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Posted On: 10/12/17 7:00 AM
The first and only transfer in our preseason Mr. Basketball series is rising junior, Alonzo Gaffney. Last season, Gaffney won a Division III State Championship at Villa Angela-St. Joseph. During that run, Gaffney averaged 13.2 points and capped off his sophomore campaign with a double-double in their 54-52 win over Roger Bacon at The Schott. Gaffney was also named to Second Team All State in Division II.
Gaffney has since transferred to Garfield Heights, where the Bulldogs are expected to be one of the top teams in Division I. While a jump from Division II Second Team All State to Ohio’s Mr. Basketball in one season seems improbable, Gaffney has a very real chance based on our formula.
First of all, Ohio’s Mr. Basketball must have elite talent. Since 2001, only LeBron James (#1 NBA Draft pick) and Justin Fritts (Wheeling Jesuit) didn’t play Division I basketball.
Next, we considered projected team success. Again since 2001, 10 of the 17 Mr. Basketball winners led their high school team to the State Final Four that season.
Then, the most important piece of the formula considered is production. We’re considering the player’s projected role on their team to predict if they have the opportunity to fill up the scorer’s book. It’s especially imperative that you put up points, as the only Mr. Basketball to average under 20 points since 2001 was Jared Sullinger at 19.9 points per game in 2009. But, Sullinger made up for that tenth of a point by averaging 14.8 rebounds, being the #2 player in the country, and winning the Division I State Championship.
So, how does Gaffney measure up?
Gaffney has a chance to be a pro ball player. The 6’9” junior played center last season for VASJ, but his development of perimeter skills makes him a combo forward now. He can get a good shot at any point because of his size and athleticism. Gaffney is an above-the-rim player.
Gaffney has been ranked as high as #12 in the country in the 2019 class, by Scout.com. He currently holds offers from programs like Kansas, Louisville, Ohio State, Cincinnati, West Virginia, and Georgetown.
Garfield Heights has the most talent of any roster in the state. The three seniors expected to be in their rotation are already committed to a college program. Gaffney and fellow 6’9” combo forward, Brison Waller, are both high-major prospects. The Bulldogs also have Division I talent in their underclassmen ranks.
If Garfield Heights can find a way to gel their pieces into a cohesive unit, it will take a valiant effort to beat them. However, their entire backcourt from last season graduated, with Marreon Jackson and Shawn Christian now playing at Toledo and Cleveland State respectively. They’ve replaced those key members with transfers and young players.
While they’ll be able to out-talent most opponents in the regular season, their lack of familiarity keeps them slightly below an A+ grade. Regardless, Garfield Heights should linger in the AP State Poll all season long.
With Garfield Heights coming into the season with a brand new roster, it’s hard to forecast what they’ll look like next season. We know they’ll be good, but is there enough points to go around for Gaffney to average 20-plus points per game? He’s surely capable of doing it, but he’s surrounded by several other scorers.
Expect Gaffney’s rebounding and blocked shots totals to be through the roof though, as he won’t have to body up with centers all game long.
Gaffney is definitely a nice candidate, but a couple things are going to have to break right for him to win it as a junior. Most importantly, his teammates are going to have to sacrifice their scoring totals and let Gaffney cook. It could happen, as there’s some complimentary pieces around him. It’s just that they have multiple other players who are talented enough to average between 10-20 points per game on other teams.
If Gaffney has the keys to the car and Garfield Heights only drops one or two games this season, a First Team All State team is the very least he’ll be rewarded with.