Posted On: 10/4/17 7:07 PM
The first player in this Mr. Basketball preseason candidate series is the lefty from Versailles, Justin Ahrens (2018). Last season, Ahrens led Versailles to a 21-1 regular season record and Region 12 semifinal appearance. He was recognized as Ohio’s Co-Player of the Year in Division III.
Ahrens is the first of 17 players in this series, as we will countdown in alphabetical order of last names. It just so happens that the first preseason candidate is also my preseason favorite, considering the formula we’re using.
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 component 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 crucial that a player puts 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.
How does Ahrens stack-up in each metric?
Ahrens, the #6 player in the senior class, is a high-major prospect that is committed to Ohio State. He’s the only player in the class of 2018 who has announced a verbal commitment to the state’s signature university. It doesn’t hurt to be a Buckeye either, as half of the players who have won this award since 2001 wore scarlet and gray in college.
Versailles lost one game last season and their lead player is even better than he was a year ago. There will never be a true consensus on which team comes into the season as the State Championship favorite, but it’s fair to say that Versailles is in that conversation for Division III. Even though the Tigers play in a tough Midwest Athletic Conference, we expect Ahrens to have them near the top of the AP State Poll all season.
Ahrens is a three-level scorer with enough size and athleticism to create a clean look on any possession at the high school level. After averaging 23.4 points per game as a junior, expect that number to rise above 25 next season. Ahrens’ length, size, and athleticism, should help him tally solid numbers in rebounding, steals, and blocked shots. Ahrens has a chance to lead his team in every statistic this season.
As one of two seniors with a Player of the Year award already under their belt, Ahrens is my preseason favorite to actually win Mr. Basketball. The Ohio State commit emphatically checks all of the boxes.