Posted On: 01/30/18 5:00 AM

photo: Jalen Davis

Northeast Ohio is a hotbed for basketball talent. Naturally, any event with seven games involving 12 NEO teams is guaranteed to have breakout performances.

For seniors without any or many offers, it was an important day on a Division III college campus in John Carroll to make an impression for the dozens of coaches who watched from the bleachers. Also, as juniors polish their skills just months before a final grassroots season, a few may have moved up recruitment boards at the Dunk 4 Diabetes Shootout.

CJ Charleston (2019), 5’11” PG, Gilmour Academy

Charleston continued to climb the ranks amongst junior point guards with another game where he showed his athleticism and playmaking ability on the break. He’s able to change directions without much of a break in his stride. With a head of full steam, Charleston promises to make it all the way to the rack for layups or an assist. His vision is the second piece of his game. As he continues to show the ability to dissect defenses with his laser passes from the top of the key, Charleston will draw low-major and Division II eyes.

Charleston is also a noteworthy football prospect. No shock that the kid lines up at receiver, given the final play of Sunday’s win over Lake Catholic (via Nate Barns).

Brandon Horton (2018), 5’9” G, Lake Catholic

Horton led the sophomore-laden Cougars in points with 17. The kid flat-out shoots the ball very well. As Luke Frazier forced Gilmour to collapse, Horton delivered. His set-shot was also effective when running around screens. The senior converted a clutch one after side stepping the defender after a pump fake. Consistent outings going forward might afford Horton the opportunity play Division III college ball.

Mike Bothwell (2018), 6’3” G, Cornerstone Christian

Furman got a good one in the 2018 class. The lefty leader has perfected his killer instinct this season. In our two viewings of Cornerstone this month, Bothwell went on a one-man runs that completely flipped games. On Jan. 7, it was a 16 point first quarter against Elyria Catholic that put their opponents to bed early. Sunday afternoon, Bothwell went off in the second quarter, scoring 18 total in the half to give CCA a double-digit lead at the half.

His pull-up 3-point shot has become a consistent threat, which will open up space as defenders can’t allow him a couple rhythm dribbles after he crosses half-court.

Kendall Saunders (2018), 6’6” F, Cornerstone Christian

If Saunders is going to grab a scholarship late, proving capable as an outside shooter is necessary. He hit two quick ones on his way to scoring the game’s first 8 points and hushed any of those questions early. Saunders also competed on the boards and block with Brush’s John Hugley. He’s yet to become a constant threat to drive by bigs on faceups, but we still believe the Canadian forward could fit at the D-II or NAIA level.

DJ Dial (2019), 5’9” PG, Brush

Brush trailed by two points with 13.3 seconds remaining. Cornerstone was at the line with an opportunity to go up by three. Missed shot. John Hugley gathered the rebound and handed it to DJ Dial without hesitation. Just as reflexively, Dial sped up the court, never breaking stride as he subtly changed directions twice. He got into the lane and leaped for the floater. It dropped in, plus the contact. And-one. He hit the free throw. Ball game.

Big-time poise from the junior lead guard who didn’t need a timeout to win the game. He simply knew what needed to be done and worked for a shot that he was comfortable taking.

Dondre Palmer (2018), 6’4” G, Pickerington North

These stock-risers are usually reserved for unsigned prospects, but Palmer was excellent yesterday and deserves recognition. The future Findlay Oiler met the challenge of defending Christian Guess by getting low and sliding his feet to shut down all driving lanes. As always, he communicated on the defensive end at a high level. He has a nose for the ball and found a way to contribute as a scorer on offensive rebounds.

Corey Baker (2018), 5’10” PG, Pickerington North

In his fifth game at Pick North (Groveport transfer), Baker seems to have carved out a niche for himself. Or a better way to put it is that he’s comfortable in the offense. Over the years, Baker has made a habit of getting his within the offense. He never forced yesterday again and scored 11 quiet points. When he puts his head down, his strength in the lane puts pressure on the defense. Baker also dropped in a triple yesterday, a piece of his games colleges will want to continue seeing.

Alonzo Gaffney (2019), 6’9” W/F, Garfield Heights

Gaffney scored 13 points on a pair of first quarter dunks and several spot-up jumpers. He’s comfortable settling for the jumper at times and it’s rare to see him put it on the floor after receiving a pass in the half-court. Being able to break down strong athletic defenders once he catches seems to be the next step in his game.

Gaffney really excelled as a help-side defender last night against. Kennedy Catholic 6’10” post Oscar Tshiebwe demanded a second defender on most post touches and Gaffney’s length and instincts led to a couple clean blocks above the rim. He also rebounded well, looking like a premiere high-major forward against a quality opponent.