With the closure of USA Sports Academy (more commonly known as "The Hoop"), area coach Victor Dandridge was pressed to find a new home for his weekly showcase of the state's best basketball players. Behind a sponsorship from Lucius Jones of Hidden Gems AAU, Vic's weekly showcase was off to a hot start on Sunday at Reynoldsburg High School. Featuring 50 of Central Ohio's top players, and a cast of studs from Dayton (the showcase will invite different regions each week), Sunday was filled with top-tier basketball.
As Team Dayton dominated behind the play of Dayton commits Xeyrius Williams (Huber Heights Wayne/2015) and Ryan Mikesell (Saint Henry/2015), the addition of Michigan State commit Kyle Ahrens (Versailles/2015), and rising senior guards Asante Patterson (Dayton Thurgood Marshall) and Xavier Holston-Sims (Columbus Eastmoor) helped the lengthy squad remain unblemished on Sunday. Remaining on the "Winner's Court" for every game on Sunday, the Dayton-based squad's versatility was too much for opposing teams to handle, even without a legitimate post threat.
Loaded with talented guards, Sunday's showcase was highlighted by the play of several area guards.
DJ Tyree (6'2 PG / Columbus Northland / 2016):
Arguably the area's most improved point guard since the end of the high school season, Tyree has regained all of his confidence that was lost in a turbulent sophomore year at Pickerington Central. Receiving a fresh start at Northland, Tyree's game has elevated in recent months, as the 6-foot-2 guard is stronger, attacking the rim with more success, and becoming a lockdown defender on the perimeter. Played excellent in all my viewings of him on Sunday. Look for Tyree to be one of the best guards in the Columbus City League for the next two years.
David Dennis (6'2 PG / Canal Winchester Harvest Prep / 2015):
Recently committing to Division II powerhouse West Liberty, Dennis played at a high level on Sunday. The 6-foot-2 guard has great basketball IQ, and is always making the unselfish play for his teammates. Excels in the catch-and-shoot from the perimeter, and can finish with either hand at the rim. Should have a big-time senior season as Harvest Prep reloads for another run at a state final four.
Austin Schaub (5'11 PG / New Albany / 2015):
Sunday's assist leader, Schaub showed off excellent vision and play-making ability, in addition to being the best rebounding point guard in the event. Can score when he wants to, but on a loaded New Albany squad, Schaub is best suited as a facilitator, which is exactly what he did on Sunday. Keep an eye on Schaub going into his senior year, as New Albany has a chance to be one of the area's best teams.
Jelani Rogers (6'0 PG / Westerville South / 2016):
Shifty and hard to stay in front of, Rogers impressed on Sunday, choosing to shoot from the perimeter more often than not. While Rogers can sometimes fall too much in love with the three ball, the Westerville South guard remained aggressive, taking defenders off the dribble for scores. Rogers will be a major piece to a Westerville South team that should be one of the better units in all of the area.
PJ Wilkes (5'10 PG / Columbus Mifflin / 2015):
Leading all Columbus City League point guards in scoring last season, Wilkes is back for a senior at Mifflin with high expectations. Playing at Coach Vic's for the first time on Sunday, Wilkes showed off a balanced offensive game, hitting jump shots from close, mid, and long range. In a talented Mifflin back court, Wilkes' scoring may not be at the level it was in 2013-14, but as long as the Punchers are winning games, that is all that matters to the rising senior guard.
Hunter Schmaltz (6'2 PG / Grandview Heights / 2015):
Schmaltz is a name you may not be all that familiar with in Central Ohio, but after Sunday, now may be a good time to get accustomed. Quick and explosive, the 6-foot-2 Schmaltz showed off a level of bounce that helped him score along the baseline in traffic all afternoon long. At an unheralded school like Grandview Heights, Schmaltz may fly under the radar more than most, but do not sleep on the rising senior.
Jarius Ward (6'2 SG / Lima Senior / 2017):
Recently announcing that he will not return to Reynoldsburg for his sophomore season, Ward was back at his old stomping grounds on Sunday. One of the better guards in all of Ohio in the 2017 class, Ward showed why new Lima Senior coach Quincey Simpson is excited about the guard's decision to play for the Spartans in 2014-15. Athletic and defensive-minded, Ward brings the type of high-level energy that every team could use.
Equally as loaded on the wing, one of the top players to ever compete at Coach Vic's on Sunday made a return to Columbus for the day.
Javon Bess (6'5 SG / Michigan State freshman):
Returning to Columbus for Sunday's action, Bess, who is on the Coach Vic's Open Gym Mount Rushmore, dominated the younger competition. Donning a pair of Michigan State game shorts, Bess had his way in the lane, attacking the basket for score after score. The focus of his development as a senior, Bess' jump shot was also improved, as the 6-foot-5 combo-guard has put on noticeable muscle since arriving in East Lansing earlier in the summer.
Ibi Watson (6'5 SG / Pickerington Central / 2016):
Transferring to Pickerington Central from Athens earlier in the summer, Watson looks to make a major splash in the OCC-Ohio. One of the most versatile scorers in attendance on Sunday, Watson showed off improved athleticism and shot-making ability as he and high school teammate Rodney Culver were one of the day's top combos. With several MAC-level offers, look for Watson's recruitment to continue to increase throughout the high school season.
Rodney Culver (6'5 SG / Pickerington Central / 2015):
If Sunday was any indication on how the high school season may play out, Pickerington Central has many reasons to be excited. As Culver and Watson took down the Gahanna duo of Nick Ward and Matt Moyer in the day's last game, the Pickerington Central combo-guards combined for 18 points in a ten-point victory. Culver and Watson, both at 6-foot-5, were difficult matchups on the perimeter, as each guard can attack the basket and create. Between the immense talent at Pickerington Central and Gahanna, the OCC-Ohio should again be the most exciting division race in the area.
Houston Smith (6'5 SF / Columbus Africentric / 2016):
Athletically gifted, Smith has made major strides throughout the summer to improve his overall game, and the results have shown. A long and slender 6-foot-5 combo-guard, Smith had his way with defenders on Sunday, consistently attacking the basket for scores. Smith's greatest trait is his insane leaping ability, which helps him soar above defenders for scores at the rim.
Nic Bapst (6'3 SG / Grove City / 2015):
One of the best shooters in attendance on Sunday, Bapst once again played at a high level, scoring the ball at will. Dominating a staunch OCC-Ohio as a junior, Bapst has built off a successful AAU season with Team Work to refine all parts of his game heading into 2014-15. With his older brother, Brandon, entering his second season with Division II Malone University, the younger Bapst seems like a perfect fit in a talented GLIAC conference.
Luke Vargo (6'8 SF / Dublin Coffman / 2016):
A smooth operator on the perimeter, Vargo knocked down a flurry of shots from behind-the-arc, and was arguably Sunday's top three-point shooter. At 6-foot-8, Vargo plays a similar style to Seth Towns, as both are primarily jump shooters who can mix it up in the post. Vargo and high school and AAU teammate Seth Fuller are two talented rising juniors that the Coffman program is very excited about.
Mike Simon (6'6 PF / Hilliard Davidson / 2015):
Built like an ox, Simon scored at a high level on Sunday, showing an inside-outside game extending out to 18 feet. After a solid AAU season alongside Dennis with Who Got Game, Simon and rising junior forward Luke Mayer look to lead Hilliard Davidson in 2014-15, as the Wildcats should be vastly improved from a season ago.
Malik Bocook (6'4 PF / Canal Winchester Harvest Prep / 2015):
Alongside Smith, Bocook is another incredible leaper who flat out gets it done in the paint. Transferring to Harvest Prep from Zanesville, Bocook is a welcomed addition in a Harvest Prep front court that looks to be much improved from last season. Bocook's day was highlighted by a monstrous one-handed tip slam, in which the 6-foot-4 forward came across the lane to finish the slam.
Quality post play was most memorable from Sunday, as several area studs did man-sized things in the paint.
Nick Ward (6'8 C / Gahanna Lincoln / 2016):
Sunday's top performer, Ward was an absolute beast around the basket, burying defenders under the basket for score after score. Going for a day-high 16 points (the games are only 10 minutes long), Ward dominated the opposition, and showed why some feel he is the top overall center in Ohio's class of 2016. Between Ward, Matt Moyer and Alonzo Campbell, Gahanna has the area, if not the state's most talented front court.
Matt Moyer (6'8 PF / Gahanna Lincoln / 2016):
Committing to Syracuse a week ago, Moyer showed flashes of his incredible upside that was the reason for a meteoric rise in recruitment this summer. At 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan, Moyer is incredibly long, and is a nightmare in transition. Throwing down several thunderous dunks, Moyer also finished acrobatically in the lane on several drives, showing continually improvement in his game.
Noah Vollmer (6'6 PF / Dublin Coffman / 2015):
One of the most underrated rising seniors in Central Ohio, Vollmer showed a solid all-around game on Sunday going up against some of the area's top talent. Vollmer is an unselfish player that just gets the job done, whether that's with rebounding, low-post defense, or mid-range shooting, Vollmer will do what it takes to win.
Alonzo Campbell (6'10 PF / Gahanna Lincoln / 2015):
Often forgotten among Gahanna's front court towers, Campbell is the tallest of all, and has shown tons of improvement this summer. With an offer from Wright State, Campbell has increased his level of activity on both ends of the floor, while his mid-range shooting has continued to be his strong suit on offense. Campbell held his own with 10 points and five rebounds in a matchup vs. Ward in the last game of the day.
Ulmer Manzie (6'8 PF / Columbus Africentric / 2015):
Another Division I front court prospect in Central Ohio, Manzie played some of his best basketball in the low post on Sunday. Showing off improved footwork and touch around the basket, Manzie rose up for several powerful slams after executing a drop step the big man didn't use all that often in the regular season. Look for Manzie to be a major piece to an Africentric team that looks to win the City League South.
Doug Taylor (6'8 PF / Columbus Northland / 2015):
A top priority among several MAC schools including Miami (OH) and Ohio, Taylor played at a high level alongside Manzie in the front court. An active rebounder and low post scorer, Taylor was a vital part to an All-Ohio Red reserve unit that put in quality minutes all EYBL season. Returning to Northland for his senior season, Taylor will be a key piece to a Viking team that looks to win its eighth City League title in nine years.
Marquiez Lawrence (6'9 PF / Kent State sophomore):
The former Marion-Franklin standout returned to Columbus on Sunday to compete at Coach Vic's. After a freshman season in which Lawrence logged just over three minutes per game, "Stretch," looks to have a greater impact as a sophomore, and played like a college-level power forward vs. the younger competition. Lawrence ran the floor like a guard, finishing in transition while altering a high number of shots on the defensive side of the ball.
John Miller (6'10 C / New Albany / 2015):
The center with arguably the most offensive upside of any big man in Central Ohio, Miller had a solid evening playing alongside Watson and Culver. At 6-foot-10, Miller moves well for his size, and continues to show offensive improvement, mainly focusing on his touch around the basket. With an offer from Cornell, look for Miller's recruitment to steadily increase throughout the fall and winter.