Posted On: 11/10/17 3:01 PM
It’s time for big picture preseason coverage now that it’s November. Every team in Ohio started practice last weekend and for every single one of those teams the ultimate goal is to win a State Championship. Here, we’re going to check out the teams that could sneak up on the giants in Ohio basketball in 2017-18.
There were times last season when Trotwood looked like the best team in Ohio basketball, regardless of division. The Rams routinely scored over 80 points, led by the 20.6 per game from Division II Co-Player of the Year Torrey Patton, who is now at Akron. Trotwood has also graduated a potent perimeter defensive weapon in Amir Foster.
Luckily for Trotwood, they have a couple underclassmen who fit their fast-pace, pressure scheme on the come up in the 2020 class with wings Carl Blanton and Sammy Anderson. Furthermore, Amari Davis and Myles Belyeu, two versatile defenders who score at the rim at will, are a year further into their development. Justin Stephens, an interior scorer who doesn’t quite play as up-and-down as the rest of the squad, will provide rebounding and physicality in the paint when the matchup calls for it. Bottom line: Trotwood is still fast and talented enough to run opponents off the floor.
Beechcroft was 14-8 last season and wasn’t even able to register a single playoff win, as they were blown out by Heath. But their senior class is loaded with athletic, lengthy players who should be a problem if they can gel together. Youngstown State commit Jelani Simmons leads the lineup. Simmons is a reflection of the rest of the team too: a lengthy athlete who can run the floor, guard multiple positions, and penetrate the defense. In the senior class, Datrey Long, Elijah Bishop, Teon Jennings, and Therron Jennings pretty much all follow suit. All of those guys can grab rebounds and be tough inside, but they’re true post play comes from 6’7” junior Na’elle Simmons, who will blossom into a very nice prospect by this time next year.
Unioto is out only team from Southeast Ohio in the Sleepers sections, meaning they look to pose the most significant threat to Fairland in the region. Last season, they were undefeated in conference play and barely lost Vinton County in the District Finals.
Unioto has a strong senior trio in Logan Swackhammer, Brandon Kennedy, and Peyton Hill. Those three were the primary weapons in their strong season last year. Swackhammer (Flagler) and Kennedy (Concord) have already signed to play at college programs next season. Swackhammer is their most pivotal player at the point guard spot, as he’s a good athlete that sees the court very well in the halfcourt. He’s the type of player that elevates an entire roster.
Taft is another team from Southwest Ohio that likes to play fast. Last year, it got them all the way to Regional Semifinals, where they lost to Trotwood by five points.
The biggest difference this season for Taft will be a lack of size. Malek Green and Virgil Lackey provided toughness and length around the basket last year. However, they come into this season with almost entirely perimeter players. It likely won’t be hard for them to overcome this during regular season play, but in the tournament they could run into problems inside.
Expect Taft to compensate by dialing up the speed and pressure even one more notch. Demarco Bradley Jr. and Stevie Stewart (transfer from Shroder) will split the floor as point guards. Both can get to the rim and Bradley is an especially irritating defender. Taft also gets Chris’seon Stringer back after sitting out most of last year with a knee injury.
South was hot all of last season, going 24-2 and winning the Columbus City League. They’ve graduated a couple guards in Dez Robinson and Bruelle Thompson, but look for other guys to emerge and fill those gaps nicely. A couple key guys to watch out for are Jaedyn Carter, Marcus Johnson, and Wesley Williams. Carter, a super energetic point guard that never stops moving on either end of the floor, transferred in from Thomas Worthington. Johnson was probably their most talented player last year as a freshman. He will likely see a much more expanded role on this team. Williams has really taken a step forward this summer and is now committed to Saint Leo. If these new pieces can blend in with last year’s leading scorer Treohn Watkins, South has a chance to repeat as Columbus City League champs.