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Posted On: 10/11/17 7:00 AM
The first of several juniors in our Mr. Basketball preseason candidate series is Pickerington Central’s Jeremiah Francis, who remains our #1 player in Ohio’s 2019 class. Francis was the only sophomore to earn Division I First Team All State honors last season. The North Carolina commit averaged 15.3 points, 5.1 assists, and 4.3 rebounds per game a season ago. Francis was the floor general of a Pick Central team that went 26-3 overall, eventually losing to Archbishop Moeller in the State Semifinals.
While this year’s senior class is oozing with high-major talent, Francis could steal the show by being first junior since Luke Kennard in 2014 to win Ohio’s Mr. Basketball, 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.
Let’s check how exactly we see Francis stacking up in each area.
As mentioned, Francis is our #1 junior in Ohio right now — that’s about all you really need to know. The son of former Ohio State forward Jerry Francis has a rare combination of agility and power off the bounce. He can make all the shots and has no troubles navigating the defense because of his ball-handling and athleticism.
Francis is the first member of North Carolina’s 2019 recruiting class.
While a lot has been made of crosstown rival Pickerington North’s roster additions this summer, Pick Central might be overlooked as a State Championship contender. They’re coming off of a three loss season, with losses only coming to Marietta Wheeler (GA), Archbishop Moeller, and New Albany.
While the Tigers will miss Sterling Manley in the middle, Coleton Landis is a more than capable big. Also, Pick Central is rich in perimeter talent with Francis, Adrian Nelson, Juan Elmore, Jahvon Blevins, Javohn Garcia, Josiah Fulcher, Jaidon Lipscomb, and Conner Maciag.
It will be tough to make it out of Central Ohio in Division I, but Francis will be one of the most influential moving parts in the entire region.
While Francis’ numbers should rise a bit from the 15 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds per game last season, it’s not a guarantee that it will be by much. Manley and Jalen Horton are gone, but that’s it. Meanwhile, his surrounding pieces will come into next season as better and more confident players. As the point guard, we expect Francis to spread the wealth, keeping his scoring totals hovering around 20 points per game.
Even amongst the 17 players in this preseason series, Francis is a top contender with a solid-A average. In order for him to actually win the award, his numbers will have to see an increase from last season, while maintaining their excellence as a team. A repeat of last season will clearly be good enough for First Team All State, but not quite for Mr. Basketball as a junior.
It will be interesting to see how Francis approaches the season with Manley gone and his backcourt mates taking leaps in their development.