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Greater Cleveland Conference Preview

By T.J. Peatross, 12/07/17, 3:15PM EST

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The GCC Reloads

The Greater Cleveland Conference has proven that its members can match up with any league in Ohio. Last season, the GCC had three teams play in the Regional Tournament and two additional teams that reached the district finals. With some of the area's best coaches and programs, it is time to see how things will shake up in 2017-18. 

Player of the Year

Sincere Carry (Solon) PG 2018

The weight has been lifted. Just two days after receiving a scholarship offer from West Liberty, Carry committed to the Hilltoppers back in November and put the cap on what was a stressful recruiting process. The 5'11 guard missed the entire summer heading into his junior season but has since fully recovered and is looking to lead the Comets to their second Regional Tournament appearance in his tenure at the helm.

After scoring 20 points in their season opener, he exploded for 31 points in a lopsided win against Twinsburg on Tuesday. The heady guard is the catalyst for the Solon offense and knows how to control the game dictate flow. With an improving perimeter jumper, this could be Carry's best season offensively. 

Players to Watch (Alphabetical)

  • Michael Bekelja (Solon) CG '19 - Only a junior, Bekelja is a verbal commit to Division 2 Fairmont State. The 6'1 combo guard can really score and his ability to make plays with the ball or in catch and shoot opportunities is a perfect fit for what Solon likes to do offensively.
  • Dale Bonner (Shaker Hts.) PG '18 - There isn't another senior guard in the area who has matched Bonner's trajectory over the last year and a half. Placing an emphasis on his body, the 6'1 Bonner has improved his explosiveness and has grown as a playmaker at the lead guard spot. He is also committed to Fairmont State. 
  • Garvin Clarke (Euclid) PG '20 - Clarke was one of the few bright spots last season for a Panthers group that won just two games. One of the state's top point guard prospects in the sophomore class, Clarke has a composure and pace that is beyond his years and has the ability to make plays in the paint.
  • Christian Guess (Shaker Hts.) WG/WF '18 - In a 2018 class where most of the top players are already off the board, Guess is the state's top unsigned prospect. The 6'6 wing is a relentless competitor on both ends and has the ability to change the dynamic of a game with his athleticism. 
  • Justin Koepp (Elyria) PF '18 - The 2017-18 season marks a new year and a new role for Koepp. As a junior, the 6'7 forward was the lone junior in the starting lineup for a senior laden group who was one controversial call away from a Regional Final appearance.  
  • Omari Peek (Strongsville) WF '18 - A Cincinnati native, Peek averaged a double-double of 17ppg and 10rpg in his first season with the team. Peek and senior Shaun Csire combine to be one of the league's top frontcourts. 

Projected Standings

1. Solon (2-0)

The Comets are about as hot as you can possibly be just two games into the season, averaging 95.5 points per game in two games versus Beachwood and Twinsburg. Coach Tony DeCesare enters his fourth season with the team and returns four out of five starters from last year's group that finished as district runner up. Carry, Bekelja, and junior Trent Williams  spearhead what is arguably the best guard trio in the area.

There is no question that Solon is amongst the state's best in scoring the basketball but similar to last season, the team lacks a true inside presence on both ends of the floor. Ironically enough, this can also work to their advantage. Senior Ryan Bergen and juniors David Marbury and Nick Close look to stretch the floor and cause some mismatches offensively.    

First Conference Game: 12/8 vs. Elyria

2. Shaker Heights (1-0)

To say that Shaker Heights put on a show at the Great Lakes Classic would be an understatement. Bonner and Guess were electrifying in the open floor and connected on a number of plays in the open floor and combine to be perhaps the area's top duo. 

But it was 6'5 junior Kevin Bishop who earned Player of the Game honors against Warrensville Heights with a career-high  26 points to go along with 10 rebounds. Bishop could be a reliable third option for a team that returns a strong core of role players led by seniors Najee Hardaway, who was the team's top rebounder a year ago, and Justin Phillips. 

First Conference Game: 12/8 vs. Brunswick

3. Mentor (1-0)

Mentor has been a staple in Northeast Ohio under Coach Bob Krizancic's leadership and this season will be no different. The team lost their top two scorers from last season due to graduation but feature a well-balanced attack that features a slew of three-point threats. 

Senior Shane Zalba is a quick  guard who is able to push the tempo and create some offense with the ball in his hands. He'll have plenty of options with fellow seniors Matt Koskie, the team's top returning scorer, and Caden Kryz who enters his fourth year of varsity basketball. Their run n' gun style was enough to outlast Olentangy Liberty 89-82 this past weekend in the All-Ohio Showcase. 

First Conference Game: 12/15 vs. Shaker Heights


Junior Kyle Goessler

4. Brunswick (2-0)

The Blue Devils are my dark horse pick to make some noise in the postseason, but they will have their work cut out for them until then. Junior Kyle Goessler had his coming out party last season after dropping 27 points vs. St Edward in the Cleveland Play by Play Classic. Senior Nick Felician is a top soccer prospect in the Fall but turns into a quick playmaker come Winter. Zak Zografos is coming off of a great summer on the travel circuit and will be a great inside-out scorer and facilitator. 

First Conference Game: 12/8 @ Shaker Heights

5. Elyria (2-0)

The Pioneers are back with a chip on their shoulder, despite winning the league last season. Social media was in a frenzy last March following a no-call on the game's final possession in the regional semi-final game vs. Toledo St. John. Seniors Justin Koepp and Deviian Williams are the players with experience from a year ago and the two have each played their role thus far, resulting in a 2-0 start.

Koepp has tallied 39 points in the two contests and it was Williams' buzzer beating shot that knocked off Bay on 12/1. Freshman Marsaun Robinson was featured in our freshmen article back in November and he is certainly one of many 2021 prospects to track as we travel further into the season. 

First Conference Game: 12/8 @ Solon

6. Medina (0-1)

Despite losing the most production in the league from last year's senior class, the Bees were just a few plays shy of knocking off a talented Maple Heights team. Tyler Kaminski, a Spring Arbor commit, is a serviceable big with size and is a dependable player on both ends. Collin Szumski returns as the team's starting point guard but his younger brother Kyle Szumski, a sophomore, has a chance to be one of the area's best guards. This team will be tested as a result of a brutal schedule and will certainly knock off some of the area's best along the way.  

First Conference Game: 12/8 vs. Euclid

7. Euclid (1-1)

Less than a week into the new season and Euclid has matched half of their win total from last year. The Panthers, similar to Solon, are led by three talented guard in sophomore Garvin Clarke, Emari Baddour, and Will Saunders, both are seniors. Travis Sanders, a transfer from Lutheran East adds some experience to a young team. After a 32-point loss, Coach T.J. Kwasniak and company responded with a double digit win of their own versus Shaw out of the Lake Erie League. This team has already shown signs of maturity and a group that will continue to improve throughout the season. 

First Conference Game: 12/8 @ Medina

8. Strongsville (0-1)

First year coach Joe Guilfoyle takes over for a team that won just one game in conference a year ago. Senior Omari Peek has a chance to be amongst the area leaders in points per game and Shaun Csire gives the Mustangs a consistent double-double threat with his work around the rim and on the offensive glass; he notched 23 points in a 63-56 loss to Olmsted Falls on opening night.  

First Conference Game: 12/15 @ Brunswick

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