The New Lead: Forwards

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Posted On: 09/6/18 12:04 PM

A high turnover rate is in the nature of high school basketball — and we’re not talking about giving the ball to opponents. High turnover rate in the sense that there’s a changing of the guard constantly. Players get really good, and then they go to college.

So, every year — especially when you have a stacked class like 2018 — new leaders emerge. There are 40 players who made a First Team All State last season and only three are back (Tanner HoldenEthan ConleyCJ Anthony). Sixteen teams made the Final Four and just five return their leading scorer.

In looking at last year’s top teams and graduating players, we’ve identified several rising stars who are poised to be that guy for those teams come November. We kicked this off with guards, then wings. But we never forget about the big man!

Jack Sawyer (2021), 6’5” F, Pickerington North

Lot of changes from 2017 to 2018 for Pickerington North’s basketball program. They’ll go from the preseason favorite among Central Ohio Division I programs to a rather unknown commodity. From a group of six seniors with collegiate athleticism to one returning starter. And, ultimately, from Jerome Hunter to Jack Sawyer.

Sawyer is a highly touted Power Five football recruit, and potential future pro, with enough basketball acumen to rank no. 204 in the country. The highly efficient 4 should see a dramatic increase in touches, after the offense was primarily designed around Hunter’s expansive skill-set last year. As defensive pressure intensifies — and we expect double teams a plenty for Sawyer — it will be interesting to see if he hits turn-around jumpers with the same regularity. Even as touches rise, there are no indications of a draw back for the sophomore, who shot 68 percent with 11.6 points per game last year. In the grassroots season, watching him against his age group could be described as “startling.” As he continues to rise in class, it could be bad for the entire Ohio Capital Conference when you consider how easy he made it look as a freshman.

Evan Bainbridge (2019), 6’8” F, Stow

Bainbridge would’ve been mentioned in a Something to Prove article before last season. He wasn’t really being recruited, and then he broke out his shell on a 20-4 Stow team, eventually committing to Kent State this summer. Last year’s seniors mostly led the way for Stow, specifically Mason McMurray (Ohio Univ. freshman) and Coryon Rice. Bainbridge scored on open looks from deep coming off the pick-and-pop, was their second best rebounder behind McMurray, and saw few double-teams on post touches. But now it’s The Evan Bainbridge Show. The stretch 4’s strength isn’t creating space, but his height and high-release allow him to score over the top. We’re excited to see how he adjusts in the new role.

Sam Emich (2019), 6’6” F, Copley

Emich has a versatile offensive skill-set and solid frame. He can attack on straight-line drives, loves to drive and kick, has a capable jumper, and can rebound. We like Emich. He has a lot to offer as a prospect and most of the tools. We’re surprised he hasn’t attracted a D-II offer yet.

But one thing we haven’t seen is him being the top guy, which — with the graduation of a ton of guard talent, namely Allegheny’s Brian Roberts — will be his new role at Copley. As mentioned, he’s really good in a motion offense as a willing passer; so becoming more aggressive as a scorer seems like the challenge at hand.