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Hidden Gems Showcase: Top Performers

By Greg Glasser, 03/13/23, 10:00AM EDT


Showcase season is already in force. Our prospect scout was on hand

GROVE CITY, Ohio -- While only four area teams remain in postseason play, it's now time for a majority of players to focus on their offseason development.

On Sunday at Central Crossing, Hidden Gems provided boys and girls from grades 4-12 an opportunity to get a head start to prepare for their upcoming season with a handful of college scouts in attendance.

Our prospect scout was also in attendance and focused his attention on the four boys teams in grades 11 and 12. For roughly the 30+ participants, the seniors had a chance to provide a bonus look while the juniors will try to catch scout's eyes as they enter their final season. 

Let's take a look at the top performers from the showcase:

Angelo Kulacz (6'5 Wing / Lakewood St. Edward / 2024) The two most impressive players of the day came from the greater Cleveland area and they most likely rode in the same vehicle. The MVP honors go to Angelo and his twin brother Tony, whose size and athleticism vastly stood out all day. While there were a lot of similarities between the twins, let's start with Angelo, who was an elite scorer on Sunday. Angelo connected on more than a few threes, ran the open court exceptionally well and played with a high level of energy that led to quality putbacks. Angelo has a great combination of size and athleticism and played with a constant motor. Playing for one of the best programs in the Ohio at Lakewood St. Edward, Angelo should have a solid role for a team that is consistently competitive at the state level.

Tony Kulacz (6'4 Guard / Lakewood St. Edward / 2024) There are more similarities than differences between the Kulacz twins. While Angelo may have been a slightly more efficient scorer, Tony was the slightly better facilitator. With tremendous size for a lead guard, Tony was a crafty passer that found teammates in scoring positions at various parts of the floor. But make no mistake, Tony can score too, as he showed off a consistent jumper and long ball. There were a couple of moments with preventable turnovers, but Tony otherwise made sound decisions. Both brothers were a blast to watch; they brought energy, were confident and took their competition seriously. In down times between games, you'd see the Kulacz's working on their free throws. Regional college coaches should keep an eye on these soon-to-be seniors as their size, play-making ability and dedication to the game make them attractive prospects.

Maurice Hamrick Jr. (5'9 PG / Columbus Sherwood MS / 2028) On the same team as the Kulacz brothers, my attention was stolen by the fantastic point play from the young-looking 5'9 guard. Hamrick Jr. put on a beautiful display that first caught my eye by his impressively smooth jumper. Hamrick Jr. was connecting from all parts of the court, many of which came from deep, often times a foot or two beyond the arc. Then Hamrick Jr. would show off exceptional handles, usually beating his defender off the dribble then dishing off to an open teammate. When I found out the talented guard was actually in the seventh grade, his standout play stood out even more. While he appeared to cool off some towards the end of the day, Hamrick Jr. clearly molds his play in the style of a Steph Curry and LaMelo Ball. I don't go out of my way to scout middle schoolers, but Hamrick Jr. gave me no other choice and looks to be a future star in the city.

Sam Whitaker (6'7 Forward / Columbus International / 2023) Just three days after committing to Pitt-Bradford, a Division III school in Pennsylvania, Whitaker got a good run in on Sunday that showed why he will play at the next level. Whitaker was the day's best post player, using his sizable frame and strength to own the paint. He showed off his athleticism with a posterizing dunk and also on the defensive end when he blocked a drive and secured the ball while in air. Whitaker is at his best down low, but has the tools to grow as a player and expand his range. A first team all City League-North selection, Whitaker's best basketball should be waiting for him at Pitt-Bradford.

Mohamed Berete (6'6 Forward / Central Crossing / 2023) Berete caught the eye of at least one coach in attendance. And for programs that can develop players that may be a bit raw, but have the size and skills that display potential, Berete was a good player to watch. With nice height, but thin, Berete showed athleticism and made impact plays on both ends. He finished well around the rim, rebounded at a strong level and did a nice job of blocking and preventing shots in the paint. I encourage Berete to play with more confidence and some edge, as he has some gifted abilities. With interest from JUCO and Division III programs, Berete could also benefit from a year of postgrad play.

Davion Bridges (5'10 SG / Northland / 2023) The City League champion arrived Sunday and showed why his hot-shooting ability helped earn him a selection on the first team City League-North. Bridges was perhaps the best shooter of the day and made eight triples in the games I watched him. The former Viking is a good catch-and-shoot guard, but also made a couple nice plays as a distributor. Although Bridges may not dominate in stature, he plays hard and can offer a program the ability to stretch the floor. For area Division III, JUCO or NAIA programs looking to fill that type of roster spot for next season, Bridges is worth a call.

Ryker Bowden (6'4 Wing / Marysville / 2024) The 6'4 wing out of Marysville may not have the flashiest brand of basketball, but on Sunday, he was simply effective. Bowden can play on the wing and his size also allows him to score in the post, where he showed a nice touch on his finishes within five feet. Yet Bowden also displayed some sneaky good vision and had a handful of passes that were on the dot that led for a teammate's easy score. A regular contributor for the Monarchs this past season, Bowden is a top returning player and should help Marysville be competitive in the OCC-Cardinal.

Jayden Jones (6'1 SG / Marion Harding / 2023) A recent commit to Edison State, Jones showed off why he was attracted by various JUCO and NAIA programs. Jones is mostly known for an ability to hit from outside, which he did on occasion at the showcase. But he also displayed a more well-rounded approach, as he did a nice job of finishing off the dribble and also had some good dishes to an open teammate. Jayden was an accomplished player at Marion Harding that brought good energy and contributed in ways beyond scoring. He's a player that can make the most of his two years at Edison and continue to be a scholarship player at the collegiate level.

Tariq Johnson (6'2 G / Westerville South / 2024) I only was able to catch one game of Johnson, but it was hard to not notice him as he scored the first ten points for his team. Johnson was a play-maker that attacked the rim, hit a couple shots from deep and showed off some athleticism on a breakaway left-handed dunk. I really liked the energy Johnson was putting off, even in the final game of the day when legs were beginning to tire. Westerville South has a talented backcourt, but minutes are earned with coach Ed Calo by players that work hard and minimize mistakes. Johnson can find way his into the varsity rotation next season by doing those things, as well as continuing to improve on his ability to score, such as he did on Sunday.

Honorable Mentions: Braylyn Dyer (6'1 Guard / Marion Harding / 2024), Will Frey (6'3 Wing / Cincinnati Colerain / 2024), Rashard Curtis (6'1 SG / Pickerington North / 2024), Kwadwo Mensah (5'10 G / Horizon Science / 2024), Franklin Tejada (6'2 SG / Westland / 2024), Devin Koehler (5'11 G / Cardington/ 2024)

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