Posted On: 10/28/18 9:07 PM

October 15th kicked off a special holiday for Kentucky High School hoops. This date represents the start of the 2018-19 high school basketball season. For teams across this state, this day represents the start of a tough journey to get your team to play at Rupp Arena in March. This year is no different, teams in the 9th Region are ready to go after a long wait. Here is a pre-season watch list for players to keep an eye on this winter.

1. Nick Thelen, Covington Catholic: Thelen, a 6’6 Forward, played in a supporting role his junior season, just averaging under 6 ppg and 5 rpg, it also didn’t help that he was teammates with a 7 footer. But, never less, helped Covington Catholic win their second state championship in 5 years. Nick’s success on the court led to his commitment to Bellarmine (D2) earlier this month. Thelen had the ceiling to obtain several D2 offers besides Bellarmine, but jumped on the opportunity because he felt it was a right fit. He is looking to improve his junior season averages when he steps into a much larger role. Thelen, an explosive slashing forward, is in the position to take another loaded Cov Cath team back to Rupp Arena to defend their state title.

2. Scotty DraudBeechwood: ranked 5th in our Kentucky 2021 prospect rankings, looks to carry over an impressive freshman season into this upcoming sophomore season. Draud, looks to follow in his fathers footsteps, already listed at 6’5, is in the making to grow and gain interest from high major D1 schools. Scotty’s upside as a shooting guard, has forced himself to be a top player in Northern Kentucky and across the state for his class. He averaged 20.6 ppg and 3.3 rpg his freshman season. Draud, appears to continue his stellar previous year and is on the path to eventually score 2000-3000 career points, which would solidify himself as one of the top players in Northern Kentucky history. He also is slated to play for MATTS Mustangs AAU over the summer.

3. Donnie MillerNewport: Miller, listed at 6’1, is in the making for one of the top point guards in the Kentucky class of 2019. Donnie has been playing varsity for Newport since his freshman year, point totals equaling (FR: 1 ppg, 8 points – So: 13.2 ppg, 435 points – JR: 10.6 pg, 330 points) making that 773 career points. Only needing 227 more points to join Newports 1000 point club, Miller is eager to get the season going and contend for the 9th Region title.

4. Tyler FleekCovington Catholic: Fleek, has the potential and upside to follow in many other Covington Catholic grads and play D1 basketball. Standing 6’6, Tyler is a quick and explosive player which should have college coaches scrambling to steal this talent. Although he has posted relatively low scoring/rebounding numbers, Tyler has played under some star players during his tenure at Cov Cath. Alongside all of the talent he has played with he also has a state championship under his belt. Look for Fleek to improve those numbers this year and land himself on a college roster.

5. Makhi McGuireNewport: McGuire and his recent teammates have led to the rejuvenation of Newports basketball program. Listed as a 6’5 Shooting Guard, him and Miller are in the running for one of the best backcourts in the state. Makhi’s junior season, he averaged 10.2 ppg and just under 4 rpg. Unfortunately, Newport has lost several members of their team, with the graduation of Burries and the transfer of star forward Harding, McGuire is going to have to step into a much larger role if Newport is going to continue their success. He is looking to get his team to Rupp for the first time since 2010.

6. Wyatt ViethSt. Henry: Vieth has posted great numbers with his short time at St. Henry, and is quickly rising to be one of the best Forwards in the 2021 class. Listed at 6’3, Wyatt was the leading scorer on a down St. Henry squad, he averaged 10.2 ppg and 5 rpg his freshman season. Vieth competed for Shining Stars AAU (OH) over the summer and is looking to carry over his success to the school season and rally his team to compete for the 34th District title. 

7. Vince RankinRyle: ranked 40th in our Kentucky class of 2019 rankings, Rankin looks to lead a healthy Ryle squad to jump in the mix of the 9th Region tournament. Listed at 6’5, Vince has the potential to land himself at a D2 school, as he’s proven his talent. Averaging 18.9 ppg and 8.1 rpg, Rankin has solidified himself as a top Forward in his class. Although Vince is a great player, he is going to need a better presence from his teammates to contend for a 9th Region title.

8. Michael MayerCovington Catholic: Michael, following a long line of great athletes, he has created his own path to greatness. Mayer unfortunately won’t be playing basketball in the future, but has struck gold as a football player. Recently committing to play for the University of Notre Dame Football, this 6’6 big man has excelled on the court and on the field, making him one of the best athletes to come out of Northern Kentucky. In the off chance Michael plays basketball this winter, look for Covington Catholic to once again compete for a state championship. He suits up for the prestigious Indiana Elite AAU program over the summer.

9. TJ DeereCooper: TJ left Covington Catholic to create success at another top program in Northern Kentucky, the Cooper Jaguars. Like many of the players listed above, TJ brings the leadership and poise to lead Cooper to be in contention for the region championship. Posted 1.5 ppg and .8 ppg as a role player for Cov Cath, Deere looks to improve those numbers for his senior campaign and get Coach Sullivan’s squad back to Rupp Arena, since they were in the State Championship in 2017.

10. Pete KnochelmannHoly Cross (Covington): 6’8 Forward/Center, has proven over the past year that he belongs in our pre-season rankings. Has shot up his prospect status and has the upside to make a great D2-D3 player. Only if he was 2-3 inches taller, he could be in the running to make a low end D1 player similar to Campbell County’s Matt Wilson (’16). Averaging under 10 ppg his junior season, Pete is looking to improve those numbers under new head coach Brandon Grammer. 

T11. Tommy RattermanBellevue: Ratterman has led a once struggling program in Bellevue to contention during the years he has been there. Tommy is listed at 6’4 and has the potential to reach a NAIA roster if he continues his success. Unfortunately, Ratterman doesn’t get the recognition he deserves, heading a 14-17 Bellevue program, who had an early post-season departure. But, if Tommy can continue his 13.5 ppg and 2.4 rpg status into this upcoming year, he could earn offers from local NAIA schools.

T11. Spencer Macke, Highlands: during the creation of this article, Spencer’s stock undeniably rose with his verbal commitment to West Virginia as a walk on (10/26). This speedy and crafty 6’1 point guard caught the eyes of Bob Huggins and his staff, Macke jumped on the offer when he received it. Coach Huggins is very familiar with Covington players, similar to former Holy Cross player Tyler Bezold (’16) and Holmes guard James Bolden (’15), Spencer looks to continue the West Virginia to Covington connection. Recently transferring from Holy Cross (Covington) to Ft. Thomas, Macke will have to prove his talent if Highlands is to compete in the 36th District.

T12. Jabari KarimDixie Heights: shifty guard who loves to get to the basket, also can shoot the 3 when open. Had sort of a “breakout” year his junior year and looks to carry on this success to this upcoming season. Jabari and his teammate Schumate look to win Dixie’s 5th District title in the past 6 years. Karim averaged 12 ppg and 3.5 rpg, could land himself in a low end NAIA school due to his willingness to get to the rim.

T12. Ben SissonHighlands: 6’5 Forward, is looking to beef up his numbers from last year even though he led Highlands in scoring, averaged 9.2 ppg and 5.4 rpg. Ben is in the running to be one of the best forwards in the 9th region with the addition of Macke, now has a complementary guard to feed him the ball. Look for Highlands to attempt to make their first regional tournament appearance since 2014.

Other Players to Watch:

DaeShawn WhiteNewport: 6’2 2020 guard (5 ppg – 2.7 rpg) 

Jalen Scott, Conner: 6’3 2020 guard (5.3 ppg – 2.6 rpg)

Kevin Centers, Cooper: 6’1 2020 guard (1 ppg – .3 rpg)

Ty Houston, Cooper: 2019 (2.6 ppg – 2 rpg)

Parker Kyle, Boone County: 2019 (7.2 ppg – 4 rpg)

Paul Kremer, Newport Central Catholic: 2019 (4.9 ppg – 1.1 rpg)

Jamin Schumate, Dixie Heights: 2019 (11.3 ppg – 2.3 rpg)

Ben Zalla, Villa Madonna: 2019 (12.9 ppg – 4.1 rpg)

Jack Davin, Covington Catholic: 2019 (2 ppg – 1.6 rpg)

Trayvonne Coleman, Lloyd Memorial: 2020 (4.3 ppg – 2 rpg)

Ian Vallandingham, Ludlow: 2020 (10 ppg – 3.1 rpg)

Jacob Chalk, Heritage Academy: 2019 (13.8 ppg)