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Preseason All-Ohio Teams:

FIRST TEAM:
Dan Monteroso (6’3/Sr.)- St. Clairsville
AJ Harris (5’9/So.)- Dayton Dunbar
Luke Kennard (6’5/So.)- Franklin
Jaaron Simmons (6’0/Sr.)- Kettering Alter
Jordan Lauf (6’5/Sr.)- Napoleon

SECOND TEAM:
Zack Denny (6’2/Sr.)- Germantown Valley View
Tyler Ptacek (6’2/Sr.)- Parma
Dakota Mathias (6’4/Jr.)- Elida
Vitto Brown (6’7/Sr.)- Bowling Green
Mark Alstork (6’4/Sr.)- Dayton Thurgood Marshall

THIRD TEAM:
John Draper (6’0/Sr.)- Eastmoor Academy
Jamar Hammonds (6’4/Sr.)- Trotwood-Madison
Randal Clarkson (5’9/Sr.)- Columbus Brookhaven
Tyler Sherman (6’8/Sr.)- Norton
Nic Williams (6’4/Jr.)- Sandusky Perkins

HONORABLE MENTION:
Aaron Vanbuskirk (6’6/Jr.)- Norton
Andre Foster (6’3/So.)- Trotwood-Madison
Angel Rivera (5’9/Sr.)- Cincinnati Hughes
Anthony Christian (6’3/Fr.)- Akron Hoban
Aric Thompson (6’2/Sr.)- Elida
Austin Grimes (6’3/Sr.)- Cincinnati Aiken
Bob Peters (6’1/Sr.)- CVCA
Brady Arnold (5’9/Jr.)- West Holmes
Brandon Smith (6’5/Sr.)- Sandusky Perkins
Brandon Townsend (6’1/Sr.)- Akron East
Cameron Kuhn (6’0/Jr.)- Vermillion
Cedric Pettiford (6’3/So.)- Miami Trace
Chase Detillion (6’5/Sr.)- Chillicothe Unioto
Chelvonte Montgomery (6’2/Jr.)- Cleveland CC
Chris Harris (6’2/Jr.)- Toledo Scott
Antwan Lillard (6’4/So.)- Cleveland CC
Damarion Geter (6’8/Sr.)- Dayton Dunbar
Daniel Sapp (6’4/Jr.)- Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin
Dezhontae Bennett (6’3/Jr.)- Trotwood-Madison
DeAllen Jackson (5’11/Sr.)- Akron Hoban
Deiondray Martin (6’4/Sr.)- Columbus Brookhaven
Derik Lewis (So.)- Akron East
Dillon Young (6’0/Jr.)- Logan Elm
Doug Caputo (6’7/Sr.)- Youngstown Mooney
Edmond Early Jr. (6’0/Sr.)- Dayton Thurgood Marshall
Elias “Boo” Osbourne (6’3/Sr.)- Centennial
Ellis Williams (6’8/Sr.)- Columbus South
Ethan Boose (6’5/Jr.)- New Philadelphia
Evan French (6’4/Jr.)- Vincent Warren
Evan Logsdon (6’5/Sr.)- Upper Sandusky
Fletcher Watt (6’0/Sr.)- Harrison Central
Jack Thome (6’6/Sr.)- Chagrin Falls
Jaevin Cumberland (6’1/So.)- Wilmington
Jalen Hudson (6’5/Jr.)- Akron SVSM
Jalen Santoro (5’10/Sr.)- Bellevue
James Manns II (6’5/Fr.)- Marion-Franklin
Jarron Cumberland (6’2/Fr.)- Wilmington
Jermaine Justice (6’1/Sr.)- Ravenna
JJ Kukura (6’1/Jr.)- Alliance
John Cirillo (6’6/Jr.)- Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin
Jordan Kidd (6’2/Sr.)- Vinton County
Jordan Tomlinson (6’2/Sr.)- Delaware Hayes
Khaleed Franklin (6’2/Sr.)- Columbus Beechcroft
Kyle Ritz (6’6/Sr.)- Cambridge
LaMonta Stone (5’9/So.)- Bowling Green
Lucas Strouble (6’4/Sr.)- Alliance Marlington
Marco Columbo (6’3/Jr.)- New Philadelphia
Mark Baniewicz (6’3/Sr.)- Mentor Lake Catholic
Marquiez Lawrence (6’7/Sr.)- Marion-Franklin
Maurice Ofield (6’3/Sr.)- Cleveland John Hay
Patwuan Hudson (5’10/Jr.)- Trotwood-Madison
RaChaun Martin (5’10/Jr.)- Dayton Thurgood Marshall
Riley Carlton (5’10/Sr.)- St. Clairsville
Ryan Faulconer (6’2/So.)- Greenfield McClain
Tervell Beck (6’6/Fr.)- Cleveland CC
Tony Anderson (6’8/So.)- Marion-Franklin
Travis Lakins (6’0/Sr.)- Franklin
Victor Dorsey (6’8/Jr.)- Akron Springfield
VJ King (6’7/Fr.)- Akron SVSM
Yavari Hill (6’1/Fr.)- Warrensville Heights
Zach Johnson (6’3/Sr.)- Chillicothe 

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Preseason Notes

*Returning JJHuddle Divison II All-Ohio perfomers include Danny Monteroso of St. Clairsville (1st Team) and Jordan Lauf of Napoleon of Napoleon (3rd Team).

*The Associated Press had five Co-Players of the Year, but only Dan Monteroso returns. 

*Returning Associated Press Division II All-Ohio performers include Dan Monteroso, Mason Mamarella of Dover (2nd Team), Jordan Lauf (2nd Team), and Lucas Strouble of Alliance Marlington (3rd Team).

*Division II- Division 1 commits include Vitto Brown of Bolwing Green (Wisconsin), Zack Denny of Germantown Valley View (Bowling Green), Jordan Lauf (Toledo), Maurice Ofield of Cleveland John Hay (East Tennessee State), Tyler Ptacek of Parma (UNC-Wilmington), Deiondray Martin of Columbus Brookhaven (Eastern Michigan), and Ellis Williams of Columbus South (Bryant University).

*Division II- Division 2 commits: None.

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Top Teams

SOUTHWEST OHIO

*Dayton Thurgood Marshall (14-10)
The Cougars have been an emerging program since taking the name Thurgood Marshall beginning in the 2007-2008 season. Thurgood made the district semi-finals that year after being in Division I the previous year as Dayton Colonel White. It has been nothing but success since.

Thurgood finished state runner-up in 2009 and 2011, regional runner-up in 2010, and regional semifinalists in 2012. Coach Darnell Hoskins took over the Cougars program two years ago and has furthered the success started by John Ralph now at Edison Community College.

Scary to note, this may be Thurgood’s most talented and definitely its deepest team. Seniors Mark Alstork (6’4), Edmond Early Jr. (6’0), and Gerry Green (6’6) have been apart of two regionals and one state tournament in their three years.

The Cougars finished last season (14-10), but only five of those 10 losses were on the court. Thurgood was forced to forfeit five games early in the season because of a transfer ruled ineligible. Thurgood’s season came to an end at the hands of a very talented and veteran Cincinnati Taft outfit.

Along with Alstork, Early, and Green returns RaChaun Martin (5’10/Jr.), who really emerged at the point guard spot allowing Early to play more of a combo guard.

The fifth starting spot has gone to talented freshman Derrick Daniels (6’7) thus far in the preseason. Daniels has elite athletic ability with an emerging skill set.

After the starting five, is what we believe separates the Cougars from every other team in the state regardless of division, and that being their depth. Thurgood can legitimately go 16-deep with kids that can all play. This is not a team pretending to be deep as every kid can play. The Cougars have the talent and depth to comprise three starting line ups capable of winning a district crown.

“We are extremely deep and experienced team,” Hoskins noted. “We should be able to adjust to any style of play.”

Seniors Darren Groves (6’7), Law Williams (6’0), and Tony Williams (6’0), juniors Jordan Jones (6’0), Dwayne Chastain (6’1), Tremaine Hawkins (6’0), Davion Ashe (6’4), Landon Brazille (6’6), and JeMichael Blanton (6’3), sophomore Mike Mills (5’10), and freshman Darnell Hoskins Jr. (5’9) encompass the depth for the Cougars.
Look for Hawkins and Brazille to emerge this season and Chastain to surface as one of the area’s best shooters.

Thurgood will have to replace graduates Joe Thomasson and Joe Ballard.

Thurgood’s schedule includes games with Evansville Bosse (IN), Richmond (IN), Akron SVSM, Findlay Prep (NV), Dayton Dunbar, Beavercreek, and Cincinnati Winton Woods.

Bottom Line: The Cougars are the deepest team in the state, but that doesn’t mean teams will be ready to hand them the state title. Furthermore, large numbers can even be a problem in regards to team chemistry and players getting into a flow. The Southwest Regional will be brutal as always. We won’t be surprised if the region comes down to Thurgood and Dayton Dunbar once again. The teams could play three times this season. The Wolverines would like nothing more than to knock off their rivals and vice versa. Thugood’s senior leadership with Alstork, Early, and Green could end up being the difference in the end.  The Cougars have all the ingredients to win a state title. Look for Alstork to step up and be the guy taking the big shot in crunch time. Dayton Dunbar has dominated DII, but Thurgood is looking to put its prints on the division.

*Dayton Dunbar (28-0)
No team has enjoyed as much success as Dayton Dunbar over the past eight seasons. The Wolverines made the state semis in 2005 before winning championships in 2006, 2007, 2010, and 2012 over the next seven campaigns.

Dunbar has won titles with many different faces over the years and even different styles under head coach Peter Pullen. Last year, Elida pushed Dunbar to the brink before Andre Yates (Creighton) hit a shot as time expired giving the Wolverines a 54-52 win and the Division II state title.

Along with Yates, Deontae Hawkins (Wichita State) and Gary Akbar (Midland College) have also departed. Hawkins and Akbar were both key members of the 2010 state championship team as well. Yates and Akbar earned 1st Team JJHUDDLE All-Ohio and Hawkins was named to 2nd Team.

Tavyonne Hunt and D’Gary Wallace have graduated as well and key bench member Jarrod Clements transferred to Trotwood-Madison for football.

Not many teams could overcome that many losses and still be considered a Top 10 team, but Dunbar isn’t your typical program. The Wolverines return two talented starters and some hungry underclassmen ready to make its mark on the storied program. However, Coach Pullen knows defense is going to be the key until some of the young guys get their feet wet.

“More so now than ever will this team have to put their hat on every night and play defense,” Pullen said. “Though our last year’s squad played excellent defense, they had more individual offensive weapons. Our defense will be our trademark until we develop some consistent scorers.”

Amos “AJ” Harris (5’9/So.) returns at point guard after a stellar year running one of the best teams in school history. The savvy lefty, who is regarded by many as one of the better point guards in the country despite his size, will take on an increased roll this year as a scorer. Harris gets to the bucket with ease, has terrific lift to elevate over taller defenders, and creates for others. Harris’ feel for the game and ability to control a contest should be just what the new cast needs to get acclimated.

Damarion Geter (6’8/Sr.) has taken a back seat to Hawkins and Akbar over the past two years, so expect the talented senior to really emerge. Geter has a chance to be one of the top breakout players in the state.

Myron Chris McGuire (6’2/Sr.), William Green (6’1/Jr.), Leeshawn Dorsey (6’6/Sr.), Doriane Dawson (5’9/So.), Jordan Smith (6’2/Jr.), and Jerimiah Holloway (6’4/Jr.) all return from last year’s squad. McGuire and Green should have an increased scoring role this season. Green possesses the ability to be a lockdown defender for the defending state champs.

Freshmen Terrance Landers (6’2), Deontai Philpot (5’8), and Devaughn Alexander (6’3) could all see minutes as well.

The Wolverines, as always, will play a formidable schedule. Thurgood Marshall, Cincinnati Summit Country Day, Akron SVSM, Mansfield Senior, Beavercreek, Cleveland John Hay, and Garfield Heights headline the slate.

Bottom Line: Dunbar has tradition on its side along with some talented yet inexperienced players. Look for Harris and Geter to grab hold of this team, and take the Wolverines as far as they can. Outside of Thurgood Marshall and maybe Trotwood-Madison, the Wolverines will be favored over every team in the region. Harris and Geter certainly have the talent to lead this team back to the state tournament, but rival Thurgood will definitely be standing in its way of a repeat.

*Trotwood-Madison (16-7)
The Rams, like Columbus Brookhaven, spent many years in Division 1 before descending to Division II last season. Trotwood enjoyed a solid tournament run before being upended by Thurgood Marshall (78-65) in the district championship game.

It was an interesting year for first-year boss Rocky Rockhold as he was trying to mesh some new faces with a lot of youth and inexperience. Eventually, the talent grew up and the Rams finished with another good season.

Trotwood returns plenty of talent from last year’s club, but several kids are still playing football. The Rams will play for the Division II football title on Friday night.

“We have had a rough preseason due to missing many of our guys who play football,” Rockhold noted. “Our strength of schedule will not do us any favors as we are loaded from top to bottom with quality opponents. We will be athletic and quick relying on our defensive pressure and our ability to get stops to make us successful. We will push the ball and attack the rim with regularity.”

The Rams welcome back leading scorer Jamar Hammonds (6’4/Sr.) and his 17.4 points per game. Dezhontae Bennett (6’2/Jr.), the team’s second leading scorer, returns as well. Bennett, who averaged 12.9 points, is primed for a breakout season with his elite athleticism and ability to shoot at a high percentage (nearly 60 percent from the field).

Ravonne Lovett (6’4/Sr.) is another returnee coming off a junior year averaging just over five points a night. Expect greater contributions from talented sophomore Andre Foster (6’3) and junior Kendrick Mallory (6’1). Foster chipped in nearly five points per contest as a freshman and Mallory was good for just under six points.

Chris Mack (5’10/Jr.) is another name in the mix. Mack played some varsity last year, but mostly JV. Rockhold believes he will play a ton of minutes at the point guard spot.

Another name to consider is Patwuan Hudson (5’10/Jr.), who transferred in from nearby Sidney. Hudson averaged 21.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game as a sophomore. He was second in the GWOC in scoring behind Fairborn’s Kendrick Williams. However, Hudson’s eligibility is still in question.

“There has been no ruling from the OHSAA, yet,” Rockhold stated.

Two key members gone from last year’s team are James Brown Jr. (11.5 ppg.) and Dalin Byrd (7.3 ppg.), both graduated.

Trotwood’s schedule that Rockhold mentioned includes Middletown, Winton Woods, Troy, Vandalia Butler, Northmont, La Lumiere (IN), Dayton Jefferson, Dayton Dunbar, Kettering Alter, and Lakota West.

Bottom Line: Trotwood is a team that will get better and better as the football players start to get their basketball legs back and begin to mesh with the others.  The talent is there for another solid season, but the SW Regional is brutal as always. If Hudson is ruled eligible, Trotwood has a legitimate chance to be a major player in DII. Even without him, the Rams will be very good. If Bennett can stay focused, he has a chance to emerge as one of the state’s better players. It will be interesting to see the difference in this team come March as opposed to December. Trotwood will be one of our three favorites in SW Ohio along with Dunbar and Thurgood.

NORTHWEST OHIO

*Sandusky Perkins (23-3)
The Pirates were oh so close last year losing in the regional championship to Elida (63-53), so with four starters returning, there is no reason to believe this won’t be a season to remember for Perkins.

“We have a very experienced group with four returning starters,” mentioned Scott McVeigh, head coach of the Pirates. “We have good leadership, ball handlers, shooters, and rebounders.”

The Pirates open the season with Division I Norwalk and then play the Truckers again in early February, but those are the only two game Perkins won’t be favored. The Sandusky Bay Conference sent an unbeaten Port Clinton team to the state finals in 2010 when Port Clinton gave Dayton Dunbar all it wanted. Perkins has a chance to be the second team in four years from the SBC to make the state tournament.

Junior Nic Williams (6’4), who was the SBC’s Most Outstanding Player averaging around 14 points per game, leads the returning starters joining seniors Brandon Smith (6’5), who is a four-year starter, and Mitchel Benkey (5’11) along with junior point guard David Doster (6’1).

Senior Cameron Wadlock (5’11) and juniors Kyle Lewis (6’3) and Chase Green (6’5) also return from last year’s bench. Junior Dale Irby (6’1) and senior Seth Bryant (6’1) are newcomers looking to make their presence felt.

Graduation took 6-foot-7 Michael Ebert and his 12.5 points and 10 rebounds a game, which will certainly hurt in the paint. Tony Genter, another key contributor, has departed as well.

The Pirates will play headliner games against Norwalk, Perrysburg, Huron, and Western Reserve.

Bottom Line: Perkins has a chance for a special season and has all the tools to contend for a state championship. Replacing Ebert will be essential, but Perkins should have enough depth to do so. The Pirates have experience in big games, scoring ability, and depth. Perkins held their opponents to just 45 points per game last year, and to get to Columbus that can’t change. Doster is one of the better pure point guards in DII, which gives them an edge on most nights. Getting out of a tough regional won’t be easy as Elida still lurks, but there is a special feel about this team.

*Elida (24-4)
Elida has enjoyed some basketball success over the years, but never like it did in 2012. Behind Akron University freshman Reggie McAdams, the Bulldogs made their first state tournament in school history and nearly won it all. McAdams, who earned Division II JJHUDDLE Player of the Year honors, poured in 24 points, however, it wasn’t enough as unbeaten Dunbar scored a 54-52 victory.

The Bulldogs take a huge hit losing McAdams, but enter Dakota Mathias (6’4).  The junior averaged 13 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 4.4 assists as a sophomore. He shot 87 percent from the free-throw line. Mathias will lead this team, and should evolve as one of the state’s top and most versatile players.

“Dakota Mathias is one of the premier players in the area,” said Dennis Thompson, Elida’s head coach.

Two other starters return in Aric Thompson (6’3/Sr.) and lock down defender Ebin Stratton (6’4/Sr.).  Thompson averaged 7.8 points and shot 45 percent from behind the arc.

Newcomers David Diller (5’10/Sr.), Trent Long (6’3/Sr.), Louis Gray (5’10/Jr.), Max Stambaugh (6’2/Jr.), and Austin Allemier (6’1/So.) are ready to fill the roles from graduates McAdams (21.1 ppg.), Cory Royster (11.9 ppg.), and key bench member Mike McDonald (5.0 ppg.).

“Louis Gray and Austin Allemier are both much improved and can shoot the basketball,” Thompson relayed.

Elida will no doubt be a major player once again in Northwest Ohio, but Coach Thompson knows his team needs to improve in some key areas.

“We shoot the basketball very well and we look to be good in transition,” Thompson believes. “We will be strong defensively in the half court, but we need to establish an inside presence and build some depth.”

Elida’s schedule will feature its Tip Off Classic, Spencerville, Delphos St. John’s, Coldwater, Lima Senior, Liberty-Benton, Van Wert, Archbold, Bowling Green, Toledo Central Catholic, Ottawa-Glandorf, Lima Bath, Celina, and Defiance.

Bottom Line: Elida has a chance to be very good once again, but the team will be different. The Bulldogs lost a lot on offense, but look for Mathias to lead this team in scoring and be able to create for the outside shooters. Mathias will be the facilitator, and if Elida is able to knock down open shots, it will be dangerous. Look for the Bulldogs to get after it on defense led by Stratton. If Elida wants to return to Columbus it will likely need to get past the team it beat to advance to the state tournament, Sandusky Perkins.

*Bowling Green (12-10)
We will be the first to admit we were wrong about Bowling Green a year ago, but don’t be fooled, this team has talent and we are going to write it off as though we were a year early.

BG finished a disappointing (12-10) last season losing to district runner-up Defiance, 62-50. The Bobcats welcome back all but one player from last year’s varsity roster. Sharpshooter Tyler Dunn graduated, but everyone else returns.

Vitto Brown (6’7/Sr.), a Wisconsin commit, leads the returnees. Brown averaged around 19 points per game as a junior earning 1st Team All-Northwest District. Joining Brown will be sophomore point guard LaMonta Stone (5’8), and seniors Andrew Herringshaw (6’0), Evan Gardner (6’2), and Nolan Dill (6’6). Several Division 1 schools are recruiting Stone, who is small in stature.  His father is an assistant at Bowling Green University.

Key bench members returning are Quinn Donaldson (6’0/Sr.), Jadon Nichols (5’9/Sr.), and Andrew Dennis (6’1/Sr.). Sophomore Mitchell Gardner and juniors Shiloh Dotson and Cam Carsey should also see minutes.

The Bobcats will play Findlay, Huber Heights Wayne, Holland Springfield, Ottawa-Glandorf, Toledo CC, Anthony Wayne, Napoleon, Perrysburg, Elida, and Medina, which is a very formidable slate.

Bottom Line: Bowling Green has a chance to be a very good basketball team after suffering through some growing pains a year ago. The schedule is loaded with some good Division I schools and some other traditional powers, so the Bobcats will likely have a few losses coming into tournament play. Brown was a totally different player during AAU compared to high school ball, but the light came on for him last winter. Look for an even better Brown in his senior year.  With Stone and Brown as an inside/outside combination along with some capable role guys, this team could play spoiler in a loaded Bowling Green District featuring Sandusky Perkins, Defiance, Toledo Scott, Napoleon, Bellevue, and Wauseon.

CENTRAL OHIO

*Columbus Brookhaven (19-6)
The Bearcats dropped down to Division II a year ago after many years in Division I, and wasted little time making their presence felt. Brookhaven made the regional tournament before losing to Sandusky Perkins, 67-61 in the semis.

Brookhaven’s eventual downfall was due to a lack of size against a much bigger Perkins team. Perhaps, transfer Deiondray Martin (6’4/Sr.) will help some in that area. The Eastern Michigan commit, which attended Lima Senior his freshman and sophomore seasons, comes to Brookhaven via Detroit Community High School.

Randal “Poonie” Clarkson leads a solid group of returnees. Clarkson averaged around 15 points per game as a junior. He scored a team-high 24 points in the loss to Perkins. Joining Clarkson will be Martin, Kevin Greenhow (6’4/Sr.), Ronnie Williams (6’3/Jr.), and Malik Bush (6’2/Sr.). Bush doesn’t have ideal size for the paint, but he is strong and can play bigger than his height.

Junior Devante Wilson, and sophomores Curt Armstrong, Lawrence Buttrum, Shad Kimble, and Jashawn Davis should provide the Bearcats with nice depth off the bench.

Brookhaven lost Khalid King (North Carolina A&T) to graduation and his nearly 16 points per game.

Brookhaven’s schedule will include two games with Division I Columbus Northland and Division II Beechcroft and Centennial, Westerville South, Portsmouth, Bishop Watterson, and Marion-Franklin.

Bottom Line: We really like what Brookhaven did by adding a variety of styles to the schedule preparing the Bearcats for the various situations they may see in the tournament. Clarkson is as tough as they come and the addition of Martin is huge. Martin has evolved his game to be an outside shooter, but he still has that junkyard dog in him. Brookhaven really needs Greenhow and Williams to step up to reach its full potential. Division II in the Central District is always interesting because you never know what regions the teams are going to pick. Brookhaven choose to go to Toledo last year instead of Kettering, and will likely do the same this year if it gets the choice. The Bearcats hopes to reach the state tournament will most likely depend on whether they can beat Perkins or Elida and defend the interior. Regardless, this should be a terrific season for a once dominant program.

EASTERN OHIO

*St. Clairsville (23-3)
The Red Devils have enjoyed unmatched success in the past two years in all sports. St. Clairsville not only made the school’s first state tournament appearance in basketball a season ago, but the golf team has made back-to-back state tournament appearances, the baseball has been apart of two consecutive regionals including a regional runner-up last season, the cross country and track programs have consistently sent kids to the state meet which includes the state champion in the girl’s shot put, and the football team will play for the Division IV state championship on Friday.

Needless to say, it has been some good times for the Belmont County seat and basketball should be no different as the Red Devils return their entire 15-man roster from a team that won a school-record 23 games in 2012.

Veteran St. Clairsville boss Kim Clifford will start his 22nd year on the bench by welcoming back perhaps the best athlete in school history, Dan Monteroso. The 6-foot-3 senior, who is committed to play football at Boston College, earned 1st Team JJHUDDLE All-Ohio honors and AP DII Co-Player of the Year as a junior averaging 26 points per game. The four-year starter has 1,663 career points.

Fellow classmates Riley Carlton (5’11), Jerrid Marhefka (5’11), and Adam Jeffries (6’0) along with junior Joel Giffen (6’1) will join Monteroso as returning starters.  Carlton averaged just over 14 points per game, Marhefka tallied 9.2 ppg, and Jeffries added nine.

Senior Dylan Campbell (6’1) was a key member off the bench knocking down some big shots along the tournament trail. Senios Jared Burghy (5’10), Zach Keylor (5’10), and junior Jared Derosa (5’10) will provide the Red Devils with depth.

The Elida Bulldogs in the state semis overwhelmed St. Clairsville, who rode a 22-game winning streak into the state tournament, 61-27. In the offseason, Coach Clifford made a drastic upgrade to the schedule to familiarize his team with a variety of styles, sizes, and lengths.

“We have a more difficult schedule combined with an entire team returning makes us very excited about the year,” Clifford said.

The upgrade to the schedule includes games with Cleveland St. Ignatius at the Dunk 4 Diabetes Shootout, Upper Arlington at Marietta College, Columbus Africentric, Cambridge, and Claymont along with key conference games against Indian Creek, Harrison Central, and Martins Ferry.

Bottom Line: St. Clairsville surprised many people a year ago by making the state tournament. This year, there were won’t be any surprise. The Red Devils return their entire roster including the school’s all-time leading scorer in Monteroso. Returning to Columbus won’t be easy, but St. Clairsville can rest assured that it will have the best player in the region, which is a good place to start. The schedule upgrade will be key for St. Clairsville’s chance to repeat as regional champs as the Red Devils will no doubt be battle tested heading into tournament play.  If there is a question mark, it would be a lack of size, but this is something St. Clairsville is accustomed to. St. Clairsville should be heavy favorites to win the district, but the regional won’t be easy quality caliber teams like Logan Elm, Vincent Warren, West Holmes, New Philadelphia, and Dover lurking.

NORTHEAST OHIO

*Akron SVSM (16-10)
Akron SVSM and winning are synonymous. The Irish won their first state title in 1984 behind Jerome Lane, but were blanked until the arrival of LeBron James. The Irish won three titles (2000, 2001, & 2003) in the James’ era. Many thought the Irish would go away following the graduation of James, but they have kept on winning. SVSM has returned to the state tournament three times since James’ graduation winning two (2009 & 2011) more gold trophies under head coach Dru Joyce.

The Irish have done so by scheduling the top teams in the state year after year along with some of the country’s best. Coach Joyce always has talent, but there is no denying he has done unbelievable coaching jobs over the years. In 2011, Joyce lost the state’s top player in Jakarr Sampson to Brewster Academy before the season started, but still found a way to cut the nets down on the season’s final day.

This year will be no different as the Irish lost Satchel Pierce (Kiski Prep), Angelo Cugini (Cuyahoga Falls), and Victor Dorsey (Akron Springfield) to other schools. All three were likely starters. Also gone are leading scorers DJ Blanks (Glenville St.) and Lorenzo Cugini (High Point) along with Trayvon Crater.

Akron SVSM countered the losses by adding one of the top freshmen in the country in Vincent “VJ” King (6’7) and junior Jalen Hudson (6’5). King already has two years of varsity experience playing at United Faith Christian Academy in Charlotte, North Carolina and Hudson comes to SVSM from Benedictine High School in Richmond, Virginia. King owns offers from Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Akron and Kent State have both offered Hudson since moving to Ohio.

Along with King and Hudson, the Irish return starters Nick Wells (6’6/Sr.) and Franshon Bickley (5’7/Sr.). The latter is still playing football along with key substitutes Jordan Hargrove (6’1/Sr.) and Travonte Junius (6’3/Jr.). The Irish will play Bellevue for the Division III football crown.

Jarel Woolridge (5’9/Jr.) is another returnee for the Irish. Newman Williams (6’0/Jr.) and freshman Henry Baddley (6’4) are more key pieces to the puzzle.

“We are young and inexperienced,” Joyce believes. “We may struggle early because of the youth and success of our football team, which has eight or nine players we expect to play. We will be very good by tournament time.”

The Irish were upended by Mentor Lake Catholic in the regional final, 65-63 a season ago.

Akron SVSM plays one of the best schedules in the state regardless of division. Need proof? The Irish schedule includes University HS (IL), Cleveland CC, Seton Academy (IL), Lakewood St. Edward, Lexington Lafayette (KY), Cleveland Benedictine, Akron Firestone, Cleveland St. Ignatius, Marion-Franklin, Thurgood Marshall, Houston HYCA (TX), Akron Hoban, Brush, Akron Buchtel, Cleveland VASJ, Mansfield Senior, Youngstown Ursuline, North Canton Hoover, and Canton McKinley.

Bottom Line: Akron SVSM has proved over the past 14 seasons to be a dominant team. Since 1999, the Irish have made at least the district finals every year. Akron SVSM won state titles in 2000, 2001, 2003, 2009, and 2011 and regional titles in 2002 and 2006. The Irish bowed out in the regional finals in 2012, 2010, 2005, 2004, and 1999. Three of those teams went on to win the state championship, Upper Sandusky, Ottawa-Glandorf, and Bedford Chanel. In 2006, they lost to Dunbar, which also won the state title. In 2007 and 2008, SVSM lost in the district championship to Akron Hoban by a point and Akron Kenmore by two points in double overtime. With all that being stated, there is no reason to believe the Irish won’t be in contention for a trip to Columbus once again. The region won’t be extremely strong this year, so SVSM will have an even better chance come March.

*Cleveland Benedictine (15-9)
Cleveland Benedictine has been a consistent, winning program over the past 16 years, and the tradition should continue throughout the 2012-2013 campaign.  The Bengals lost some key pieces to graduation including leading scorer Desmond Ridenour, shooter Winston Grays, and steady Mike Roberts. Ridenour averaged 18 points per game earning 2nd Team JJHUDDLE All-Ohio and 3rd Team AP All-Ohio honors. Roberts tallied 14 points and Grays added 11. However, don’t expect Benny to feel sorry for itself.

Losing 43 points per game would be detrimental to some schools, but look for the Bengals to rely on its two returning starters Westley Parr (6’7/Sr.) and Gary Williams (5’10/Jr.) and a group of hungry youngsters to prove tradition doesn’t graduate.

Parr and Williams were both 2nd Team North Coast League a year ago.

Senior Ashier Poole (6’1) is another returnee along with savvy junior point guard T.J. Steele (5’7) and classmate TySean Powell (6’7).  R.J. Jones (6’1/So.), Nick Meek (6’5/Jr.), Justin Layne (6’2/Fr.), and Jordan Philpotts (6’2/Jr.) lead a group of newcomers.

Benedictine dropped a tough decision to Elida, 77-72 in overtime in the regional semis.

The schedule will once again be one of the state’s best with the likes of Shaker Heights, Akron SVSM, Garfield Heights, Mentor, Huntington Prep (WV), Lakewood St. Edward, and Cleveland St. Ignatius.

“With our tough schedule, we hope our depth and versatility will have us fully prepared for tournament time,” offered Benedictine head coach, Albert Wilson.

Bottom Line: Benedictine was very talented last year, but at times inconsistent. This team won’t be as talented, but it could end being an overall better unit. Look for T.J. Steele to step up and assume the point guard spot. Steele, who despite being undersized, can really run a team. Look for Steele to give the Bengals stability and efficiency on offense. The Bengals play an unenviable schedule, but it always has the team ready for the tournament. If the districts remain the same, Cleveland Central Catholic will likely be Benny’s biggest obstacle of reaching yet another regional tournament. If Parr and Williams play to their capabilities and Poole and Powell emerge, this will be a dangerous team in March. We could see a repeat of the four teams at the Toledo Regional with Benny, Brookhaven, Elida, and Sandusky Perkins. It’s a definite possibility.

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Don’t Sleep On These Teams

Akron Buchtel, Akron East, Akron Hoban, Alliance, Alliance
Marlington, Athens, Bishop Hartley, Bishop Watterson, Celina,
Chillicothe, Cincinnati Aiken, Cincinnati Hughes, Cincinnati McNicholas,
Cincinnati Taft, Cincinnati Wyoming, Cleveland Central Catholic,
Cleveland John Hay, Columbus Centennial, Columbus Eastmoor, Columbus
Marion-Franklin, Columbus South, CVCA, Dayton CJ, Dayton Meadowdale,
Defiance, Dover, Franklin, Granville, Kettering Alter, Lima Bath, Logan
Elm, Mentor Lake Catholic, Napoleon, New Philadelphia, Norton, Notre
Dame-Cathedral Latin, Poland, Rocky River, Struthers, Tiffin Columbian,
Toledo Scott, Vincent Warren, Vinton County, Wauseon, West Holmes,
Williard, Wilmington, Wooster Triway, and Youngstown Cardinal Mooney.

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