In a division dominated by Northland over the last decade, the Vikings are showing no signs of going anywhere anytime soon. While a talented 2015 class in the Columbus City League-North leaves many unproven juniors and seniors to carry the load in the division, Northland is looking to win its ninth North title in the last ten years. Will the Vikings be challenged? Let's take a look at our 2015-16 City League-North preview here.
2014-15 record: 22-6 (15-0, Div. I regional finalist)
Key returnees: Seth Towns (6'7 SF / 2016 / Harvard commit), Naquon Haynes (6'4 PF / 2016), Jejuan Weatherspoon (6'3 SG / 2018), Jordan Kinchen (5'11 PG / 2016), Andy Breckenridge-Hall (5'10 SG / 2016)
Key additions: Jalen Stevens (6'0 PG / 2016 / former school: South Charleston, WV)
Outlook: For nearly the last decade in the City League North, Northland has possessed the division's best player, having at least one Division I prospect on its roster in every season dating back to 2005-06. In 2015-16, the Vikings have arguably the best player in all of Ohio in Seth Towns, who at 6'7, is a nearly impossible matchup for anybody in Columbus.
Fifth all-time in scoring at Northland, Towns needs just 25 points to surpass Utah Jazz point guard Trey Burke on the list, and will need to average around 27 points per game in 25 games to topple Boston Celtics big man Jared Sullinger. In a division that has no matchup for Towns on any of its remaining seven teams, we think the Harvard commit is more than capable of not only becoming the Vikings' all-time leading scorer, but also winning Ohio's prestigious Mr. Basketball award. Setting a program-record with 47 points in a win against Linden last year, we think Towns has a chance to average anywhere north of 30 points per game in 2015-16.
Outside of the Harvard commit, Northland has a cast of talented surrounding Towns, including a backcourt that returns senior guards Jordan Kinchen and Andy Breckenridge-Hall. As both guards were instrumental in Northland's district title last season, coach Sean Taylor is also expecting big things out of sophomore wing Jejuan Weatherspoon, younger brother of Northland dunking legend JD Weatherspoon. Weatherspoon is a deadly shooter that can take over with his scoring at any given moment, as Northland will be relying on him to come consistent for 20+ games this season.
In the front court, the Vikings are led by burly 6'4 forward Naquon Haynes, while rising 6'8 junior big man Quentin Jones has shown continual improvement. Look for 6'7 sophomore Gabe Towns to continue to make strides, as the younger Towns keeps showing signs of the type of high-level player we think he can become.
Also in the backcourt, Norhtland welcomes senior guard Jalen Stevens, who comes in from out-of-state. Stevens is a high-IQ guard that commands the offense well, while junior guard Brandon Waugh has also been a player to watch in the area during the fall.
Northland will go wherever Seth Towns takes them, and we are confident that the Harvard commit will lead the Vikings back to the Columbus City League Championship Game where he dominated a season ago. Whether or not the Vikings can overcome a talented Walnut Ridge team remains to be seen, but we still feel Towns & Co. have a tremendous shot to win yet another district title for Northland in March.
Prediction: 23-5 (14-1, Columbus City League runner-up, Div. I regional semifinalist)
2014-15 record: 14-11 (9-5)
Key returnees: Jaylon Smith (5'11 PG / 2016), Jeremiah Fair-Harris (5'10 PG / 2016), Gimmy Martinez (6'4 SF / 2016), Angelo Moore (6'2 PF / 2016), Dimitri Warner (5'6 PG / 2016)
Outlook: A team that always seems to win 14+ games each season, coach Roosevelt Osborne and Centennial return for a 2015-16 season with high expectations for the Stars. While Centennial was led by do-it-all big man Joe Thomas for the last two years, the Stars will be a score-by-committee type squad, as a deep group of senior guards should keep them competitive.
Starting in that backcourt, senior guards Jaylon Smith, Jeremiah Fair-Harris, Dimitri Warner, Corey Cesaro and Shaun Fullen all played significant minutes on varsity a season ago, as we are expecting the bouncy Smith to be the best of them all in 2015-16.
In the frontcourt, Centennial has a trio of wing forwards that should each see meaningful time this year, as seniors Gimmy Martinez and Angelo Moore will be expected to contribute, while junior 6'4 wing Adam Slappy is a player to watch.
Centennial is expecting big things from sophomore guard Gary Elder, who Roosevelt compared to former CHS star guard Bucky Chenault (2006-10). Elder is a bigger guard at 6'2, and gives Centennial a player that can create his own shot and make things happen offensively.
While Centennial may not have enough to knock Northland off its throne, we are still expecting the Stars to be a contender in a wide-open Div. II district in Central Ohio.
2014-15 record: 4-19 (2-12)
Key returnees: Tommie Lee (6'1 SG / 2016), Dexter Kowalski (6'6 PF / 2016), Rayshon Walker (5'11 PG / 2018), Shamari Jacobs (6'1 SG / 2016), Jack Staggs (6'4 SF / 2017)
Key additions: Gerard Reynolds (6'3 PF / 2019), Clevon Brown (6'0 PG / 2016 / former school: Beechcroft)
Outlook: A team that we are expecting to make drastic improvement in year two under coach Richie Beard, Whetstone is our surprise pick to take the City League North by storm. While the Braves don't have enough to seriously compete with Northland, Whetstone returns a deep and inspired roster that is looking to set a program record for wins in 2015-16.
Starting with senior guard Tommie Lee, the Braves return a cast that showed signs of being a really competitive group at times in 2014-15. Lee is a talented scorer that is best off the ball, while sophomore point guard Rayshon Walker is expected to man the point for Whetstone. Walker is a high-IQ guard that splashed onto the scene as a freshman and has only gotten better. Outside of those two, Whetstone is looking for senior guards Shamari Jacobs and Clevon Brown to continue to improve. Jacobs is a player to watch in the City League North, as we liken his game to Walnut Ridge's Azende Johnson.
In the frontcourt, Whetstone is led by bouncy 6'6 senior Dexter Kowalski. A player that has a chance to lead the North division in rebounds, Kowalski is a guy that makes things happen all over the floor. Outside of Kowalski, junior forward Jack Staggs is back after averaging eight rebounds a game as a sophomore. The Braves are really excited about freshman forward Gerard Reynolds, who enters the Braves program as one of the better combo forwards in Ohio's 2019 class.
With a favorable non-conference schedule and a North division in the midst of a rebuilding year, we think Whetstone will be a rising team to watch in 2015-16.
2014-15 record: 11-12 (6-8)
Key returnees: DeAnthony Griffin (6'1 PG / 2016), Jeff Floyd (6'0 SG / 2016), Dionte Allen (5'9 PG / 2017), Caleb Allen (6'1 SG / 2016)
Key additions: D'Amonte Jones (6'6 C / 2019)
Outlook: Another program that is in the midst of a rebuilding process that saw Linden win 11 games in 2014-15, the Panthers return for another season of promise for coach Jeremy Stuhlfauth's club.
Returning in the backcourt are talented senior guards DeAnthony Griffin and Jeff Floyd, who have been mainstays in the Linden starting lineup for the last two years. Griffin is a big-time shooter who is a scoring point guard, while Floyd is the best athlete in the City League North with a vertical inch nearing Andrew Wiggins levels, as Floyd is the back-to-back Ohio state champion in the high jump.
Outside of those two, look for senior guard Caleb Allen and junior guard Dionte Allen to contribute, as Linden is likely to be led by its talented duo of Griffin and Floyd in the backcourt. The Panthers will look to use its speed to beat opponents up and down the floor, as its group of groups are effective in transition.
Look for freshman big man D'Amonte Jones to be someone that will help Linden later on down the season, as the staff is really excited about the upside of the 6'6 post.
A team that will live and die by the efficiency of its guard play, Linden is a team that we think can compete in the top half of the City League North,
2014-15 record: 14-8 (9-5)
Key returnees: Javon Forrester (5'9 PG / 2016), Jelani Simmons (6'0 PG / 2018), Therron Jennings (6'2 SF / 2018), Teon Jennings (6'2 SF / 2018), Joshua Dandridge (6'4 PF / 2017)
Outlook: A team that always plays hard and poses as a threat any given night in the City League North, Beechcroft returns with a very young, but talented unit in 2015-16. Coach Humphrey Simmons always seems to get the most out of his guys, as the Cougars are looking forward to competing with some other upstart squads with young talent in the division.
Starting in the backcourt, look for senior guard Javon Forrester to continue to make strides in his development, as were were impressed with the 5'9 guard last fall. Look for sophomore guard Jelani Simmons to be a breakout player in the City League this season, as the coach's son is a talented scorer that knows how to play.
Led by Simmons, Beechcroft has a solid 2018 class, as the Cougars are excited about twin forwards Therron Jennings and Teon Jennings. Look for those two to play meaningful minutes, while junior forward Joshua Dandridge is back after a solid sophomore season.
While Beechcroft graduated a great deal of talent from a team that won 14 games a season ago, the Cougars will be young and unproven, and its success in 2015-16 will be contingent on how quickly they grow up and adapt together.
2014-15 record: 14-6 (11-3)
Key returnees: D'Anthony Williams (6'2 SF / 2016), Jalen Spencer (6'3 PF / 2017), Itika Wynn (5'10 PG / 2018)
Outlook: With a mass exodus of talent leaving from its 2015 class, Mifflin returns to the floor in 2015-16 in yet another year of transition for the Puncher program. Under its third coach in three years, Mifflin will be led by former Central Crossing coach Anthony Mangette, who comes in for his first season in the City League.
Looking to virtually replace all of its production from a season ago, Mifflin will rely on senior wing D'Anthony Williams to be its primary scorer. At 6'2, Williams is an impressive athlete that scores well off the bounce in the lane.
Watch for junior post Jalen Spencer to produce in the middle, as Mifflin will need production out of its wide-bodied 6'3 power forward.
Joining Williams in the backcourt is talented sophomore guard Itika Wynn, who comes to Mifflin after spending half of his freshman season at City Prep. Wynn is a high-IQ guard that can really handle the ball, and we expect him to run the point for Mangette's squad.
Mifflin is a program in transition, and we expect it to take its punches (no pun intended), as Mangette works to get his system in place.
2014-15 record: 9-15 (5-9, Div. III district finalist)
Key returnees: Kelvin Burley (6'4 PF / 2016), Chase Walker (5'8 PG / 2016), Josh Dixon (6'1 SG / 2016), Justin Curtis (6'3 SG / 2018)
Key additions: Noah Harris (5'9 PG / 2017 / former school: Pickerington North), Jacques Davenport (6'1 SG / 2017 / former school: Walnut Ridge)
Outlook: After a heart-breaking loss in the Div. III district title game to Bishop Hartley to end last season, East returns to the floor under a new regime with first-year head coach Francwau Dubose, who comes over after a successful run at Dominion Middle School. While the Tigers will have to replace the majority of its scoring from a season ago, we are optimistic that Dubose can get things headed in the right direction.
Starting off with its senior class, look for 6'4 forward Kelvin Burley to be a big piece of this team, while senior guards Chase Walker and Josh Dixon (younger brother of former East standout Jerry Dixon), are likely to man the backcourt. Sophomore wing guard Justin Curtis is a long and intriguing prospect on the perimeter, as we think he has a chance to be pretty good.
East brings in a pair of transfers at both guard spots between Noah Harris, who comes in from Pickerington North, and Jacques Davenport, who comes in from Walnut Ridge. Harris is a high-IQ guard with a reliable outside shot, while Davenport is more of a slashing guard.
With a bevy of unproven guys in a league very top heavy, look for East to take its bumps and bruises early on in Dubose's first year on the job.
2014-15 record: 0-22 (0-14)
Key returnees: Jeremiah Hunter (6'4 SF / 2016)
Outlook: Things are not easy in the International program at the moment, and with the loss of the team's top scorer from a season ago to transfer, we don't see much changing for the City League's youngest program. Look for the senior wing Jeremiah Hunter to lead an International team with not a whole lot of varsity experience.
City League North Superlatives
Preseason MVP: Seth Towns (Sr. SF, Northland)
Preseason Breakout Player(s) of the Year: Jejuan Weatherspoon (So. SF, Northland), Jelani Simmons (So. PG, Beechcroft), D'Anthony Williams (Sr. SG, Mifflin)
Preseason All-Columbus City League North: Jordan Kinchen (Sr. PG, Northland), DeAnthony Griffin (Sr. PG, Linden-McKinley), Tommie Lee (Sr. SG, Whetstone), Seth Towns (Sr. SF, Northland), Naquon Haynes (Sr. PF, Northland)