D-IV Boys Basketball Preview: Harvest Prep & Africentric are Central District’s top two

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The 2014 campaign came to a close with the Convoy Crestview Knights hoisting the hardware following a perfect (29-0) season. Head coach Jeremy Best and his boys were poetry-in-motion smothering teams with suffocating pressure defense and dialing up timely offense. The Convoy crew was the first DIV team to finish the year unbeaten since that powerful New Knoxville squad in 2008.

Crestview lost its three studs in Cam Etzler, Tyson Bolenbaugh, and Damian Helm, but don’t sleep on the Knights as they will certainly continue to be a factor. With the graduation loss of the above mentioned players, the door is open for teams like Tri-Village, Harvest Prep, Columbus Africentric, Cincinnati Aiken, Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas, Georgetown, and Russia to make a run at the gold.

In our opinion, DIV is as deep as its been in quite some time. We are really looking forward to Ohio’s small school scene more than we have in awhile.

Central District Preview

Harvest Prep (26-2)
*Lost to Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas in the state semifinals.

Returnees:
David Dennis Jr. (6’2/Sr.); Rael Windley (6’4/Sr.); Dana Coffman (6’2/Sr.); Charles Aden (6’3/Jr.); and Terrance Walton (5’11/Sr.).

Key Newcomers:
Jordan Clark (6’1/Sr.); Brice Clark (5’9/So.); and Michael Frye (6’3/Jr.).

Key Stats:
● David Dennis Jr. averaged 22 points, six rebounds, five assists, and four steals per game as a junior. He needs just 45 points to reach 1,000 points for his high school career.
● Rael Windley scored 14 points per game and grabbed eight boards a night.
● Dana Coffman tallied seven points per contest.
● Jordan Clark averaged 14 points a game at Hilliard Darby a year ago.
● David Dennis Sr. needs just eight wins getting him to 200 in 11 seasons.

From the Coach:
“Our schedule has to be one of the toughest around for any Division IV school,” said Dennis Sr. “We need to play hard, play smart together, and that’s what we do. We don’t hope, we believe, because we can make it happen.”

Season Outlook:
There is no reason to believe the Warriors can’t repeat what they did last year, and perhaps, even more. Harvest Prep returns all of its key pieces along with the addition of Coach Dennis’ nephew Jordan Clark, who was a key player at Darby a season ago. David Dennis Jr, who has committed to one of the best Division 2 schools in the country in West Liberty University, will be a frontrunner for DIV Player of the Year. The lefty is an elite shooter with the ability to get teammates involved. The region will likely come down to HP and Africentric once again, who are clearly the two best DIV teams in their region. The two will meet in early December, but the more important game will take place in mid-March.

Columbus Africentric (16-11)
*Lost to Harvest Prep (43-40) in the regional final.

Returnees:
Jaquan Harrison (6’4/Sr.); Ulmer Manzie (6’8/Sr.); Shawon Wilson (6’1/Sr.); Houston Smith (6’5/Jr.); and Lorenze Gordon-Haynes (6’2/Jr.).

Key Newcomers:
Rondell Clark (6’3/Jr.); AC Woods (6’0/Jr.); Trevon Potts (5’10/Sr.); and Hershey Green (5’10/Jr.).

Key Stats:
● Jaquan Harrison led the Nubians at 14.8 points per game as a junior.
● Ulmer Manzie led Africentric in rebounding at 10.7 boards a night.
● Harrison and Manzie are the first boys players in school history to receive Division 1 scholarships for basketball.

From the Coach:
“After a tough start to the season last year with a young team, we started to gel at the end of the season,” said Nubians head coach Michael Bates. “This year we return 11 of the 13 varsity players on the roster last year. The kids worked hard this summer to get stronger and improve their skills, which was important because our league is loaded with quality teams, and we have a very strong non league schedule. Hopefully the trials we endure during the season will help us go far in the state tournament.”

Season Outlook:
Columbus Africentric is always intriguing. The Nubians play in the Columbus City League, which always has them prepared for tournament play. This year, Africentric’s division of the city league is loaded, and it will couple that with an always ambitious out-of-conference schedule, which features Middletown, Harvest Prep, Cincinnati Aiken, Union Local, Newark, and Indianapolis Southport. Very few, if any Division IV teams, possess three possible Division I recruits. Jaquan Harrison and Ulmer Manzie have already pledged to Bethune-Cookman, and junior Houston Smith will likely earn a D1 scholarship as well. The Nubians will be very athletic with Harrison and Smith being two of the better vertical athletes in Ohio. Inside, the much-improved Manzie will be a handful on the low block. Africentric’s fate will come down to it’s ability to take care of the basketball and make outside shots, which are two things they didn’t do very well a season ago. If those things hold up, Coach Bates and his team could return to the Schottenstein Center after a two-year absence.

Other Top Teams in the Central District
Newark Catholic, Berne Union, Fairfield Christian, and Columbus Tree of Life.

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