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Posted On: 04/4/18 12:56 PM
For the past 16 years, Walnut Hills head coach and Director of the Cincy Lakers Ricardo Hill has spent summers focused on developing Cincinnati area basketball talents.
“The mindset of putting the Cincinnati area kids — or the tri-state area kids, because we get kids from all over — just on the map. Giving them a vehicle to be seen by college coaches,” Hill said, to explain his vision for the program.
Hill, a Cincinnati native, strives to have a program that develops college-ready prospects who are mentally tough, good defenders, and high-IQ ball players.
Also, they want to be the best in Cincinnati.
“We really want to be that one program where all the top guys from our area play on,” Hill said. He continued, “And then we go beat up on the so-called guys that are shoe sponsored.”
Their goal of establishing themselves as the premiere Queen City Program has been facilitated with the addition of 17U head coach Corey Albertson, a scout with a keen eye when it comes to evaluating talent.
“With Corey’s help coming in and with these two classes, the ’19 and the ’20, we’re getting some of the top guys in the city,” Hill said.
“Just trying to get the guys we know have a future in playing college, guys that we know want to be that level,” Albertson said. He continued, “Having worked in college basketball and having worked on the circuit for years, just conveying to these kids what it takes to get to the next level.”
Hill values a coach, like Albertson, that can develop skill and provide guidance on things beyond the Xs and Os.
“Any decision that is made is for the betterment of the kids, so those are the coaches that I look for,” Hill said.
They have a proven track record of helping get prospects to the next level, as Hill told us they’ve sent 60 players to the next level since 2013. To go along with their high school boys teams, the Lakers also have teams all the way down to the second grade level.
Cincinnati Lakers 17U
Cincinnati Lakers 16U
When asked about potential breakout stars this grassroots season, a Purcell Marian high-upside junior was the first player mentioned by both Albertson and Hill.
“AJ Garrett from Purcell Marian, I just think his overall development over the past year has been incredible,” Hill said.
Hill believes that when Garrett is able to read defenders in one-on-one situations, the rising junior will take off.
Albertson is also impressed, saying, “He’s going to have a heck of a year. He should be 2020. He’s probably the youngest kid in the whole school at Purcell Marian for his grade and he’d be top five in the state if he was 2020. He’s got a lot of Division Is that are poking their head in.”
Otherwise, names like Milton Gage, Bash Weiland, Aaron Ward, Mark Wise, Steve Gentry Jr., and others were mentioned as potential stock-risers.
Interestingly enough, they’ve also decided to roll with a pair of unsigned seniors from Walnut Hills during the spring.
“One thing this spring is we’re going to have two 2018 kids, Zubi Nwankwo, a seven-footer from Walnut Hills. He’s going to be going to prep school next year,” Albertson said. “Then, Kameron Gibson from Walnut Hills, he’s going to play with us in April and then hopefully sign a Division I Letter of Intent.”
Hill, who doubles as the Director of the Lakers and their Walnut head coach, thinks the move makes a lot of sense given the state of college recruiting.
“We’re going to see how things develop with them. It’s interesting now with recruiting when you have, you know last year with 800 transfers in D-I … What a lot of [colleges] are doing now is their looking at those transfers and trying to get older players in. And then the high school kids are kind of the last guys they’re recruiting now,” Hill said.
On the other side of that coin, Albertson’s 17U group has a pair of early verbal commits in Miles “Deuce” McBride (West Virginia) and Joey Edmonds (Findlay). Unfortunately, McBride is recovering from lower body health issues this spring and Edmonds doesn’t have the same urgency to play this season given his stability as a committed player.
“McBride is going to play very limited in the spring, if at all. Hopefully he’ll back with us in the summer,” Albertson told Prep Hoops.
They’ll look to compete in various nationally competitive tournaments like Run n’ Slam and the Pitt JamFest.
“One of the positives about being a non-sponsored team is where you can kind of pick which tournaments you want and play in a variety of them,” Hill said.
“The schedule we have is very, very competitive and it’s going to give our kids an opportunity to play in front of some scouts and coaches,” Hill said.
The Lakers are excited to get things underway this weekend with a tournament in their backyard at the Bearcat Classic, a tournament Albertson referred to as a “warmup run.”