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Posted On: 06/21/18 5:27 AM
The Columbus area is the deepest of any region in Ohio’s 2021 Watch List. As you can probably tell, we spent plenty of time watching Mid Ohio Pumas Elite and Ohio Hoopsters (Tillman) this spring. Throughout the list, we also have various other quality 15U teams represented and players who impressed during the winter.
Let’s build a starting five with the traditional 1 through 5 lineup of top prospects from Central Ohio. Players will be chosen on talent alone, not necessarily whose skills matchup in a real team scenario.
At the point guard spot, it’s between AJ Mirgon and Jalen Sullinger. But frankly we haven’t watched Sullinger enough to put him ahead of a true point guard that we know creates plays, takes care of the ball, rebounds surprisingly well in traffic at 5’11”, and shoots it.
Our two perimeter guards or wings are Chance Groce and Garner Wallace, both likely top 15 players in the class overall. Both can get out in transition. Groce specializes as more of a wing scorer in the halfcourt. He already scores from all three levels but needs to add muscle so that he isn’t pushed off his spots, a tool we totally believe he’ll adopt. Wallace is a speedy athlete with a plethora of defensive versatility and talent.
The two Jacks, Saywer and Pugh, are rather easy choices at the four and five. The Pick North two-sport star scores with fluidity and touch from 15 feet and in. Meanwhile, Pugh has promising athleticism, hustle, and finishing ability. As Pugh tightens up his handle and shooting ability, gritty programs all over the Midwest could show interest.
As Zach Fleer from 270 Hoops has tweeted about a couple times, 2018 in Columbus was as deep of a graduating class the area has seen in some time. So last year was great. On the other hand, where does that leave top programs going forward? The class of 2021 may provide answers, as plenty of players on the Watch List will likely be asked to make plays and contribute big as underclassmen.
Pickerington North graduated the area’s top 2018 class with six college commitments. Yet, Jack Sawyer still earned his spot in the starting lineup. Now, as an overqualified sophomore, expect the offense to run through the Saywer post-up, who can also make plays for others and control the glass. Grassroots teammate Casey George will also compete for the starting point guard spot.
Hilliard Bradley parts ways with their dynamic Braden Norris – Isaiah Speelman tandem. Although the class of 2020 should carry most of their weight next season, 2021s Jack Pugh, AJ Mirgon, and Keaton Norris should also be ready to carry roles. Pugh and Mirgon already played last season off the bench and could enter 2018-19 as starters. Meanwhile, all reports are that the next Norris brother shoots the lights out.
What’s Upper Arlington going to do without Dane Goodwin? Probably play through Max Martz and go big in the frontcourt. However, whether it’s next year or we’re two years away, Kobe Buford is a Golden Bear who will develop a reputation as a defensive stopper, slasher, and capable shooter. To our knowledge, he’s staying off the grassroots circuit this year.
Pickerington Central, along with Bradley, enters next season on the short list of favorites to win the Division I Regional Championship. While that’s mostly because of their 2019 backcourt and other talented upperclassmen, 2021 has two dynamic wings on the way. There’s no chance of Garner Wallace not earning significant playing time. Also, Elhadji Thiam could carve out a role as a versatile defender and energy guy on a team that sort of lacks height.
Finally, Thomas Worthington lost collegiate talent after the 2016-17 season. A 5-18 season last year means they’re still looking for answers. Thankfully, senior-to-be center Ben Wight has help coming up the pipeline. Their backcourt could be an all sophomore duo of capable primary ball-handlers in Jalen Sullinger and Isaac Settles. Sullinger would be more of a bucket-getter and slasher while Settles is excessively unselfish and capable of defending 1 through 3.
After the two Jacks, you’ve got to start looking at Tyrese Hughey and Nick Zuro.
Hughey has a promising build and amount of athleticism that currently allows him to dominate the paint at the 15U level. He will be one of the top college prospects in the Licking County League over the next three seasons. If Hughey remains a pure big who sticks in the paint, that’s great. But he also has good enough mechanics and natural shooting touch to extend his game as faceup forward.
Zuro transferred from out of state and has introduced himself byway of the Pumas’ impressive spring. He’s not the most fluid athlete but he’s got some strength and bounce to him. Capable of playing a role with other good players as he accepts the unglamorous duties of an inside finisher and offensive rebounder on the state’s no. 2 15U team. Finishes through contact.
Desmond Watson is super interesting. He’s a 6’2” wing that sort of plays like a forward but gets guard-like opportunities to create on the wing. There’s almost no doubt that Watson is going to attack the teeth of the defense when he looks to score. The broad-shouldered hybrid prospect has a little bit of wiggle but mostly impacts the game with points in the paint and rebounding. Watson reminds of us those Southwest Ohio tough wings like Terry Durham and Chris’Seon Stringer.
Then there’s a couple of undersized guards with a lot of skill who will hopefully hit a growth spurt. Jack Christian stands 5’10” and plays like 2019 Olentangy prospect Sean Marks. He’s a balanced outside shooter who creates space with efficient crafty moves. Super deep range and moves off-ball like a veteran. He’ll need to prove himself on the grassroots scene eventually, as Marysville isn’t necessarily a hotbed of talent and teams will scheme to make his life difficult.
A 5’5″ Andre Irvin is next. Defenders cannot underestimate the kid because of his crafty ball skills. He takes shots from way the heck outside when guys cheat under screens. Irvin also has nice court sense and creates plays for others if he beats his man. Limited defensive player.