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Ohio Challenge: Top Performers

By Zach Fleer, 08/20/20, 12:30PM EDT

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A look at the top performers from the 270 Hoops Ohio Challenge

DUBLIN, Ohio -- Tuesday at Elevate Basketball Academy in Dublin, 270 Hoops history was made. For the first time ever, we hosted an event for prospects from all over the state of Ohio and the results were amazing. With more than 130 Division I programs watching the event on Tuesday, the best and brightest talent in Ohio shined on the big stage.

Let's take a look at the top performers from the event.

AJ Braun (6'9 PF / Middletown Bishop Fenwick / 2021): Braun is one of the top rising big men in Southwest Ohio, as he came in and dominated the Ohio Challenge on Tuesday. Leading his team to the event title, Braun was his team's MVP, putting together five productive outings where he was a force to be reckoned with on the interior, while knocking down three spot up triples. Braun is a load underneath, as his wide, strong frame pushed defenders under the rim all night where he was able to finish with either hand. The 6-foot-9 forward is extremely productive, reliable and durable, as he was one of few players who weren't gassed by the end of the event. Braun has been a major target of in-state mid-majors, picking up offers from Youngstown State, Wright State and Toledo all in the last month.

Jamiya Neal (6'6 WG / Toledo Rogers / 2021): When it comes to athleticism, there was nobody in the stratosphere of Neal on Tuesday. The fleet-footed 6-foot-6 wing dazzled all night long with his speed, quickness and explosiveness. Neal was more than just an athlete, however. Putting together a stellar two-way showing, Neal showed off the ability to put the ball on the floor and deliver efficient passes while on the move. With his team lacking much guard depth, Neal stepped up and delivered. When he was attacking the rim, Neal finished at or above it for most of the night, while stretching the floor for a trio of three-point makes. Neal currently holds nine mid-major offers and is one of the top rising prospects anywhere in the state.

Desmond Watson (6'5 WG / Columbus DeSales / 2021): Watson quickly let everyone in the gym know that Elevate is his gym after he led his squad to a title at the 2021 Challenge on June 28. While his squad fell in the title game on Tuesday, Watson did not leave without making his mark. Putting two defenders in the rim on a pair of posterizing dunks, Watson was the most dominant slasher in the event, as his size, strength and physicality were tough to contain on the perimeter. Watson plays with a special chip on his shoulder, as he is constantly looking to attack the defense and punish any defenders who stand in his way. While Watson's explosive finishes are what people remembered, we were impressed with his on-ball defense and his ability to shut off driving lanes for opposing ball handlers. With 15 Division I offers and his first Atlantic 10 offer coming from George Mason at the end of the last 270 Challenge event that he played in, Watson's stock has continued to heat up with in-state Xavier taking a closer look at him.

Corey Tripp (6'3 PG / Medina / 2021): Getting our first live look at Tripp, we came away impressed with the Northeast Ohio guard. A big, physical guard with great size at 6-foot-3, Tripp was a difficult cover all night long. Scoring at least eight points in three of his four games, Tripp made his mark with his three-point jumper, hitting two each in three separate games. The 6-foot-3 guard is a talented passer that was one of the event's leaders in assists as well. The first player to arrive at the event, Tripp had the most time to warm up and that clearly made a difference as he came out of the gate dialed in and in a rhythm. Tripp holds offers from Bowling Green and Cleveland State, as he showed on Tuesday that he clearly belonged in a group of talented scholarship prospects.

Jared Frey (6'5 WG / Hilliard Davidson / 2022): For anyone that is up to date on modern basketball scouting, a term that was born out of the height of the Golden State Warriors dynasty is 'gravity.' Gravity refers to the tendency for defenders to be pulled to certain parts of the floor. Gravity allows for space to be opened in an offense due to the threat of a player's three-point shooting ability, something we saw with the Warriors when Steph Curry and Klay Thompson were breaking records and taking names along the way. The top 'gravity' player in Central Ohio is undoubtedly Jared Frey, as his three-point shooting display was marvelous once again in a 270 Hoops Challenge event. Frey has unlimited range and seriously needs to be guarded as soon as he crosses half court, as he drained a handful of jumpers that were closer to the mid court line than the three-point line. Frey is dangerous off the bounce, on spot ups and especially off movement where he shows the ability to drift and find open spots on the floor. Outside of just that though, Frey can score it through contact at the rim and is a very talented passer with great vision. We love the way that Frey competes and were really happy to see him play well against so many senior prospects, things that will bode well for his recruitment after receiving offers from Miami (OH) and Toledo following the 270 Hoops 2022 Challenge. 

Aidan Noyes (6'6 WG / Archbishop Moeller / 2021): One of the hottest prospects anywhere in the Midwest, Noyes was intriguing once more on Tuesday as he was one of the event's purest shooters. Showing off a reliable shooting stroke from the perimeter, both off the bounce and off movement, Noyes also impressed athletically where he had a couple high wire athletic finishes. The 6-foot-6 Noyes is bursting at the seams with potential, and when you combine that with his background and the coaching at Moeller, he's a strong bet to reach that potential at the next level. We really enjoyed Noyes' intensity on the defensive end, as he challenged every shot at the rim and did not give opposing ball handlers anything easy. Noyes has 13 offers at the low and mid-major levels, with his latest coming from Marshall and Cleveland State in late July.

Kalen Etzler (6'8 WF / Convoy Crestview / 2021): While it took the Ohio State commit Etzler a bit to get going, once he got into a rhythm in the playoff round, the 6-foot-8 forward showed exactly why he is B1G bound. Exploding for 23 points in two 10-minute games, Etzler was a force to be reckoned with on the offensive end, knocking down five threes off the bounce where he showed an innate ability to create his own looks. Etzler has the length, shooting touch and athleticism to be a real matchup nightmare, as he showed off impressive finishing ability going to the rim. Defensively, Etzler has the most room to grow, however, at 6-foot-8 with the skills that he possesses on the offensive end, the former Crestview state champion has all the upside in the world to be a productive player at Ohio State.

Cliron Hornbeak (6'9 C / Toledo St. Francis / 2021): Just a few days removed from committing to Kent State, Hornbeak showed why he is going to be an instant impact player in the MAC. The massive 6-foot-9 big was one of the top back to the basket players in the event, carving out space around the rim and showing great footwork on the interior. Hornbeak can score it over either shoulder, has above average athleticism for his size and is a dominant rebounder on the defensive glass where he gets his hands on everything. The Toledo product was the top rebounder in the event and had a few powerful slams on the inside where he moved everyone in the vicinity out of his way. With Kent State using a traditional five man in their offense, Hornbeak will be a great fit once he arrives with Thomas Worthington point guard Jalen Sulliner next summer. 

Elhadji Thiam (6'7 PF / Pickerington Central / 2021): Dating back to last fall, Thiam has never left a 270 Hoops event without a title. Coming off a 270 Fall League and 270 2021 Challenge titles, Thiam achieved the trifecta on Tuesday when he helped lead his squad to the win. The 6-foot-7 forward is simply a winner, as he can fill any role needed for his team. Tuesday Thiam was called to clean the glass, find open teammates and score when needed and he did just that. At 6-foot-7, Thiam is an impressive athlete who moves extremely well for his size. On a few occasions, Thiam showed the ability to blow by defenders with simple dribble moves, while he hit a couple mid-range jumpers from the baseline. Defensively, Thiam can virtually guard every position at the high school level, as he has the ability to switch out onto guards while remaining a strong rim protector close to the basket. Fresh off his first offer from NJIT last week, Thiam should begin to attract more attention after Tuesday's performance. 

Ramelle Arnold (5'11 PG / Warrensville Heights / 2021): Arnold may have been the smallest player in the event, but if you were watching, it sure didn't seem like it. The point guard from the Cleveland area left a mark on the event, putting on a dazzling scoring display as a jump shooter with a quick trigger off the bounce. While he was matched up with guards four or more inches taller than him, Arnold accepted the challenge, taking each matchup personally and getting the best out of the opposing guard in each game. In his second game of the day, Arnold went off, hitting four threes and scoring 16 points in a very impressive showing. We loved the attitude and effort of Arnold, as he made the guys around him compete and helped keep the ball moving even when he was hot as a scorer. With an offer from Fairmont State, Arnold is a high priority guard for regional Division II programs, as he has the ability to play against size, athleticism and as we saw on Tuesday, bonafide D1 talent. 

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