LEWIS CENTER, Ohio -- Olentangy Orange was the host to the fourth annual 270 Hoops Battle for the City on Tuesday and Wednesday. While Tuesday’s Buckeye Nissan Underclassmen Challenge featured more than 85 of the area’s best underclassmen in one setting, Wednesday’s Senior All-Star Showcase gave us a final glimpse of the area’s elite seniors.
Wednesday’s action gave us two great games that went down to the wire, as the City League North took down the City League South, 123-112 in the opener. In the finale, the Central Ohio All-Stars overcame a 36-point halftime deficit to storm back on the OCC and win, 128-124. Let’s take a look at some of the top performers from Wednesday’s games.
Stay tuned as this is the first of a four part series detailing the top performers from each class in the event.
Ty’Lei Tate (6’3 PF / East / 2019): Tate finished the game as the MVP of the City League Senior game with an outpouring of 27 points and 11 rebounds. Standing at a slender 6-foot-3, Tate did a majority of his scoring at the rim. Scoring quite a few points off put backs, the senior was able to take advantage of his explosive second jump ability in order to create easy looks for himself off misses. He also showcased his great speed in the open court running the floor and flashing an ability to finish above the rim as a transition finisher and rim runner. Tate also knocked down a three in this game, but I likely would not project him expanding his range past the free throw line efficiently.
Defensively, Tate can apply his tremendous athletic ability just like he did on the offensive side of the ball in this game. Once consistently learning when and where to rotate defensively, he can become a fantastic weakside rim protector with great recovery speed in and out of his rotations. He flashed some simple rotations in transition in this game, even “walling up” which is contesting a shot in the air with verticality.
I really enjoyed the combination of Tate’s motor and athletic tools at this event. Motor is something that rarely shines in an all star game, but Tate gave 100 percent on the court at all times. I think there’s some potential JUCO value in him. A capable rotation guy that you can pair with a stretch big or as a five in small ball lineups when you’re looking to really push the pace.
Tronny Keaton (6’1 CG / Marion Franklin / 2019): Keaton capped his high school career off with another 20 plus point performance. Which is only fitting from the second leading scorer in the City League this year.
In my first viewing of Keaton, I was impressed with the combo guards scoring prowess. After a slow first half, Keaton caught fire in the second and brought his City League South team right back into the ball game. Standing at 6-foot-1, Keaton is a solid change of pace handler that uses his deceptively quick burst out of his dribble moves to get into the lane with ease. Once in the lane, he is a very decisive scorer, knowing exactly how he is going to get to the rim or pull up. The unsigned senior also showed off his scoring prowess from beyond the arc too, knocking down a pair of pull up threes.
Defensively, Keaton is likely limited to one position because of his size and frame. It was hard to get a read on him defensively in this setting. His speed off the dribble should translate to at worst average lateral speed in order to contain the opposing ball handlers that he will have to guard at the next level.
A standout on the court and in the classroom with a 4.0 GPA, Keaton has worked hard to become a legitimate prospect despite a lack of surrounding talent in high school. Keaton currently holds two JUCO offers and I think both teams can benefit from his scoring equity both on and off the ball. Thanks to Keaton’s excellence in the classroom, the unsigned senior will have plenty of potential opportunities after standing out with 23 points on Wednesday.
David Brown (6’6 WF / Linden / 2019): The recent Sinclair CC commit finished with 20 points in this contest. He thrived in this type of open court setting where he could put his length and athletic tools to use.
Standing at 6-foot-6, this lengthy forward still has a good amount of upside as a prospect. He consistently finished above the rim in transition and continues to develop into an above the rim finisher in the halfcourt as well. The senior flashed some handling coordination in the open court and continuing to develop his wing skills will make him an appealing prospect out of the junior college ranks. He flashed some outside shooting prowess as well, knocking down several spot up jumpers from well beyond collegiate range even though he is not typically known as a quality shooter.
Defensively, Brown did a quality job off the ball anticipating simple reads in the passing lanes, applying his length and recovery speed in order to make impact plays creating his own offense. His wing like movement ability should translate to some positional versatility on the defensive end of the floor where he can guard wings and switch onto guards containing them off ball screens occasionally.
Brown’s game is still limited to around the rim right now, but really thrives in an up tempo setting. Continuing to develop his wing like skills offensively with his already wing like movement ability will make him a wildly appealing prospect. Along with figuring out a way to apply his athletic traits functionally on the offensive end of the floor. Brown is going to be a name that four year institutions are going to want to track in his time at Sinclair, as the Tartans are a program with a reputation of developing raw athletic bigs.
Na’elle Simmons (6’7 PF / Beechcroft / 2019): After garnering first team all-state honors in Division II, Simmons capped off his Beechcroft career by going for 20 points and helping lead the City League North to a victory. Wednesday was by far Simmons’ best Battle for the City showing, as he shined in the up tempo setting, using his length, athleticism and mobility to finish at and above the rim on several occasions.
The unsigned senior big has great length, can really rim run and has improved his handling coordination over the years, as he took a few rebounds and started the break in the open floor, leading to buckets each time.
The biggest improvement in Simmons’ game has been his motor, as he used that to turn in a dominant double-double season where he earned first team All-City, all-district and all-state honors for the Cougars. With a Division II offer from Central State and plenty of interest from top programs in the region, Simmons is a late blooming big who could have a great college career if he keeps improving like he did this past season.
Caleb Joyce (6’2 WG / Linden-McKinley / 2019): After a breakout senior season for the Panthers, Joyce continued that upward rise by going for 18 points and leading the City League North to a win. The 6-foot-2 senior has an elite motor, as he gave 110 percent on both ends of the floor and showed some reliable outside shooting ability, knocking down two threes off spot ups and hitting a handful of mid-range jumpers off the dribble.
We like the way Joyce moves his feet on the defensive end, as he can defend smaller guards and bigger wings due to his size and quickness. Joyce is deserving of some late JUCO looks, as he will bring you toughness, versatility and outside shooting ability.
Yayi Conde (6’6 C / International / 2019): For the first time in his career, Conde played on a big stage and the 6-foot-6 center did not disappoint. Going for 12 points and 10 rebounds, Conde showed why he earned first team All-City honors, as his interior scoring ability was something to watch, as the big bodied post moves his feet for his size and showed off decent touch. In an International program that is still in its infancy, Conde has been a big part to what the Lions are building, as he put a nice cap on a strong two-year stretch where he was as productive as any big man in the conference.
Alvin Byrd (6’3 WF / South / 2019): While Byrd spent all high school season playing the role as South’s hustle and energy guy, it was nice to see the senior in a scoring role on Wednesday where he finished with 22 points and five rebounds. Byrd plays with great energy, as he makes his impact with his hustle, which was the case on Wednesday when he consistently beat defenders down the floor for transition buckets. Byrd’s improvement was huge for South who relied on him as the fifth starter in all 30 games this season in the run to the state final. Byrd is solid in all aspects of the game and would be a great look for Division III programs in need of hustle and energy guys that only care about winning.
Tre Watkins (5’11 PG / South / 2019): Days removed from playing in the Division II state championship, Watkins was back on the hardwood in a South uniform. The best shooter in the event, Watkins showed it by knocking down five triples and scoring 17 points. The 5-foot-11 guard is a talented shooter with unlimited range, as he really knows how to play and has greatly improved his ability to create open looks for himself. While he did more scoring than anything on Wednesday, Watkins has evolved into a true point guard, as his shot selection has drastically improved over the years, he is better equipped at getting others involved and is a solid perimeter defender despite his slight frame. Watkins finishes a great high school career where he took part in 93 wins, a state runner up finish, two district titles and two City League titles.
Honorable mention: Gicobi Massey (6’1 G / Eastmoor / 2019), Benjamin James (6’5 WF / Independence / 2019), Trevonne Reeder (6’0 G / Beechcroft / 2019), James Delaney (6’3 WG / Beechcroft / 2019)
Cross Hackathorne (6’5 WF / Fairbanks / 2019): Overcoming a 26-point halftime deficit, Hackathorne helped power Central Ohio to the big win with a barrage of threes in the second half of his 23-point MVP performance. Knocking down seven triples and showing range from all over, Hackathorne put the finishing touches on a senior season that included an Ohio Heritage Conference title and all-district honors. The 6-foot-5 unsigned wing has knockdown shooting ability, is a solid athlete and can score it in a few ways. Division III programs should be all over Hackathorne as a floor spacer with great length.
Evan Conley (6’1 PG / Fairfield Union / 2019): Conley did something that our entire staff has never seen in an all-star game: call a timeout from the bench. With his team facing a 36-point deficit in a game that looked like it was on the verge of getting even uglier, Conley decided to put a stop to the bleeding. Getting his teammates into a huddle, Conley drew up a 1-3-1 zone to put them into, which actually ended up changing the game, as Central Ohio started to get stops by forcing the OCC into tough shots, which led to momentum on the other end. Scoring a game-high 30 points, Conley was outstanding on both ends of the floor, as the West Liberty signee put his team on his back and created a competitive environment that is hard to come by at most all-star games. The Fairfield Union standout knocked down six threes and scored timely buckets in a second half comeback that is unlike anything we’ve ever seen at Battle for the City. Conley’s leadership led to the first win that any Central Ohio (MSL, LCL, CCL, KMAC, CBC, OHC, etc) team has ever had against the OCC in three years of the current format (0-9 coming into Wednesday). Conley’s winning mentality and leadership will fit in perfectly at a West Liberty program that has won more than just about any program in the country over the last decade.
Chris Boyle (6’4 WF / Columbus Academy / 2019): The Battle for the City OG poured in 23 points and helped Central Ohio pull out the win. The 6-foot-4 Boyle, a Brown football commit, is an impressive basketball player that showed off nice versatility on Wednesday. Boyle can knock down the outside shot, clears out space and rebounds at a high level on the defensive end and has enough handling coordination to score if off the bounce on the wing. If he wasn’t a big red zone target tight end at the next level, Boyle would be an intriguing wing forward that I’m sure Division II programs would be all over. Thanks to Boyle’s impact on both ends, Columbus Academy won its first league title in 11 years and gave eventual state champion Harvest Prep its toughest challenge in the tournament, taking the Warriors to the wire in the district finals.
Kayin Derden (6’3 WG / DeSales / 2019): A four year contributor at DeSales, Derden wrapped up a successful high school career by going for 16 points and making some big plays down the stretch for Central Ohio. The 6-foot-3 senior is a lengthy wing player who can pour in shots from all over the perimeter, while having the ability to get into the lane and use his wingspan to finish at and above the rim. Derden flashed his impressive athleticism with a few powerful slams in the win. One of the top unsigned wings in the senior class, Derden is a quality student, great kid and talented basketball player that would thrive at the Division III level, while being good enough to warrant Division II and NAIA looks.
Delavontae Jackson (5’10 PG / Liberty Christian / 2019): The area’s leading scorer in Division IV really stood out in his first game with equal or better teammates, scoring 12 points and dishing out four assists to help lead Central Ohio to a win. Jackson, who was the only college prospect on a Liberty Christian team in only its second year as a program, averaged 23 points per game this season and made a name for himself in small school D4 circles. Going up against a dozen scholarship prospects for the OCC, Jackson showed that he belonged, knocking down a handful of pull up jumpers, a shot which he gets great elevation on, while showing off impressive balance and control. Jackson also finished at the rim with efficiency, as his most impressive drive came on a trailing Jacob Drees, where Jackson was able to extend and finish against Drees’ 6-foot-7 wingspan. Division III programs should be all over Jackson, who may reclassify to the 2020 class and play another season for Liberty Christian. However, we feel Jackson is ready to play at the next level right now, as he has a polished offensive game and is only improving. If Jackson does indeed return to Liberty Christian (who is not an OHSAA member), look for him to contend among the area’s leading scorers.
Jordan McMillian (6’1 CG / Westerville South / 2019): McMillian became the first player in Battle for the City history to register a triple-double, as he finished with 22 points, 10 rebound and 10 assists in the OCC’s tough loss to the Central Ohio All-Stars. McMillian is a high motor guard who can flat out score it in nearly every way imaginable. The 6-foot-1 unsigned senior is a change of pace ball handler with a quick first step. McMillian can get to the rim and finish with creativity, while having a knockdown mid-range game. The senior guard plays with a great motor on both ends, as he played with 100 percent energy for every minute he logged on Wednesday. McMillian is worthy of just about every juco offer in Ohio and the rest of the region.
Javohn Garcia (6’3 PG / Pickerington Central / 2019): The top unsigned point guard in the state of Ohio, Garcia poured in an effortless 21 points on Wednesday. The 6-foot-3 guard finished several big jams in transition, hit three triples off the dribble and got to the rim whenever he wanted. The former Miami (OH) commit is a true two-way guard who brings positional versatility, as he can play both on and off the ball and is a talented defender who you can put on guards and wings. Garcia has improved as a perimeter shooter and seems to be more comfortable in that area, while remaining a talented slasher with unique finishing ability. Garcia is a no-brainer look for mid-major programs needing size at the guard spot. On top of all of that, Garcia is a great kid who loves playing basketball and will work hard wherever he ends up.
Sahmi Willoughby (6’4 WF / Reynoldsburg / 2019): It was nice to see Willoughby out on the wing in Wednesday’s game where he thrived in the up tempo setting, finishing with 20 points and four rebounds. The highly athletic forward played in the post all season for Reynoldsburg, giving the Raiders all he had as they nearly repeat as district champions. On Wednesday, Willoughby showed off the other parts of his game, knocking down a pair of threes and handling the ball in the open floor. The Marietta commit has one of the best motors of any player in his class, as he is a force on the offensive with his explosive second jump and long wingspan. Willoughby is a hard worker that waited his turn at Reynoldsburg and should have a great college career at a Marietta program that will develop him.
Ben Fort (6’4 WG / Reynoldsburg / 2019): The unsigned senior Fort is as impressive of an athlete as you’ll find in Central Ohio, as he has a rare combination of size, explosiveness and quickness. He put all of that to use on Wednesday when he went for 17 points and five rebounds. The 6-foot-4 guard is a shifty ball handler that can get into the lane with his quick first step. When he gets there, Fort can hit the pull up jumper or can use his length to finish at and above the rim. The senior knocked in three triples off the dribble, continuing to show improvement in that area. Fort is worth a look for high-level Division II programs as well as low-major Division I programs who can help develop him into the effective two-way wing that he has the potential to be.
Josh Corbin (6’3 CG / Gahanna / 2019): After missing his entire season with a broken elbow, it was so nice to see Corbin back on the floor in a Gahanna jersey. The senior Winthrop signee showed no signs of rust, as he scored on his first trip down the floor, powering past his defender for a basket. Corbin returned to the floor appearing to be stronger than before, as he had no problem powering his way to the rim, while still showing off his elite shooting touch that helped him become one of the best three-point shooters in the Nike EYBL last summer. Corbin has tightened up his handle, gotten stronger and has filled out physically, which should help him contribute early at the next level. In a Winthrop program that has done well with Ohio guys, Corbin should thrive, as the uptempo pace will suit his strengths as a microwave scorer with the swagger to match.
Honorable mention: Owen Hazelbaker (6’7 PF / Johnstown / 2019), Andrew Tate (6’5 WF / Harvest Prep / 2019), Ben Casey (6’3 WG / West Jefferson / 2019), Brady Snyder (6’0 PG / Canal Winchester / 2019), Ben Roderick (6’5 WF / Olentangy Liberty / 2019)