Posted On: 07/2/18 5:48 AM

With the inter-Pickerington rivalry and ever-competitive Reynoldsburg and Gahanna crews, Ohio has been the premier division of the Ohio Capital Conference for a couple years now. It may not always be the deepest or most talented division (nothing is an absolute), but whoever wins the OCC-Ohio is likely a Division I State Championship contender. This year should be no different.

Jeremiah Francis is the X-Factor

Last year at the Lima Super Scrimmage, North Carolina commit Jeremiah Francis was outstanding. Since that time, we haven’t seen him do anything beyond participating in a layup line warm-up drill because of a knee injury. Although he played in June at the Ohio State team camp, according to The Dispatch’s Adam Jardy, it’s hard to project how healthy he’ll be as a senior at Pickerington Central.

If Francis is at full-strength, Pick Central will likely return to the Final Four for the third year in a row. If he’s not healthy, they’ll still be extremely talented and arguably the best team in Central Ohio, but their ceiling is just not as high. Francis is a four-star prospect and his talent is simply irreplaceable. While Javohn Garcia has made tremendous progress in Francis’ absence, just imagine the two next to each other! Keep a close eye on this one, as it’s the most influential story to follow going into next year.

Pickerington Central will win the OCC-Ohio regardless

With or without the no. 2 prospect in Ohio’s 2019 class, we expect Pick Central to continue their momentum from last year’s postseason run.

Assuming Francis remains playable all year, they’ll have two top ten 2019 prospects controlling the ball between him and Garcia. Garcia has improved at an impressive pace over the last 12 months. He may lead the team in points and assists next year regardless.

Those two are joined by Josiah Fulcher, Tahleik Walker, and Jaidon Lipscomb in the backcourt as valuable rotation players and possible starters. Fulcher is a two-way guard that provides efficient scoring, IQ, and athleticism. Walker can defend and handle but he could take a step back with Francis’ return and learn behind the vets. Lipscomb is more of a fundamentally sound high-character kid with an aggressive spot-up shooting mentality. Conner Maciag and Jamir Simpson, both juniors, could also contribute.

The Tigers won’t have the same type of size as they’ve had in recent years, but there is promising versatile wings coming up the pipeline in their 2021 class. We expect Garner Wallace, a 6’4” defensive weapon, to either start or play big minutes. Elhadji Thiam, a raw 6’6” active combo forward, will likely play a minimal role but is a nice option to have. Even if he’s more of a utility forward this season, Thiam will be an important member of the rotation down the line.

Finally, Coleton Landis has been waiting his turn and its finally time for him to play a pivotal role. The 6’7” forward has had the luxury of playing alongside a D-I forward the past two seasons in Sterling Manley and Adrian Nelson. This year, he’ll need to hold down the painted area as a rebounder, defensive enforcer, and efficient scorer, in order for them to be truly great.

First Team All OCC-Ohio

  • Javohn Garcia (2019), 6’3” PG, Pickerington Central
  • Josh Corbin (2019), 6’3” G, Gahanna
  • Ben Fort (2019), 6’4” G/W, Reynoldsburg
  • Jack Sawyer (2021), 6’5” F, Pickerington North
  • Coleton Landis (2019), 6’7” F, Pickerington Central

Barring something major, Gahanna’s Josh Corbin will enter his senior year as the offseason’s biggest stock-riser. Corbin vaulted up to the no. 5 spot in our most recent 2019 rankings because of his efficient scoring ability. The Lions also graduated quite a few contributors, so Corbin will get plenty of scoring opportunities next year.

Ben Fort’s scoring numbers will also see a rise because of last fall’s graduation ceremony. With Tre Williams and Jamiel Goliday out, Fort will have the ball in his hands more frequently. The wiry athlete scores with speed and athleticism. As he builds upon his outside shooting ability, Fort will become even tougher to stop.

Player of the Year: Javohn Garcia

By the end of last season, Garcia had transformed into a mid-major prospect with his combination of length, point guard instincts, and skills. If we’re nit-picking, Garcia’s jumper isn’t quite elite. But, defenses will need to respect the shooters surrounding him while Garcia can manipulate pick-and-rolls and get into the lane with changes of pace and skill.

At the end of the day, Pick Central will likely end the year in the top five of the AP Poll while Garcia leads them in scoring. If it shakes out that way, Garcia has an undeniable candidacy for Player of the Year.

Jack Sawyer will lead all OCC sophomores in scoring

While Sawyer focuses on his football career, other 2021 Central Ohio prospects may show more growth than him from freshman to sophomore year. But there’s more to consider. Sawyer was second on the team last year at 10.0 points per game. Meanwhile, all of their other shot-makers have left. By virtue of Pick North’s new look, Sawyer could come close to doubling his scoring average as a sophomore, which will be enough.