Posted On: 11/15/18 5:00 AM

Not only are Nathan Bruns, Ethan Conley, Javin Etzler, Curtis Houston, and Zeb Jackson five of the most talented players in Ohio’s Division IV, they’re all also important pieces of Regional Championship contenders. In picking the top five for each division, that became the most important criteria — value/impact on contending teams. Considering the criteria, we’re very confident in these selections.

Nathan Bruns (2019), 6’7” W/F, Marion Local

In terms of value to a team, there’s not a better example than the Final Four weekend Bruns put together last season. Bruns posted totals of 33 points, 21 rebounds, and six assists in the Final Four weekend, including several clutch moments in their State Championship upset over Cornerstone Christian.

While many of their best role players have graduated since last season’s championship, Bruns’ individual talent is enough to keep them competitive. Specifically with Tyler Mescher gone, Bruns’ junior season averages of 14.6 PPG and 7.0 RPG will need to go up. The 6’7” forward has oven mitts for hands and an incredible wingspan which means he can dominate the glass.

An already versatile scoring option, Bruns’ game became even more expansive over the summer. He played a lot of minutes as NW Ohio’s primary ball-handler, often taking capable athletes off the dribble. His game is still reliant on skillful interior foot-work and spot-up triples, but expect to see Bruns in a playmaking role on a nightly basis for the Flyers as a senior.

Ethan Conley (2019), 6’3” W, Franklin Monroe

Conley has the most to overcome of any of our First Team selections. At 6’3”, the Ashland commit is the tallest player on his high school roster. Also, huge individual scoring outputs will be required of Conley for them to beat the best teams on their schedule.

The thing is, though, Conley is equipped to consistently have monster scoring efforts. First of all, he is one of the most reliable players we’ve seen in terms of effort. He’s not going to strike-out looking, so to speak, if he does happen to have a bad night. Also, he’s poised to top last year’s average of 22 points per game. Conley is a year stronger and a year more skilled. His outside jumper is more consistent and his explosiveness at the rim continues increasing.

Javin Etzler (2019), 6’7” F, Convoy Crestview

At 15.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game as a junior, Etlzer was named Second Team All State while reaching the Regional Finals. The natural progression for Etzler would mean a First Team honor while finally winning the Region, maybe even more. In terms of the team, we see Crestview as the preseason front-runners for the Division IV crown.

Etzler is the main reason for our optimism on the Knights. The 6’7” Miami (OH) commit is known on the grassroots circuit for stretching out defenses with his catch-and-shoot ability. However, in the winter, Etzler’s size gives him a dominating presence around the rim at the Division IV level. He should be near a double-double on a nightly basis while also facilitating ball movement with his high-IQ.

Curtis Houston (2019), 6’3” PG, Richmond Heights

Houston will be the focal point of a Richmond Heights team who should be heavily favored to represent Northwest Ohio in this year’s Division IV Final Four. Not only are the gates wide open for a new champion in that region, Richmond Heights is returning several capable and athletic contributors, led by Houston.

The big guard can do a little bit of everything. He was a stat-stuffer last season with 13 points, five rebounds, and six assists per game. He’s a shifty ball-handler who is prone to embarrassing opponents with the crossover. Houston likes to get to the rim mostly but he’s also a capable pull-up shooter. The advancement of his teammates will also relieve some pressure from him, possibly even spacing the floor for his drives.

Zeb Jackson (2020), 6’3” G, Maumee Valley

Jackson is our only junior to make the cut in Division IV. But given the Michigan verbal commit’s undeniable talent, he was an obvious choice. A 20-point performance this season will be considered an off-night for the nationally touted recruit. His ability to score has expanded, despite looking unstoppable a year ago. Jackson the maturation process of his body this off-season and became much more explosive around the rim. Instead of only hitting pull-ups off nasty side-to-side crossovers, Jackson will now be more efficient in the paint.

Meanwhile, Maumee Valley showed in their District Championship season a year ago that they’re able to contend in the postseason. Other than Crestview, they’re the most formidable Northwest Ohio team in Division IV and on a given night, Jackson could lead them past anyone.