DUBLIN, Ohio -- Week 4 of the 270 Hoops Proving Grounds tipped off on Sunday at Team 2 made quick work of the event, going 6-1 and winning the title in a little over an hour. It was Team 2’s physical defense and savvy shot making ability that made the biggest difference, as Pickerington North junior guard Jerry Saunders and Beechcroft junior forward Amani Lyles split the event MVP award.
Team 2 consisted of Saunders, Lyles, Pickerington North senior guard Casey George, Hilliard Davidson junior wing Jayden Nervis, Olentangy Orange senior forward Jason Foster and Eastmoor Academy junior guard Aaron Lawson.
Let’s take a look at the top performers from the event.
Amani Lyles (6’8 PF / Beechcroft / 2022): Lyles is an absolute beast. The 6-foot-8 forward thoroughly dominated Sunday’s event, winning his second-straight Proving Grounds title after powering his team in Week 1. Lyles was the biggest and strongest player in the event, finishing consistently through contact, even on plays where he was clearly fouled. Lyles has the best shot-blocking ability that we’ve seen from a local prospect since Nick Ward, while having the offensive skill and ability on the perimeter that will make him a highly sought-after prospect. Lyles is an absolute force around the basket that will not be outworked, as he dominated as a rebounder, finisher and shot blocker. The Beechcroft junior is one of the elite long term prospects in the area and should be considered among the state’s best in 2022. With only one offer from Cleveland State, Lyles should demand the attention of more in-state and regional mid-major (and higher) programs, as he is as good as they come among bigs in 2022.
Jerry Saunders (6’0 PG / Pickerington North / 2022): Saunders played some of his best basketball on Sunday, dominating the game on both ends of the floor to help lead Team 2 to the title. Saunders was in command all day long, picking his spots and taking whatever the defense gave him. The Pickerington North junior especially excelled in the ball screen game, knocking down threes when the defense went under and delivering several key assists. Saunders is very good at creating his own looks and is equally active on the defensive end where he puts great pressure on the ball. Saunders is an absolute bulldog that makes others better, while having the offensive firepower to score it in bunches. Good guard play is the key to success in the tournament and North has that in Saunders, George and Dior Conners.
Jayden Nervis (6’6 WG / Hilliard Davidson / 2022): Moving into Central Ohio from Moravian Prep in North Carolina, Nervis made his presence felt instantly, as he was the x-factor for his team on both ends. With great length and athleticism at 6-foot-6, Nervis set the tone with his energy and motor, as he helped push the tempo for his team with his dazzling dunks in transition, open floor steals and ball screen threes where he took advantage of late close outs. Nervis is as impressive of an athlete among wing prospects in the 2022 class, as he showed an ability to make shots from all over, finish above the rim in transition and defend multiple positions. Nervis is worth a look for Division I programs in the region, as he has a college ready frame and natural ability that is hard to find. With Hilliard Davidson receiving three big transfers in Nervis, Jared Frey and Peyton Frey, the Wildcats instantly become one of the sleeper teams to watch in Central Ohio for the next two years.
Casey George (5’11 PG / Pickerington North / 2021): All George does is win. In his second livestreamed 270 event, George came away with a title once again, as his toughness, effort, strength and playmaking ability. George is always in the right place at the right time, as he led the event in deflections and steals, helping Team 2 set the tone with their toughness and transition game. When his team needed a bucket, George delivered, as he hit tough shot after tough shot down the stretch. George is a physical beast at 5-foot-11, having middle linebacker strength in a point guard’s body, using that to finish through the chest of smaller, weaker defenders. One of the top breakout point guards in the area a year ago, George will be a tough out for any team who ends up on Pickerington North’s schedule this season.
Jason Foster (6’5 WF / Olentangy Orange / 2021): When it comes to powerful athletes in the 2021 class, Foster has to be among the elite in the area. The 6-foot-5 forward was a role player for his loaded team, and he dominated that role to perfection, helping lead Team 2 to the title. Foster was a physical force on defense, rose up for several impressive rebounds and scored when he needed to, finishing a dump off pass for a dunk in transition, scoring a game-winning right hand finish in a close game and knocking down a catch and shoot corner three. After a breakout season for Orange in which he was one of the OCC-Buckeye’s most dominant players, Foster has a great chance to repeat that performance in an even tougher conference after the OCC’s realignment.
Aaron Lawson (6’2 PG / Eastmoor Academy / 2022): The sixth man on the title team, Lawson filled in and made a strong impact, as his elite quickness and willingness to do the dirty work made a difference. After breaking out onto the scene for Eastmoor Academy this past season when he helped the Warriors reach the district finals, Lawson has continued to develop his game and will be relied upon even heavier this season. Lawson excels in the pick and roll game where he makes the correct decisions and can set teammates up for scores. Offensively, Lawson has a strong mid-range game, can reliably hit three-point shots and thanks to his quick first step and great speed, can get by defenders to the rim. More than that, however, he is a winner who cares about putting his teammates in a position to succeed, which are cornerstones of coach James Miranda’s program at Eastmoor.
DJ Moore (6’3 PG / Worthington Christian / 2022): Getting our first look at Moore outside of the AAU season, it was nice to see the physically imposing guard play to his potential in Team 3’s only win of the day against the event champion Team 2. Moore took over down the stretch in that game, burying back to back triples in the ball screen game where he read the defense perfectly and showed great poise and balance on his pull up three-point shot. Moore is an intriguing athlete with great quickness, as he blew by defenders for impressive scores at the rim. Defensively, Moore is able to defend multiple positions and led the event in blocked three point shots, both of which coming against 6-foot-6 wings. Moore plays with great pace, as he never gets sped up and always makes the correct read as a passer. Liberty is getting an absolute steal in Moore, as he is only going to improve and become more well-rounded than he already is.
Brock Waits (5’10 PG / Grove City / 2021): Waits came in and made a name for himself at the Proving Grounds after a junior season in which he led all OCC-Ohio guards in scoring. While we knew that Waits could hit the three ball, which he did once again at a high level on Sunday, we were most impressed with his defensive effort and intensity, as he was the only guard in the event who consistently picked up ball handlers full court. Waits’ activity level and toughness, coupled with several tough threes both off the bounce and off movement, made a major impact for Team 4 as they finished second place at the event. A mainstay in the Grove City rotation since his freshman year, Waits is as proven as any senior guard in the area.
Brandon McLaughlin (6’8 PF / Heath / 2022): McLaughlin was an absolute beast on the boards, coming up with more than 10 offensive rebounds over the course of six games. At 6-foot-8, McLaughlin has broad shoulders and great size. He banged inside and showed no hesitation going up through contact, as he was the event’s best second chance scorer, making up for limited shots by being a force on the offensive glass. McLaughlin has a serviceable handle, is a capable shooter from three and is becoming a dominant threat on the boards. After leading Heath to an undefeated regular season as a sophomore, McLaughlin has a chance to really dominate the Licking County League this winter.
Marcus Stewart (6’3 WG / Wellington / 2021): Stewart was one of the event’s top volume scorers, as he buried four shots from beyond the three-point line. At 6-foot-3, Stewart has solid size on the perimeter and has the ability to create his own looks. Stewart can put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim, but is most deadly as a three-point shooter who doesn’t lack for confidence. With Elijah Meredith moving on to the next level, look for Stewart to fill the major scoring void left by Meredith at Wellington.
Miles Poindexter (6’6 WF / Westerville Central / 2022): Getting our first viewing of Poindexter in a little over a year, it was nice to see some of the strides that he’s made in his game. While it was a brutal day for Team 1, Poindexter got better as the event went on, knocking down three triples and showing off his soft touch at 6-foot-6. Poindexter had an impressive spin finish in transition and competed hard on both ends. While he was still adjusting to the speed and athleticism of the event after spending last season on a talented Westerville Central JV squad, Poindexter showed flashes of what he could be with his size, frame and shooting ability. On top of that, Poindexter is an elite student who high-academic programs should familiarize themselves with in 2022.
Garrett Taylor (6’6 PF / Marysville / 2021): In what was a rough day for Team 3, Taylor was a bright spot as the 6-foot-6 forward played hard and ran the floor as well as any big man in the event. Taylor has great length and put his right shoulder hook shot to use early and often to score around the rim. After a breakout junior season in which he helped lead Marysville to an OCC title, Taylor is a late blooming big man to keep an eye on in the area.
Mekhi Bloodworth (6’6 WF / Columbus East / 2021): A recent move-in from Kalamazoo, Michigan, Bloodworth had the chance to get his first bit of Columbus action on Sunday. We liked what we saw from the lanky 6-foot-6 wing in our first viewing, as he gave tremendous effort and fought as hard as anybody for rebounds. While his shot wasn’t falling like he would’ve liked, Bloodworth made up for it with great effort on the boards and on defense. Bloodworth knocked down a single size up three, but did most of his damage on second chance opportunities and by hustling in transition for points. Look for Bloodworth to make an instant impact for an East program that could use a high-level talent like himself.