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270 Features: Licking County basketball at the next level

By Cade Torbert, 08/04/21, 11:00AM EDT

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A look at where Licking County alums are playing both in college and the pros

**DISCLAIMER** The information posted was in part provided to us by the schools in Licking County, as we contacted every school in an attempt to not miss anyone.

NEWARK, Ohio -- Licking County continues to show off their basketball talent each and every season. During the 2020-21 season, Licking County had an impressive tournament run featuring: Newark finishing as D-I district runner up, Heath as D-II district runner up, Johnstown as D-III regional runner up, and Newark Catholic as D-IIII district champions. 

Let’s take a look at who is contributing at the next level from the Licking County area:

Jett Speelman - Ashland—>Denison—>Fsu Karfa (Iceland)—>Wedel (Germany)—>Amicle Steelsel (Luxembourg)—>Yoast United (Netherlands) / Pro / Newark Catholic ‘13

The Green Wave alumni has been an impact player at every level he has played and has put together quite the basketball career. While at Newark Catholic, Speelman was first team all Ohio during his junior and senior seasons, while being named D-IV state player of the year in 2013. He also just so happens to be the Green Waves all time leading scorer. While at the collegiate level, he averaged an impressive 18 PPG and six RPG, Speelman also grabbed first team all league his junior and senior seasons, while also being the second player in Denison’s history to score 1000 points in just two years. Most recently the Newark Catholic grad has been killing it in the Netherlands for Yoast United. During the 2020-21 season for Yoast United, he averaged 14 points and 5.5 rebounds. That season was highlighted by leading the Dutch basketball league in three point percentage at a whopping 51 percent. I look forward to seeing what Jett does next in his basketball career because I’m sure it’ll be great!

JT Shumate - Walsh—> Toledo / Junior / Newark ‘18

Shumate had an impressive sophomore season and first season at Toledo last year, entering the rotation and contributing immediately. The sharpshooter showed off his scoring ability and proved that he belongs at the division I level on January 26, when he scored a season high 33 points on an efficient 11/11 from the field in the win at Miami (OH). He is just a flat out winner and was also able to lead the Rockets to their 13th Mid-American Conference (MAC) regular season championship and first since 2019. Shumate and Toledo are poised to get back to this point next year, but with their eyes on making their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1980.

Jason Carter -  Ohio—>Xavier—>Ohio / Senior / Johnstown ‘16

Last season Carter started every game for Xavier, while being second on the team in rebounds per game with six. In his four full seasons of college basketball, he has scored a total of 1153 points between Ohio and Xavier. Xavier was on the bubble of reaching the NCAA Tournament the entire season, but came up just short. This offseason Carter announced that he would use his final year of eligibility as a grad transfer to go back to where it all started for him at Ohio University. Ohio made some noise last season by winning the Mid American Conference and then going on to defeat the defending NCAA Tournament champions, the Virginia Cavaliers in the first round. Look for Carter to join the 1000 point club at Ohio University during the 2021-22 season as he only needs 164 points, he also should add a veteran leadership presence to an already proven team.

Owen Hazelbaker - West Liberty—> Walsh / Junior / Johnstown ‘19

Hazelbaker had a heck of a high school career at Johnstown. He averaged an impressive 16.1 PPG and 12.1 RPG, while also being named a two time D-III All-District and a two time Licking County League player of the year. At the collegiate level, Hazelbaker has been an instant impact guy for West Liberty. He played in 30/31 games as a freshman and made it to the MEC Tournament championship in both seasons, while winning it in 2020. After two seasons at West Liberty, Hazelbaker announced that he is transferring to Walsh. Look for Hazelbaker to help Walsh make a run at the G-MAC next season, since he has helped his team win at every level that he has played at!

KeShawn Heard - West Georgia / Junior / Newark ‘19

The three year varsity letter winner at Newark had an impressive high school career, winning at an eye popping rate. Going 46-5 over his final two seasons for the Wildcats was just one of the many ways he showed what he brings to the floor. Heard came to West Georgia and was an instant impact player as a true freshman. Over his first two seasons, he has played in 42 games with 18 of them as a starter. Heard missed some time last year due to injury, but look for him to come back even stronger next season.

Carson Conley - Ohio Northern / Sophomore / Licking Valley ’20

During Conley’s senior year at Licking Valley, he achieved many different milestones. The 20+ PPG scorer was named the LIcking County League player of the year, while also becoming just the seventh 1000 point scorer in school history and first since 2004. He was also an instant impact player for Ohio Northern as a true freshman. His minutes seemed to increase throughout the season and by the time their league tournament came around, he became one of the first players off the bench. Conley helped lead Ohio Northern to the OAC tournament finals where they fell short to Marietta. Look for Conley to have an even bigger role for the Polar Bears next season with their eyes set on getting back to this point, but with a different result in mind.

Carson Carter - Muskingum / Senior / Johnstown ‘18

The Johnstown graduate has had a solid career thus far for Muskingum, playing in a total of 64 games in his first three seasons. Carter has been one of the first guys off of the bench in all three seasons, but last year might have been his best season yet. He had a career high in points, rebounds, assists, steals, minutes, and three point percentage. His ability to knock down triples at 44.4% was something that really stood out the most for me during his impressive junior season. Look for Carter to continue his steady progression next season with his eyes set on leading Muskingum to an OAC title.

Justin Carter - Otterbein / Senior / Newark ’17

Carter has been an important cog in Otterbein's system for all four years that he has been there. The three year varsity letter winner at Newark was an instant impact player right when he arrived on Otterbein’s campus, earning OAC freshman of the year by contributing a team high 13.4 PPG and second on the team in RPG with 4.5. Carter was limited to just five of Otterbein’s nine games last season, but he made the most of it averaging 11.4 PPG on 30.2 MPG. He has played in an impressive 63 games, while starting in almost all of them. Carter is using his extra year of eligibility to begin his masters program and to play one more season at Otterbein during the upcoming 2021-22 season, so look for him to have his eyes set on making a run at the OAC in his final year.

Also continuing their basketball careers at the college level are:

Ethan Stearns - Bluffton / Junior / Watkins Memorial ’19

Brody Ley - Wittenberg / Sophomore / Granville ‘20

Heath Jeffries - Ohio Northern / Junior / Newark Catholic ‘19

Let’s take a look at who will be playing college basketball next season, as well as a recap of their senior seasons:

Gavin Foe -  Marian / Freshman / Johnstown ’21

Over the past few years, Foe has proved to be one of the more athletic guards in the area that gets things done on both ends of the floor. During his senior season, he was named first team all Ohio in division III, as well as District 11 and Licking County League player of the year. He also led the Johnnies to back to back district championships as well as D-III regional runners up. Marian University, a top 10 program in NAIA, picked up their first Crossroads League Tournament Championship since the 2000-01 season this past season and with the addition of Foe’s proven winning ways, he should help them get back to this point next season. 

Drew Ballinger - Otterbein / Freshman / Newark ‘21

The sharpshooter had a very impressive senior season! Ballinger earned more of a primary scoring type of role this season at Newark and he took advantage of that opportunity. He helped lead the Wildcats to a (16-9) overall record in a very competitive OCC-Buckeye, while also finishing as D-1 district runners up. The three year varsity letter winner has been a part of winning teams his entire high school career and I have no reason to believe that will change when he arrives at Otterbein. 

Elijah Hinton - Malone / Freshman / Newark ’21

The stretch the floor big man had an outstanding senior season at Newark. He seemed to flourish as the co lead man alongside Ballinger, while showing off his vastly improved jump shot all season long. When he got hot from the perimeter, it didn’t seem like anyone could stop him and the Wildcats. He helped lead the Wildcats to a (16-9) overall record in a very competitive OCC-Buckeye, while also finishing as D-1 district runners up. I look forward to seeing what the two year varsity letter winner has in store at Malone University because if his career at Newark is any indication, I’m sure it’ll be fun to watch! 

Lionell Moses Jr. - Walsh / Freshman / Licking Heights ’21

The two time varsity letter winner just so happened to be a part of one of the best Licking Heights basketball teams in school history during his senior season. After starting the 2020-21 season 0-4, Moses Jr. and company helped spark the Hornets to 18 straight wins to end the regular season. He also guided them to their first Licking County League title in school history and first league title since 2013 when they were a part of the MSL. Moses Jr. really started to put things together as the season went on last year, so I expect a smooth transition when he steps foot in a Walsh jersey.

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