As King James swept the 16u division at the King James Shooting Stars Classic in Akron this weekend, All-Ohio Black wrapped up the 17u championship with a statement victory, while Team Takeover took care of business in the 15u division. In the NCAA's first week of the open evaluation period, let's take a look at some of the top performers from a packed weekend of basketball.
Kaleb Wesson (6'8 C / King James / Westerville South / 2017):
In the first open evaluating period, Wesson left his mark as the top big man in Ohio's class of 2017 with a dominating performance in the low post. In King James' quarterfinal victory over a long and athletic CIA Bounce squad, Wesson had his best game of the tournament, going for 24 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. Wesson's greatest attribute is his wide and thick frame, which gives him the ability to back defenders down on the block, and establish position in the paint for rebounds. After spending some time with the Columbus Mustang Ballers earlier in the AAU season, the freshman is a huge addition to King James, and gives the Shooting Stars the legitimate post threat it needs to dominate at the 15u level. Having his breakout performance in front of Ohio State assistant coach Jeff Boals and Michigan State assistant coach Mike Garland, Wesson made a strong case for being considered a top three players in his class in Ohio.
Nick Ward (6'8 C / All-Ohio Red / Gahanna-Lincoln / 2016):
Similar to Wesson, Ward had a breakout performance this weekend after receiving his first Division I offer from Miami (OH) on Saturday night. In an important semifinal matchup vs. Derek Funderburk and King James on Sunday, Ward was arguably the game's top performer, going for 15 points and 10 rebounds in a close one-point loss for All-Ohio Red. Improving by a wide margin in the last year, Ward has had major performances vs. top post players in the last three weeks, posting double-doubles vs. both Funderburk and highly-touted Medina center Jon Teske. While Ward isn't as athletic as Funderburk, and isn't as lengthy as Teske, the Gahanna sophomore makes up for it with toughness and grit inside. Drawing a comparison to Memphis Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph from one of the college coaches in attendance on Sunday, Ward impressed with improved touch from the perimeter, while also showing a higher level of activity around the basket for the entirety of the game.
Jaylen Harris (6'6 SF / King James / Cleveland Heights / 2017):
Showing arguably the most upside out of any freshman prospect in attendance, Harris showed signs of being a definite high-major wing prospect over the weekend. While Harris is a consistent motor away from being an absolute force, the 6'6 freshman put it all together for King James in an opening statement victory vs. Chicago Select on Friday, going for 21 points and five rebounds. Also an intriguing wide receiver prospect on the football field, Harris admitted to liking the latter more than basketball, but unless Harris develops into Calvin Johnson, the Cleveland Heights freshman is a cant-miss prospect on the hardwood. At 6'6, Harris is athletic, lengthy, and skilled, while also showing the ability to adjust to defenders as or even more athletic than him with a solid all-around showing vs. a CIA Bounce team full of athletic wings. Finishing with 10 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, Harris helped execute out of the high post to feed Wesson down low to beat CIA on the inside.
Markell Johnson (5'11 PG / King James / Cleveland East Tech / 2017):
Arguably the top overall player in Ohio's freshman class at this very moment, Johnson did nothing to hurt his stock over the weekend. Incredibly skilled and athletic, Johnson makes the game seem so effortless on the floor, razzling and dazzling his way to points, assists, rebounds, steals and everything in between. Going up against lengthy backcourts in CIA Bounce and Team Takeover, Johnson bridged the gap with quickness, often beating defenders down floor in transition for open floor scores. Scoring 13 points and dishing out four assists vs. CIA Bounce, Johnson impressed in front of coaches from Ohio State and Michigan State, showing a lot of promise just a month after helping lead East Tech to a state final four appearance as a freshman.
Khalil Iverson (6'5 CF / Ohio Varsity / Delaware Hayes / 2015):
Continuing a warpath that started at the beginning of Iverson's junior season, the Delaware Hayes forward left Akron with an offer from UNC-Asheville, and another, reportedly from Bowling Green. A 6'5 combo-forward that relies on strength, athleticism and hustle on both ends of the floor, Iverson had his best performance on Saturday in a double-overtime win vs. Alabama Truth. Going for a tournament-high 31 points, Iverson was a force to be reckoned with around the basket, attacking the offensive glass to lead Ohio Varsity to a victory. A definite mid-major prospect at this point, Iverson will look to continue to improve throughout the summer, as the junior must continue to work on his jump-shooting in order to be a more difficult matchup for taller and equally athletic defenders.
Jaylin Walker (6'2 SG / R.E.A.C.H Legends / Detroit Romulus / 2015):
Athletic 6'2 shooting guard that played with a high level of activity. Scoring threat from the perimeter, but more than capable of slashing inside for scores. Scored 26 points in a big win vs. Ohio Varsity to win R.E.A.C.H's pool on Saturday. Picked up an offer from Kent State on Sunday.
Xavier Simpson (5'10 PG / King James / Lima Central Catholic / 2016):
Consumate floor general that paced King James with 15 points and five assists in a big rivalry win over All-Ohio Red on Sunday. Absolutely terrorized the backcourt of the Detroit Stars in King James' opening game, collecting five steals in addition to 11 points and four assists. Played his best in games in which high-major coaches were in attendance, including Boals, Garland and Michigan assistant coach Bacari Alexander. Coming off a strong sophomore season in which the 5'10 guard led Lima Central Catholic to a state championship. Received offers from Toledo and Cleveland State earlier this month.
Grant Zawadzki (6' PG / All-Ohio Black / Troy Christian / 2015):
The AAU's version of Aaron Craft with a jump shot. Very likeable player that plays the point guard position exactly the way it's supposed to be played. Led All-Ohio Black to a 17u championship by scoring when he needed to, finding open teammates and pestering opposing ball-handlers. One of the more undervalued guards in Ohio's junior class that looks to be a stud at the Division II level after high school.
Myo Baxter (6'4 CF / Club Ohio / Dayton Chaminade Julienne / 2015):
Intriguing combo-forward that showed improved quickness, burst and athleticism after dropping significant weight since the regular season. Has a legitimate inside-outside game, and attacks the baseline very well. High IQ player that will not force offense, but knows when he needs to take over. Could step outside and shoot over taller defenders, while also showing an ability to back down and bully smaller guards.
Justin Johnson (6'6 PF / Team One / Fairfield / 2015):
Mid-major minus level big man with high upside. Brother of Akron center Isaiah Johnson. Showed pretty good footwork and toughness, and his motor/drive seemed to stay consistent as the weekend went on. Needs to improve his low post defense, but attacked the boards pretty well, and was able to score in a variety of ways. Looks to pick up a slew of Division I offers once an initial school takes a chance on him.
Derrick Daniels (6'7 PF / King James / Dayton Thurgood Marshall / 2016):
Athletic combo-forward that played consistently good over the weekend. Over the past year, Daniels' drive has come into question a few times, but that was not a problem whatsoever as the Thurgood Marshall junior helped lead King James to a 16u championship. Greatest strength is attacking the offensive glass and finishing put backs, while also serving as an above-average shot blocker on the defensive end. Has a ton of upside and is just a good all-around kid.
Jaylin McFadden (6'5 SF / Detroit Stars / Southfield Bradford Academy, MI / 2016):
Athletic forward that is quite the unheralded prospect in Detroit. Played extremely well against a long and athletic King James front line on Saturday. Finished with 17 points and five rebounds in that game, cleaning up the offensive glass for second-chance scores on multiple occasions. McFadden's performance came in front of several MAC coaches which should bode well for him as time goes on.
Derek Funderburk (6'9 PF / King James / Lakewood St. Edward / 2016):
Still not completely 100 percent after breaking his foot earlier in February, but nonetheless, did what he does best on the weekend. Always active around the basket, Funderburk's late-game scoring made the difference as King James held off a late charge from All-Ohio Red on Saturday. Top 50 prospect in national class of 2016. Will be absolutely nasty as a junior for St. Ed's.
Jaquan Harrison (6'3 SF / All-Ohio Black / Columbus Africentric / 2015):
All-Ohio Black's utility man that has shown strides in his mental approach to the game by doing all the little things to help his team win games. Black's defensive stopper, Harrison has been able to lock down the most talented of scorers, as the 6'3 junior uses his impressive combination of strength and athleticism to keep guys out of the lane. Best served in a high-tempo offense, as Harrison is at his best when he is flying down court and around the rim. Jump shooting still seems uncomfortable to him, but something he has continued to work on.
Jeron Rogers (6'7 SF / R.E.A.C.H Legends / North Farmington / 2015):
Tremendous athlete with a reliable outside shot. Did an outstanding job defending Iverson in R.E.A.C.H's win over Ohio Varsity on Saturday, finishing with 15 points and 13 rebounds. Skies around the rim, and fights for put backs and rebounds. Arguably the best athlete that I saw all weekend.
Ethan Linder (6'1 SG / NW Ohio / Wayne Trace / 2017):
Baby Brevin Pritzl that led a patient NW Ohio 15u squad to a big opening win vs. Cincy Lakers on Friday. Finished with 15 points, five rebounds and four assists. Showed great vision, good burst, and an impressive ability to hand pressure and create separation. Led Wayne Trace in scoring as a freshman.
Xeyrius Williams (6'7 SF / All-Ohio Black / Huber Heights Wayne / 2015):
The prize prospect on All-Ohio Black. Had another solid weekend, doing nothing out of his comfort zone to help Black win yet another tournament. Has a versatile offensive game that has attracted the attention of several high-major programs lately. When Williams is knocking down the outside shot with consistency, there is not much you can do to defend him. He and Archbold junior power forward Luke Fisher formed a formidable front court duo, as Fisher was one of the weekend's top rebounders.
Rodney Culver (6'4 SF / Ohio Varsity / Pickerington Central / 2015):
Played pretty well in front of scores of college coaches that might have been unfamiliar with the rising junior combo-guard. Did nothing out of the ordinary, and showed an ability to attack the basket vs. physical defenders. Ohio Varsity's full-court trap is perfect for Culver's skill set and helps the Pickerington junior force turnovers and create instant offense.
Armon Nasseri (6'6 PF / db Hoops / Youngstown Ursuline / 2017):
Physically opposing freshman big man with a nice touch around the basket. Played well vs. a physically and athletically superior CIA Bounce team on Saturday, but Nasseri showed no signs of regression in that game, scoring in a variety of ways around the basket. Keeps the ball high and rarely gets it ripped out of his hands.
Tyrice Walker (6'3 SG / Cincy Lakers / Cincinnati Summit Country Day / 2017):
Cincy Lakers' only consistent scoring threat that I saw on Friday. Attacked the basket and drew fouls. Hit a few tough shots and looks to have some decent upside. Is at the right school for developing guards of his size. Should be a player to watch over the next few years.
Cameron Krutwig (6'7 C / Fundamentals / Chicago Jacobs / 2017):
Another talented freshman center prospect that I had a chance to watch over the weekend. Was a major part in Fundamentals' dispatching of All-Ohio Red in the 15u division, as the Illinois freshman showed good footwork, strength and finishing ability around the basket.
Canadian prospects impress
As several Canadian programs made the trip down south for this year's event, let's take a look at some of the better prospects that I had a chance to evaluate from the Great White North.
Tyler Plummer (6'5 SF / CIA Bounce / 2017):
Do-it-all wing prospect with good athleticism, strength and finishing ability. Toughest matchup for King James' in CIA's quarterfinal loss on Saturday. Finished with 14 points and three blocks. Should be a player to keep an eye on over the next few years.
Grant Audu (6'6 PF / CIA Bounce / 2017):
Another piece to a seemingly unlimited wealth of wings for the 15u CIA Bounce team. Probably the best overall athlete on a team full of high flyers. Put down the most impressive dunk of the weekend on a defender on Saturday. Remember his name. Audu plays with a high level of activity around the basket and is a strong rebounder.
Anthony McNish (6'6 PF / CIA Bounce / 2017):
Great body and size for the power forward position. Finished strongly with contact on the block, having a stretch of back-to-back three-point plays vs. King James. Gets up for rebounds and is a controlled finisher even with defenders hanging all over his back.
Other players to look for from Canada
6' G Jahvon Blair (CIA Bounce / 2017)
5'8 PG Carlo Dubria (CIA Bounce / 2017)
6'5 SG Jordan Lyons (CIA Bounce / 2017)