As it has been well documented for the last two years, the class of 2016 in the Midwest is as talented as ever. While Ohio Basketball Club and King James Shooting Stars met up for the 16u championship at the Spiece Run-n-Slam Classic this past weekend in Fort Wayne, Ind., Ohio might just have the best group of sophomore out of them all. Let's take a look at the top five observations from the 2016 class this past weekend.
1. Jarron Cumberland gets buckets
Stealing the show on Sunday en route to leading OBC to a 16u championship, the 6'5 combo-guard Cumberland was the star of the day. After leading OBC with 32 points in an upset win over national power Mac Irvin Fire in the tournament semifinals, Cumberland's elite combination of size, athleticism, strength and power were far too much for King James to handle in the championship.
Going for 25 points, five rebounds, two assists, four blocks and two steals in the title game, Cumberland bounced back from an early technical in the first half, regaining his focus to finish strong as OBC dispatched a highly-ranked King James squad, 78-74.
While Cumberland is highly-regarded among all scouts in Ohio, the bulky sophomore increased his exposure to another level, gaining national attention from Scout and Rivals. While Cumberland has yet to receive a Division I offer, the Wilmington sophomore guard lists interest from Cincinnati, Detroit, Michigan, Purdue, and West Virginia.
2. Xavier Simpson is a top ten point guard nationally
While I have yet to see every top sophomore point guard in the nation, I am willing to bet my Pell grant that there are not ten better than Lima Central Catholic's Xavier Simpson.
Leading King James to a runner-up finish (and nearly two-straight comebacks from double-digit halftime deficits), Simpson was the top 2016 point guard in attendance in Fort Wayne, posting averages of 13.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. Scoring 46 points and dishing out 11 assists in King James' final two games, Simpson led the charge in the second half of each contest, leading King James back from an 11-point halftime deficit in a semifinal win vs. The Family. In the championship game vs. OBC, Simpson helped engineer an 18-6 run in the final minutes, nearly erasing a 16-point deficit, but King James would fall just short, 78-74. Earlier in the tournament, Simpson had another balanced outing, going for 17 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in a convincing win over Playground Elite in pool play.
With superb leadership skills, excellent basketball IQ, and a command for the game, Simpson can do everything you need on offense, while being an active and physical on-ball defender. With offers from Cleveland State and Toledo in the last month, the 5-foot-11 floor general is also receiving interest form Ohio State and Michigan State, among others.
Check out Simpson's highlights from the tournament below, thanks to great friend of the Holy Land Jason Morrow over at Behind The Box Score.
3. Caleb Swanigan is a man among boys
In his second season with the 17u EYBL Spiece Indy Heat, Fort Wayne Homestead center Caleb Swanigan was far and away the top sophomore post prospect in action this weekend.
At 6-foot-8 and 275 pounds, Swanigan is an absolute load on the block, constantly drawing additional defenders as opposing teams attempt to keep him out of the paint. Excellent at establishing position on the block, Swanigan buries defenders under the basket, often either finishing for high-percentage scores or drawing fouls. In addition to his back-to-the-basket game, Swanigan can also face up, and knock down jumpers out to 18-feet.
A major part in Spiece's Sweet 16 win over All-Ohio Red on Sunday, Swanigan was just too much to handle for Red, as the Ohio opposition rotated a cast of defenders to try their luck at keeping the burly sophomore out of the lane. Currently regarded as the second-best center prospect in the nation according to ESPN, Swanigan lists offers from Georgetown, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State and Tennessee.
4. Several talented guards boost stock
In an event attracting all the largest media outlets in the basketball industry, several guards, underrated or not, boosted their stock this weekend.
Saving his best performance for last, Warrensville Heights shooting guard Yavari Hall was just as important as Cumberland in OBC's title win vs. King James. Going off for 24 points, six rebounds and three blocks, the 6-foot-4 swing man scored with versatility, converting all four of his field goals in the first half from behind-the-arc, while finishing at the rim in transition in the second half.
With a long and wiry frame, Hall still looks to add considerable strength, but can still make things happen offensively. Seeing Hall in December vs. Dublin Coffman, I have seen noticeable improvements in the sophomore's game, most notably his fluidity pulling-up into his jump shot from the perimeter. Just another piece to an absolutely loaded sophomore class in Northeast Ohio, Hall has yet to be offered, but lists interest from Akron, Bucknell, Cleveland State, Dayton, Holy Cross, Miami (OH), North Carolina Greensboro, Penn State, Virginia Tech and Winthrop.
While not as lengthy as Hall, 6-foot-2 Merriville (IN) guard DJ Wilkins had himself a day in a quarterfinal loss to King James. Coming off the bench for 16 points, 14 in the second half, Wilkins showed great play-making ability, attacking the basket vs. an athletic King James backcourt, and finishing amongst the trees Derek Funderburk, and Derrick Daniels. Wilkins' quickness off the dribble was something to note on Sunday, as the guard was continuously able to create his own shot and get in the lane. Wilkins told me on Monday night that he is receiving interest from Butler, Cornell, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue.
One of the more unheralded guards coming into this weekend, Germantown (WI) point guard Juwan McCloud left as one of Spiece's top performers. Leading Playground Elite to a quarterfinal finish, McCloud's second-half scoring were key in wins over Always 100 (VCC Ohio Warriors) and All-Ohio Red in the first two rounds of tournament play on Saturday night.
A slender 6-foot-1 guard, McCloud plays a very controlled style, but is able to light it up at any minute, as his sharp perimeter shooting can create for a heatwave. Scoring 25 points in the second half in a 70-65 loss to King James in pool play, McCloud knocked down five three-point field goals in the final 15 minutes of play, torching the Shooting Stars as Playground Elite attempted to crawl back late. Drawing a comparison to Duke commit Tyus Jones from Roundball Rundown reporter Corey Evans on Saturday, McCloud lists interest from DePaul, Lehigh and Northern Colorado.
On a team full of superstars, Athens sophomore wing guard Ibi Watson can fly under the radar with King James Shooting Stars. After an impressive showing all weekend long in Fort Wayne, Watson should not be overlooked much longer. Averaging 7.8 points per game for the tournament (second on the team), all while coming off the bench, Watson showed an increased ability to finish strongly at the rim, while also continuing to be a confident perimeter shooter.
One thing about Watson's game that I was consistently impressed with was the 6-foot-4 guard's increased athleticism and decision-making. King James' highest IQ wing, Watson rarely turned the ball over, while refusing to settle for low-percentage shots. Helping lead the King James rally late in Sunday's championship game, Watson made several key plays on both ends of the floor, showing the confidence that King James' coaching staff has in the rising-junior combo-guard. Watson told me on Monday night that he has received offers from Akron and Ohio, while receiving interest from Davidson, Dayton, Miami (OH), Michigan, Western Carolina and Wright State.
While Cincinnati Aiken point guard Carlik Jones may not be the most well-known point guard in Ohio's 2016 class, the 5-foot-11 Jones made his presence felt by making key plays down the stretch in two majors wins to lead OBC to a 16u championship.
With Cumberland and Hall handling scoring duties for OBC, Jones did everything else that his team needed out of him, finishing with six points, six rebounds and five assists in the championship win. A long-armed and athletic point guard, Jones consistently makes the high IQ play, while showing great versatility in his overall skill set. As guys like Simpson and Dayton Stivers' Roderick Caldwell are constantly mentioned among Ohio's top sophomore lead guards, don't sleep on Cincinnati's Jones.
5. The center position isn't dead just yet: Meet big man Algevon Eichelberger
If I was forced to give out a Jared Sullinger of the Weekend Award, Saginaw (MI) and The Family center Algevon Eichelberger certainly deserves strong consideration. A load of 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds, Eichelberger had a Swanigan-esque performance in The Family's semifinal loss to King James, finishing with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
Bullying King James' post defenders around the basket, Eichelberger was nearly too much to handle, as he and Simpson went back-and-forth scoring the ball in the second half. Squaring off against lengthy and athletic power forwards Derek Funderburk and Derrick Daniels in the matchup vs. King James, Eichelberger outscored and outrebounded both the King James duo in the semifinal loss. According to Verbal Commits, Eichelberger boasts offers from Detroit, Nicholls State, and Northern Illinois, a list that is sure to grow.
Others news and notes
For King James, Funderburk and Daniels each had productive weekends, as Funderburk took advantage of limited chances to get the ball in the post, either scoring or drawing fouls on the majority of times he touched the ball.
Receiving an offer from Ohio State earlier in the spring, Funderburk is regarded by many to be the top post prospect in Ohio, and did nothing to hurt that title this weekend. An athletic and versatile 6-foot-9 power forward, Funderburk can score in the halfcourt, can run the floor, and is automatic from the free-throw line, most noted by the sophomore's clutch shooting from the charity stripe in leading Lakewood St. Edward late in the Eagles' state championship win vs. Upper Arlington.
On the other hand, Daniels showed a greater ability to score from the perimeter, knocking down several threes in catch-and-shoot situations over the weekend. While Daniels is one of the top athletes in all of Ohio, the 6-foot-7 Dayton Thurgood Marshall product has made great strides in his development in the last year, impressive for a player one-to-two years younger than most of his teammates. Only 15 years of age, Daniels has an incredibly high ceiling, and is arguably the top combo-forward in all of Ohio.
Cleveland Central Catholic and King James small forward Tervell Beck reportedly received an offer from UNLV on Saturday night, although the 6'7 forward was unaware of it when asked later that night.
UNLV offered 2016 SF Tervell Beck from King James (OH).— Alex Kline (@TheRecruitScoop) May 4, 2014
Having an up-and-down showing this past weekend, Beck wasn't the most consistent player on the King James roster, but again showed signs of the potential that many in Ohio are waiting for the sophomore to fully unleash.
Although I was unable to catch a game of Always 100 this past weekend, I heard great things about Gahanna Lincoln combo-forward Matthew Moyer. After a hectic past week following a breakout performance at the Pittsburgh Jam Fest, Moyer again showed up to play on the AAU circuit, leading Always 100 to a first place finish in its bracket. Showing off his elite length and athleticism, Moyer thrived in the open floor, and according to this scout, showed all the makings of a "high major prospect." Receiving offers from Air Force, UNLV and USC in the past week, look for Moyer's stock to continue to grow throughout the summer.
One player that I came away overly impressed with that I hadn't heard of before, was 6-foot-7 Cleveland Brush power forward Justin Sylver. Major for OBC coming off the bench in the championship victory over King James, Sylver's 16 points, nine rebounds and two blocks sustained OBC's advantage around the rim, and provided for a breakout showing against a talented King James front court. Sylver is a wide-bodied post man with decent athleticism and soft touch around the basket, while also being a patient low-post defender that can get his hands on a wide margin of shots. Look for Sylver to continue to improve over the summer, while his talented and underrated OBC squad plays with a chip on their shoulder.
With a runner-up finish in the silver bracket, Nova Village and 6-foot-6 power forward Jason Carter enjoyed a bit of a breakout weekend in Fort Wayne. With this past weekend being Carter's first real performance on a grand stage, the Johnstown post did not disappoint. A skilled and athletic 6-foot-6, Carter is active on both ends of the floor, and brings his A game in each and every contest. On a Nova Village squad led by Carter and Columbus Walnut Ridge guard Tarik Wright, the cast of Central Ohio hoopers have played pretty well in the past two weekends vs. top competition. As more and more scouts familiarize themselves with the Central Ohio product Carter, look for his name to be mentioned more often when it comes to discussing the state's top post prospects.