Posted On: 03/31/18 5:00 AM
Lucius Jones has been the Director of the Hidden Gems grassroots program since he started the project back in 2007. Jones had been helping out with The Wellington School’s basketball program, and when ’07 rolled around he figured it was time to switch the style up in Central Ohio’s grassroots scene.
“I found myself gravitating more and more to youth basketball. And I got a group of kids together, put one team together in 2007 and just kind of gave it a go,” Jones explained.
“I think the timing was perfect for something else in Columbus that was focused on not only just the ‘D-I or bust’ mentality,” Jones said.
Recently, LaMonte Powell of Northland High School became the 200th player that Hidden Gems has sent to either the D-II or NAIA level. Those types of numbers are partially reflective of their expansion over the last 11 years.
“In that fourth year, I think it would’ve been 2010 or 2011, we just all of the sudden went to like 11 teams. And then by 2012, it was 25. It was just more and more coaches wanting to be a part of things and more kids wanting to be a part of things,” Jones said.
This season, Hidden Gems will carry nine boy’s teams from 15U to 17U level. On the male side, Jones oversees teams all the way down to the 9U level. For the third year, Hidden Gems also has girl’s teams from 12U-16U.
The expansion excites Jones, but he’ll never forget where he started, and that’s with a guy that believed in him named Jim Borowsky.
“I was helping his kid at Wellington High School and I got Jason Borowski a NAIA/D-II JV spot,” Jones said. He continues, “[Jim] comes back to me and says ‘I want to help you.’ … He said I’m going to give you $3,000 a year for five years to get whatever you want to do in this basketball realm off the ground.”
“If I don’t have him … there’s no way possible there ever is a Hidden Gems,” Jones said of Borowski.
Jones never looked back. Now, he returns the favor by spending his resources and time to help kids reach the next level. And there’s a ton of those kids, mostly from Central Ohio, who qualify as Hidden Gems this summer.
Hidden Gems Black 17U
Hidden Gems Orange 17U
Hidden Gems Northwest 17U
Hidden Gems White 17U
Hidden Gems Black 16U
Hidden Gems Orange 16U
Hidden Gems White 16U
Hidden Gems Black 15U
Hidden Gems Platinum 15U
Jones gave us some insider knowledge on which teams and prospects to pay extra attention to this season, starting with the 15U.
“At the 15U we have three [teams], all three of them are going to be good teams. Darius Parham is on 15U Black, he’s probably the biggest headliner name there,” Jones said.
On the 15U Platinum team, Jones pointed to Makhale Massey, AJ Glover, Darren Brown, and the two Harltey players as prospects to keep an eye on.
But most notably, Jones is pretty excited about a pair of 6’9” prospects playing on the Hidden Gems Black 16U.
“Black is definitely the main team in the 16U group and quite possibly the main team in the whole program,” Jones said. “They have a 6’9” kid named Caleb Terry out of Alexandria in that Athens area. They have a 6’9” kid out of Eastmoor named Dalan Keaton … I wouldn’t be surprised if both of those kids end up on your rankings by the end of the year.”
At the 17U level, Jack Clement from Bellefontaine stands out. Jones believes their four 17U teams are pretty balanced.
Hidden Gems will host several tournaments themselves this summer once again. Jones refers to them as “tune-up” opportunities for their teams before going to major events, such as the Run n’ Slam or the Pitt Jam Fest.
“Every D-I weekend, we’re out there,” Jones said. “We want national exposure with regional travel.”
Although they mostly place kids just underneath that D-I level, mixing it up with the top competition is important for the program.
They took this weekend off but will be out in full display at the Hidden Gems HoopFest next weekend at Mount Vernon Nazarene University, where they play host to talent across the state.