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Ohio prep hoops: Willie Jackson shines at Hidden Gems Fall Showcase

2016 Ohio State target Willie Jackson was the lone Buckeye target in a talent-filled gym at Thomas Worthington High School on Saturday.

Willie Jackson put on a show at Hidden Gems
Willie Jackson put on a show at Hidden Gems
Robert Craig

With Garfield Heights forward Willie Jackson leading the pack among 2016 prospects, several other talented Ohio players turned in impressive performances at Hidden Gems. Among them, Michigan State target Javon Bess, who has received a great deal of interest from the Spartans in recent weeks, was named the "High School MVP," for the showcase. Let's take a look at the top players from the weekend.

Willie Jackson (6'6 SF, Garfield Heights / 2016):

Arguably the most talented player in the building, Garfield's Jackson put on a wonderful display of athleticism on Saturday. With an incredible motor, great leaping ability, and a nose for the ball, Jackson found himself in the center of the action on both ends of the floor. Improving as both a slasher and jump shooter, Jackson was efficient on offense, and even more dangerous in the open floor. Hearing from Ohio State recently, see what other high-major schools have been contacting the Cleveland sophomore in my interview below.

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

Picking up interest from the likes of Michigan and Michigan State in recent weeks, Gahanna's Bess is one of the top five seniors in the state of Ohio. Heads and shoulders above most of the competition on Saturday, Bess turned in a highly impressive performance, getting the job done in every aspect of the game. Using his elite quickness and strength to attack the basket, Bess operated primarily as a slasher, while also stepping back and draining the occasional three. Becoming a better all-around player since the end of last season, Bess certainly helped his stock with his performance at Hidden Gems.

Derek McKeithen (6'4 SG, Columbus Northland / 2014):

Elevating his game to a completely different level from earlier in the summer, Northland's McKeithen appears to be more focused than ever. One of the top athletes in the gym, McKeithen put together an all-around offensive performance, living both above the rim and beyond the three-point line. McKeithen's top performance was in his final scrimmage in which the Northland senior was on the receiving end of a circus-like alley-oop, causing nearly everyone in the gym to say "Wow." While McKeithen electrifies with his high-energy slam dunks, the senior's ability to slash and hang in the air to adjust to opposing defenders has made him a valuable offensive asset.

Jaquan Harrison (6'3 SG, Columbus Africentric / 2015):

The talk of LGHL for the last few weeks has been Africentric's Harrison, and rightfully so. Having another impressive performance, Harrison has continued to elevate his stock in the last month. Using his incredible athleticism once again, the Africentric junior's showcase performance was highlighted by an array of high-flying jams and chase down blocks, but it was his jump shooting that was the real story. While Harrison's biggest weakness has been his shooting over the last two years, the junior focused on that part of his game over the weekend, and turned in impressive results. With an offer from D1 Bethune-Cookman, Harrison is also receiving interest from several MAC schools, in addition to Indiana State, who visited the guard last week.

Ulmer Manzie (6'8 PF, Columbus Africentric / 2015):

Entering only his third season of organized basketball, Manzie continues to show gradual improvement each time he steps on the floor. With a large 6'8 body, Manzie moves incredibly well for his size, and it is that mobility that gives him an edge over opposing big men. Manzie brings a high level of activity on both ends, and is a terrific rebounder and low-post defender. As Africentric's tallest player and only legitimate post threat, Manzie will be looked to stay out of foul trouble and injury-free in 2013-'14 as the Nubians chase a Division-IV state championship.

Robert Caldwell (5'9 PG, Dayton Stivers / 2014):

After a successful summer playing alongside Jae'Sean Tate and Bess for All-Ohio Red, the Dayton native did what Robert Caldwell does best on Saturday. Playing swarming on-ball defense, Caldwell used his quickness to set up teammates for scores, while also scoring whenever he needed to. While the senior is a little undersized, he makes up for it with his quickness both on defense, and with the ball in his hands. Caldwell has great court vision, and good basketball IQ which makes him a coach's best friend at the point guard position.

Gabe Kynard (5'11 PG, Toledo St. John's / 2016):

Arguably the best all-around point guard on Saturday, Kynard impressed in the first time I was able to see him. Sharing the same name as Bethune-Cookman freshman Tony Kynard, a hero for Toledo Rogers in last year's state semifinals, Gabe showed flashes of the elder Kynard on Saturday. An absolute floor general, Kynard impressed both as a slasher and facilitator. With a thick build, Kynard played a Deron Williams style of play, knocking down jump shots whenever the defense sagged off of him. In addition to his offensive output, Kynard was also a terrific on-ball defender, causing turnovers to open up transition opportunities.

Khalil Iverson (6'5 PF, Delaware Hayes / 2015):

One of Central Ohio's highest flyers, Iverson showcased great leaping ability in an all-around impressive performance at Hidden Gems. One of the area's leading rebounders a season ago, Iverson was an absolute man among boys in the paint, pairing with Cleveland's David Dunnigan to control the boards. Iverson is a unique athlete, as he can play both a finesse style of basketball, marked by his ability to flawlessly run the floor, in addition to his brute force around the rim. As Hayes graduates star guard Mike Wells from a season ago, Iverson, along with '14 power forward Alex Stevens, will be big time contributors for the Pacers this season.

David Dunnigan (6'7 PF, Cleveland Midpark / 2015):

Seeing Dunnigan for the first time on Saturday, I came away more than impressed with the Cleveland junior. At 6'7 and 220+ pounds, Dunnigan is an anchor on the block, and was an absolute mismatch at Hidden Gems. With a thick build, the junior is a good rebounder and low-post defender, and showed great aggressiveness on the offensive glass. While he won't give you too much on the offensive side of the ball, Dunnigan is a workhorse on defense, and once he corrals a rebound, he isn't losing it.

Babe Murphy (6'5 SF, Licking Heights / 2014):

One of the most enjoyable players to watch, Licking Heights' Murphy had another solid performance at Hidden Gems. With an impressive mid-range skill set, Murphy operated both as a slasher and knockdown shooter on Saturday. Always active for 32 minutes a night, Murphy's motor, coupled with his above-average athleticism make him an easy player to coach, as he is always looking to improve. While his perimeter shooting is still his biggest weakness up to this point, Murphy has shown gradual improvement in that area. Receiving interest from several low-major D1 schools and high-end D2 programs, Murphy would be a valuable asset for any coach looking for an all-out competitor.

Other Notable Performers

Houston Smith (6'4 SF, Columbus Africentric / 2016)

Jayshon Lever (6' PG, Westerville South / 2014)

Jameel Butts (5'8 PG, Mansfield Senior / 2014)

Ben Evans (6'9 PF, Delaware Christian / 2015)

Ondrej Brown (5'6 PG, Garfield Heights / 2015)

Shawon Wilson (6'2 PG, Columbus Africentric / 2015)

Octavius Luke (5'10 SG, Columbus Centennial / 2014)

PG Wilkes (5'8 PG, Columbus Mifflin / 2015)

Dymiere Finch (6'1 PG, Columbus Walnut Ridge / 2014)

RJ Mims (5'8 PG, Whitehall Yearling / 2014):

Ronnie Williams (6'1 SG, Columbus Brookhaven / 2014)

Travis Gleason (5'8 PG, Reynoldsburg / 2014)

Manny Powell (5'9 PG, Gahanna Lincoln / 2014)