Days before an Arctic blast of wintry weather slammed into Ohio, some of the state's hottest hoopers hit the hardwood and put on impressive displays. Let's take a look at some of the top performers from the first weekend of the new year.
Ohio's Top Performers from the Weekend
Esa Ahmad (6'8 PF / Shaker Heights / 2015):
To put it simply, the fact that Esa Ahmad isn't ranked in the top 100 of any national recruiting database is a crime. Off to a ridiculous start to the 2013-14 season, Ahmad continued his eye-opening hot streak with 27 points and 20 rebounds in an 81-77 win vs. Cleveland Heights on Sunday. While Luke Kennard has been destroying defenses with his high-scoring antics, Ahmad has arguably been the top performer in the state through the first several weeks of the season. Leading Shaker to a 7-3 record, Ahmad has put up major numbers vs. some of the region's top competition, a testament to the type of performer that the junior has become.
Jordan Dartis (6'3 SG / Newark / 2015):
Dartis, Ahmad's teammate during the AAU season, had another amazing performance in a huge road win at Pickerington Central. Going for 31 points, 18 of which in the first half, Dartis paced a Newark offense that gave Pickerington Central fits from the perimeter. Going into halftime with a 28-23 lead, Dartis helped the Wildcats hold on to several slim leads in the final minutes as Jae'Sean Tate and the Tigers refused to crumble. With road wins vs. Gahanna and Pickerington Central, Dartis' Newark Wildcats are tied atop the OCC-Ohio division, with several crucial home games remaining on the schedule.
Vince Edwards (6'7 SF / Middletown / 2014):
Going off for 41 points, 14 rebounds, two assists and two blocks in a win vs. Sycamore on Friday, Edwards showed exactly why Purdue fans are anticipating his arrival in West Lafayette next season. With the 75-58 win, Middletown has improved to 7-2 on the season, leading up to a Jan. 11 matchup with the defending Division-II state champion, Columbus Bishop Watterson. With the way Edwards has been playing as of late, the Middies have a chance to upset the roaring Eagles, who fought back late vs. Columbus Brookhaven on Saturday to improve to 7-0. Without a player over 6'5, Watterson will certainly have problems with the length and versatility of the Purdue signee Edwards in what should be an outstanding matchup.
Brandon Glenn (5'11 PG / Hilliard Bradley / 2016):
Leading Hilliard Bradley to the Jaguars' biggest win in program history, Glenn's 26 points were enough for Bradley to edge division-power Westerville North on the Warriors' home floor, 62-60. Glenn scored 12 of his 26 in the fourth quarter, including seven of eight free-throws late in the game. Bradley, a program that has enjoyed limited success its five year existence, is banking on the sophomore Glenn, who has shown flashes of promise in the last two seasons. Improving to 2-7 with the win, Bradley looks to continue its winning ways with a home matchup with struggling Dublin Scioto on Tuesday.
Alex Sparks (6'1 SG / New Albany / 2015):
Going off for 25 points in a 64-46 win at division-rival Big Walnut on Friday, Sparks helped New Albany improve to 4-2 (4-0) on the season. At 6'1, Sparks is an impressive shooter that can also finish with contact around the basket. Seeing the junior at the All-Ohio Nike City Series, Sparks was a key member of a 2015 Columbus team that made sporadic noise against top competition. Alongside athletic wing Chris London, solid point guard Austin Schaub, and wide body big man John Miller, Sparks and New Albany have a great chance to win another division title in the OCC.
RJ Jones (6'1 PG / Huntington Prep [formerly Cleveland Benedictine] / 2015):
In Jones' final game at Cleveland Benedictine, the junior point guard left a lasting impression with 27 points and eight assists in a loss to Cuyahoga Falls on Saturday. Transferring to national power Huntington Prep over the weekend, Jones joins an extremely talented team with high-major prospects at the guard position. Likely to sit behind Gonzaga commit Josh Perkins and Kansas target JaQuan Lyle, Jones looks to help Huntington Prep on the defensive side of the floor, as the guard is as tough of an on-ball defender as anyone. I spoke with Jones on why he decided to leave Northeast Ohio for such a challenging opportunity, "Huntington Prep is an opportunity and situation for me, with the offer they put on the table, I couldn't resist," Jones said.
Javon Bess (6'5 SG / Gahanna Lincoln / 2014):
Leading Gahanna to another wide-margin victory, Bess' 27 points helped the Lions cruise over division-opponent Grove City at home, 79-52 on Friday. After a 35-point, 13-rebound performance in a win vs. Columbus City-League power Eastmoor Academy six days prior, Bess has continued a hot streak of performances for a Gahanna squad that showed signs of trouble offensively in the earlier part of the season. With seven of their first 10 games at home this season, Bess and Gahanna travel to division-rival Pickerington Central on Friday for what should be the top game in the Columbus area. Tied atop the OCC-Ohio, Friday's game will be one of the more crucial contests in an absolutely loaded division.
Babe Murphy (6'5 SF / Licking Heights / 2014):
In a three-overtime battle vs. area rival Licking Valley on Friday, Murphy's 28 points and 10 rebounds helped the Hornets hold on in the final frame, 90-87. Murphy scored 10 of his 28 in the final overtime period, leading Licking Heights to its fourth win on the season. Without senior point guard DeAnthony Hosley in the lineup with a knee injury, Murphy has been forced to carry a greater load for the Hornets, while seeing mixed results. One of the better unsigned combo-guards in Central Ohio, Murphy is looking for a program that best suits his multiple talents on the offensive end.
MaCio Teague (6'3 SG / Cincinnati Walnut Hills / 2015):
Scoring 71 points in Walnut Hills' last two games, Teague has been on an impressive hot streak for the Eagles in leading them to a 6-3 record. In matchups vs. area opponents Loveland and Cincinnati Turpin the previous two games, Teague and the Eagles hung on to close victories, and look to be rolling as of late. After opening the season at 1-3, Walnut Hills, who went to the state final four a season ago, have won five straight and Teague is a major reason for it. At 6'3, Teague is an impressive athlete who can score from all spots on the floor. Running alongside Ahmad and Dartis in the AAU season, look for Teague to continue to prove himself as one of Ohio's top junior combo-guards.
Zavier Powers (6' PG / Cleveland Lake Catholic / 2014):
In a matchup vs. Jones and Cleveland Benedictine on Friday, Powers' 24 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals were enough to lead Lake Catholic to a 63-55 victory. Looking strikingly similar to Detroit Pistons guard Peyton Siva, Powers plays a similar style to the former Louisville hero, showing incredible toughness when attacking the rim. Powers is also a tough defender, and can get things going in a hurry in transition. Playing alongside Millennium Fire during the AAU season, Powers rose to the occasion in tough matchups vs. some of the state's top AAU squads. One of Ohio's best unsigned guards, Powers would be a great fit for any program looking for toughness and scoring from the point guard position. Check out some of Powers' highlights here.