Posted On: 11/20/18 5:00 AM

You could have made a case for about a dozen Mr. Basketball preseason candidates last year. After that, we would have realistically narrowed it down by cutting half of that list. This year, however, the award is up for grabs.

As we know from our research last year, there’s three components of a résumé that voters gravitate towards: talent, productivity, and, ultimately, team success. The bench marks that have normally been hit is Division I talent, 20 points per game, and a team who threatens to make a playoff run. The more one exceeds those unofficial qualifiers (e.g. high-major Division I prospect, 25-plus points or 20 and 10 rebounds, no. 1 ranked team in the AP Poll) is where the separation occurs. 

Considering those standards, along with common sense, we’ve identified candidates from each region of the state. For Central Ohio, we have their five candidates ranked in order.

Javohn Garcia (2019), 6’3” PG, Pickerington Central

Garcia will lead a Pickerington Central team that most believe will win the Central Ohio Division I Region. That’s a pretty good start to his candidacy, but also consider his stat-stuffing ways — last year Garcia put up 12.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG, and 4.5 APG. With two of the other three leading scorers out the door, Garcia could have more of a scoring responsibility, although that’s not a sure thing given their other weapons. While his focus will be on a State Championship, Garcia could maybe take home the award by looking for his shot more often to get over that 20 PPG threshold.

Dominiq Penn (2020), 6’0” PG, Dublin Coffman

As far as Mr. Basketball candidates, Penn leads the way among non-seniors. As the son of Ohio State Hall of Famer Scoonie Penn, his name rings loud among voters. His 16.6 PPG from last year should shoot up if he naturally progresses. Although his summer wasn’t the breakout moment we were expecting, Penn thrives in the Coffman lineup as he’s surrounded by complimentary shooters and defenders.

Morgan Safford (2019), 6’4” G/W, Bishop Hartley

Safford’s candidacy, to us, is about hunger. We expect the aggressive wing guard to come out of the gates like he has something to prove. Although Hartley usually plays a slower pace Catholic school style of ball, Safford at the helm means they should push tempo like never before. With quicker possessions, Safford’s 13.7 PPG from a year ago could shoot up by about 10 points, admittedly a huge jump. Also, Bishop Hartley should be pretty darn good at the Division II level.

Ben Roderick (2019), 6’6” W, Olentangy Liberty

Roderick missed the final stretch last season with an ACL tear. Beforehand he was averaging a league-leading 24.4 points. If he returns to form, statistics won’t be a problem for the versatile scorer. The tough part will be keeping Olentangy Liberty in the statewide discussion as a team. While they’re a trendy sleeper pick to do some things this season, it’s hard to imagine them being in the final AP Poll, even though they will be dangerous in the postseason.

Max Martz (2019), 6’6” W, Upper Arlington

Martz will replace last season’s winner, Dane Goodwin, as UA’s leading scorer this season. The defensive attention shouldn’t bother him much, though, as the confident shooter has made a name for himself by hitting contested pull-ups. With the offense running through him, the Penn commit has a realistic shot at getting 20 per game.