DUBLIN, Ohio -- Elevate Basketball Academy was host to an event that was the first of its kind in Central Ohio on Sunday. Bringing 20 of the best rising seniors in the area together for the 270 Hoops 2021 Challenge, the event was live-broadcast to more than 100 college programs across the nation.
With AAU being shut down, the players in the 2021 class have been robbed of a chance to play in front of college coaches to boost their recruitment. We at 270 Hoops took it upon ourselves to fill that void and provide a two hour window of opportunity in front of a major audience.
The impact is being felt already as nearly every prospect in the event has been contacted by at least one college program since the conclusion of the event.
Des Watson (6'5 WG / DeSales / 2021): Watson picked up where he left off in the high school season when he torched every defense he faced and led DeSales to a district title. The 6-foot-5 wing guard took home the event title and co-MVP honors by scoring it on all three levels and making the winning plays needed to take home the title. Watson impresses with his physicality and toughness, but more importantly, the senior has improved his ball skills and jump shooting from the perimeter, as he knocked down six threes over the course of five games. Watson was simply a notch above every other player in the event, as he scored 18 points each in the first and last games of the day, doing so in just 10 minutes both times. The rising senior picked up his 11th Division I offer just a few hours after the event from North Carolina A&T. An absolute winner who comes out and competes at the highest level each time out, Watson is one of the best all-around players that we've covered over the last few years.
Keaton Norris (6'0 PG / Hilliard Bradley / 2021): Norris was by far the breakout player of the event, as he absolutely torched the nets by shooting 8-for-8 from beyond-the-arc in a championship run of five games. The 6-foot guard Norris is far from a specialist, however, as he can set the table offensively, is an elite level passer with excellent vision and is a more than capable on-ball defender. Norris simply makes winning plays, and even when he didn't rack up assists, he was still putting his team in positions to score, all traits of a lead guard who can make those around him better. All of Norris' made threes translate to the next level and were in the rhythm of his team's offense, as the Hilliard Bradley senior has a strong understanding of the game and how it should be played. While his recruitment was relatively quiet prior to the event, Norris walked off the floor to dozens of new college coach followers on Twitter and has since been contacted by Wright State, Furman, Toledo, Niagara, VMI, West Liberty, Lincoln Memorial and Ashland.
Quincy Clark (6'2 PG / Westerville Central / 2021): While Norris was the top stock riser, Clark did the best job of putting himself on the radar of scouts across the state on Sunday. While not on the initial round of invites, Clark's character and humility helped get him into the event, as we offered him a spot after a very respectful message earlier in the week. Clark took full advantage of his opportunity, helping power his team to the championship game with his efficient play. The 6-foot-2 lead guard is an athletic playmaker who was able to create for himself and others. Clark has great speed and quickness, can get into the lane whenever he wants and showed the ability to create his own shot and convert from all over the floor. The most impressive part of his game, however, was his defensive acumen as his size, length and quickness helped him stay in front of some of the best guards in the event, making it extremely tough for them to score. Clark's recruitment has quickly heated up, as he was contacted by Cedarville following Sunday's event.
Tyrese Hughey (6'7 PF / Thomas Worthington / 2021): Falling in the title game, Hughey's impact on the interior was nearly enough to lead his team to a championship. The 6-foot-7 Hughey was undoubtedly the second best prospect in the event, as he thoroughly cleaned up the offensive and defensive glasses, showcased impressive vision as a passer and even knocked down three catch-and-shoot triples from the perimeter. Hughey is such an impressive athlete, as he made a handful of elite defensive plays, none bigger than a chase down block on Watson in transition. With 13 Division I offers, Hughey is one of the biggest mid-major priorities in the Midwest and continues to show improvement in his game with each new viewing of him.
Eli Burke (6'1 PG / Africentric / 2021): Arguably the most athletic player in the event, Burke flashed onto the radar immediately with his explosiveness in attacking the rim. That would soon be overshadowed by his playmaking ability for himself and others, as he was one of the event's top passers and assist leaders. Thanks to Burke's athleticism, quickness and explosion, he's able to burst past defenders where he is a capable finisher at the rim. Rather than force difficult shots, Burke took his time in scanning the floor, finding open cutters and especially excelling in the screen and roll game where he dimed up Hughey for a big bucket late in a close round robin game. Defensively, Burke sat down on every guard in the event and did an outstanding job, as he has the strength, quickness and physicality to disrupt opposing ball handlers. Burke's efficient play helped him attract the attention of a handful of college programs, as he was contacted by West Liberty, Ashland, Lincoln Memorial, Lane, Kentucky State and Concord.
TJ Pugh (6'6 WG / Shelby / 2021): Pugh immediately impressed with his sheer physicality, as the 6-foot-6 wing guard is a legit 210 pounds of sheer muscle. With a strong, physical frame, Pugh translates well to the next level, as we were very impressed with what he was able to do off the bounce as a scorer, while remaining a talented passer and reliable catch and shoot three-point shooter. On the defensive side of the floor, Pugh did a solid job staying in front of Watson and making him work in two matchups, things that will greatly aid his recruitment going forward. As of Sunday night, Pugh had heard from Kent State, West Liberty, Ashland and Lincoln Memorial.
Maceo Williams (6'6 PF / Gahanna / 2021): A constant stock riser over the last calendar year, Williams had an impressive showing on Sunday as he appeared to be in great shape and was much more explosive as a result. The 6-foot-6 forward is a classic big man, as he operates mostly with his back to the basket where he has soft hands, good feet and a smooth touch around the rim. Williams can finish over either shoulder, while possessing the ability to step out and hit mid-range jumpers in the pick and pop game. We liked the way Williams defended around the rim, cleared space to rebound and his unselfishness as a passer, as the Gahanna rising senior is one of the most well-rounded post players in the area. As important as just about any player on Gahanna's roster not named Sean Jones last season, Williams is on pace for a breakout senior season. We aren't the only ones who feel that way either, as Ohio Dominican reached out to Williams following Sunday's event.
Elhadji Thiam (6'7 C / Pickerington Central / 2021): When it comes to the modern version of basketball, Thiam fits the bill for what a lot of teams are looking for out of their big men. The ability to switch off onto guards on the perimeter, the ability to rim run and score in transition, the ability to stretch a defense with reliable jump shooting and the ability to block shots from the rim all the way out to the three-point line are what teams are looking for. Thiam did almost all of those things on a single possession on Sunday, when he switched off onto Burke in a pick and roll play, stopped penetration, showed excellent recovery speed by blocking a three-point attempt from Hughey and then raced down the floor for a big slam. Thiam could have only had that play all day yesterday and he would've jumped onto the lists of a handful of programs, but fortunately for the Pickerington Central rising senior, he had a productive afternoon in all five games in helping lead his team to a title. In the opening game of the day, Thiam had his best offensive performance, dominating his matchup and pouring in 10 points on plays going toward the rim. Thiam has improved in all areas of his game and has some of the best upside among bigs in the class, as he was contacted by Bowling Green and Lincoln Memorial following the event.
Jalen Sullinger (5'11 PG / Thomas Worthington / 2021): One of the most talented players in the event, Sullinger showed flashes of offensive firepower on Sunday. The 5-foot-11 guard is a slippery ball handler who can slide his way to the basket where he is one of the better below the rim finishers in the area. He was able to expand his range to well beyond the college three-point line a few times on Sunday. Sullinger had a couple impressive assists on difficult passes as well. The rising senior guard holds offers from Ohio and Kent State. The key backcourt piece for a Thomas Worthington team that returns the most talent in the area, Sullinger will be relied upon heavily to lead the Cardinals to a possible back-to-back district title.
Gavin Foe (6'3 WG / Johnstown / 2021): Every winning team needs a couple glue guys. Foe is one of those guys. The 6-foot-3 guard made winning plays all game long, remaining active on the glass, in transition, on defense and everywhere between in a run to the title game. Foe has one of the best motors in the class, as he was a constant rebounding threat while picking off a couple passes which led to transition points. We liked the way Foe moved off the ball, constantly cutting to free himself for scoring opportunities that he converted at a high level. With offers from Fairmont State and Rio Grande, Foe is an athletic wing to keep an eye on, as he will be able to come in and contribute instantly with his motor and toughness alone.
Casey George (6'0 PG / Pickerington North / 2021): Tough, heady guard with a strong build. George hits the pull up jumper with regularity, has the strength to bump smaller guards off their spots and uses that strength to create space for himself on finishes. George plays winning basketball, can play both on and off the ball and is an excellent catch and shoot option on the perimeter. George has an offer from Lourdes and should attract plenty of additional small college interest as time goes on. The Pickerington North rising senior is a winner!
Andrew Wade (6'6 WF / Olentangy Liberty / 2021): We love players that can impact a game in a major way without having to score and Wade is one of those guys. The 6-foot-6 wing forward was one of the best defensive players in the event, as he showed off valuable versatility in defending multiple positions and came up with a handful of on-ball blocks. Wade took advantage of the limited scoring opportunities that he got by cutting, rebounding and running the floor hard in transition. With his length, athleticism and unselfishness to do the dirty work that contributes to wins, Wade is a no-brainer prospect for small college programs needing versatility on the defensive end.
CJ Anthony (6'0 PG / Putnam Science Academy / 2021): The area's all-time leading scorer was in action on Sunday, as Anthony's commitment to a post grad prep year at Putnam Science Academy has put him in the 2021 recruiting cycle. The 6-foot guard looked as physical as ever, as his thick, stocky build and powerful lower body helped him defend on the perimeter as well as anyone. Anthony is the ultimate competitor, highlighted with his 98 career wins, three district titles, two regional titles and state title during his high school career. While it looked like Anthony was a bit rusty on the offensive end, he turned it up when he needed to in the final game of the day, scoring a handful of tough drives to the rim to keep his team in it. Anthony will have a chance to reignite his stock this season for a Putnam Science program that competes against some of the best prep schools in the country.
Henry Hinkle (6'0 PG / Olentangy Liberty / 2021): The reigning OCC-Buckeye player of the year, Hinkle showed off some of the skills that helped him earn that accolade earlier in the year. The 6-foot floor general is a knockdown outside shooter who has savvy ball skills and passing ability. Hinkle never seems to get sped up, as he can play at different tempos and can impact a game with his scoring ability when needed. Hinkle's slight frame prevents him from being an elite on-ball defender, however, the Olentangy Liberty rising senior makes up for it with effort and intangibles, traits that helped him see major minutes as a sophomore on a Patriots team that made it to the state tournament.
Jason Foster (6'5 WF / Olentangy Orange / 2021): A player that has caught our eye since early last season, Foster came alive in the last three and a half games of the day. The 6-foot-5 forward made an impact with his athleticism and physicality, as he came up with several blocks on the interior, had a couple steals and finished a few powerful dunks. Foster was able to attack the defense off the bounce and get into the paint where he finished at a high level. While he didn't take a whole lot of outside jumpers, Foster knocked down a catch and shoot triple and had two smooth looking mid-range jumpers. Foster attracted the attention of a handful of Division II programs, as he's a hard-working player that can do a lot of things athletically that you just can't find in most players.
Travonne Jackson (6'6 PG / Dohn Prep / 2021): At a lanky 6-foot-6, Jackson is one of the more intriguing players in the class. While he is a flashy passer who can create his own shot with great fluidity, Jackson's productivity on Sunday came on the defensive end of the floor where his quick hands and cat-like reflexes helped him come up with a handful of steals and blocks. Jackson thrives in transition where he is a slithery scorer at the rim thanks to his length and quickness. After a year at South and two seasons at Centennial, Jackson moves on to Dohn Prep in Cincinnati where he will have a chance to hopefully boost his stock even more after Sunday when he was contacted by Miami (OH), Kent State and Pikeville, among others.
Garrett Taylor (6'7 PF / Marysville / 2021): Sunday was by far the biggest challenge of Taylor's career as he had the chance to go head-to-head with some of the area's best bigs in Hughey, Thiam and Williams. Taylor made most of his mark in the mid-range area where he knocked down the baseline jumper with consistency. With a lanky and thin frame, Taylor is still a developmental prospect on the interior, however, we like his upside as a stretch four that can make shots and play in an uptempo system. With the help of a strength and conditioning program in college, Taylor's best basketball is still ahead of him. The Marysville rising senior heard from Waynesburg and Otterbein following Sunday's event.
Carter Jones (6'5 WF / Centerburg / 2021): While we mentioned Williams shedding weight over the offseason, Jones has done that as well as the 6-foot-5 forward is in the best shape of his career and has been one of the more impressive players at his position that we've seen as of late. While Jones did not get a ton of touches on Sunday, he was effective in the ones that he did get, converting at the rim three times and hitting a catch and shoot triple. Jones is the reigning KMAC player of the year and thanks to his improved athleticism and perimeter shooting ability, will be one of the most difficult matchups in rural Division III ball this season. With a few offers at the NAIA level, Jones is a high-academic student athlete with a bright future.
Tyler Kindberg (6'3 WG / Worthington Christian / 2021): Kindberg is just one of those kids that you love having at your events because he's always going to play extremely hard, will be a great teammate and will increase the competitiveness of those around him. The 6-foot-3 Worthington Christian rising senior was everywhere to be found defensively on Sunday, coming up with several steals both on the ball and in helpside defense. Kindberg's elite effort led to a few scoring opportunities, as he knocked down three mid-range shots in his second game of the day. The high-academic student even took a charge on Sunday, in a game with no refs, a testament to his mentality and basketball IQ. Receiving serious interest from several Division II and III programs, Kindberg is one of those guys that you'll be able to plug and play thanks to his defensive abilities and unselfishness.
Jackson Izzard (6'3 WG / Jonathan Alder / 2021): The tough 6-foot-3 wing Izzard did not have the biggest scoring afternoon due to limited touches, however, we saw flashes from him when he was given an opportunity to put the ball on the floor. Izzard is a reliable catch and shoot threat from the perimeter, while having the athleticism to get to the basket against most defenses. Izzard competes on both ends of the floor and is one of the better rebounding guards in the class. He got off to a hot start with two triples in the opening game but tapered off after that, however, we are still encouraged with what we saw as Izzard has been a standout performer for Alder since his freshman season. With collegiate opportunities both in football and basketball, Izzard is still undecided with what he will pursue at the next level, however, we are big fans of his attitude and will to compete every time out.