By Tim Rogers
Give me the kid who steals the ball with his team behind by 15 points with 60 seconds to play
NORTH CANTON – I am not a basketball junkie. I have no Basketball Jones.
I cannot watch a high school kid play for 20 minutes, then write a scouting report that prompts college coaches to set their GPS for the school where the next Chris Paul is playing.
I am not a Kurt Stubbs or a Chas Wolfe. Those guys are experts. They can spot the next All-Ohioan before he laces on his Michael Jordans.
But, I love to watch certain high school kids. They might not be the best shooters or the most devastating rebounders.
They may not be the biggest, the fastest, the strongest or the quickest. They might not be able to tilt the scoreboard or rattle the rim and they might make more than their share of mistakes. But, it won’t be for lack of effort.
They are the kids who have their heads in the game from start to finish, no matter the circumstance. Statistics don’t always tell the story.
Some of them may earn Division I scholarships. Most won’t. He could be your next door neighbor. Or the kid dating your daughter. He plays for the love of the game and his willingness to compete. When present, those traits are as visible as the number on the back of a jersey.
He might not be an all-stater – maybe he is — but he is fun to watch because he knows the game and he knows what it takes to win. He plays the game the way it was meant to be played. Those are the kids I like the most.
Give me the kid who steals the ball with his team behind by 15 points with 60 seconds to play.
Or the kid who shakes two tacklers and runs over another with his team trailing by three touchdowns late in the fourth quarter.
Or the kid who grinds like a demon despite opening his round with four straight bogeys and a double.
Or the kid who fouls off six pitches before singling to left with his team losing 10-1 in the bottom of the seventh.
Give me the kid who does not leave his high school basketball team in the middle of the season.
Those are the kids I like to watch and they don’t necessarily have to be all-staters. I saw a good number of the former at last weekend’s Dunk 4 Diabetes at Walsh University.
Here they are, the kids I like to watch, in no particular order:
John Davis III, point guard, Beachwood: I find it astonishing that this 5-11 senior is being overlooked by colleges for one reason or another. He is a solid kid with solid grades and his numbers in a 67-41 victory over Leavittsburg LaBrae speak volumes: 27 points, four assists, six rebounds, seven steals and one turnover in 32 minutes. His 12 field goals (on 21 attempts) were the most by any player in the event. His presence will make Beachwood a contender in the Division III post-season tournament at Garfield Heights. He will make some college coach very happy one day.
Esa Ahmad, wing, Shaker Heights: At an athletic 6-8 junior, he is on everyone’s radar. At times last weekend he looked like he was the only Shaker player with an idea of what he was doing in a 78-36 loss to Huntington Prep. Plays hard. He had 17 points and five rebounds in 30 minutes while going against the behemoths of collegiately-looking Huntington Prep. I also like watching his teammate, 6-6 Kent State recruit Rosel Hurley. While he had an off-night against HP, I’ve seen him play enough to know I like to watch him.
Bryan Gee, point guard, Cornerstone Christian: He and his team may be the best kept secrets in Northeast Ohio. The 6-0 senior toasted Wadsworth at the D4D with 18 points, seven rebounds, four steals and a whopping eight assists. This should come as no surprise as coaches’ kids somehow always get it. His father, Jayson, is a former assistant under Gary Waters at Cleveland State and is now the head coach at Division I Longwood University in Farmville, Va. And, that’s where Bryan is headed.
Deven Stover, guard, St. Ignatius: The 6-4 sophomore is a student of the game. Great academics. Quick learner. Versatile on the offensive end. His 26 points and eight rebounds – six at the offensive end – almost enabled the Wildcats to hold off an impressive Canton Timken. Made 9-of-10 free throws and came on strong at the end.
Marsalis Hamilton, forward, St. Edward: In many ways, he is similar to his brother (Myles) inasmuch as he is a warrior, the type of player who will do whatever it takes to win. He is not, however, the excitable boy that Myles was. More laid back. Had a solid all-around game – outside of 5 turnovers – in a 64-53 win over Cincy Walnut Hills, a DI state semifinalist last year, with 15 points, six rebounds, four assists, three steals and a blocked shot. Because of the Eagles’ depth, no one will repeatedly produce big numbers. You’d want this kid on your team.
Lepear Toles, forward, Canton Timken: He might have been the most impressive player in the D4D. His play in the final minutes in the 62-60 victory over St. Ignatius was both exquisite and powerful as he finished with 27 points, five assists and three rebounds while making 10-of-18 shots from the floor. He had that “won’t be denied” look about him. At 6-4, he has to be one of the top sophomores in Ohio.
Caleb Potter, forward, Mentor: West Virginia likes him as a baseball player, but he could play on my basketball team any day. The 6-4 senior plays hard and is capable of making both the big play and the little plays it takes to win games. He had 24 points in last season’s state championship game and then went out at hit .338 as an outfielder on the baseball team. Sources say he is an incredibly hard worker behind the scenes. He credits his deep faith for all his success and frequently faith will give you that extra edge.
Brian Parker, guard, Villa Angela-St. Joseph: Parker was sick as a dog on Sunday but you would not have known it. The 6-2 junior scored 24 points, had six rebounds, six assists and committed one turnover in 23 minutes of the Vikings’ 82-71 win over Mentor. That speaks volumes for Parker’s character.
Jalen Jackson, guard, Warrensville Heights: No question, his best basketball is ahead of him. Unfortunately, he’s a senior. But, I like the way he handles himself and the basketball. He has superb lateral movement and he was efficient in the Tigers’ narrow loss to nationally-ranked LaLumiere with 17 points on 6-of-10 field goal attempts. He will be a key player in the team’s playoff run.
Tyler Drabik, forward, North Canton Hoover: Obviously, his talent has lifted him into a prominent role for the Vikings. He is the only sophomore on the roster and at 6-3 he is not the biggest forward in Stark County. But he always seems to be where he needs to be and he plays with high-octane enthusiasm.
There they are. There are thousands of kids with similar traits. Obviously, I haven’t had the pleasure of watching all of them, but I saw those named above and I enjoyed watching every minute.