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Where has the top talent gone? Central Ohio has gone without a single top 100 player since 2018

By Zach Fleer, 07/14/20, 2:00PM EDT

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Sean Jones could become the first ESPN top 100 player in the last four recruiting classes in Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Scrolling Twitter earlier on Tuesday, I saw a tweet from Dick Vitale that piqued my interest.

Vitale tagged ESPN's Paul Biancardi in a tweet linking the network's latest 2021 rankings. Which got me to thinking, "I wonder if we finally have a player ranked in the top 100? It's been awhile."

As has been the case with the last three rising senior classes, I was disappointed. Not seeing a single local name, outside of Malaki Branham, the Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary star, ranked at No. 27 who played his middle school basketball at Ridgeview Middle School in Northwest Columbus, there were no other local players to be found.

For three-straight 17u recruiting summers, Central Ohio has not been home to a single recruit with a high-major offer.*

That is quite the contrast from the previous 10 years, where Columbus was home to 10 different top 100 players, featuring at least one in every recruiting class besides two (2013, 2015) from 2010-18.

The area hit a fever pitch in 2016 with three different players ranked in the top 100, all residing not even 20 minutes from one another when Nick Ward (No. 40), Matt Moyer (No. 75) and Seth Towns (No. 99) were the talk of the state.

Kaleb Wesson, No. 72 in 2017, led a deep class of talented big men in Central Ohio which also featured Belmont's Nick Muszynski, who has been first team All-Ohio Valley Conference the last two years, and North Carolina's Sterling Manley.

In 2018, a deep class in Central Ohio was highlighted by Indiana's Jerome Hunter (No. 67) and Notre Dame's Dane Goodwin (No. 80).

Since then, however, top-end high-major talent has done a nose dive in the area, as the 2019, 2020 and 2021 classes have not featured a player ranked in ESPN's top 100.

That could hopefully change in 2022, as Gahanna's Sean Jones and Philo's AJ Clayton appear to have high-major ability and upside, with Jones in particularly racking up offers from programs in the American, Big XII, SEC and Big East conferences.

Clayton, a 6-foot-9 forward with a litany of skills, is a kid that would likely have greatly benefited from a summer on the Nike EYBL scene. 

With the COVID crisis cancelling AAU tournaments and forcing college coaches into a dead period where evaluating is only being done over live-streamed events, the area could be forced into waiting even longer to find a player ranked in the top 100 - which is a far cry from the golden days of the last half decade.

Let's take a look at the entire history of ESPN rankings (since 2007) and which players made the cut from the Columbus area.

*Jeremiah Francis, while committed to North Carolina during his senior year, was injured during the 17u summer and did not play. Francis has since transferred to mid-major New Mexico.

Class Player Ranking College
2008 Byron Mullens No. 5 Ohio State
2010 Jared Sullinger No. 2 Ohio State
2011 Trey Burke No. 84 Michigan
2012 Elijah Macon No. 45 West Virginia
2014 Jae'Sean Tate No. 28 Ohio State
2016 Nick Ward No. 40 Michigan State
2016 Matt Moyer No. 75 Syracuse, Vanderbilt, George Washington
2016 Seth Towns No. 99 Harvard, Ohio State
2017 Kaleb Wesson No. 72 Ohio State
2018 Jerome Hunter No. 67 Indiana
2018 Dane Goodwin No. 80 Notre Dame

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