HILLIARD, Ohio -- The best freshmen in and around the area gathered at the Westwood Fieldhouse for The Intro, an annual freshman showcase that brings together the future talent that will carry Central Ohio basketball into the coming years.
Over 90 young men took to the court between three sessions to put their skills on display before they officially got ready for the high school basketball season.
With the majority of the 270 Hoops staff in attendance, all eyes were on the players. While every young man that attended had amazing days as they continued to get better, some were stand outs on the day. Check out who stood out on Saturday:
Darek Whitfield ( 5’3 PG / Gahanna Lincoln / 2026): The Gahanna gold mine strikes again. An area known for great guard play has another star in the making with Whitfield. He was as exciting as any player in the building to watch, with his electric handles and ability to see the open teammate and get the ball to them. In the open court, this kid is an absolute blur and continuously flew by the opposition for layups in transition. His height was not a detriment to getting his shot off either, the diminutive guard not only could shoot over whoever, he also showed that he has a burner from deep. Whitfield knocked down numerous triples during his session, both off the dribble and off the catch. The next in line for Gahanna guards, this young man is going to be a tremendous player. Whitfield’s performance led his team to the championship and helped him be named the Session 1 MVP.
Chase Griggs ( 6’1 HG / Delaware Hayes / 2026): The slashing guard played really tough all morning long, doing everything that was asked of him on the court. Griggs competed at a high level from the beginning of his session, he was drenched in sweat after he was done with the first set of drills. Chase showed off a solid handle and the ability to create for himself and his teammates off the dribble, hitting some nice shots and swinging the ball to open teammates. During the 5-on-5 games, Griggs continued to hit big shots for his team to keep them in games. This young man will be one to keep an eye on, he’ll be one of the most well-rounded players in this class.
Caleb O’Neil ( 5’11 HG / Bishop Hartley / 2026): This young man gets better and better every time we see him. He glides in transition, with a smooth handle and the ability to get to the rim in a hurry. O’Neil does not waste any dribbles, efficient in making his move and getting where he needs to go. This freshman is really good at taking what the defense gives him, knowing when to shoot the ball and when to get to the basket. He was tenacious on the defensive side of the ball too, applying ball pressure all morning long and frustrating ball handlers. Caleb is a solid hybrid guard that can do a little bit of everything that coaches need from him. Under the guidance of new head coach Andreas James, O’Neil will only get better as time goes on.
Dawson Taylor ( 6’5 F / Marysville / 2026): One of the most consistent shooters in the building during the early session, Taylor’s game is tailor made for this era of basketball. The lengthy freshman moves his feet well on the perimeter defensively and uses his long arms to disrupt things on the inside. He pulled down a bunch of rebounds as well, with good anticipation and timing with his jumping ability. Despite his thin frame, he did not get bullied in the paint and came away with a handful of blocks during the session. Taylor impressed with his knowledge of the game as well, he seemed to be a step ahead on the court at all times.
Elijah Dunn ( 5’9 PG / Groveport Madison / 2026): If your last name is Dunn, that means you give energy and effort whenever you’re on the court, and this young man is the embodiment of that. Elijah is a talented lead guard that plays hard and communicates with his teammates on the floor at a high level. He understands how to lead his team and gives them whatever they need at the time, if he has to score then he will and if he needs to distribute then he’ll do that too. Dunn lived at the rim, attacking the basket in every type of situation and finishing with an array of layups in the paint. Defensively, Elijah plays aggressive and intelligently, getting into the ball handler's hip and forcing the issue without fouling. Dunn has had some of the best training and guidance growing up, and his IQ shows when he is on the court.
Sir Gathings ( 6’0 PG / Westland / 2026): Helping his team finish unbeaten on the day and win the session 1 championship, Gathings proved that he can run a team and get his players in the right spot. Gathings was patient with the ball in his hands and did not get sped up by defensive ball pressure. He showed to be a capable shooter, knocking in a couple of jumpers that left the defense defeated. On defense, he was able to slow down some really efficient scorers with his quick feet. Westland has a really solid lead guard that can operate and run the offense for them in the coming seasons.
Owen Inks ( 5’10 HG / Olentangy Berlin / 2026): Olentangy Berlin keeps a shooter with them and this young man looks to be the next one in that line. Inks shredded the rim in the shooting drill during the early part of the afternoon and kept that same energy when it was time for 5-on-5 play. He was a very good floor spacer because of the threat of him getting hot. His handle of the ball was solid all morning long and he moved well without the ball in his hands, getting a couple of layups in the process because of it. Inks uses his strength and power on the defensive end of the court, being able to take contact with drivers and not move. In a program that develops players as good as any team in Central Ohio, Inks will have a good support system around him as he continues to grow in basketball.
Samuel Stalzer ( 5’10 W / Mariemont / 2026): A playmaker supreme with great instincts and good energy on the court, Stalzer showed up on Saturday and shined bright. He consistently attacked the basket with good balance and body control on his way to the rim. Also, Stalzer showed that he can flat out stroke it from beyond the three-point line, knocking down triples all session long once the 5-on-5 games began. He helped his team win the championship in the opening session, with the way he relentlessly attacked the rim in both transition and in the half court. Mariemont has a really good player on their hands and he looks to make an impact immediately.
Andrew Whitlach ( 5'9 SG / Lancaster / 2026): Whitlach was perhaps the best three-point shooter in the gym off spot ups. Whenever he was given any space, Whitlach could put them up and knock them down. We enjoyed watching the way he competed on both ends and were overall very impressed with the Lancaster group that came to the event. The Gales have some pieces to work with for years to come and Whitlach will be one of the most important pieces to the puzzle with his ability to make shots.
Brennan Adkins ( 5'9 PG / Marysville / 2026): Looking back, the black team had a litany of really good guards. Adkins was one of the best in the gym, as he was a top scorer on his team and got it going for everyone. Marysville's coaching staff have raved about Adkins and are very excited for what he is going to add to the Monarchs program. You can trust Adkins with the ball, as he will take care of it and will make plays for the betterment of the team. Every team needs a guard like him.
Ethan Wright ( 6'3 SG / Dublin Jerome / 2026): As if Dublin Jerome didn't need any more snipers in the program, here comes the arrival of Ethan Wright. Wright has very intriguing length at 6-foot-3 and is an absolute dead eye shooter. He is very good at getting his shot off the bounce, as his length and quick release keep defenders off balance. He reminds me a lot of 2017 Dublin Jerome alum Eddie Anders, as his size and shooting ability are very similar. Anders went on to have a solid career at Otterbein, as we feel Wright has the potential to be a college player as well.
Camden Eaton ( 6'1 SG / Lancaster / 2026): Eaton was the best player in the Villanova drill on Saturday. His footwork, pace, ball skills and patience really stood out. The young man is very skilled and plays a confident brand of basketball. We feel he has a chance to be the next great player in the Lancaster program with what we saw on Saturday. Eaton offers great size, IQ, skill and toughness to both ends of the floor and will be a player the Gales rely on for years to come.
King Kendrick ( 5’11 PG / Northland / 2026): Probably the best overall prospect in the building during any session, King did not disappoint and was truly special on Saturday afternoon. During drill work, he was a sponge and soaked in everything the coaches taught then applied it on the court. Once the 3-on-3 and 5-on-5 games began, King showed his competitive spirit and went right at the best of the opposition. The lefty lived in the paint, whether it was him getting to the rim and showing off his layup package or taking and making pull-up midrange jumpers with his right hand, Kendrick scored in all types of ways. This kid showed an uncanny ability to swipe at the ball without fouling and picking up steals, he did it at least seven times on the day. King is going to be the breakout star of the City League this season as a freshman, something the Vikings are looking forward to. Not to get ahead of ourselves, but we think he can be the best Northland point guard since, yes, I'm gonna say it....Trey Burke.
Jorden Bowens ( 6’5 F / Reynoldsburg / 2026): Another one of the best prospects in Central Ohio, Bowens put his athletic prowess and post play on display all Saturday afternoon. The quick jumping freshman soared through the air and caught a couple of alley-oops, showing exactly how high he can jump. When he didn’t dunk, he was able to finish at the rim with a soft touch and even knock down some mid-range jumpers. Bowens has great hands and sets really solid screens as well, not allowing the defense to push him over and then rolling hard to the cup. This explosive freshman will be alongside one of the most talented rosters in the area, with the rising sophomores the Raiders have, expect for them to make some serious noise in the latter half of the season and be a scary team come tournament time. Bowens’ coaches say he has been working his tail off, which is a good sign for a player that already has a great deal of talent. That’s how the great ones become great.
MC Walker ( 5’11 HG / DeSales / 2026): Taking on the challenge of guarding the best guards in the session, Walker truly showed his grit and toughness on both ends. On the defensive end, Walker made things difficult for other guards by using his strength and quick feet to stay in front of ball handlers, forcing them to shoot over his outstretched arms. On the offensive side of the court, Walker operated the offense at a high level and was smart in his decision making. He understood when to look for his own shot and when to get his team involved. Walker showed good vision, tossing a couple alley-oops to his athletic big man and swinging the basketball to cutting players. The super athletic freshman makes winning plays and doesn’t rely on his athleticism to beat you, but he turns it on when it is needed. DeSales has a flat out gamer coming into their program, a young man that will make everyone around him better.
Daneal Krylov ( 6’3 F / Reynoldsburg / 2026): Krylov went insanely hard during the drills, his face being fire engine red with sweat pouring down before the first water break. Daneal showed that he will be a problem alongside a young and loaded Reynoldsburg roster. This kid showed a competitive edge that we love to see in any player, along with a skillset that is transferable to the high school game. Krylov is an impressive athlete, he threw down multiple dunks and was shifty with the ball in his hands. He also displayed some knock down shooting abilities, getting hot in the 5-on-5 games and shooting the laces off the ball. The Raiders have a fun team to watch this upcoming season, Krylov will be a huge part of their future as well. The Ukrainian native brings a European flavor to the floor and is very fun to watch.
Jamarcus Jones Jr. ( 5'10 PG / Harvest Prep / 2026): Gamer. That's what Jones is. He had some of the highest impact of any guard all day Saturday. Jones is a stout defender that takes pride on that side of the floor. Offensively, he has great understanding of how to run a team and get others involved. Jones can score it, no doubt, but made the biggest impact with his ability to make plays without needing the ball in his hands. In a prep game that is becoming more ball dominant, Jones is a true playmaking point guard that is a nightmare for opponents on the defensive end of the floor.
Uthman Sherif ( 6’4 F / Bishop Ready / 2026): This young man is a tank, built like a brickhouse and plays like one too. He dominated the paint on both ends, doing his work early and carving out space for himself so he can do his thing when the ball gets to him. When the ball is in his hands in the paint, it is almost impossible to stop him because of his soft touch around the rim and his ability to get his shot off down low. Sherif moves very well laterally, being able to stay in front of ball handlers on the perimeter, he also got a block as well, showing good timing and some leaping ability. His strength overwhelms defenders, oftentimes the defenders would end up on the ground due to his sheer power. Sherif is a true difference maker and will make the Bishop Ready coaching staff very happy. The Philly native plays with a true east coast grit and is one of the more unique big men in the area already.
Tyler and Mason Gooden ( 5’10 HG / Westerville Central / 2026): The Gooden twins just made all the little plays that contributed to winning. Tyler hit a big three to keep their team ahead in one game and Mason was able to hit a huge layup to help secure a victory in another game. Both twins were all over the floor on defense, trapping ball handlers and forcing turnovers to get their team out in transition. Both twins hit the floor for loose balls and gave a toughness edge to their team that will never show up in a box score. These two young men have incredibly bright futures ahead of them because of their selfless approach to the game and winning attitudes.
Alassane Sall ( 5’10 F / Africentric / 2026): This kid soaked in the coaches information and applied it to the court all afternoon, quietly being a really efficient and productive player. Sall has really long arms for his size and used them to disrupt things on the perimeter defensively, playing passing lanes well and making it hard for ball handlers to get around him. On offense, Sall consistently showed his range, hitting mid-range jumpers during drill work and expanding his range to three-point land during the 5-on-5 games. He even banked in a three in one game from a ridiculous angle. Sall will get better at finishing around the rim as he ages, but he gets to the rim off the bounce using a low dribble and he has a good spin move in the lane. Sall has the potential to be a solid player in the City League as he continues to progress.
Terrance Barbour ( 6'2 F / Harvest Prep / 2026): Harvest Prep is well stocked in talent for the years to come. Barbour is an intriguing prospect, as he offers quality size, athleticism and versatility. He was the perfect role player for a stout Blue squad on Saturday, as he can get it going in transition, can make perimeter shots and can defend both guards and wings. Harvest Prep will be a force for years with the level of talent we saw from the Warriors program on Saturday.
Owen Bell ( 6'2 W / Logan / 2026): We were impressed with Bell's production on Saturday. The lengthy wing was very efficient and played his role at an excellent level. Bell runs the floor hard, is a great finisher and has the shooting touch to stretch the defense. Basketball is a simple game at its core and Bell understands that with the way he plays. We look forward to seeing what Bell can do for the program with the graduation of one of the Chieftains best recent players in Tegan Myers.
Mouhamad Thiam ( 6'1 SG / Pickerington Central / 2026): For as many Antetokounmpo brothers that the Milwaukee Bucks have, Pickerington Central has as many Thiam's. And like the Antetokounmpo bros, the Thiam's are straight up winners. Evidence by the charge that Thiam took in 3 on 3 action that was not under the whistle. The kid gets it and competes at a high level. We love the upside of Mouhamad, as he not only has the guard skills that his older brother Atou has, but looks like he will have the type of length and versatility that his even older brother Elhadji has. When you have a Thiam on your team, good things tend to happen. We look forward to seeing what type of player that Mouhamad develops into.
Isaiah Darfus ( 6'3 SF / Canal Winchester / 2026): Darfus is one of the more solid wing prospects in this class. We love the two way value that he brings and the improvement that he's made to his offensive skill set since last year. Darfus' roots are around the basket, as he has good footwork and finishing ability. He has made strides with his handling and shooting ability, which will enhance his game going forward. We look forward to seeing what Darfus and fellow freshman Diante James can do together for Canal Winchester the next four years.
Alex Smith ( 6’6 F / Upper Arlington / 2026): Session three’s most intriguing prospect because of his length and versatility on the court, Smith was impressive on Saturday evening. He lifted his team to an unbeaten record in 5-on-5 games, including a 12-point comeback win where he trapped a ball handler and forced a turnover for the go-ahead basket. The long freshman showed that he had range, draining multiple threes on the evening from all different spots on the court. He was able to put the ball on the floor and get past defenders in order to finish at and around the rim on a couple of occasions. On the defensive end, Smith was able to get out on the perimeter and stay in front of his man and block shots in the paint with his size and length. Upper Arlington has a young man that can be a different maker rather early into the season, Smith looks to be legit. Shades of Max Martz is what we saw from Smith on Saturday.
JR Bates ( 5’6 PG / Pickerington North / 2026): This writer’s favorite player to watch during his session, Bates is a phenomenal leader on the court with the play that backs it up, it’s clear that he is the son of an amazing coach. JR did not stop talking from the second he stepped onto the court, whether it was counting up scores during drills or calling out screens and help defense, this young man took control of everything on the court. He was encouraging of his teammates, something that is rare to find in athlete’s his age. His ball handling skills are top tier, never putting the ball in harms way or getting stripped of it, even when he hurt his wrist on a play. Bates has a smooth jump shot that he can get over defenders because of his quick release and the way he can create space off the dribble. The best thing is that this young man competed at a high level, playing until the final whistle of every game and never giving up on any play. Bates will be an amazing addition to the Pickerington North team, his leadership alone will elevate his team’s play on the court.
Brody Fields ( 6’2 HG / Teays Valley / 2026): Fields is a bucket in every sense of the word, he put the ball in the hoop in a myriad of ways during the final session on Saturday evening and looked comfortable taking over stretches in games with his scoring ability. Fields was one of the best shooters of the basketball in the session, with a nice looking form and beautiful release. He was able to get to the rim off the bounce, getting past defenders with a fluid handle of the ball and a smooth first step. He finished at the rim at a high rate as well, hitting nice layups and draining some floaters in the lane with a soft touch. His size allowed him to guard different players, he was able to hold his own when defending down low against taller players and he engulfed smaller guards on the perimeter. Fields played with a confident swagger that was felt throughout those watching closely, especially in the 3-on-3 drills where his team got on a roll. Brody will only get better, and he has all the potential to be one of the better scorers in this freshman class. We would not be surprised to see Fields have 1,000 career points before he begins his senior year.
Tyere Simpson ( 5’5 PG / Groveport Madison / 2026): His competitive spirit was on full display the entire session, the way he went hard in every drill and every game, it was evident he came to get better on Saturday evening. Simpson was a vocal leader the entire time, engaging with his teammates on both ends of the court. He showed that he could get to the rim with his slick ball handling and lightning quick feet. This kid lived in the lane and was able to make plays for himself along with his teammates when he dished it to them for an easy bucket. Simpson was also able to step behind the three-point line and drain shots from deep, showing that he can put the ball in the basket on every level. He was aggressive on the defensive side of the court, getting into ball handlers and not letting them get around him easily, and he did it without fouling. Simpson showed the qualities of a quality lead guard, with his leadership and skill set, Tyere can help that Groveport Madison program that will always a competitor in their league.
DJ Ransom ( 5’11 F / Groveport Madison / 2026): Groveport Madison has a solid freshman class this season, one with huge potential, and Ransom could be a glue guy for his class. DJ did exactly what was asked of him from coaches and did it to the best of his ability, making an impact as his team went unbeaten on the day. He used his length to help trap the ball on defense and was able to get his hands on the ball off deflections and steals to get his out in transition. In the second game of his day, Ransom played the passing lanes perfectly to get a steal and layup on a fast break. What this kid is able to do may not always show up on the stat sheet, but it can be felt in the winning equation. His game will continue to develop over time, and once he improves those areas he needs to then Groveport Madison will have a nice contributor to their team.
Hayden Henry ( 5’11 F / Upper Arlington / 2026): Another entry from the Golden Bears, who seemingly have reloaded with young talent, if this camp was any indication. Henry was really effective in session 3, being one of the better shooters in the session along with a really good finisher at the rim as well. He really exploded from deep in the 3-on-3’s catching fire and ripping the nets off the hoop in the process, draining shots from different areas and different ways. Henry was able to shoot off the catch and off the dribble, showing he was more than just a one dimensional shooter, even hitting a rainbow over the top of the outstretched arms of 6’6 Alex Smith. He was vocal on the defensive end of the court, calling out screens for his teammates and encouraging his peers while he was not in the game. The Upper Arlington program is known to develop players and send them off to college as prepared as they can be, Henry could be another example of that.
Ousmane Gadio ( 6’2 F / Whitehall / 2026): Still a raw prospect as a freshman, Gadio showed a real knack for snatching rebounds all evening long during session three. He boxed out others and had good timing on his jumps, then used his long arms to snatch down the board. Gadio was put in charge of controlling the paint from his energetic coach, and did that job with intensity along with pride and energy. He came up with a big time block in their final game of the session and finished at the rim pretty well, but as he ages he’ll be so much better at it. This young man showed a passion for defense that will bode well for him as he gets older. Moving laterally very well, Gadio played back while his team pressed the ball and covered the ground while protecting the paint. Gadio is a piece of clay that needs to be molded, but with his skillset, defensive presence and will to get better, he should be able to meet his potential.
Juan Mackey ( 5’3 PG / Reynoldsburg / 2026): The abundance of talent going to be a Raider continues with this young man! An energy machine that has competitor written all over his face while he’s on the court, Mackey was a solid contributor on both ends of the court. This young man was tough on defense, staying in front of his man and forcing tough shots over him. His toughness stood out as he got he pressured the ball at a high rate and stuck his hands in the passing lanes to disrupt the offense and got his team out in transition. Mackey showed that he can shoot the ball well enough to hurt the defense and he can put the ball on the floor and get to the basket using his strength. This freshman showed heart and desire on Saturday evening, something the Reynoldsburg coaches will love to see from him.
Gavin Wood ( 6’2 W / Northridge / 2026): Another young man that has a complete game, Wood made numerous winning-type plays and was instrumental in how his team competed at a high level in session 3. He had a huge block that kept his team in a game and forced a turnover with his tenacity to seal a game for his team in another game. Wood was a capable shooter, knocking down a couple jumpers from deep and even hitting some mid-range shots as well. Standing at 6-foot-2, this freshman's height allows him to be flexible on both ends and play inside-out on offense while being versatile defensively. Wood had to defend taller players and showed that he had the physicality to do so, with good upper body strength and having the intelligence to defend without fouling. This young man showed a lot of potential during session 3 and has all the tools to be a dangerous player in the area.
Carter Sullivan ( 6'2 SG / Olentangy Liberty / 2026): Sullivan was one of the more talented scorers in Session 3. The 6-foot-2 freshman can knock down perimeter jumpers, but was most impressive with his ability to attack the rim and finish. Sullivan has good body control, plays with a great feel and is a confident offensive player. Olentangy Liberty lost a lot to graduation last year, but with young players like Tyler Kropp and Sullivan, the Patriots will continue to be highly competitive in the area.
Angelo Diedalis ( 6'1 SG / Centennial / 2026): While Smith was the star of the champion grey squad, Diedalis played an important role as a vital secondary scorer. We love his size, length and shooting ability from the wing. Centennial has a strong young coach in Shawn Williams, who will develop talent like Diedalis and help the Stars compete at the top of the City League North. Keep an eye on Diedalis, as he could develop into one of the better players in the Centennial program.
Jeremiah Russell ( 6'0 SG / Delaware Hayes / 2026): The Pacers program has a very solid group of young players in the program currently. Russell is one of those talented young guys. We were really impressed with Russell's poise and confidence on the floor. He did not demand the ball and dribble his way into oblivion like a lot of players, but instead, was patient on the offensive end and knocked down a handful of catch and shoot jumpers. Russell's game translates to the high school level, as he is a strong backcourt piece that brings confidence and trust to a coaching staff. If you can shoot, you can play. Russell fits that bill, while having the ability to put the ball on the floor and create as a ball handler. Look for he and his brother Hezekiah to have one solid year together for the Pacers this winter.
Kahlen Orwig ( 6'1 PF / Huber Heights Wayne / 2026): The Dayton area native made the 55 minute trip east to Hilliard for The Intro. Orwig did not disappoint, as he was one of the more unique big men in the event. His wide frame would suggest he would be a problem around the basket, however, Orwig was a knockdown perimeter shooter that was difficult to contain when he got going. Orwig plays with great toughness and physicality. Wayne has been one of Ohio's most stellar programs for years, as Orwig will have to work his way up the pipeline, however, he has a chance to be contributor for years to come.