Jefferson's Adreian Payne is one of the country's top players. (Photo by Nick Falzerano)
New Knoxville had a storybook 2007-08 season in which it held the
No. 1 ranking by the Associated Press, went undefeated with a 27-0
record and captured the Division IV state championship. What can the Rangers do for an encore? Win it again...
New Knoxville had a storybook 2007-08 season in which it held the No. 1 ranking by the Associated Press, went undefeated with a 27-0 record and captured the Division IV state championship.
What can the Rangers do for an encore? Well, they certainly welcome back a fantastic nucleus with four returning starters and will be one of the favorites all year. However, there are several talented teams across Ohio waiting to knock them off their throne and establish themselves as the premier Division IV team in the state.
For the smallest division in the state, D-IV also has more than its share of top college prospects, led by center Adreian Payne from Dayton Jefferson. This season has all the makings of another exciting year on the hardwood and here is our complete rundown of the division.
TOP PLAYERS: WHO YOU WANT TO SEE * Aramis Greenwood, 6-1, So., G, Fairport Harbor Harding – Was named second-team All-Ohio last year (23 points per game).
* Chad Harvey, 6-2, Sr., G/F, Ironton St. Joseph – Was named first-team All-Ohio last year (21.6 ppg).
* Brian Hecker, 6-4, Sr., F, Worthington Christian – Selected as the D-IV state player of the year last season (21.3 ppg, 7.6 rebounds per game) and averaged 18.1 points as a sophomore (third-team All-Ohio).
* Lamar McKnight 6-6, Sr., F/C, Bedford St. Peter Chanel – Already accepted a scholarship offer to Youngstown State. Third-team All-Ohio last year (16 ppg).
* Adreian Payne, 6-9, Jr., C, Dayton Jefferson – Hands down the most highly-recruited player in the state in Division IV. He is a top-25 national recruit and had several scholarship offers by press time, including one from Ohio State. Was named second-team All-Ohio last year (15.4 ppg).
* Brad Piehl, 6-7, Sr., C, New Knoxville – Leading scorer and rebounder on state championship squad should have even bigger year this season. Headed to Robert Morris.
* Tyler Tucci, 6-2, Sr., G/F, Malvern – First-team All-Ohio as a sophomore and second-team All-Ohio last season (17.3 ppg).
* Brook Turson, 6-3, Jr., G/F, Plymouth – Was named second-team All-Ohio last year (21.5 ppg).
TEAMS TO WATCH
Bedford St. Peter Chanel The Firebirds were state semifinalists last year (17-9) and return all five starters, led by the high-flying 6-6 senior forward Lamar McKnight. Chanel was just 12-8 in the regular season last season, but caught fire in the tournament before bowing out to Worthington Christian in Columbus, 66-58. This year, many insiders think they will once again contend for the state’s top prize. “They are the most athletic team in the state in Division IV,” Hoop Scoop Ohio editor Chris Johnson said. Last season, the Firebirds’ biggest victory was a 75-65 win over Malvern in the regional finals. Malvern was 25-0 at the time and ranked No. 2 in the state behind New Knoxville. McKnight is a force in the paint and he will play Division I college basketball at Youngstown State. And he has plenty of help returning with four other seniors that return to the lineup. They include 5-11 point guard JoVaughn Brown (14 points, 6.5 assists), 6-4 forward Arthur Jordan (12 points, 8 rebounds), 5-10 guard Jareed Robinson and 6-2 wing Jordan Duke. The head coach is Bernie Tarr, who is in his ninth season at Chanel.
Dayton Jefferson Last season, the Broncos (18-6) saw their season end abruptly after it was learned they had an ineligible player. Jefferson defeated Lockland 83- 59 for the district championship, but then learned four days later from the OHSAA that the team would not be permitted to play in the regional tournament. Lockland, which was ranked No. 4 in the state by the AP with a 22-1 record entering the game against Jefferson, ended up advancing in place of the Broncos. The Broncos have one of the best players in the nation in 6-9 junior center Adreian Payne who is a force on both ends of the floor. His recruitment has been a mystery as he’s kept everything close to the vest, not wanting to let anyone know where he’s leaning. Payne lives with his grandmother in Dayton and is very close to her and many in his inner circle feel that he will stay close to home. Ohio State could be the favorite, but Cincinnati, Dayton and Xavier are also in the running. Jefferson’s head coach Art Winston is entering his 13th year at the helm.
Haviland Wayne Trace The Raiders were state semifinalists last year (21-5) but they lost all five starters to graduation and head coach Al Welch decided to retire after 33 years. Wayne Trace won the D-IV state title in 1991 and made a total of four appearances in the state final four during Welch’s impressive tenure. The only player that received a lot of playing time last year that returns this season is 5-9 senior guard Kevin Hale. He was one of the first two players off the bench last year. The new head coach is Jim Linder.
Malvern The Hornets had a great season last year in which they finished 25-1 and were ranked No. 2 in the state behind New Knoxville at the conclusion of the regular season. They lost to Bedford Chanel in the regional finals and must replace 6-6 center Zak Kapron, who averaged 20.7 points and was named first-team All-Ohio. Also lost to graduation was 6-5 forward Trevor Halter, who averaged 18.1 points and was a first-team all-district selection. However, returning to lead the way is 6-2 senior guard Tyler Tucci who was named second-team all-state last year and first-team all-state two years ago. Tucci was also the district co-player of the year last season (along with Kapron). The head coach is Dennis Tucci.
New Knoxville The Rangers were unbeatable last year – literally. They rolled through the season with an undefeated record (27-0) and won the first boys basketball state championship in school history with a 74-52 dismantling of a very good Worthington Christian team in the finals. And unfortunately for the rest of D-IV, they might be even better this year. They lost just one player from their starting lineup, but he was a good one. Point guard Tony Meyer averaged 12.1 points per game, 5.1 assists and 3.5 steals. He was named conference player of the year, first-team all-district and second-team all-state. However, the rest of the starters return intact led by 6-7 senior center Brad Piehl, who was the team’s leading scorer (13.7) and rebounder (6.2) last year. He was named first-team all-conference and third-team all-district. Piehl was New Knoxville’s leading scorer in the state title game with 16 points and has already accepted a scholarship to Robert Morris University. Other returning starters are 6-2 senior forward Austin Arnett (11.3 points, 2.9 assists, 1.9 steals), 6-3 junior forward Ryan Vanderhorst (9.1 points, 5.2 assists) and 6-0 senior guard Caleb Allen. The head coach is New Knoxville alumnus Dan Hegemier, who ranks 61st all-time in Ohio high school basketball (all divisions) with 444 wins (444-169, winning percentage of .724). He coached at Fort Loramie earlier in his career (where his teams won state titles in 1987 and 1993) and is entering his 27th season as a head coach.
Oak Hill The Oaks finished with a 21-4 record last year and advanced all the way to the regional finals where they fell to Worthington Christian. Returning to lead this year’s team is 6-foot junior guard Kyle Ondera who was named first-team all-district last season (12.9 points). Ryan Borden, a 6-2 senior, was named second-team all-district last year (11.9 points) and J.D. Hale, a 6-5 senior, was named third-team all-district (12.2 points). Joining the lineup this year will be 6-3 sophomore wing Jesse Sloane. The head coach is Norm Persin.
Worthington Christian The Warriors were state runners-up last year (26-2) and they return three starters, including the reigning state player of the year in 6-4 senior forward Brian Hecker. The other returning starters are bruising 6-2 senior forward Brady Beals (who racked up 9.5 rebounds per game last year) and 5-9 junior point guard Zach Joseph. Worthington Christian lost second-team all-district selection Tyler Joseph to graduation (he averaged 15.4 points). However, younger brother Zach averaged 13.4 points and was named third-team all-district. Joining the lineup this year will be 6-4 senior forward Nick Thomas. As for Hecker, he had a phenomenal season, but was left with a bad taste in his mouth entering the offseason after being held to a season-low four points in the state championship game. The Warriors have the team to go very deep in the postseason once again this season under head coach Kevin Weakley. Worthington Christian won the D-IV state championship in 1999 and finished as runners-up in 1994 (Weakley – who is also the school’s athletic director – was a player on that team).
Also Keep An Eye On
Canal Winchester Harvest Prep, Cincinnati Seven Hills, Columbus Africentric, Columbus Tree of Life, Defiance Ayersville, Fairport Harbor Harding, Glouster Trimble, Houston, Ironton St. Joseph, Lockland, Plymouth, Van Buren, Waterford, Windham.