OHSH/JJHuddle Boys Basketball D-I Preview and Preseason Power Poll
When we wrote this introduction a year ago, we most likely would have told you to scrap history and pick Columbus Northland in D-I. Guess what? We would have been wrong. There is no Northland (one dominant) this year, though, so who are the top teams among Ohio's big schools? Northland is one of them but the Vikings have plenty of company...
When we wrote this introduction a year ago, we most likely would have told you to scrap history and pick Columbus Northland. Guess what? We would have been wrong.
The Central District, since the four division inception in 1988, has yet to win three-straight. With Newark winning in 2008 and Northland following in '09, history told us the winner wouldn't come from Central Ohio.
When looking at Division 1 we were able to pinpoint nearly 70 teams, which should have good years with around 15 squads, which should be outstanding. Unlike last season, there is no super team like Northland was a year ago.
To us, March will come down to one of the following teams: Cincinnati LaSalle, Cincinnati Moeller, Huber Heights Wayne, Westerville South, Columbus Northland, Gahanna Lincoln, Warren Harding, Lakewood St. Edward's, Garfield Heights, Mentor, Toledo St. John's, and Toledo Central Catholic.
Honestly, since the turn of the century only one year were we completely fooled and that being 2004 with Hamilton capturing the gold.
So, for the sake of not being fooled we will list 13 sleepers: Cincinnati Withrow, Lakota East, Trotwood-Madison, Upper Arlington, Walnut Ridge, Canton McKinley, Canton Timken, Cleveland Heights, Bowling Green, Toledo Bowsher, Shaker Heights, Dublin Coffman, and Pickerington North..
Okay, it is time for the meat potatoes. Who are the serious title contenders?
History tells us Cincinnati Moeller has won the state championship every four years since winning its first in 1999 ('03 and '07). Since the state tournament will be held in 2011 this must mean Big Moe' is bringing home the bacon.
Need more proof? Perhaps this fact will sell you on Moeller. The Southwest District won five of the first 12 D-I state championships followed by winning four of the next 11. If history repeats itself, the SW will win in 2011 making it 10-of-24.
The only thing holding us up on Moeller is the fact that to win the D-I state championship the trends says the team must have a D-I basketball prospect in either the junior or senior classes. At this time, the Crusaders don't have a solid D-I prospect in the Classes of 2011 or '12.
Cincinnati LaSalle, Huber Heights Wayne, and Cincinnati Withrow look to be our other options out of the Southwest and all have D-I prospects or commits.
Let us throw this curve ball into the mix, the Northeast Lakes District has won each of the last state titles with the year ending in a one (1991- Cleveland VASJ and 2001- Cleveland St. Ignatius). We could go even further to make it a Cleveland team.
If this is the case, Mentor, Lakewood St. Edward's, Garfield Heights,
and Cleveland Heights will be our best options.
Thus far, the Central has developed a state title pattern of OCC, City League, OCC, and City League. If this pattern remains constant, Westerville South, Gahanna Lincoln, Upper Arlington, and Dublin Coffman would be our best bets out of the OCC. Though city league teams win during odd years ('03 and '09), and 2011 is an odd year. If so, Northland, Walnut Ridge, and Marion-Franklin would be the picks.
The Northeast Inland District brought home last year’s crown with Massillon Jackson hoisting the hardware giving the Inland District its third title in six years with Canton McKinley going back-to-back in ’05 and ’06. Ironically, those are its only titles in D-I.
Warren Harding, if you were to put stock in a Northeast Inland team, would be the best bet followed by Canton Timken and Canton McKinley.
For the fans with teams coming from the Northwest District, we won’t say anything is impossible, but a NW team hasn’t won a D-I state championship since 1990 with Toledo Scott as part of back-to-back championships with now defunct Toledo Macomber in 1989. Toledo St. Francis DeSales won the big school title (AAA) in 1983, but prior to that, 1948 (Findlay) was the last NW Ohio team to win the big school state championship.
Northwest Ohio’s best shot for a state title in D-I this century came in 2004 when Toledo St. John’s was upset by Hamilton. The Titans started three D-I commitments in Brian Roberts, Zach Hillesland, and BJ Raymond yet came up short. Other than the Scott and Macomber titles, NW Ohio has only played for four titles with St. John’s in ’04, ’96, and ’93 and Lima Senior with Greg Simpson in ’92.
The East and Southeast are only comprised of two teams with Tri-Valley (East) and Logan (Southeast). Both teams are placed in the Central District where their chances are slim. This isn’t a knock, but rather reality. The East won a D-I state championship in 1995 with Zanesville, while the Southeast has never won a D-I gold. With a declining population in those two parts of the state and zero teams located near a major metropolitan area this isn’t shocking. Over the years, the East District had Zanesville, New Philadelphia, East Liverpool, Dover, and Tri-Valley all in D-I at one time or another. Now, just Tri-Valley remains after being in D-II for several years.
We are very much looking forward to following Division 1 this year, to say the least, with so many teams in contention.
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OHSH/JJHUDDLE DIVISION I PRESEASON POWER POLL
1. Cincinnati LaSalle
Next Five: Toledo Central Catholic, Garfield Heights, Cincinnati Withrow, Toledo Bowsher, Ceveland Heights
PRESEASON ALL-OHIO TEAMS
La Salle (22-3, lost in the Regional Final)
Will 2011 finally be the year? We think so. Coach Dan Fleming won the 1996 state title at La Salle and 15 years later he could be hoisting the hardware again. The Lancers return all five starters off last year’s (22-3) campaign. La Salle’s three setbacks, two of which came to Moeller, were by a combine 13 points.
The Lancers use an eight-to-nine man rotation with frantic subbing and a helter-skelter style of play. La Salle will once again play eight or nine with no player over 6-foot-3. Though, if they shoot the basketball well and get the tempo into a frantic pace, it can neutralize its lack of size. We don’t see any reason why they won’t be able to do that once again. Many believe it’s nearly impossible to win a state title at the D-I level with this style of play, but we beg to differ. La Salle may prove it for us this season.
Leading the group of returnees is D-I prospect Brandon Neel (15.3 ppg./4.9 rpg.) and Northern Kentucky commit Ryan Fleming (10.2 ppg./5.0 rpg./3.0 apg.).
The other returning starters are Matt Woeste (7.3 ppg.), junior Josh Lemons (9.4 ppg.), and Trey Casey (5.4 ppg.) along with sixth man Michael Schmidt (5.9 ppg.).
It will be interesting to see which way the top-seed in Cincinnati goes this year whether they will jump in the Columbus Regional bracket or stay in Southwest Ohio. Last year, everyone stayed away from Northland and remained in SW Ohio but will that be the case this year? It’s hard to tell.
Wherever La Salle chooses to go, it will have an excellent chance of making a run to Columbus. Perhaps, they will try Columbus since they have come up short in Cincinnati. Though, the familiarity of the teams is a positive as much as it’s a negative to staying close to home.
Look for the Lancers and Moeller to slug it out for the GCL South title once again.
Moeller (22-5, State Runner-Up)
No one has enjoyed more success in the past 12 years. As we stated earlier, Moeller has an ongoing pattern of winning a championship every four years. With Big Moe’s last title coming in ’07 this season would be four years since the last gold.
After being taken behind the woodshed in last year’s title game by Massillon Jackson, the Crusaders will certainly be back with vengeance. The Crusaders needed overtime to beat an outstanding Mentor squad in the semis and appeared spent in the finals against the Polar Bears.
The Crusaders return four of their top six scorers including three starters. Charlie Byers (12.6 ppg.), Alex Barlow (5.9 ppg./5.3 rpg.), and Shaquille Jinks (6.2 ppg.) return to the starting line up with sharp-shooter Ben Galemmo (7.1 ppg.) looking to play a bigger role.
Moeller will be replacing 6-foot-9 Griffin McKenzie (Xavier) and catalyst Josh Morelock.
We know this, no one will have any tougher (physically) guards than Moeller with Byers, Barlow, and Jinks. None are over 6-foot-1, but all play like they are 6-foot-5 and will fight you until the game’s final horn.
Moeller won’t have great size, but they will have good size. Tony Sabato (6’7), Alex Voss (6’5), and Hayden Frey (6’5) won’t light up the scoreboard but they should provide solid rebounding and defense on the interior.
Senior Cody Wacker returns and watch out for sophomores Josh Davenport and Keith Watkins. Davenport has the potential to be the best prospect in Moeller’s fabulous history. We look for him to emerge as a budding star by season’s end.
Northland (23-1, lost in the Regional Final)
OHSH on Columbus Northland: For the people who don’t follow basketball all-year, they may think Northland will be falling on hard times which couldn’t be any further from the truth.
After last year’s shocking ending at the hands of Gahanna Lincoln, look for Northland to come back more focused than ever.
On paper, no one will have a more talented starting line up than Northland led by arguably the hardest working player in the state in Trey Burke (15.1 ppg.). The Michigan signee has improved substantially every year, and look for an even better Burke this season. The savvy point guard, who always seems to be under control, is one of the best big game players in Ohio. Burke loves taking and making the big shot. He will be a candidate for Mr. Basketball.
Burke will be joined by four juniors in the starting line up and all are D-I prospects. Guards Jordan Potts and Ke’Chanun Lewis return to the starting line up and look for both to break out this season. Potts has trimmed way down and Lewis is as good as he wants to be.
In the paint, Jalen Robinson (6’8) and Devon Scott (6’8) may emerge as the best low post combination in the state. Robinson brings the finesse, skill, and great foot work, while Scott brings the power, physical play, and ever-improving skill set. Robinson recently de-committed from West Virginia but both are drawing heavy D-I interest.
Off the pine will be left-handed three-point specialist, Lavante Justice along with scrappy Jakyl Cornley. Look for sophomore Jaylen Benton to have a break out season as well.
Heights Wayne (20-3, lost in the District Final)
Without question, Wayne was one of the more talented teams in Ohio last year. It was the last team to beat Massillon Jackson, and it did so inside the Schottenstein Center at the Play-by-Play Classic in January.
The Warriors welcome back Michigan State signee, Travis Trice Jr. (22.0 ppg./4.3 apg.). The senior has improved his overall game over the past year maybe as much as anybody. He was mainly known as a skinny kid with the ability to catch fire from distance. Trice has gotten stronger and more athletic, which has helped him become a more complete player. Trice will be in the conversation for Mr. Basketball along with Northland’s Trey Burke and Withrow’s Aaron Thomas. Look for Trice to challenge for the state’s leading scorer as well.
Trice will be joined by Providence commit, Markus Crider (14.1 ppg./8.1 rpg.). Crider is the x-factor for the ultimate outcome to Wayne’s season. He has the ability to average 20 points and 12 rebounds per game, but his fabulous ability doesn’t always translate into production. If Wayne can get Crider to play with a sense of urgency for 32 minutes, the sky is the limit.
Trice and Crider will be joined by returning starters Isiah Boddie, Keith Clements, and Jason Bitsko.
Boddie (5.7 ppg.) is a solid perimeter defender with the ability to average double figures. Clements (6.3 ppg.) is a solid point guard with the ability to get after the other team’s point guard on defense.
Look for Malcolm Pittman (6’6), Justen Hollins, and Marcus Bonner to play bigger roles this season. Pittman has a chance to bust out. Junior Ryan Gabbard is a newcomer along with talented sophomore Crisshawn Clark and emerging freshman Juan Ford.
St. Edward (20-5, lost in the Regional Final)
In 2007, St. Ed’s had a prime opportunity to win a state title but fell short against a less talented but game Moeller team in a very physical state semifinal contest. Though, nothing was going to deny the Eagles a championship in ’08 with the return of Delvon Roe (Michigan State), Tom Pritchard (Indiana), Frankie Dobbs, Conor Tilow, and Mike Hartnett.
However, after a furious start, Roe went down with a season ending knee injury. Though, Ed’s still found a way to make the state championship game before losing to upstart, Newark.
Now, 2011 was supposed to be the year of the Eagles once again but 6-foot-9 senior James Price (Louisville) decided to transfer to Jefferstown HS (KY) to be closer to Louisville leaving a void in the paint.
Don’t feel sorry for Ed’s, as it will be just fine with the return of senior Delbert Love (14.4 ppg.) and junior Myles Hamilton (11.9 ppg.). Love scored in Ed’s last state tournament game in ’08.
The Eagles will welcome back junior point guard Mike Newtown, who missed much of last year with an injury. Newton has D-I potential. Senior guard Kyle Pisco also returns along with Elijah Brown. Brown is the son of former Cleveland Cavaliers’ head coach, Mike Brown. James Crawford and Kevin Seaman should provide depth as well.
On the interior, Jake Lorbach and the ever-improving Mike Mason will be the key to how far this Ed’s team goes. Sophomore Zahkir Hillmon will be ready in early February. Hillmon is the nephew of former Ed’s star and current Cavalier, Jawad Williams. Mark Murray should be in the mix as well.
Not only will the Ed’s bigs be replacing Price, but also Matt Stainbrook (Western Michigan) who may have been its best player a year ago.
The Eagles will welcome newcomers Chris Jones, Kevin Craighead, Kevin Boyer, and freshman Tyler Herron (6’8). Herron is arguably the top prospect in Ohio’s Class of 2014.
Also, keep an eye on freshman Marsalis Hamilton (6’3) and Tony Vuyancih (6’3). It may be hard for them to get on the floor this season with all of Ed’s depth, but these two along with Herron will be the core of some very talented teams down the road. Hamilton is the younger brother of Myles.
Harding (18-5, lost in the District Final)
Coach Steve Arnold's unit is back with another loaded squad, and without question, the key will be staying healthy.
It's hard to fathom the Raiders being a top team 10 again this year considering the talent they lost to graduation. Gonzalez, Williams, Kennis White (Western Michigan), Oneal Brown, and Dominique Murray have all departed.
Two starters return in Tre' Brown (Cleveland State) and Jesse Hardin. Brown is one of the most underrated players in the state, and we look for him to really take off this year. He has the talent and ability to be a 1st Team All-Ohio performer.
Brown and Hardin will be joined by 6-foot-8 junior Shaheed Davis, 6-foot-7 junior Rashid Gaston, JD Palmer, Quenten Jackson, and Delshawn Bell. Davis is a high-major prospect who oozes with potential, but unlike most high-ceiling kids, this youngster is impacting the game already.
The biggest impact could come from newcomer, Craig McFerrin (6'7), who has moved to Ohio from Louisiana where he attended Christian Life Academy in Baton Rouge. McFerrin is another D-I prospect who has the ability to dominate the paint for the Raiders with his physical style of play and big body.
On a side note, the Raiders have joined the Lake Erie League this season which means they will tangle with Mentor twice, Shaker Heights twice, Euclid twice, and Cleveland Heights twice. This should be a very good conference.
(23-4, lost in the State Semifinals)
The Cardinals were a bit of an unknown to most of the state outside of their area, and it's really hard to believe with all the success they have enjoyed over the past 10 years. They have been quietly mounting up wins over the past 10 seasons making seven regional appearances in that time frame.
Mentor arrived on the state scene following a victory over Massillon Jackson in San Diego (CA), but even more so than that win was its wild win over a very good Warren Harding team at the Scholastic Play-by-Play Classic held at Cleveland State.
Mentor senior Cole Krizancic erupted for 42 points in the win and became a state-wide name. As a junior, the Ashland commit averaged 25.7 points per contest.
His back court mate, Jaron Crowe (18.0 ppg.), has graduated so replacing him was going to be an issue until Colin Barth (18.0 ppg.) decided transfer over from Olmsted Falls. Barth will fit Mentor's run-and-gun style to a tee. He has committed to play at D-II Wheeling Jesuit University.
Krizancic and Barth will be joined by returning starters Justin Fritts (13.7 ppg.) and Matt Solden (7.3 ppg.). Krizancic, Barth, and Solden all were regulars on the AAU circuit with TNBA and Friends 4 Life.
Krizancic will be in the conversation for Mr. Basketball and should challenge for the state's leading scorer.
Barth will likely average more than Crowe did a year ago, but the question is how will he mesh with the team. Crowe was not only a good scorer, but he was tough, played solid defense, and was the glue to the team.
Fritts, a solid lefty, should once again average doubles and look for Solden to play more of a prominent role this season. He should be in double figures as well.
The dangerous thing about this Cardinal team is their ability to have four kids able to score 15-20 points on any given night.
They will have some size with football star Tom Strobel (6’6), but they will need to replace the hard-working Cameron Aloisio.
Mentor also welcomes back Danny Wallack, sophomore Jeff Foreman, Derek Bryner, and Cody Kern. The Cardinals should have quality depth with the possibility of Foreman really stepping up.
South (22-1, lost in the District Semfinals)
We would be hard-pressed to find a team that works harder in practice and games then South. They lack size, but it makes up for it with attention to detail, aggressive defensive pressure, and being in better shape compared to its opponent.
With no player over 6-foot-2, the Wildcats found a way to finish the regular season unbeaten a year ago before losing to a very good Columbus Marion-Franklin team in the district semis. It should be noted South’s star player, Traevon Jackson (Wisconsin) spent more than half of the game against Franklin on the bench in foul trouble.
Jackson (20.2 ppg.), who returns for his senior season, is the center piece of another excellent team. The lefty’s ability to penetrate and create for others is what makes South’s team go from good to great. Jackson has improved his shot from both behind the arc and mid-range. He is also solid on defense, which is South’s calling card.
Jackson will be joined by returning starters junior Isiah “Zeke” Rogers and Ben Jones. Rogers had a good sophomore year, but expect him to be even more of a factor this season. He does a good job of controlling the tempo, making open shots, defending, and making winning plays. Jones has a flare for the dramatic. He is a streaky shooter who can get in rhythm and knock down big shots.
Marcus Ball returns for his sophomore season after enjoying a very productive frosh campaign. Ball, who is South’s quarterback on the football team, never seems to get rattled regardless of the situation. According to the coaching staff, he has looked really good thus far in the preseason. Ball is a high energy type player.
DeMarkeo Lyshe, Stephen O’Daniels, Jaren Edwards, and Donnie Fitzgerald return to make up a solid bench for the Wildcats.
Also, look for freshman Daryl Ball (6’4) and Matt Chellis (6’4) to make an impact.
St. John’s (19-6, lost in the Regional Final)
St. John’s has three state runner-up finishes, and it can be argued it is the best program in Ohio without a boy’s basketball state championship.
This season the Titans welcome back three starters including arguably the state’s top sophomore in Ohio State commit, Marc Loving (6’7.5). Seniors Cheatham Norrils and Zach Steinmetz are the other returning starters. Both Norrils and Steinmetz are still playing football, and at this point, it’s hard to say when they will be available for action.
Loving (12.8 ppg.) will look much different to many this season. A year ago his mega talent didn’t always translate into production. However, over the past year, the light has come on. Loving put on a clinic similar to a poor man’s Kevin Durant at the Ohio State Team Camp this past summer, which showed us a side to him we had yet to see. If this Loving shows up for the Titans this year, look out.
Shooter Nick Felhaber returns along with junior Trent Brodbeck and talented sophomore Brogan Roback. Brodbeck and Roback (QB) are on the football team as well.
Junior DJ Bonds, who is a member of the football team, should help provide depth for the Titans along with heady sophomore guard, Austin Gardner.
Perhaps the biggest impact could come from newcomer Jeff Copeland (6’4). The senior comes over from Toledo Start and should make St. John’s an elite team as opposed to a good team.
Lincoln (26-1, lost in the State Semifinals)
Don’t be misinformed that was a great Gahanna Lincoln team with three Division 1 guards. Though, this team will be a little bit different, but with the electric Stevie Taylor (Ohio) returning Gahanna has a chance to be very good once again.
The Golden Lions ran the table in the regular season a year ago before being knocked out in the state semis by Massillon Jackson. Gahanna didn’t shoot the ball nearly as well against Jackson, and from first hand account they were out-played in all aspects of that game. Jackson was able to play fast as well and dominated the paint with Josh Egner and Mark Henninger.
Most figured the Lions to be a bit down this year, but following a terrific Ohio State Team Camp those thoughts started to fade. Gahanna won the Friday and Saturday sessions against some of the state’s top competition.
Taylor (16.9 ppg.) will be the team’s only returning starter, but they have plenty of kids with experience. Regardless, look for Taylor to steal the show on most nights with his flare for the dramatic. Nobody loves the crowd more than one of the state’s most exciting players in Taylor. His outside shot has improved and has become very consistent, which is going to make him almost unstoppable. He is the kind of player who can make you look silly if you play him too close.
Look for Jamel Morris to have a breakout year. The lefty has a silky smooth stroke with the ability to knock down shots. He should be a big weapon for head coach Tony Staib’s Lions.
Brien Winston and Jordan Martion should also emerge as household names by season’s end.
Brandon Smith started sparingly a season ago, and he will have to really step up this season in trying to man down the post. He will have help from talented sophomore Aaron Jackson (6’4). Jackson plays extremely hard, but more importantly he plays with a purpose. He could sprout up as a go-to-guy for the Lions.
Newcomer Trey Warr (6’4) should provide a huge lift for Gahanna.
Central Catholic (20-3, lost in the District Final)
Heights (15-8, lost in the District Semifinals)
Withrow (8-13, lost in the Sectional Final)
Bowsher (9-11, lost in the Sectional)
Heights (16-6, lost in the Sectional Final)