As both All-Ohio Red and King James have represented Ohio in the EYBL this season, each team has dealt with a bit of adversity for the majority of the year. With King James finally at full strength, and All-Ohio missing two starting guards due to injury, one might not have expected what eventually went down in Hampton, Virginia. Let's take a look at some key observations from the top Ohio players and teams from EYBL Session 3.
King James continues to skid
Entering Session 3 at 3-5 in EYBL play, King James would need an almost perfect weekend to put themselves in a position for qualify for the EYBL's Peach Jam in July.
A few bounces away from possibly being 4-0 on the weekend, King James would suffer to the tune of 36 points from Jackson Tigers guard Malik Newman in an opening Saturday loss, 83-78. King James' struggles would be followed up by 23 points and an insane buzzer-beater from The Family forward Miles Bridges in Sunday's finale, sending a game that the Shooting Stars had led by double-digits in the second half, into double-overtime, where King James would fall, 78-75.
Despite King James' struggles, there were many bright spots in what many deem a disappointing weekend. With Cincinnati Moeller big man Nate Fowler back in the lineup, King James played some of its best basketball all season in a 70-50 win over Baltimore Elite on Sunday morning. Receiving a team-high 19 points from Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary guard VJ King in the win, King would be aided by 18 points from Duke commit Luke Kennard.
As King had several impressive stretches over the weekend, the 6'7 guard would struggle shooting from the perimeter, but would continue to play at a high level for the remainder of Sunday. Kennard, on the other hand, was most impressive in the second half of both of King James' losses. Knocking down big shots from the perimeter all weekend, Kennard would score 17 points in the second half and both overtime periods vs. The Family, keeping King James afloat until Bridges and Saginaw Arthur Hill (MI) guard Eric Davis Jr. eventually took over late. The Duke commit Kennard was King James' top scorer of the weekend, posting averages of 15.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and two assists per game.
One of the better point guards in the 2015 class, Ohio State commit AJ Harris played at a high level for the majority of the weekend. Topped off by 26 points in the opening round loss vs. Newman and the Jackson Tigers, Harris was King James' only reliable scoring option in that game, and even took on the task of defending the shifty Newman, which is easier said than done. Flashing incredible quickness and burst, Harris has continued to defy skeptics, who claim he is too small for the Big Ten, by pouring in point after point, while playing tight on-ball defense.
Outside of the trio of Harris, Kennard, and King, Northeast Ohio small forwards Kipper Nichols (Lakewood St. Edward) and Willie Jackson (2016/Garfield Heights) performed at high levels, with Nichols averaging 9.3 points and four rebounds per contest. Jackson, who moved onto King James after spending the last year and a half with All-Ohio Red, showed flashes of his high upside, going for 7.8 points and five rebounds per game off the bench, highlighted by a breakout 16-point, 9-rebound performance in Saturday's opening game.
Sitting at 5-7 in EYBL play, King James looks to be a long shot for the Peach Jam, surprising for a team that advanced to the final four of both the 16u Peach Jam and AAU Nationals a year ago. As the talented group of Ohio hoopers have battled adversity surrounding injuries and chemistry issues, the Shooting Stars look to bounce back this weekend in Minneapolis for the final session of EYBL play.
Coleman, Ahmad, Teague lead All-Ohio Red to 3-1 record
Behind the volume scoring of La Lumiere (IN) guard Jalen Coleman, the do-it-all versatility of Shaker Heights power forward Esa Ahmad, and the off-the-bench spark from Cincinnati Walnut Hills guard MaCio Teague, All-Ohio Red posted a 3-1 record on the weekend. With big wins over Houston Hoops, Nike Team Florida and Southern Stampede, All-Ohio Red has improved to 8-3 on the season, putting themselves in great position to qualify for the EYBL's Peach Jam.
As Coleman led the way with 14.8 points per game, Red would receive scoring lifts from Ahmad's 14.5 points per game, while Teague would add 12.5 points per contest, all coming off the bench. With Coleman scorching the nets from the perimeter, and Ahmad doing all the dirty work inside, Teague would have a fantastic weekend, scoring in a variety of ways, all while increasing his stock across the recruiting scene.Teague would score at least 15 points in three of All-Ohio's four games this weekend, with his top performance coming in the form of 16 points and seven rebounds vs. DeAaron Fox and Houston Hoops.
Coleman, on the other hand, was impressive in each contest, highlighted by a 21-point performance against UConn commit Prince Ali and Southern Stampede. Coleman's pull-up perimeter shooting was most impressive this weekend, while the 6'3 guard was also surprisingly a force on the glass, getting up for rebounds in wins vs. Nike Team Florida and Southern Stampede. With offers from Butler, Georgetown, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, and UConn, among others, Coleman is an intriguing shooting guard to keep an eye on in the 2015 class, especially with the Indianapolis native's consistent high-level scoring in the toughest AAU league in the country. With a productive weekend in the books, Coleman is now shooting a team-best 50 percent from the three-point line (29-of-58) on the season.
Ahmad, the talk of Ohio State recruiting message boards for the last month, did nothing out of the ordinary this past weekend, scoring double-digits in all four games, highlighted by an 18-point, 6-rebound, 3-assist and 3-block performance in the final win on Sunday. While Ahmad has always been an extremely tough finisher around the basket, converting on a multitude of difficult attempts in the paint, the 6'8 forward showed greater consistency shooting from the perimeter, knocking down five more three-point field goals to bring his season-long average to 37.1 percent. In a tough matchup vs. 5-star 7'0 center Stephen Zimmerman and Oakland Soldiers, Ahmad would have no troubles finding his way to the free-throw line, converting on six-of-eight attempts from the stripe.
After nearly a perfect high school season in terms of production, Ahmad is finally starting to earn his due on the exposure side of things. Scoring invites to the Kevin Durant Skills Academy and the NBPA Top 100 Camp in the last few days, look for Ahmad's blazing stock to keep heating up.
Esa Ahmad has been invited to the Kevin Durant skills academy..recognized as one of the top 20 wings in the country— Ibrahim (Ibby) Ahmad (@dibdable) May 18, 2014
Outside of All-Ohio Red's scoring trio, forwards Noah Bramlage (Ottawa-Glandorf) and Doug Taylor (Columbus Northland) were productive in all facets of the game, with Bramlage continuing his hot shooting from the perimeter, while Taylor put his length and athleticism to his advantage in a strong showing on the glass. As each 6'8 big men have picked up interest from Akron since the weekend, Bramlage has been hearing from virtually all of the Ivy League, while Taylor still holds offers from Miami (OH), Northern Kentucky, Toledo and Towson. With Huber Heights Wayne forward Ahmad Wagner battling foul trouble in the second half of All-Ohio's Sunday morning win vs. Nike Team Florida, Taylor played extensive minutes, finishing with six points and six rebounds, all while defending NTF's gigantic 2016 center Udoka Azubuike, and holding his own.
In the All-Ohio backcourt, recent addition Davious Webster of Richmond, Ind., was productive off-the-bench, showing play-making ability and high-level aggressiveness off-the-dribble. With Huber Heights Wayne point guard D'Mitrik Trice out with a torn meniscus, and Newark shooting guard Jordan Dartis missing with a plaguing hip injury, All-Ohio bounced back after losing two of its starting guards from a year ago.
Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary guard Josh Williams, an Akron commit, greatly boosted his stock over the weekend, topped off with a 14-point, 6-rebound and 7-assist performance in the Saturday morning win vs. Houston Hoops. Williams is an excellent perimeter shooter with more than enough burst and athleticism to make plays in transition and in traffic. Showing great continuity with Coleman, the backcourt duo for Red was one of the better combos in action this weekend, and should continue to provide All-Ohio with the balanced scoring that the team will need to keep winning games in the EYBL.
All-Ohio Red 16u tops Always 100 for Super 16 title
After a fairly easy run to the All-Ohio Nike Super 16 title game, All-Ohio Red's 16u squad was met with a tough challenge in Always 100, also known as the VCC Ohio Warriors. After Always 100, led by sophomore forward Seth Towns (Columbus Northland), Matthew Moyer (Gahanna Lincoln) and Malik Harrison (Columbus Walnut Ridge), made an inspiring charge to the title game with wins over King James and Spiece Indy Heat, fatigue would set in, as All-Ohio Red would pull away late to take the title led by a cast of talented sophomores from around the state.
Check out Moyer's ferocious dunk vs. Spiece Indy Heat below, brought to you by great friend of the Holy Land, Chris Leaper of Leap On Media.