Coming together each Tuesday night at the Vineyard Community Center in Columbus, several coaches and trainers from the Nova Village AAU program host a High School Showdown that pits the top young talent in Central Ohio against eachother. In a structured format that includes an array of drills for forces players to communicate and rely on one another while using skills that will be necessary to compete at the college level, Nova Village has something great for the kids each Tuesday. We were live from VCC on Tuesday checking out all the top young talent, so let's take a look at the night's top performers.
Julian Malone (6'2 PG / Westerville North / 2018): Straight up bullying any player that got in his way on Tuesday, Malone was far and away the top performer in the gym. A productive lead guard that has a mean streak to him, Malone is physical and athletic, while having the quickness to get by defenders on the dribble. After a tremendous summer with Nova Village, Malone heads into a sophomore season at Westerville North where we think he can be an immediate impact player for the Warriors. Malone has an old school feel to his game, as he likes to get up in his opponents' grill and challenge them, a trait that unfortunately, not many young players have anymore.
Tariq Brown (6'5 SF / Columbus Eastmoor / 2018): A player that has been on our radar since playing a vital role in an Eastmoor starting five that led the Warriors to its first ever state semifinal berth, Brown continues to improve and we were impressed with his performance on Tuesday. A long and athletic wing with a lot of potential, Brown plays with a good feel, and doesn't try to do too much, finding ways to be effective in multiple areas of the game. Throwing down a hard two-hand jam in traffic that was the night's top play, Brown is a player in the 2018 class to keep an eye on.
Jerome Hunter (6'7 SF / Pickerington North / 2018): A marked man in any gym he steps into, Hunter has embraced being in the spotlight and continues to impress us each time out. With a skill set that is rapidly improving by the day, Hunter did a little bit of everything on Tuesday, but was most effective using his length and athleticism around the basket to be a difference maker. Fresh off a visit to Ohio State two weeks ago, Hunter was visited by Xavier in open gym on Monday night, as his recruitment continues to pick up. Coming into his first real season of high school basketball, look for Hunter to take his bumps and bruises, but come out even stronger at the end of 2015-16.
Tre Baumgardner (5'9 PG / Columbus Africentric / 2018): The smoothest guard that we watched, Baumgardner was on fire in drill work, abusing opposing defenders with step back jumpers and combination dribble moves. Baumgardner is shifty and uses his body well, while also showing signs of being more of an all-around offensive player compared to this time a year ago. While he has always been able to knock down the outside jumper, it has been nice to see Baumgardner expand his offensive skill set and become better on the drive.
Corey Baker (5'10 PG / Groveport Madison / 2018): One of the better athletes in the house, Baker is a player that we have known about since prior to his eighth grade year, which makes him feel older to us than just a sophomore. A confident kid that relies on his athleticism, Baker is a physical lead guard that loves to attack the basket with his left hand. Able to change speeds on a dime, Baker is a player that can make an impact on both sides of the floor. Playing JV on a talented Groveport team a season ago, look for Baker to have a role on the Cruiser varsity bench this season as a sophomore.
Nate Ward (6'2 SF / Gahanna Lincoln / 2018): Coming into his own as of late, we are really liking what we've seen from the middle brother in the Ward family (his older brother, Nick, is a Michigan State commit), With great length, athleticism, and upside, Ward has continued to make plays in the open floor, as he shows flashes a few times each game of the type of player he can be in a few years. Knocking down his outside jumper with more regularity, Ward is an intriguing wing that we think will continue to grow, both physically and mentally, as he has a tremendous support system around him.
Dominiq Penn (5'8 PG / Dublin Sells MS / 2020): The son of former Ohio State great and Big Ten Player of the Year Scoonie Penn, we liked what we had to see out of the eighth grade point guard. Showing a lot of the same instincts that his father played with in leading Ohio State to a Final Four, Penn is a composed and mature guard, despite his young age, that knows how to play the game, while picking his spots well. Competing against players two and three years his senior, Penn showed no signs of intimidation, playing with a lot of confidence and belief. Slated to attend powerful Dublin Coffman next fall, Penn is a player to keep an eye on in the 2020 class.