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Posted On: 04/5/18 11:00 AM
From a scout’s perspective, you find a chair on the baseline of a Northwest Ohio Basketball Club game and you know what you’re going to get. In red, white, and blue jerseys with “NW OHIO” across the chest, you’re going to find sleepers from the farmland of Northwest Ohio who are playing team-oriented basketball.
They’re reliable. They’re fundamental. And, most of all, they’re good.
Brock Howe, a Lima Senior varsity assistant who has been coaching with the program since 2008, summed up their style and mission concisely.
“The goal is to get kids in this area just to play team basketball,” Howe said.
It’s truly that simple for this program, who have been around since 1999. They consistently carry under-the-radar prospects on their rosters. Occasionally, they also pop out one of the top grassroots teams in the state, like this year’s 17U group.
Northwest Ohio Basketball Club 17U
Northwest Ohio Basketball Club 16U
Northwest Ohio Basketball Club 15U
NWO tends to pull the top players from the Midwest Athletic Conference (MAC). This year at the 17U level, they have the best two prospects from the MAC in that class, including last month’s breakout star at the D-IV Final Four.
“Nate Bruns is one that can have a big summer,” Howe said. “He led Marion Local to the State Championship. He’s got some size to him — 6’6” to 6’7”. He can play in the post. I think he can play 2, 3, 4 in college; maybe 5 depending on what college and what system they play.”
“He’s got a clutch gene to him. He knocked Wayne Trace out of the tournament his sophomore year. Junior year he leads his team to the State Championship,” Howe said, in describing Bruns.
The second MAC player we referred to is a legit 6’9” center in Jarod Schulze from Minster.
“I think he’s got a lot of potential. I don’t know where’s the limit for him. Coming from a football school, I don’t think he was really aware of what AAU was,” Howe explained.
Last season’s was Schulze’s first grassroots season. He was being tracked by D-IIs immediately.
“He’s starting to take basketball pretty serious. I think he can play D-II right now. But there’s not a lot of 6’9” kids walking around. If he just focuses on basketball and puts some time in, I don’t know if a MAC school will come knocking or not,” Howe said.
They also have three players from the Three Rivers Athletic Conference (TRAC) in Ryan Nunn, Jaleel King, and Payton Moyer who all have college potential. Expect King to lean more football though, as he’s being recruited by Big Ten schools as a wide receiver.
Unfortunately for the team Howe coaches, the 16s, that group will start their season without Dante’ Wheeler, a high-upside prospect who tore his ACL last summer. However, there’s optimism that he’ll re-join the group at some point this season. Wheeler will be reevaluated in the coming weeks.
A couple other players to watch on that team, which is primarily comprised of shooters, are Will Lammers, Brady Parrish, and Harrison Jewell.
Players like Bruns and Purdue’s Dakota Mathias have come through this program, along with a ton of D-III prospects. In other words, there’s a wide variance of talent.
NWO does a good job of being self-aware and evaluating the teams in their program on an individual basis.
“For the kids that want to play at the next level, we try to find tournaments that fit our kids,” Howe said. “In years where we’ve had a couple Division I players, we’ve went to some really big tournaments and played against the best. Years where we have a bunch of D-II kids, maybe D-II and D-III kids, we try to find to find tournaments where our kids will really get seen by Division II and III coaches.”
They’ll kick-off the 2018 grassroots season next weekend at the Spring Fling to get some run in.
“We always do the Spring Fling over in Fort Wayne, which is just a tournament to get some games in and practice,” Howe said.
It’ll be the first of many weekends that they spend in Indiana, a state that a lot of their players wind up in at the college level.