With more than 150 Ohio prep hoopsters in the gym at Reynoldsburg Summit Campus, All-Ohio put on its annual Slam-n-Jam Hoop Challenge. Several notable names continued to improve their stock, while an array of others made a name for themselves in the one day event on Sunday. Here are the top performers from Sunday's festivities.
Jaylyn Watkins (6'1 SG, Columbus Walnut Ridge / 2015):
My nominee for "Breakout Player" of the event, Watkins was excellent on Sunday. The combo-guard, who is coming into his first season of high school basketball, was deadly from the mid-range area. A shifty ball-handler, Watkins didn't need much space to get his shot off, proving that he is more than capable of creating his own shot. In addition to his scoring antics, Watkins also flashed great court vision and feel for the game, impressive considering his inexperience. With Walnut Ridge slated to play in Flyin' To The Hoop later this year, Watkins will have another opportunity to showcase his skills.
Jordan Smith (6'2 SG, Dayton Dunbar / 2014):
One of the oldest players in attendance, Smith showed it with an all-around impressive performance. Running alongside Ohio State commit AJ Harris at Dayton Dunbar, Smith was one of the stronger guards, showing an elite ability to get in the lane and finish at the rim. Smith has a very quick first step, and can attack the basket both in the halfcourt and in transition. Arguably Smith's strongest skill, however, was his on-ball defense. The 6'2 guard did a great job of staying in front of the ball-handler, and used his quick hands to force steals. Receiving interest from various Division-II schools and a few mid-low major Division I programs, Smith is looking to have a major senior season with Dunbar.
Chris Landrum II (6'1 PG, Clayton Northmont / 2015):
Another guard cut from the same Dayton cloth as Smith is Northmont's Landrum. At 6'1, the junior has great size for the lead-guard position, and showcased an all-around skill set. Shooting well from the perimeter, Landrum also finished efficiently in the lane, using either hand for scores. In transition, Landrum utilized a quick pull-up jumpshot for scores, reminiscent of Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook. Like Smith, Landrum is another solid on-ball defender, a trait that most Dayton guards seem to possess. In what should be an exciting year for Dayton-area hoops, look for Landrum to be one of the top guards.
Jalen Tate (6'4 SG, Pickerington Central / 2016):
"Little Tate," as I like to call him, had a performance that reminded many of his older brother. While Jalen doesn't yet have the build of Buckeye commit Jae'Sean, that didn't stop the sophomore from playing a physical form of basketball on Sunday. Showing great versatility, Tate played a number of different positions during Sunday's action. Shooting well from the perimeter, Tate also attacked the basket, using either hand for points. Tate's highlight play of the day came in the first game when the 6'4 combo-guard rose up for an eye-opening block off the backboard, something you would only expect out of Jae'Sean.
Rodney Culver (6'4 SG, Pickerington Central / 2015):
Another talented Pickerington Central underclassmen is the combo-guard Culver. Already an impressive athlete, Culver has continued to develop his perimeter skills, most notably his jumpshot from mid-range and behind-the-arc. Young for his grade, Culver played with a sense of maturity that should bode well for the remaining two years of his high school career. Playing alongside Africentric high-flyer Houston Smith, the duo provided for several highlight jams. Arguably Culver's top play, however, was a thunderous one-handed jam in traffic in the day's final game. Look for Culver to be a vital part of Jae'Sean Tate's support cast this upcoming season.
RJ Mims (5'9 PG, Whitehall Yearling / 2014):
Tearing up Coach Vic's Open Gym for the last month, Mims continued to elevate his stock with his play on Sunday. Built just like former Brookhaven guard Randall Clarkson, Mims played a style of basketball that reminded many in the gym of the Bearcats' "Poonie." Lightning quick, Mims constantly gets into the lane, and uses great body control to finish on a high percentage of his attempts. While Mims is great at slashing to the basket, the senior is also a dependable jump shooter from the perimeter when left open. My favorite part of Mims' game is his commitment on the defensive end. After each score, Mims picks up the ball-handler on the baseline and defends the entire way down the floor. In a showcase that saw many players give up on defense, Mims' motor ran for the entirety of the day's action.
Jaidon Lipscomb (5'2 PG, Gahanna Middle School / 2019):
One of the youngest players in attendance, Lipscomb scorched the nets from deep, scoring 20 points in his second to last game of the day. Generously listed at 5'2, Lipscomb made defenders pay with his shooting ability. While most players were a foot taller than the 7th grader, Lipscomb stepped up to the competition and made a name for himself on Sunday. Look out for Lipscomb at Gahanna in the years to come.
Erron James (6' PG/SG, Westerville Central / 2016):
Like the aforementioned Tate, James is another talented younger brother in the 2016 class. Handling the ball for a great deal of Sunday's action, James was so smooth in the lane, finishing a high percentage of his attempts. While the elder James, Eric, was excellent from three in a successful summer with All-Ohio Red, Erron was also efficient from behind-the-arc on Sunday. Look for the James duo to make noise for the Warhawks in 2013-'14.
Anthony Christian (6'3 PG/SG, Akron Archbishop Hoban / 2016):
An athletic 6'3 guard, Christian used his size to his advantage when going up against smaller guards. Attacking the rim for a great deal of Sunday's action, Christian showcased good body control to adjust to contact around the hoop. Finishing with either hand, Christian was solid all-around at both the point guard and off guard positions.
Hadith Tiggs (6'1 SG, Huber Heights Wayne / 2015):
One of what seemed like 25 Wayne players in attendance, Tiggs continued to impress me with his smooth style of play and commitment on the defensive end. Tiggs is long and athletic, and has every characteristic that you look for in a quality role player. Playing great on-ball defense, and having great vision on the offensive end, Tiggs played within himself and didn't try to do too much on Sunday. Causing turnovers on the defensive end, Tiggs created a number of opportunities for his team to score, something all coaches can appreciate.
Dalton Laster (6'2 SF, Columbus Walnut Ridge / 2015):
Taking me back to the days of Jordan Laster and the East Tigers in the late 2000s, Dalton was on fire from deep on Sunday. The 6'2 guard/forward is a lanky athlete with a quick trigger on offense. Possessed with a high motor on both ends of the floor, Laster was impressive running alongside Landrum. With the graduation of do-it-all guard Rob Wheelwright, who now plays football for Wisconsin, look for Laster and a core of underclassmen to guide Walnut Ridge this season.
Africentric, Wayne underclassmen impressive
Ahmad Wagner (6'6 SF/PF, Huber Heights Wayne / 2015):
One of the more versatile and physically imposing players in attendance, Wagner more than impressed with his play. Unstoppable around the rim, Wagner slashed, crashed, and dashed up and down the floor on Sunday. The junior is a strong forward that rarely loses a rebound, and adjusts very well to contact on the offensive end. With a great basketball IQ, Wagner is an unselfish player that does whatever it takes for his team to win. The duo of Wagner and Watkins proved to be too much for the competition, as the two helped lead their team to several victories. Expect Wagner to be one of the top players in the Dayton area this upcoming season.
Jaquan Harrison (6'3 SF, Columbus Africentric / 2015):
When asked to describe Harrison in a few words, all I can think of is "athletic freak." Harrison is a physical specimen, that on most nights, will out jump, out run, and out hustle every other player on the floor. While highlight dunks are what Harrison is primarily known for, the junior continued to show improvements with his perimeter shooting and ball-handling, playing the 1 and 2 quite a bit. Harrison is an explosive player that is committed to maximizing his potential, which should spell doom for City-League opponents for the next two seasons.
Xeyrius Williams (6'7 SF, Huber Heights Wayne / 2015):
Like Wagner, Williams is another versatile forward that should help Wayne see great success this upcoming season. With a good perimeter game, Williams shot very well from the wing, in addition to his strong rebounding and defensive presence. At 6'7, Williams is big enough to guard power forwards and centers, while quick enough to guard shooting guards and small forwards, a valuable asset for any coach to have. The junior has a sweet shooting stroke, which should help his development in the years to come.
Trey Landers (6'3 SF, Huber Heights Wayne / 2016):
Looking identical to Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill, Wayne's Landers played an up-tempo, "in your face" brand of basketball that is similar to Meek's rapping style. Landers is an impressive athlete with good perimeter skills, and has a glowing confidence on the floor that you just have to admire. The sophomore is another physical player that can slash, but Landers' shooting ability is something that has to be respected. In addition to his offensive skills, Landers is a strong rebounder and physical on-ball defender. If there was one player in the gym that reminded me of Jae'Sean Tate, it would certainly be Trey Landers.
Juan Ford (6'2 SG/SF, Huber Heights Wayne / 2014):
One of the few seniors on Wayne's roster, Ford was arguably the top player in the gym on Sunday. Another physical specimen, Ford was just too quick, too strong, and too athletic for the majority of the defenders he was matched up against. Absolutely slicing the defense with drives to the basket, Ford shot an incredibly high percentage, and didn't force up any bad shots. While attacking the basket was Ford's primary move on Sunday, the senior also shot well from the mid-range area, adding to an intriguing offensive skill set. Like Landers, Ford is another strong rebounder that plays physical defense.
Ulmer Manzie (6'8 PF, Columbus Africentric / 2015):
One of the more intriguing post prospects in Ohio's 2015 class, Manzie showed continued improvement on Sunday. In only his third year of organized basketball, Manzie is becoming a better all-around basketball player as the weeks go on. With quick feet and great athleticism, the 6'8 forward/center is a matchup problem for opposing defenses. While the junior has a tendency to catch the ball too far out on the perimeter, Manzie has continued to improve his arsenal on the post. An incredibly active rebounder, Manzie has a high motor that never stops running. While Africentric might be the most athletic team in Columbus, the Nubians will rely on Manzie and his size in the post in 2013-'14.
Houston Smith (6'4 SF, Columbus Africentric / 2016):
If there is one player that might have more bounce that Harrison, it has to be his teammate, Smith. The sophomore wowed spectators with his leaping ability, finishing an array of highlight dunks on Sunday. While athleticism has never been a problem for Smith, the guard/forward has continued to work on his perimeter skills, and the results have shown. Smith reminds me a lot of Rodney Culver, as both are insane athletes that are becoming better basketball players. Outside of his highlight reel dunk fest, Smith attacked the glass for a number of rebounds, and played above-average defense during the showcase.