We are one week into scrimmages, football season is coming to a close, and the high school basketball season is just two weeks away from officially tipping off.
To get a better idea of what's going on across the state, I recruited 270 Hoops co-founder Zach Fleer and Corey Albertson from Tripble Double Prospects to assist myself and Matt Goul from cleveland.com.
Check out the 2017-18 NEO Spotlight expert panel report! Follow us on Twitter and be sure to share your thoughts and opinions on some of the topics we discussed.
T.J. Peatross, NEO Spotlight - Moeller's perfect season ended last March at the hands of Kyle Young, now at Ohio State, and Massillon Jackson, but I believe they will have a much better ending this time around. With the rise of 6'10 Texas commit Jaxson Hayes and the scoring punch of Jeremiah Davenport (Wright State commit), senior guard Isaiah Payton will have more than enough weapons at his disposal. Juniors Deuce McBride and Alec Pfriem, a transfer from Roger Bacon, will likely round out the starting lineup but the team has plenty of young and talented prospects in the rotation.
Matt Goul, cleveland.com - Archbishop Moeller. The Crusaders aren't just talented, but they have unfinished business. Think back to the 2016 state championships. St. Vincent-St. Mary and Villa Angela-St. Joseph lost those title games and came back last year for another Saturday at Schottenstein Center. I expect that to be the case with Carl Kremer's bunch, which includes 6'10 Texas commit Jaxson Hayes and Jeremiah Davenport, who had an impressive showing last season in Columbus. I'd pick a final four, but we're still waiting on the Northeast District brackets and who could face Toledo as of this writing.
Zach Fleer, 270 Hoops - Pickerington North. On paper, the Panthers have the biggest lineup in arguably the entire state. Led by Indiana commit Jerome Hunter, Pickerington North surrounds its future Hoosier with other massive pieces, as fellow seniors Eli McNamara (6'9), Ross Ryan (6'9) and Dondre Palmer (6'5) provide critical versatility for the Panthers. In the backcourt, North is led by senior guards Ty Wiley and Corey Baker, the latter a transfer from Groveport, who has started in the Cruiser backcourt for the last two seasons. With as good of a top six as any team in the state, Pickerington North has what it takes to get one game further than it did last year when the Panthers lost to neighborhood rival Pickerington Central in the regional final.
Corey Albertson, Triple Double Prospects - For the Division I level I’d have to say that team most likely to reach the State Championships would be Cincinnati Moeller. After heading into the State Title game undefeated last year, before losing by one-point to Massillon Jackson, Moeller returns several key pieces, including star ’19 guard Miles “Deuce” McBride and Texas commit Jaxson Hayes, a bouncy 6’10 post. Add in fellow seniors Jeremiah Davenport, an athletic 6’5 wing, and speedy point guard Isaiah “Sleepy” Payton, and this Moeller team has the experience, talent and athleticism to take the Crusaders on another trip to the Schottenstein Center.
T.J. Peatross, NEO Spotlight - Garfield Heights gets my vote. With a starting lineup that features 5 scholarship level players, the Bulldogs have the bodies and the firepower to match up with anyone in the state. Centered around juniors Alonzo Gaffney and Brison Waller, it will be interesting to see how Coach Sonny Johnson adapts on both ends of the floor with the newfound size and length. Freshmen Meechie Johnson has created a buzz for himself over the last few years and will be handed the keys early on, but Cleveland Central Catholic transfer Alex Heath provides the group with a much needed toughness and leadership in the backcourt.
Matt Goul, cleveland.com - Easily Garfield Heights. With junior forward Alonzo Gaffney's ascension up the recruiting rankings, even before he transferred from VASJ, the Bulldogs had an interesting group. Now they have three starters standing at least 6-8. They should be the second-hottest ticket in Cleveland to the Cavs.
Zach Fleer, 270 Hoops - Columbus Beechcroft. The Cougars have a deep senior class filled with lengthy athletes who all can go. This is the year for Beechcroft to finally dethrone rival Northland in the Columbus City League North and they seem to have the pieces to do it. Senior guard Jelani Simmons is the best player in the City League North, while fellow senior Elijah Bishop, a 6'6 hybrid wing, is one of the better rising players in the area. Senior forwards Teon Jennings and TherRon Jennings add much needed versatility, rebounding and leadership, while senior guard Datrey Long is the heart and soul of this club. Beechcroft has fallen short in the last three seasons, but this seems to be the year where the Cougars will turn the tide.
Corey Albertson, Triple Double Prospects - On paper it’s tough not to get excited about what Sonny Johnson has on his roster at Garfield Heights. The Bulldogs have three potential high-major NCAA D1 prospects in 6’9 2019 forward Alonzo Gaffney, 6’8 2019 forward Brison Waller and freshman point guard Meechie Johnson; and the cupboard is far from bare after that, as Garfield Heights boasts three other seniors committed to NCAA D1 or D2 colleges, as well as a plethora of young talent. Given the length and athleticism of Gaffney and Waller, we’re looking forward to checking these guys out at some of the state’s top exposure events this season.
T.J. Peatross, NEO Spotlight - Mr. Basketball is Dane Goodwin’s award to lose. The Notre Dame commit has a chance to perhaps lead the state in scoring as the catalyst for a Upper Arlington team that has its fair share of weapons on the offensive end. Goodwin is a tough nosed competitor that is productive on all three levels. With the rise of junior Max Martz, teams won’t be able to key in on Goodwin in the like years past.
Matt Goul, cleveland.com - I'll go with Pickerington North's Jerome Hunter by a nose over Upper Arlington's Dane Goodwin. Just have a filling Hunter will fill the stat sheet a little more and that will carry some weight.
Zach Fleer, 270 Hoops - Dane Goodwin. The Upper Arlington senior is the prohibitive favorite to win Mr. Basketball across the state after leading Central Ohio in scoring as a junior. Goodwin will have a chance to average close to 30 points per game, as Upper Arlington will pattern its offense to get him as many shots as possible. A knockdown shooter who is more of a bruising finisher inside than many expect, Goodwin should dominate the area once again.
Corey Albertson, Triple Double Prospects - While TDP has Cincinnati Princeton forward Darius Bazley and Pickerington North forward Jerome Hunter as Ohio’s top senior prospects, we believe that 6’4 wing Dane Goodwin of Upper Arlington is the player most likely to take home Ohio’s most coveted individual award at season’s end. Goodwin will lead a very good Upper Arlington team while averaging well over 20 PPG and likely leading his team in assists and rebounds as well. A sharpshooter currently committed to Notre Dame, Goodwin is our pre-season favorite, but don’t sleep on Bazley, Hunter or possibly Cleveland Holy Name guard Dwayne Cohill ending up as the recipient.
T.J. Peatross, NEO Spotlight - While both Miami (OH) and Duquesne extended offers this summer as a result of his play on the AAU circuit, I believe this is the year where St. Edward sophomore Grant Huffman emerges as one of top scorers and playmakers in the area. Tommy Schmock, last year's starting point-guard, has moved on to Findlay and in the process has left an opportunity for Huffman, Montorie Foster, Demetrius Terry and others to step up. I expect the ball to land in the hands of Huffman more times than not in the Eagles free-flowing offense.
Matt Goul, cleveland.com - Benedictine junior guard Davin Zeigler. The son of former Cleveland State player Derrick Zeigler, many probably have heard of Davin. However, his spring and summer highlights have looked impressive. You can tell he's been eating his vegetables.
Zach Fleer, 270 Hoops - Ben Wight. The 6-foot-8 junior big man from Thomas Worthington could be the guy in Columbus to really break out this season. A tremendous athlete for his size, Wight has the tools to be a dominant post. Separating himself from other bigs at his position in this area, Wight will get a chance to prove it on the high school hardwood where he is looking to build off a sophomore season in which he got his feet wet on the varsity level. Click HERE for Wight's Fall highlights!
Corey Albertson, Triple Double Prospects - It might seem strange to choose a player who led a league of 16 D1 high schools in scoring at over 24 PPG last season as our breakout player, but we are going to, as we believe that this will be the season in which ’19 Xenia wing Samari Curtis gets the statewide recognition that he deserves. The #8 junior in Ohio per TDP, Curtis already holds offers from Cincinnati, Xavier, Toledo, Akron, Kent State and others, but we expect that list to only grow as college coaches continue to see the scoring and offensive creativity that Curtis can bring to the table as a 6’4 wing. Expect Xenia to be even better than last year (where they finished 17-8) and for Curtis’ name to generate a lot of buzz in January at Flyin’ to the Hoop.
T.J. Peatross, NEO Spotlight - Right idea. Similarly to any new legislation, Competitive Balance is an unfinished product. I believe this idea was put into motion as a result of the ongoing "private vs. public" debate but it's too early to tell whether or not it will make much of a difference in that regard. From how I see it in NEO, Division 1 got tougher and the three other divisions took a considerable hit.
Matt Goul, cleveland.com - A step in the right direction, but we're not walking with good form. I fear the fallout from this complicated yearly procedure will be schools fudging their numbers and, perhaps, cutting freshman programs. I've already heard it is happening in baseball. My preference is to jump every private school one division and align the public schools accordingly so it's an even number of schools in each division. That makes Division IV all of the smallest public schools. Separating public and private is a bad idea. Do you really want the private schools to disband the OHSAA? We already lament AAU tournaments being separated by shoe companies.
Zach Fleer, 270 Hoops - I think it is a good step. It allows smaller public schools to compete once again, while these private powerhouses will have to compete in a tougher division. I like it.
Corey Albertson, Triple Double Prospects - Personally, I’m a huge fan of competitive balance. As a scout, coach and fan of basketball, I want to see the best teams play against each other; and that is exactly what competitive balance does. Additionally, on an unrelated note, I’ve been a proponent for years of Ohio moving from four divisions down to three; which I believe would take away from a somewhat diluted talent pool in the smaller divisions. Is competitive balance the perfect answer? Probably not; but this will take us in a step towards the right direction.
Click HERE for the new boys' basketball alignments