Posted On: 11/16/18 5:00 AM
Marking “League Pass Teams” is a somewhat new tradition of NBA preseason coverage where writers, like ESPN’s Zach Lowe, identify the Association’s most entertaining teams. The idea is that you’re flipping through all the games on a slow Wednesday evening and who, regardless of playoff viability or record, can you count on for a fun viewing experience?
A League Pass Team could be the Mavericks, for the intrigue surrounding one guy, Luka Doncic. It could also be the 2018 Spurs, a group of guys you know will play an aesthetically pleasing brand of basketball because of their system and track record.
Applying this idea to Ohio high school hoops is quite simple. I just had to ask myself the question, which teams, as a scout and fan of the game, am I definitely putting on my schedule this season?
Keep in mind, we’re not including teams we chose as favorites and sleepers last week. But we’re also not picking bad teams, because who wants to see that? This is that perfect middle ground and we’ll tell you why all eight are going to be worth the price of admission this season.
Here they are, alphabetically:
Centerville’s intrigue starts, obviously, with 6’8” center Mo Njie. After averaging just two points per game in limited playing time last season, we’d expect him to be the anchor of their defense in 2018-19. You’ll marvel at his length and defensive prowess, if you’re into that type of thing. We will also want to track his offensive development as a low-post scorer, screener, and maybe even mid-range shooter.
Most of their offensive production, though, will come from a bevy of seniors. Many of these guys — Ryan Marchal, Jason Sneed, Kaleb Mitchell, possibly others — are Division III prospects in our opinion. Collectively, shooting and ball-handling ability will surround the junior post player.
Also, two intriguing freshman forwards have a chance at cracking the varsity rotation at some point in the season. Mo Njie’s younger brother, a 6’6” versatile forward Kebba Njie has drawn some “he’ll be better than his brother” praise from our sources. Also, we like Rich Rolf, a 6’5” freshman rebounding machine.
C’mon, there’s no way you’re not excited to watch Jaelyn Withers. The transfer from North Mecklenburg in the Charlotte area is a novelty to the Ohio hoops scene. The Louisville commit is an athletic and skilled 6’8” player who just put together a breakout summer with Team Loaded on adidas Gauntlet Gold.
Meanwhile, Heights also brought in Nigel Martin from John Hay after graduating what feels like their whole team in the 2018 class. Martin is a raw prospect at 6’6” who was come-and-go on the 17U grassroots scene. He has the physical tools to be a scholarship player, even receiving a Tiffin offer recently, but we want to see more consistency from the combo forward.
The Lions are the true meaning of League Pass team. If they were on television along with every other team in the state, it’d be hard to flip past this guard-oriented group.
First of all, Winthrop early signee Josh Corbin is their top player, and one of Ohio’s best. The sharp-shooter makes offense look entirely too easy in the high school season. Not only is the jumper pure, he’s also so graceful on the one-dribble pull-up and on drives to the basket.
It’s almost like, wow, maybe they should double-team or box-and-one Corbin or something. Nope! Not this year, at least. Gahanna is bringing in freshman Sean Jones, a 5’8” playmaker who will keep that ball spinning around the court. Jones has an uncanny passing gene and his ability to find the open man will actually be Gahanna’s most entertaining quality. He will share the backcourt with Nate Staib, head coach Tony Staib’s son. He’s another undersized guard but Staib is also a smart passer and handler of the ball.
Lima Senior just has a ton of dudes who are going to get into ball-handlers’ chests and who will be fun with the ball. Their anticipated fast-pace style of play on both ends of the floor should be a real treat.
On an individual level, the scoring and leadership will likely come from senior 6’4” wing Jaleel King and Pickerington Central transfer Josiah Fulcher, a 6’2” junior guard. King is a Division I wide receiver prospect who gets a lot of deflections on the defensive side of the floor. He will likely be challenged to defend the other team’s best non-point guard all season. Fulcher, will probably create his shot much more often than he did last season. Spot-up opportunities will still be cashed in on but seeing him with the ball more often would be new.
Also, their young tandem of point guards is going to have a lot on their plate. Khalil Luster, a hyped freshman, will need to mesh with Jourdyn Rawlins who saw a lot of playing time last season. Finally, Jamir Simpson and Jadakis Mack may lack height but they’ll need to rebound and push in transition for the Spartans.
All in all, the speed is just going to be flat-out fun to see. That’s what this is all about.
Last season’s preseason favorite to win the Division I State Championship is experiencing a lot less hype this time around. However, you guys might be sleeping a bit too hard on Pick North. The Panthers are going to be competitive and, for our purposes here, definitely interesting.
Sophomore big man Jack Sawyer is an automatic bucket. Ranked as the no. 3 overall football prospect in America, Sawyer uses his 6’5” 240-pound body and soft shooting touch to dominate as a face-up four. Their offense will likely be ran through the future 1,000-point scorer.
Hunter Shedenhelm should really take a leap this season. We have him near the top of our D-II tier in our 2020 prospect rankings because of his shooting ability, defensive potential with that length, and an ability to create his own shot. Chris Scott, another Division I football prospect, will provide toughness and defense on the wing.
Finally, we’re very excited to see the Panthers’ group of four underclassmen guards — Dior Conners, Casey George, Idris Lawrence, and Jerry Saunders. Conners, a 6’1” freshman combo guard, already has a Stony Brook offer. We also liked what we saw from the sophomores George and Lawrence this summer. Meanwhile, Saunders is receiving buzz as a freshman.
Nobody in their right mind won’t make a trip to Sidney to get their eyes on Andre Gordon this season. The Virginia Tech commit is a way better version of the player he was last season. And, check this, he averaged 23.0 points, 5.5 assists, and 4.6 rebounds a year ago. But he’s more explosive, efficient in the mid-range, and just more impactful all around.
Sidney also has a chance to be really good this season. Including Gordon, they return six of their top eight contributors from a year ago. Players know their role on this team and are aware that Gordon needs the ball to cook. Considering Princeton and Winton Woods lost a key piece to transferring this month, Sidney could very well reach the Regional Final in Southwest Ohio.
A lineup of Isaac Settles, Jalen Sullinger, Charlie Mamlin, Kyler Block, and Ben Wight gives them a group of five future college basketball players. We’re not sure how good they can be this season after going 5-18 a year ago. They will, however, be much improved.
Our interest is simply piqued by the talent. But, roster overlap is a reason for concern. Block and Wight are both most effective from the block. Meanwhile Sullinger and Settles need the ball in their hands. In theory, the repetitiveness isn’t good for spacing and ball movement. However, we have faith that they learned from their mistakes last season and could really click now.
The Scots will threaten for the Columbus City League championship this year byway of their three individual talents VonCameron Davis, Qian Magwood, and Kaveon Ross. While Davis and Magwood are familiar with one another, Ross is a transfer from Hamilton Township. The newcomer’s size will help out on the boards and defending larger opponents.
Meanwhile, Magwood and Davis are no stranger to a highlight reel. They both can be counted on for nearly 20 points per game individually. Who doesn’t want to see that? Their high-scoring outputs are facilitated by a faster pace game in the City League. Conference games against South, Northland, Linden, Eastmoor, and Beechcroft will be electric.