As Central Ohio was rocked with a snow storm on Friday, school cancellations pushed the majority of league games scheduled in the area to Monday. However, across the rest of the state, a number of talented hoopers hit the floor on Friday, and left lasting impressions. Let's take a look at some of the top players in the state from week two.
Who Showed Out?
Willie Jackson (6'5 SF / Cleveland Garfield Heights / 2016):
Having arguably the biggest game of his career to date, Garfield Heights' Jackson erupted for 33 points and 15 rebounds in a blowout win over Euclid's New Day Academy on Friday. Jackson has been one of the more impressive sophomores in the state of Ohio the last few months, and has shown incredible progression in all facets of his game. Earlier in the fall, Jackson promised that he would become the top player in his class, and with performances like he had on Friday, the sophomore's predictions are somewhat reasonable. With great athleticism and a nose for the ball, Jackson has continued to improve as a shooter and should help Ohio State commit Dave Bell lead the Bulldogs deep into the playoffs this season.
Omari Spellman (6'7 PF / North Royalton / 2016):
After a monster showing at the Buckeye Prep Showcase in September, Spellman had the best performance of his young career in a tough win at Mayfield on Friday. Despite a first half deficit, Spellman led North Royalton to a hard-fought 62-45 win, exploding for 36 points and 12 rebounds. With a legitimate inside-outside game, Spellman is a difficult matchup for most forwards, as the sophomore uses his wide body to his advantage in the post, and can also step back and hit the occasional perimeter jumper. Alongside Jackson, Spellman is certainly on Ohio State's radar, and is a key member in a talent-filled sophomore class in Ohio.
Ahmad Wagner (6'6 PF / Huber Heights Wayne / 2015):
Opening up the season with a convincing 91-26 win over Sydney, Wagner's 26 points, 21 rebounds and eight blocks formed last Tuesday's most impressive stat line for Wayne. After a successful summer alongside Ohio State target Esa Ahmad on a talented All-Ohio Red squad, Wagner returns to Huber Heights as the go-to man in the post. Teaming up with fellow 6'6 forward Xeyrius Williams, coach Travis Trice has an assortment of weapons on the offensive side. An absolute force to deal with on the block, Wagner is a high-level athlete that can score in a variety of ways. Running the floor like a guard, Wagner is one of the Dayton area's most versatile players, and should help fulfill lofty expectations for Wayne in 2013-14.
Chris Byrd (6'2 SG / Columbus South / 2014):
One of the major elements in South's turnaround effort in the last few years, Byrd's 24 points were instrumental in the Bulldogs' crucial overtime win over league opponent Marion-Franklin on Monday. Helping the Bulldogs outscore the Red Devils 23-13 in the fourth quarter, Byrd and South pulled out an 84-83 win on the road to open up City-League South play. With an all-around offensive game, Byrd is one of the top players in Central Ohio, and certainly one of the area's top unsigned guards. With underrated quickness and quality shot selection, Byrd is a key figure on a South team that has what it takes to make noise in the area this season.
PJ Wilkes (5'10 PG / Columbus Mifflin / 2015):
Scoring a career-high 25 points in an important league win over rival Beechcroft on Monday, Mifflin's Wilkes has continued to elevate himself among Central Ohio's top junior guards. Although he is relatively undersized, Wilkes is one of the tougher guards in the area and can really heat up from behind-the-arc. The junior also has a level of quickness with the ball that helps him get into the lane and create contact, illustrated by his 13 made free-throws on Monday. As the Punchers have won two of their first three games under first-year coach Mike Thornton, expect more stellar performances from Wilkes, as Mifflin looks to return to prominence in the City-League North.
Nate Axelrod (5'6 PG / Dublin Coffman / 2014):
Leading Dublin Coffman to a 61-55 overtime victory over perennial power Canton Timken on Saturday, the 5'6 Axelrod is certainly one of Central Ohio's top performers from week two. Finishing with 19 points and seven assists, Axelrod helped the Rocks avenge a six-point halftime deficit to defeat Timken in overtime. Like Wilkes, Axelrod is another undersized guard that is as tough as they come. Playing outstanding on-ball defense, Axelrod is the perfect point guard for an athletic Coffman team that can score from all spots on the floor. Looking to start the season 3-0, Coffman opens at home vs. Marysville on Friday.
Kevin Vannatta (6'3 SG / Upper Arlington / 2014):
Committed to UNC-Asheville, Vannatta returns to Upper Arlington as the OCC-Capital's reigning scoring champion. In a primetime matchup with Dublin Jerome on Saturday, Vannatta's 29 points led the Golden Bears to a convincing 57-38 win on the road. Scoring from all spots on the floor, Vannatta proved why many around Central Ohio consider him one of the area's top combo-guards. With excellent basketball IQ and shot selection, Vannatta is a sharp-shooter from the perimeter, but also has quality footwork around the basket. Teamed up with talented senior guard Danny Hummer, Vannatta and the Golden Bears have a chance to return to the top of the OCC in 2013-14.
Jordan Smith (6'2 SG / Dayton Dunbar / 2014):
One of the more undervalued seniors in Ohio's 2014 class, Dunbar's Smith is having an excellent start to the 2013-14 season. After hitting the game-winning shot to defeat Dayton Chaminade-Julienne on Tuesday, the 6'2 combo-guard responded with 21 points and nine rebounds in a win over Ponitz Careet Tech on Sunday. With a strong and athletic build, Smith is quick with the ball in his hands, and a force to deal with in the lane. Improving as a perimeter shooter, Smith is a valuable asset for any team looking for an all-around player to build around. Receiving a great deal of Division-II and III interest as of late, look for Smith to continue to elevate his stock as a senior alongside Ohio State commit point guard AJ Harris.
Jae'Sean Tate (6'5 SF / Pickerington Central / 2014):
Through two games, Tate's Pickerington Central Tigers are 2-0 and averaging 92.5 points per game. Leading all scorers with 27 points in a blowout win at Lancaster on Monday, Tate left another great impression on Ohio State assistant coach Jeff Boals, who was in attendance for the massacre. Leading the Tigers to a 95-43 victory, Tate was completely dominant in all facets of the game, something Midwest basketball fans have become accustomed to when watching the 6'5 small forward. Fully committed to improving his perimeter shooting, look for Tate to return to the regional playoffs as a different beast in 2014, something that should bode well for coach Jerry Francis' young squad.
Charles Holland (6'3 SG / Columbus West / 2014):
While a much-anticipated home opener vs. Eastmoor was cancelled on Friday, West's Holland still deserves player of the week honors after a dominant 28-point performance vs. Hamilton Township a week ago. The area's leading scorer as a junior, Holland is averaging 28.5 points per game through two contests, which have each been blowouts for the Cowboys. At 6'3 and roughly 200 pounds, Holland is one of Central Ohio's best pure athletes, and is a rather efficient scorer. With a true inside-outside game, Holland excels greatly as a slasher, while also showing an ability to step out and hit from well beyond the perimeter. Receiving a great deal of Big Ten interest as a wide receiver, Holland is a game-chaning player on the hardwood, and a difference maker that should be on the radar of all area colleges.
Ty Hairston (6'2 SG / Columbus Northland / 2014):
After a disappointing season-opening loss to Dayton Thurgood Marshall on Saturday, Northland and Hairston responded with a statement victory over league opponent Centennial. Leading all scorers with 22 points, Hairston and the Vikings cruised to a 90-51 win. Arguably the top unsigned combo-guard in Central Ohio, Hairston is a pure scorer that can fill it up from all spots on the floor. After coming off the bench as a junior, Hairston has resumed a starting role for the Vikings and should put up impressive numbers as a senior. While discipline issues and a troubled past have plagued Hairston's recruitment, a rejuvenated attitude and increased focus on the basketball court have turned things around for the Northland combo-guard. Expect Hairston to garner first-team All-City League honors and lead the Vikings to an 8th-straight league title.
RJ Jones (6'1 PG / Cleveland Benedictine / 2015):
While usual power Benedictine is undergoing a slight rebuilding year, the junior point guard Jones is one of a few bright spots for the Bengals. Despite a 77-58 home loss to Cleveland Central Catholic, Jones' 24 points were a game-high, in addition to the junior's seven assists. Picking up a great deal of recruiting interest in the last few months, Jones is expected to have a major junior season, as Benedictine is suffering from a lack of depth in the front court. With the transfer of senior power forward TySean Powell to Florida's IMG Academy, Jones has been left without a solid No. 2 scoring option and has been forced to carry the load for the Bengals. While Jones' supporting cast continues to gradually improve, look for the 6'1 guard to become one of Ohio's top point guards in the 2015 class.
Ben Haraway (6'1 PG / Norwalk / 2014):
Teamed up with Georgia State commit Jeff Thomas, Norwalk's Haraway had a performance for the ages in 72-61 win over Ashland on Monday. Going for 25 points, five rebounds, four steals and three assists, Haraway, alongside Thomas' 21 points, made a major difference in the Truckers' victory. Haraway is committed to Division-II Malone University, and is regarded as one of the tougher guards in the senior class in Ohio. Expect more gritty performances from Norwalk's talented duo, as the Truckers hope to make their way to Columbus for the state tournament come March.
Africentric and Walnut Ridge set to square off in the "Bates Bowl"
Led by brothers Jason and Mike Bates, Walnut Ridge and Africentric, respectively, have two of the top coaches in Central Ohio. While Jason's Walnut Ridge Scots are coming off a statement 91-49 victory over rival Independence on Monday, Mike's Africentric Nubians have traveled a different path.
Steam rolling through the City-League South a year ago, the Nubians have fell to 0-2 on the 2013-14 campaign, suffering tough losses to New Concord John Glenn and Cincinnati Summit Country Day. Squaring off at home with the rival Scots on Tuesday, look for this matchup to be the top game in the area. While the Nubians enjoy an advantage in athleticism in the front court, Walnut Ridge's guard play might make the difference on Tuesday.
As the Nubians await the eligibility of transfer guards Chase Brown and Shawon Wilson, the defending division champions have battled depth issues, and Tuesday's contest could hinge on that very issue. Stay tuned to Land-Grant Holy Land for a recap of the "Bates Bowl" and some of Tuesday's top performers following tonight's action.