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Ohio prep hoops: Bess, Chatman, Murphy and others star in opening week

In an action-packed opening week of the high school season, several of Central Ohio's top hoopsters put on performances for the ages.

Babe Murphy's 27 points led Licking Heights to a key win over Olentangy Orange
Babe Murphy's 27 points led Licking Heights to a key win over Olentangy Orange
SB Nation

In the first official weekend of the high school basketball season in Central Ohio, several familiar names had impressive starts to the 2013-14 campaign. However, it was a trio of dark horses that stole the show. Let's take a look at some of the top performers in the opening week of the high school season.

Who Showed Out?

Lloyd Chatman (5'9 SG / Reynoldsburg / 2015):

Coming into Reynoldsburg's opening season matchup on the road vs. Westerville South, many around the program were unsure of who would emerge as the Raiders' go-to scoring option. Replacing Co-OCC Ohio player of the year Wendell Davis is no easy task, but after a 26-point outburst to take down the Wildcats in their home gym, Chatman might just be the guy for Reynoldsburg. While the shooting guard doesn't have imposing size, Chatman showed an incredible ability to create off the dribble, and showcased deep shooting range on either wing. Chatman's 21 points in the second half helped Reynoldsburg erase a five-point deficit at halftime. Lighting up the nets with 32 points in the fourth quarter, the Raiders escaped Westerville South with a key 72-67 opening win on the road. Look for Chatman and senior point guard Travis Gleason to push the tempo for an undersized Raiders squad in 2013-14.

Octavius Luke (5'10 G / Columbus Centennial / 2014):

After spending his junior season at the end of the Northland bench, the 5'10 Luke has received a fresh start at Centennial. Lighting up St. Frances DeSales for 39 points on Friday, Luke is quickly making a name for himself in the City-League North. While the Stars have been led by high-scoring guards over the years, (Bucky Chenault, Boo Osbourne) Luke looks to be the next in line in an impressive lineage. With great court vision and underrated athleticism, Luke nearly led the Stars to an upset victory in overtime. Despite falling to the Stallions 73-70, Centennial clearly has a reliable scoring option in the senior Luke.

Javon Bess (6'5 SG / Gahanna Lincoln / 2014):

Signing his national letter of intent to Michigan State two weeks ago, Bess' 21 points paced Gahanna to a hard-fought home win vs. Division-II power Columbus Brookhaven. Rebounding at a high percentage and getting his teammates involved early on, Bess showcased the desired versatility that Tom Izzo is looking for in East Lansing. Hitting a number of difficult shots from all over the floor, Bess has shown incredible improvement in his perimeter shooting since the end of last season. Undoubtedly Gahanna's hardest-working player, the 6'5 combo-guard is only going to continue to improve as the season wears on. Earlier in the week, this inspiring documentary was released detailing Bess' path up to this point, and previews the senior's bright future ahead.

Nic Bapst (6'2 SG / Grove City / 2015):

Averaging 25 points per game in leading Grove City to a championship in the Greyhounds' season tip-off tournament, Bapst gave a glimpse of what the future holds for the red and blue. Scoring a game-high 30 points in a 107-48 thrashing of rival Westland, Bapst followed that performance up with 20 points in the Greyhounds' 71-60 title win over DeSales. The junior combo-guard is an impressive athlete that has improved his overall scoring ability over the summer, and looks to be Grove City's go-to scorer in 2013-14. In an absolutely loaded OCC-Ohio division, Bapst is one of several talented athletes that will make names for themselves this season.

Charles Holland (6'4 SF / Columbus West / 2014):

Leading all of Central Ohio in scoring with 23.9 points per game in 2012-13, West's Holland picked up right where he left off with 29 points to lead the Cowboys to a 74-48 opening season win at Whetstone. On most nights, Holland is the top athlete on the floor, and Friday's contest was no different. Making his way into the lane for scores, Holland helped the Cowboys go into halftime with a 21-point lead. A major factor in the Cowboys' rebuilding effort, Holland has stayed true to his west side roots, which should pay dividends as West looks to move up in the City-League South. Alongside talented forwards Trenton Miller and Markel Wyche, West looks to improve on a 4-17 season in 2012-13. While the Cowboys haven't won a division title since 1999-2000, game-changers like Holland staying in the Hilltop neighborhood can only benefit the future of the West program.

Babe Murphy (6'4 SF / Licking Heights / 2014):

Exploding for 20 first half points in Licking Heights' 74-51 home win over Olentangy Orange, the 6'4 small forward Murphy was heads and shoulders above the competition on Saturday. Finishing with 27 points, seven rebounds, and four assists, Murphy took what the defense gave him in both halves. While the Hornets' supporting cast had trouble putting the ball in the bucket in the opening two quarters, Murphy picked up the slack for his teammates, scoring the game's first 13 points. While the rest of the Hornets found their rhythm in the second half, Murphy's work on the glass made a major difference in Licking Heights' advantage on the boards. Throwing down a thunderous two-handed slam over baseline traffic in the first half, Murphy has shown drastic improvement in all facets of his game. Look for the talented senior to be one of Central Ohio's leading scorers this season.

Honorable Mention

Nick Ward (6'8 C / Gahanna Lincoln / 2016)

Ward locked down the post in Gahanna's win over Brookhaven. In addition to 12 points, Ward was a defensive stalwart in the paint, disrupting what the Bearcats tried to do down low. Recovering from a knee injury suffered in June, Ward has moved gingerly at times, but has shown no signs of regression. Look for Ward to continue to improve this season.

Matt Hughes (6'2 SG / Bishop Watterson / 2014)

Hughes' 27 points were a team-high in a season opening 74-63 road win vs. Bexley. Coming off a state championship, Watterson returns its core of contributors from a year ago, one of which including the talented combo-guard Hughes. Expect Watterson to run through the Central Catholic League once again this season.

Shad Kimble (6'3 SG / Columbus Brookhaven / 2015)

Scoring a team-high 14 points in the loss to Gahanna, Kimble hit several big shots in the first varsity start of his career. As the Bearcats hung around toward the end of the second half, Kimble hit a key triple with just over two minutes to go to bring Brookhaven within three, the closest they would get all game. Running alongside Ohio Dominican signee Ronnie Williams, look for Kimble to become one of the Columbus City-League's breakout players in 2013-14.

Jaquan Harrison (6'4 SF / Columbus Africentric / 2015)

Despite opening up the season with a 70-54 loss at Cleveland John Glenn, Harrison was Africentric's lone bright spot on Friday. Notching a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds, the athletic combo-guard kept the Nubians in the game in the first half. However, foul trouble would plague the short-handed Nubians, who are awaiting the eligibility of transfer guards Chase Brown and Shawon Wilson, each forced to sit out the season's first 11 games.

Matt Dwane (6'6 PF / Central Crossing / 2015)

At a school where athletic success hasn't been the norm in a very long time, Dwane is one of many reasons why the Central Crossing community is hopeful for 2013-14. Leading the Comets with 16 points and 11 rebounds, the junior forward's presence in the paint was a key factor in Central Crossing's 60-58 road win over Hilliard Bradley. With the game tied in overtime, Dwane converted on a buzzer-beating lay-in to down the Jaguars at home. Look for Dwane and underrated sophomore forward Noah Stephens to lead a young and promising Comets unit.

Reece Dupler (6'1 SG / Lakewood / 2015)

After a successful AAU season running alongside junior phenom Carlton Bragg with Ohio Basketball Club, Dupler returns to Lakewood as arguably Licking County's top shooter. In a hard-fought 57-53 home win over Sheridan, Dupler scored a game-high 28 points for the Lancers. While Dupler isn't the most athletic of shooting guards, the junior has a quick trigger and can fill it up from any range.

Luke Vargo (6'7 SF / Dublin Coffman / 2016)

In Dublin Coffman's 84-36 thrashing of Columbus Mifflin on Saturday, Vargo's 19 points were a game-high. The 6'7 forward has great length and a smooth shooting stroke, and is a perfect fit for the Shamrocks offense. With great versatility and above average athleticism, Vargo is a player that performs at a higher level in the high school setting, as opposed to showcase and open gym basketball. Expect great things out of the lengthy sophomore in a season with high expectations for Coffman.

Kwamel Wade (6'4 PF / Westerville Central / 2014)

Despite a surprising 54-53 loss on the road to Groveport Madison, Westerville Central's Wade was a major bright spot for the Warhawks. While Groveport did an outstanding job of containing Duquesne commit Eric James, who was held to 12 points, Wade's 18 points, in addition to nine rebounds, were both team highs. Wade is a strong rebounding combo-forward that can extend his range out to the three-point line. Led by seniors Wade and James, look for Westerville Central to be a force in the Ohio Capital Conference this season.