By Kurt Stubbs (JJHuddle Senior Writer)
Division III will be as good as we can remember. The additions of VASJ, Warrensville Heights, Dayton CJ, Bishop Hartley, Van Wert, St. Clairsville, and St. Henry make DIII’s field as talented as ever when you combine those squads with regulars Roger Bacon, Lima CC, Versailles, Beachwood, Liberty-Benton, Summit Country Day, Dayton Stivers, Ottawa-Glandorf, and Leavittsburg LaBrae. It should be quite a year in Ohio’s often forgotten division.
TOP TEAMS PER REGION
*Cleveland VASJ (25-4/DIV State Champions)
The Vikings captured their first boy’s basketball state championship since 1995. VASJ dominated in the late 1980s and for much of the ‘90s, but the majority of its time was spent in Division I or II. Last season, the Vikings were in DIV. Yes, DIV!
Ohio’s small school division got relief over the summer when VASJ’s enrollment numbers moved the defending state champions to DIII. Now, the rest of DIII can begin to fret over the runaway train that is Vikings basketball.
VASJ dismantled its competition en route to last year’s title winning each tournament game by no fewer than 20 points. Evansville freshman Duane “Boo” Gibson (JJHuddle DIV POY) and Cleveland State frosh Demonte Flannigan (JJHuddle 1st Team All-Ohio) led a group of young and talented Vikings, but with their graduation, leaders will have to emerge. The talent is there in large helpings, but replacing leaders like Gibson, Flannigan, and Patrick Mastalski won’t be easy against the meat-grinder schedule the Vikings will play.
St. Joe’s won 25 games a season ago with its only losses coming to Division I’s Lakewood St. Edward, Shaker Heights, Cleveland St. Ignatius, and Westerville North, which were four of the best DI teams in Ohio. The Vikings will play a daunting schedule, equaled by nary a team in DIII, with the likes of Mentor (DI state champs), Bishop Watterson (DII state champs), Bishop Gorman (NV), Chicago Currie (IL), Arsenal Tech (IN), Cleveland CC (twice), Akron SVSM, Cleveland St. Ignatius, Lakewood St. Edward, and the Burger King Classic in Pennsylvania.
Fortunately, the Vikings posses a host of talent lined up to take on this slate. Carlton Bragg (6’9/Jr.) and Brian Parker (6’3/Jr.) lead the list of returnees. Bragg, a top 10 player nationally, averaged 16 points per game as a sophomore leading the team in three-point makes. He is being courted by Ohio State and Illinois along with Kentucky, Duke, Louisville, West Virginia, Kansas, Connecticut, Michigan State, Indiana, UCLA, and just about everyone else. Parker has been “old reliable” for the Vikings following a sophomore year averaging 15 points a game. The lefty is receiving interest from West Virginia, Pitt, Dayton, IVY and Patriot League schools. Parker can get buckets in a variety of ways and he may be the best offensive rebounding guard in the state.
Junior Derek Pardon (6’8) is a kid that will make plenty of noise. Pardon has always been a fundamentally sound big man, but his overall game has progressed, and he is beginning to assert himself as a dominant force in the paint. The big, lefty is drawing interest from West Virginia, Northwestern, and Pitt.
Coach Babe Kwasniak likes what he has been seeing from junior point guard Mo Johnson (5’11). He will have the unenviable task of replacing Gibson. Simon Texidor Jr. (6’2/Jr.) really began to emerge during tournament time, and will be relied on to provide even more offensively this year. Johnson has been drawing D2/D3 interest and Texidor has sparked interest from some low D1s.
Senior Deandre Forte (6’0) is another reliable veteran. He totaled six points a game during last season. TreVon Williams (6’4/Jr.), who is the quarterback of the Vikings’ football team, gives Kwasniak even more talent off the bench. Junior Jeff Gruzidnski (6’2/Jr.), a notable baseball player, will be another option.
Newcomers Malik Smith (6’5/So.) and Jaylen Harris (6’4/Fr.) should also impact the game. Harris is arguably Ohio’s top frosh and should quickly become a recognizable name.
The Vikings will be going for back-to-back state titles for the first time in 18 years, and looking for the school’s sixth boy’s basketball title. Interesting to note, VASJ could become the first school to win a state title in all four divisions.
“On paper, we will be young (1 senior),” Kwasniak noted. “However, this core group of players has played together for two full years. It will be one of the deepest teams we have had and our ability to shoot the ball should be above average.”
Bottom Line: The Vikings are the most talented team in Ohio on paper, and last season they proved not to be just paper champs. Critics can say what they like, but VASJ would have competed in any division. Of course, they had talent, but that is not where it ends. The Vikings are extremely well coached and their kids are humble and respect each and every opponent on and off the court. That is a testament to Kwasniak and his staff. It would be easy to just hand the trophy to the Vikings, but DIII is another step up, and no one will be looking to give VASJ anything. DIII will be as good as it’s been in a long time, but the Vikings are still at the head of the class until proven otherwise. Replacing Gibson will be difficult, because when times got tough, the senior stayed calm and made a play more often than not. With that being said, the Vikings may fill his shoes by committee and they have the talent to do so. Absolutely no one in DIII has three players the caliber of Bragg, Parker, and Pardon, so it will be an uphill climb on most night for a team in VASJ’s division to upset them. Though, St. Joe’s district (Garfield Heights) may be its biggest obstacle with Warrensville Heights and Beachwood both being high quality teams. We know one thing for certain; the Vikings will be battletested by tournament time.
*Warrensville Heights (17-10/DII Regional Finalist)
It would be hard to find a coach that has done a better job than Brian Swift in his two years at Warrensville Heights. The Tigers were a juggernaut in the early 2000s winning a state championship in 2000 and finishing runner-up the following season under then head coach Dennis Chimes. However, the Tigers quickly faded away into obscurity.
Swift, a ’01 graduate of Warrensville Heights, was just (3-18) in year number one before winning 17 games in his second season capturing a district championship/regional runner-up. Quite a turnaround! Swift also won a state championship as a player in 1999 at Bedford Chanel along with his runner-up at Warrensville.
The Tigers received good news over the summer that they would be moving down to DIII, but VASJ following suit slightly darkened the mood. Though, Swift is more than happy to get out of DII.
“I’m proud to say I won a district championship in my second season as coach,” Swift said. “Hopefully, moving down to Division III we can make a great push to a state title in my third year.”
Swift welcomes back most of his team from last season, which includes senior Charles Franklin (6’4) and sophomore Yavari Hall (6’3). Franklin averaged 13 points, six rebounds, and three steals, while Hall really emerged scoring 13 points and grabbing four boards an outing.
Junior Jahmere Howze (6’6) and Jalen Jackson (6’0/Sr.) return to the starting line up as well. Howze oozes potential and tallied six points and five rebounds a game.
Newcomers Trevon McGhee (6’2/Jr.) and Quinton Wells (6’2/Sr.) should also factor into the mix.
“With most of last year’s team retuning, I think we have a schedule that is tough, but very helpful for our state tournament ambitions,” Swift relayed. “Warrensville basketball was always a very competitive program in Northeast Ohio. My goal is to return our program back into a competitive force in the state of Ohio. Our kids have worked tremendously hard this offseason, and are determined to have a special season.”
Bottom Line: The Tigers were always a good show back in the early 2000s, but for several reasons, the program virtually disappeared. Swift has the program back in the mix on a state level. Warrensville led SVSM at the half of last year’s regional final (27-24), but was unable to hold on falling victim to the Irish (57-48). The halftime lead, at least momentarily, proved the Tigers were back. However, the game’s leading scorer, Montell Goodwin (24 points), graduated. Replacing Goodwin will be key, but the Tigers have the talent to pick up the slack. Look for Franklin and Hall to really become household names. This team will fear no one, but the Garfield Heights District with VASJ and Beachwood will be extremely challenging.
*Beachwood (23-4/Regional Finalist)
March 16, 2013 is a night the Bison and anyone in attendance won’t soon forget. The stage was the regional championship at the Canton Memorial Fieldhouse and the contest featured Leavittsburg LaBrae and Beachwood. The result was a massacre.
Beachwood shot 7-of-50 from the floor that fateful night, which led to a (59-30) defeat in a game that wasn’t that close. The Bison were blanked in the 1st quarter and trailed 45-10 after three quarters of play. Star guard John Davis III had just two points entering the final quarter, and finished with just nine, which was nearly 12 points per game under his average.
So what happened? The Vikings instilled a zone defense to stop Davis from penetrating, and it worked even better than expected. Cold shooting would be an understatement. The good news is most of those kids return including Davis, which should be additive incentive to take the next step considering the way last season abruptly concluded.
Matt Miller, formerly the head coach at Bedford, takes over the head coaching position from the departed Jason Pecjak. Miller inherits five keys members from last year’s team with Davis (5’11/Sr.), Trey Sanders (5’9/Sr.), Julio Stevens (6’0/Sr.), Al Hodge (5’7/Sr.), and sophomore Ronald “RJ” Jones (6’4). The rest of the team will be filled by a strong sophomore class.
“We have a very talented, deep, and long sophomore class,” Miller said. “We will have five sophomores in our top ten. Those sophomores also provide our size and we will be relying on them to rebound the ball. How quickly they learn how to play varsity basketball will play a huge part in determining how successful we are this year.”
Sophomores Jalen Davis (6’2), Maishe Dailey (6’4), Charles Colston (5’11), Tyrone Gibson (6’2), and junior Tyler Nash (6’2) will be called upon for plenty of minutes.
Davis earned AP 1st Team and JJHuddle 2nd Team All-Ohio accolades last winter averaging over 20 points per game. He was one of three players named Player of the Year by the AP. Sanders is solid as well earning Special Mention All-District and Jones should really increase his production in his second season. Stevens is another kid looking to build on last season, and should draw some D1 football interest.
“We have tremendous leadership from our seniors,” Miller believes. “I could not have come into a better situation than with this senior group. They have a lot of experience that we will be relying on heavily. That experience and leadership is going to be crucial for our success because of all the youth we have on this team.”
Bottom Line: The five veterans should be good enough to carry the inexperienced bench until it’s up to speed. Davis and Sanders will be one of the better backcourts in Ohio. Last year’s finale could go a long way in fueling this team to even greater things. Two big obstacles, VASJ and Warrensville Heights, stand in Beachwood’s way of repeating as district champions.
*Lima Central Catholic (23-3/Regional Semifinalist)
The Thunderbirds have been one of the most consistent programs in Ohio over the years winning the 2010 DIII state championship. Head coach Frank Kill took over for legendary Bob Seggerson following that season. Kill is (64-10) in his three seasons as T-Birds boss, and if weren’t for Ottawa-Glandorf, he may have added at least one more state championship to the trophy case.
LCC has lost in the tournament to O-G in each of Kill’s three seasons as headman. Three years ago it was a district final (56-54), two years ago it was a regional final (44-38), and last year it was a regional semifinal (60-52). The Titans went on to win a state championship in ’13.
The question remains can this group finally get over the hump or will another heartbreaking loss be in the cards.
“LCC has been to the regionals the last two seasons,” Kill noted. “Can this senior class get past that hump and make it to Columbus?”
Kill’s senior class, which features University of Indianapolis signee Martyce Kimbrough (6’1), Darius West (6’2), a Kentucky football commit, and Cory Stewart (6’4), have been an integral part of LCC’s varsity since they were sophomores. The three have been apart of 45 wins in two seasons, but conquering O-G in the tournament and winning a state title aren’t included in those victories.
Kimbrough averaged 13 points per game as a junior and West added 8.5 points.
Kill also has the luxury of returning one of the best young backcourts in Ohio with Xavier Simpson (5’10/So.) and Tre Cobbs (6’0/So.). Both kids will have a chance to play Division 1 with Simpson already received interest. Simpson is one of the better game managers with an improving perimeter shot. Cobb is lightning quick with the ability to get into the lane and create.
Junior Jake Williams (6’3) will man down the paint along with Stewart. Williams averaged nearly six points a game as a sophomore. Talented sophomore Dantez Walton (6’4) and junior Aidan O’Connor Jr. (6’1) will be welcomed additions.
“We will be talented up front with guard play,” Kill thinks. “The main concerns for us as of late are in the paint. Post defense has always been an issue. Transition basketball is a must for us if we want to be successful. They will need to learn how to play a half court game in order to make it to the next level of play.”
Bottom Line: Kill summed it up pretty well in regards to the lack of size and learning how to play in a half court setting. We know the guards can all play in an up-and-down game, but when things get tight, will they be able to set something up and get a bucket against a good team. On most nights, LCC will overwhelm its opponent with quickness and transition buckets, but eventually that won’t happen. If improvements in the half court develop, this team could make a serious run at the gold trophy. The Thunderbird guards will be as good if not better than any group in Division III. That should have LCC playing deep into March.
*Findlay Liberty-Benton (22-2)
The Eagles flew under the radar much of last season despite losing just one regular season game. Perhaps, it was the result of having no high profile players like AJ Granger, Aaron Craft, or Nathan Hyde. Whether or not head coach Steve Williman has star players or not, he and his teams usually get the job done.
L-B’s tournament run ended abruptly last March losing (53-51) to Spencerville in an overtime district semifinal. The Bearcats were red-hot and owed the Eagles from a 2012 district semifinal defeat. The Eagles only other loss during the year came to LCC, 40-38. Two losses by a combine four points.
The Eagles welcome back a strong contingent from last year’s 22-win club. Seniors Ryan Geise (6’0), Adam Cytlak (6’4), John Darnall (6’1), and Zach Garver (6’1) lead a strong group of veterans. Geise averaged 13.5 points per game as a junior, and the other three were All-Blanchard Valley Conference. Garver tallied 20 points in the tournament loss to Spencerville.
Classmates Branden May (6’3) and Mitch Haan return as well.
Junior B.J. Lawson (5’9), and sophomores Nathan Craft (6’5) and Alec Rhodes (6’0) were also part of last season’s club. Craft is the L-B quarterback on the gridiron.
Bottom Line: The 1995 DIV state champions and 2007 DIII state runners-up are hoping to return to Columbus for the first time since ‘07. The Eagles are as experienced as any team in Ohio, and it should show. Williman’s bunch should run roughshod over the BVC with the exception of Arlington and maybe Leipsic, but out-of-conference games with Ottawa Hills, Ottawa-Glandorf, Lima Bath, Lima CC, Kenton, and Wapakoneta should prove to be quality preparation for tournament time. We don’t look for the Eagles to fly under the radar quite like they did last year, so they will likely get everyone’s best shot. This team will be right there with LCC as the two best DIII teams in NW Ohio.
*Ottawa-Glandorf (26-3/State Champions)
It would be hard to leave the Titans out of the top 10 even knowing they lost several key members from last year’s unit. Coach Tyson McGlaughlin, in his second year at his alma mater, captured the school’s third boy’s basketball state championship behind an unforgettable performance from T.J. Metzger. McGlaughlin is two-for-two getting his alma mater to the Columbus making the semis in 2012.
This team, however, may be a work in progress, but O-G always reloads. The Titans welcome back junior Noah Bramlage (6’7), who will be a great place to start. Bramlage averaged 10.5 points per game as a sophomore and is the team’s only returning starter.
Alex Schroeder (5’9/Sr.), a lightning quick guard, is a kid McGlaughlin expects to have a breakout year. Cody Alt (6’2/Sr.) is the other returnee. Alt is a kid that will do all the little things for the Titans.
Senior Matias Trampe-Kindt (6’1) and junior Zack Kuhlman (6’0) will most likely make up the remainder of the starting backcourt.
“Though we lost seven of our top nine (players), we fully expect to compete again this year,” McGlaughlin mentioned. “We have a team that has waited and played behind a talented group and are chomping at the bit to show what they can do.”
Bottom Line: The Titans always play a challenging schedule, and in the early going there may be some growing pains against the more experienced teams like Liberty-Benton, LCC, and Findlay. However, by tournament time, O-G will be right in the mix like most years. Bramlage will be the centerpiece of this team at 6-foot-7, but the Titans need him to control the paint and not be a perimeter player. Bramlage likes to face up at times, and that is fine with his travel team, but the Titans need him to control the paint on both ends of the floor. If Schroeder emerges like McGlaughlin believes it should provide O-G with a potent one-two punch. The Western Buckeye League is always one of the strongest in the state, which is a big reason the Titans are always a force come tournament time. This season will be no different. Sign up to get this team early, because by February it may be too late.
*Cincinnati Roger Bacon (24-4/Regional Finalist)
The Spartans fall into the same boat as Lima Central Catholic as a team looking to get past the regional hurdle. Roger Bacon’s senior class has been to three-straight regionals and holds a record of (66-18) in that time frame.
“Our senior class has been a part of one of the most successful runs in school history,” Roger Bacon head coach Brian Neal noted. “This senior class is preparing hard for a breakthrough in their final go around.”
Roger Bacon resides and plays in the always-tough Great Catholic League, which prepares them for deep tournament runs each year.
“As always, we feel like our schedule will prepare us for that breakthrough,” Neil believes. “With continued work and a few breaks, we are hoping for another great run, but this time a tournament run that ends in Columbus.”
Neal has a host of experience and talent returning to a team that won 24 games a season ago, and knocked off the defending state champions, Cincinnati Summit Country Day. However, the Spartans dropped their next tournament game to upstart Versailles in a regional final, 56-53.
Carlas Jackson (6’3/Sr.), a JJHuddle 2nd Team All-Ohio performer, averaged 15 points per game and three assists along with shooting an astounding 45 percent from behind the arc. Jackson also earned GCL 1st Team honors and will have an opportunity to surpass the 1,000-point mark.
Joining Jackson will be classmates Austin Frentsos (6’2), Fred Moore (6’7), Cody Niesen (6’0), and Reggie Williams (5’10). Frentsos averaged 12 points per contest, Moore totaled 10 points and seven rebounds, Niesen scored eight points per game and shot 52 percent from distance, and Williams is on pace to break the school-record for steals.
Frentsos was named GCL 1st Team, while Moore and Niesen earned 2nd Team.
Dahmere Epperson (6’4/Jr.), who missed all of last year with an injury, returns after averaged 4.5 points a game as a freshman. Epperson’s addition gives Neal yet another talented option.
Sophomores Trey McBride (6’1) and William Greene (5’10), and freshman Craig McGee (6’0) give the Spartans a mixture of depth and talent. McBride averaged 5 points per game as a frosh.
Bottom Line: Will this be the year Roger Bacon returns to Columbus? Can the Spartans get to Columbus and cut down the nets for the first time since that memorable 2002 encounter with Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary’s? The answer to both of those questions could be yes, but there are no guarantees. Roger Bacon most certainly has the talent, depth, and experience to do so. Perhaps, no one in DIII has as much tournament experience as the Spartans. Bacon will likely have to get past Summit CD, Versailles, Dayton CJ, or Dayton Stivers to earn a trip to Columbus, and it’s more than capable of doing so. We would be very surprised if the Spartans aren’t playing deep into March.
*Versailles (23-6/State Runner-Up)
We saw the Versailles Tigers in early February, and it didn’t look much like a team going anywhere fast. The Orange and Black got drubbed on senior night, 56-37, by a very good Delphos St. John’s team before losing to Minster a week later. In all, Versailles lost two of its last four games heading into the tournament.
The Tigers began to pick up momentum as the tournament started blowing past National Trail, Twin Valley South, and Tipp City Bethel to advance to a district final against a talented Dayton Stivers outfit. Versailles got by Stivers and entered regional play where it sent Worthington Christian and Roger Bacon packing.
The Tigers rolled into Columbus with a head of steam and took out Leavittsburg LaBrae in the semis. However, nobody and not even T.J. Metzger himself could have predicted what was to happen next. Ottawa-Glandorf’s Metzger scored 26 points in the first half, which included making 7-of-9 three-point attempts to help ambush the Tigers in the title tilt. Versailles was never able to recover and ended up with the silver trophy.
Coach Scott McEldowney welcomes back a quartet of performers from last season’s state runner-up contingent. The returnees start with junior Kyle Ahrens (6’5), who is one of the state’s best players and top recruits. Ahrens, who averaged 19 points and six rebounds, really began making a name for himself during the tournament. In the state semis, Ahrens served up a dunk that ended up making Sportscenter’s Top 10. Michigan State, Butler, Iowa, Dayton, Xavier, Boston College, Miami (OH), Toledo, and Wright State among others are courting the junior, who shot 83 percent from the charity stripe as a sophomore. For his efforts, he earned JJHuddle 2nd Team All-Ohio and MAC 1st Team honors. Ahrens is just 140 points shy of 1,000.
Damian Richard (6’3/Sr.), a three-sport athlete, scored a team-high 21 points along with Ahrens in the semifinal win over LaBrae. Richard averaged 11 points and five rebounds as a junior, and we look for his numbers to increase even more with the graduation of Chad Winner. Richard is one of the best all-around athletes you will see in Ohio. He earned AP 1st Team All-Southwest District this past fall in football and was MAC Honorable Mention last winter.
The other returning mainstays are Evan Philpot (6’5/Sr.) and Nick Campbell (6’0/Sr.). Philpot, pronounced Flip-o, tallied 5.5 points and three rebounds off the bench as a junior. Campbell, the quarterback on the football team and looks like he spends the majority of his time in the weight room, added five points and four rebounds in a starting role a season ago.
Seniors Ryan Knapke (6’4) and Jacob Wenning (6’1) along with junior Jace Barga (6’0) should round out the top seven for the Tigers. Barga showed some promise as a sophomore.
“We lost two great seniors, but return the bulk of our line up that made it to the state finals last year,” McEldowney said. “Kyle Ahrens is a special player that lead us last year in most statistical categories. We also have some good young talent who could contribute at some point in the season. We have high goals set!”
Bottom Line: Versailles will have an opportunity to reach Columbus in back-to-back years with a nice core group of players returning. Of course, the SW District will be extremely tough with Roger Bacon, Summit CD Dayton CJ, and Stivers all in the region. It always helps to have the best player, and Versailles has that in Ahrens. The slate will have them ready adding Lima Central Catholic and Christian Brothers (MO) to an already difficult conference schedule. Just to show you how tough the “mighty” Mac is, the Tigers finished tied for forth a season ago before going on their tournament march. Replacing Chad Winner’s scoring production and ability to stretch the defense won’t be easy, but McEldowney feels he has some good young kids ready to step up. Ahrens and Richard will do their thing and Philpot and Campbell will play their roles, but look for a kid like Barga to really step up. Whenever a team possesses a kid with the ability of Ahrens, especially at the DIII level, there is a good chance that team will make noise in March. Ahrens is that good and he has some nice pieces around him.
*Cincinnati Summit Country Day (26-2/Regional Semifinalist)
The Silver Knights were supposed to endure the rigors of their challenging out-of-conference slate and then roll to back-to-back state championships, but no one told Roger Bacon. Summit made it through its regular season with just one loss (Dayton Dunbar), which included a victory against DI power Lakewood St. Edward. The Silver Knights appeared to be following the script until the Spartans stunned Summit in a regional semifinal contest (61-53).
Coach Michael Bradley still has some key pieces returning, but one is not University of Cincinnati freshman Kevin Johnson, who was a JJHuddle 1st Team All-Ohio performer. However, Antonio Woods is a good place to start. The 6-foot-1 senior, who is a two-sport standout committed to Penn, returns following a junior season that earned him JJHuddle 3rd All-Ohio. He was recently named the Division VI Southwest District Offensive POY in football (quarterback). Woods is as steady as they come at the lead guard spot , which is a major key to any successful basketball team.
“Having the best player on the floor most nights in Antonio Woods is what helps me rest easy at night,” Bradley said. “
Senior Joey Kreyenhagen (6’1) and junior Evan Davis (6’0) were also key components to last year’s 26-win club. Bradley believes Davis has the potential to be an IVY or Patriot League player in two years.
Two new additions should pay huge dividends by tournament time in Loveland transfer JC Kraml (6’9/Sr.) and freshman Tyrece Walker Jr. (6’2). Kraml will sit out the first 11 games of the year due to transfer rules. Walker is one of the better 2017 kids in Cincinnati.
“My staff and I are looking forward to this season and coaching this mixed group of returning players and newcomers,” Bradley mentioned. “Each season is different and each team has its own identity and we are working to form that right now. We have some younger players with no varsity experience that we are going to need to step up. We look forward to competing at a high level this year and having fun while doing so.”
Bradley is (71-7) in his three seasons at Summit Country Day with nary a loss at home.
Bottom Line: The Silver Knights won’t be as talented as they were last year, but as Bradley noted each team brings something different to the table. Suffocating defense is always a staple of a Bradley coached team, and don’t look for that to change despite some new personnel. Antonio Woods is right up there with the best guards in Ohio, and it’s quite the luxury to have him running point guard game-after-game. He is the type of player that makes everyone around him better, and he is far from high maintenance. The senior will have to help bring along some of the youngsters if Summit is to return to the Schott.’ Regardless of the opponent, the Silver Knights should be in every contest due to their stingy defense. If the offense comes around, Summit will be a major threat in SW Ohio once again.
*Dayton Chaminade Julienne (9-14)
Well, hello Division III! The Eagles have officially arrived in Division III following a lengthy stay in DII. This is not good news for the rest of SW Ohio. CJ is always one of the best-coached teams in Ohio and usually possesses solid talent, but now it can escape the likes of Dunbar, Thurgood Marshall, and Kettering Alter during the tournament, at least for the next two seasons.
The Eagles won just nine games last season up against a brutal schedule and star player Justin Bibbs transferring to Montverde Academy (FL) during the summer. Veteran coach Joe Staley watched his team lose seven-straight games from mid-January to early February before the Eagles won five of their final six games losing to Dunbar in the tournament.
CJ loses its top two leading scorers from last season in Justin Clark (18.6 ppg.) and Tim Riley (8.2 ppg.), which hurts, but look for the Eagles to be more balanced this season.
One big reason for the optimism is junior Myo Baxter (6’5), a move-in from Lakota East. Baxter averaged just over nine points and nearly five boards a game as a sophomore at East (17-8/DI). Miami (OH), Ohio, Radford, Akron, and Morehead State are all showing interest. Baxter is smooth around the cup, and with the way Stanley develops fundamentally sound big men, this should be a lethal combination.
Other returnees include Aaron Hammonds (6’2/Sr.), Alan Vest (6’3/Jr.), C.J. Riazzi (6’4/Sr.), and Will Peterson (6’0/Sr.). Riazzi averaged six points and four rebounds as a junior, and Hammonds contributed five points and four rebounds. Vest is drawing some D1 interest.
Zach Burneka (6’0), Jacob Harrison (5’11), and Ja’waan Young (5’11/Sr.) should all contribute as well. Staley is also high on freshman point guard Christian Montague (6’0), who should see minutes as the year moves forward.
“Our schedule is tough right out of the box with (Cincinnati) Moeller and (Dayton) Dunbar the first week of the season,” Staley lamented. “We always play a tough schedule because we believe it makes us better. Our goals are the same every year, win the GCL and make a great run in the tournament. Our success this season will be determined by how far we progress defensively and how we rebound.”
Along with Moeller and Dunbar, the Eagles will face Lima CC, Roger Bacon, Toledo St. John’s, Springfield Shawnee, Kettering Alter, Bishop Fenwick, Thurgood Marshall, Covington Catholic, Beavercreek, and Lakota East (Flyin’ to the Hoop). It will be interesting to see Baxter against his former teammates.
Bottom Line: It seems crazy to put a team in the top 10 that won just nine games a season ago, but we feel confident in CJ’s schedule, talent, and coaching having the Eagles very much in the mix come tournament time. CJ went (5-3) against DIII teams a year ago losing to Lima CC (46-43), Purcell Marian (54-53), and Bishop Fenwick (41-32). CJ’s schedule will have it prepared for possible tests against Versailles, Summit CD, Stivers, or Roger Bacon in the tournament. In fact, the Eagles will play Roger Bacon during the regular season. Baxter is a huge addition and should have a monster year under the tutelage of Staley, who we feel is one of the best in the business. If others step up, CJ has a chance to be a team no team will want to see in its bracket.
More Top Teams by Region:
Bishop Hartley, Bishop Ready, North Union, Worthington Christian, and West Jefferson.
Garaway, Fort Frye, St. Clairsville, Martins Ferry, and Union Local.
Leavittsburg LaBrae, Youngstown Ursuline, Fairless, Tuslaw, Gilmour Academy, Akron Manchester, New Middletown Springfield, and Canton CC.
Huron, Collins Western Reserve, Willard, Van Wert, Archbold, St. Henry, Defiance Tinora, and Colonel Crawford.
Lucasville Valley, Fairland, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Wheelersburg, Lynchburg-Clay, Oak Hill, and Crooksville.
Dayton Stivers, Hamilton Badin, Waynesville, Cincinnati NCH, Clark Montessori, and Cincinnati Purcell Marian.
Returning All-Ohio List
1st Team: Peyton Aldridge- Leavittsburg LaBrae (AP/JJHuddle POY) and John Davis III- Beachwood (AP POY).
2nd Team: Ryan Geise- Findlay Liberty-Benton (AP), Carlton Bragg- Cleveland VASJ (JJHuddle/Division IV), Kyle Ahrens- Versailles (JJHuddle), John Davis III- Beachwood (JJHuddle), and Carlas Jackson- Roger Bacon (JJHuddle).
3rd Team: Ishmael Hargrove- Gilmour Academy (AP/Bedford Chanel), Brian Parker-Cleveland VASJ (JJHuddle/Division IV) and Antonio Woods- Summit CD (JJHuddle).
Player Watch List
Andrew Goodpaster (6’1/Sr.)- Carlisle
Antonio Woods (6’1/Sr.)- Cincinnati Summit CD
Asim Pleas Jr. (6’2/Sr.)- Youngstown Liberty
Austin Collins (5’11/Jr.)- Ironton Rock Hill
Austin Frentsos (6’2/Sr.)- Cincinnati Roger Bacon
Austin Hice (6’5/Sr.)- Chillicothe Southeastern
Austin Terrill (6’2/Sr.)- North Union
Bailey Breitenstine (5’8/So.)- Doylestown Chippewa
Brandon Barnes (6’2/Sr.)- South Point
Brian Parker (6’3/Jr.)- Cleveland VASJ
Carlas Jackson (6’3/Sr.)- Cincinnati Roger Bacon
Carlton Bragg (6’9/Jr.)- Cleveland VASJ
Charles Franklin (6’4/Sr.)- Warrensville Heights
Chris Moxley (5’10/Sr.)- Bishop Hartley
Colin Zucker (5’10/Sr.)- Gilmour Academy
Connor Bowen (5’11/Jr.)- Millbury Lake
Connor McCreary (5’11/Sr.)- Colonel Crawford
Conor Markins (6’2/Sr.)- Coal Grove Dawson-Bryant
Dahmere Epperson (6’4/Jr.)- Cincinnati Roger Bacon
Derek Drewes (6’0/Sr.)- Defiance Tinora
Derek Pardon (6’8/Jr.)- Cleveland VASJ
Desmond McElroy (5’9/Sr.)- Youngstown Ursuline
Drew Scarberry (6’4/Jr.)- McDermott Northwest
Dylan Miller (6’4/Sr.)- Wheelersburg
Evan Maddox (6’0/Sr.)- Proctorville Fairland
Fred Moore (6’7/Sr.)- Cincinnati Roger Bacon
Hayden Dunn (6’4/Sr.)- Lucasville Valley
Hunter Martin (6’9/Jr.)- Berne Union
Ian Bell (6’1/Sr.)- Gates Mills Hawken
Ishmael Hargrove (6’4/Sr.)- Gilmour Academy
Jacob Kellough (5’10/Sr.)- Chillicothe Huntington
Jake Vormelker (5’11/Sr.)- Grand Valley
Jaylen Harris (6’4/Fr.)- Cleveland VASJ
JC Kraml (6’9/Sr.)- Cincinnati Summit CD
John Davis III (5’11/Sr.)- Beachwood
Jordan West (6’6/Sr.)- Lucasville Valley
Josh Gantz (6’6/Sr.)- Bishop Ready (UMass Lowell)
Josh Toland (6’5/Sr.)- Buckeye Trail
Ky’re Allison (6’1/So.)- Portsmouth
Kyle Ahrens (6’5/Jr.)- Versailles
Luke Fisher (6’8/Jr.)- Archbold
Malachi Nolletti (6’2/Sr.)- West Salem Northwestern
Martyce Kimbrough (6’1/Sr.)- Lima CC (Indianapolis)
Myo Baxter (6’5/Jr.)- Dayton CJ
Nathan Scott (6’2/Sr.)- Eastern Brown
Noah Bramlage (6’7/Jr.)- Ottawa-Glandorf
Peyton Aldridge (6’7/Sr.)- Leavittsburg LaBrae (Davidson)
Quintin Ratliffe (6’2/Sr.)- Pymatuning Valley
Rashaad Ali-Shakir (6’1/So.)- Cincinnati Purcell Marian
Robert Caldwell (6’0/Sr.)- Dayton Stivers
Robert Logan (6’3/Sr.)- Columbiana Crestview
Rodrick Caldwell (5’11/So.)- Dayton Stivers
Ryan Geise (6’0/Sr.)- Findlay Liberty-Benton
Ryan Mikesell (6’6/Jr.)- St. Henry
Tre Cobbs (6’0/So.)- Lima CC
Tyler Stoyle (5’10/Sr.)- Centerburg
Tyson Stoudmire (6’2/Sr.)- Creston Norwayne
Xavier Simpson (5’10/So.)- Lima CC
Yavari Hall (6’3/So.)- Warrensville Heights