REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio -- In an event that was first of its kind, the 270 Hoops Battle for the City did something different. While offering a traditional senior All-Star Game, we took 80 of the best underclassmen in the area, grouped them by age and conference, and put all the top talent on the floor at the same time.
Creating a competition level in an invite only event that is the best you'll find in the spring, let's take a look at some players that opened eyes on Wednesday.
Editor's note: This is not a top performers article, but simply an article highlighting some under the radar players that impressed.
Julius Brown (5'10 PG / Westerville North): Brown played well enough to earn an invite to the Buckeye Nissan Underclassmen All-Star Game. A dynamic scoring guard who can put the ball in the bucket in a variety of ways, Brown competed at a high level and was one of the better point guard prospects in attendance.
Corey Baker (5'11 PG / Groveport): As Baker has matured over the years, his level of play has always elevated. A two-way point guard that can control a game, Baker was solid alongside Brown for the OCC team. Baker's offensive strong suit is attacking the basket and using his strength and toughness to finish inside.
Datrey Long (6'3 SG / Beechcroft): In leading the City League to a 2018 title, Long was the x-factor in a grind-it-out win over the OCC. Going head to head with Jerome Hunter, Long more than held his own, attacking the top 75 recruit on both ends of the floor, including a tip-slam that might have been the highlight of the event. A high-energy wing that plays with a lot of passion and heart, Long is a guy that we can count on to give it his all on each trip out on the floor. In an era where guys want to be friends both on and off the floor, Long is a player that is going to compete regardless of who stands in front of him.
Faizon Tucker (6'4 SF / Linden-McKinley): Another standout from a City League team that played with a lot of chemistry, Tucker impressed in the biggest event that he has played in up to this point. A strong wing forward that finishes at a high level near the rim, Tucker did just that against the OCC and Columbus mix teams. One of Central Ohio's leaders in field goal percentage this past season, Tucker is an efficient player with a high motor, reasons why he helped lead Linden to a fairly deep tournament run.
Brady Thomas (5'10 PG / Bishop Ready): In my first time watching Thomas live, I came away very impressed with the power built 5-foot-10 point guard. A talented ball handler that plays with a lot of confidence and belief, Thomas was the top breakout point guard in the 2018 class on Wednesday. Able to beat defenders off the dribble and score on a variety of levels, Thomas looked the part of a college-ready guard that should be able to step in and contribute early after high school.
CJ Penha (6'5 SF / Harvest Prep): After seeing Penha twice this season against Division IV competition, we were excited to watch the lanky wing against equally talented and athletic players. From what we saw of Penha on Wednesday, it didn't appear as if anything changed, as he was able to do what he did all high school season. A versatile wing forward that can mix it up both on the perimeter and on the block, Penha is still growing and developing, while possessing high-level upside that could lead him to being a full scholarship player after next season.
Ben Fort (6'4 SG / Reynoldsburg): A lanky and athletic wing that has shown flashes for the last two years, Fort put it all together on Wednesday in helping lead the OCC to a dominant event title. Fort has great versatility, enough ball skills to score along the perimeter in the half court, while being a tough matchup in the open floor. As Fort continues to improve his outside shooting and ball-handling, he could develop into one of the all-around best 2019 prospects as he is already a talented defender.
KeShawn Heard (6'7 PF / Newark): Waiting in the wings behind a talented and deep senior class at Newark, Heard played his role as reserve big man that came in to spar BJ Duling this past season. Next year, however, Heard will have to become a feature player and he took a few steps toward that change on Wednesday. A pure stretch four that can knock down jumpers while having the length and shot-blocking ability to be a force on the defensive interior, Heard was the inside piece that completed a truly dominant OCC roster. A big AAU season could land Heard on the radar of several Division I programs as he is in a Newark program that develops post players as well as anyone in the area.
Benjamin James (6'5 PF / Independence): One of the better wing forward prospects in the City League, we liked what we had to see from James in our viewings of him on Wednesday. A powerfully built 6-foot-5 post, James looked good in the open floor and on the block, using his length and athleticism to score at and above the rim. With the graduation of Dibaji Walker this year, James will be expected to step up and be the No. 1 option at Independence, which could lead to a breakout junior season.
Chris Burton (5'11 PG / Northland): Primarily used on JV this past season, Burton certainly looked the part of a varsity rotation guy, as he shot the ball pretty well in our viewings on Wednesday. Filling in place of another Northland junior guard in N'Keeley Elmore at the event, Burton did not disappoint, despite a less than stellar showing from the City League's 2019 squad. Look for Burton to play a bigger role for Northland next season as the Vikings graduate some backcourt talent.
Chris Boyle (6'4 PF / Columbus Academy): The top breakout player in the event, Boyle did the most for his stock on Wednesday. Coming in relatively unknown, Boyle left with rave reviews as many scouts and coaches alike were impressed with the muscular 6-foot-4 wing forward. Finishing with a lot of strength inside, Boyle also had enough versatility to stretch the floor and knock down perimeter jump shots. A talented defender that can play on the perimeter and in the post, Boyle is a two-way player that could develop into one of the better 2019 wing forwards in the area.
Kayin Derden (6'3 SG / DeSales): While Derden was a breakout player all season long as a sophomore, he showed his full arsenal on Wednesday. While already an absolutely deadly knockdown shooter, Derden showed great slashing ability and athleticism near the rim. In our viewing against the City League, Derden dominated on the wing, knocking down threes, attacking the basket and throwing down a few power jams along the baseline. Derden should develop into the No. 1 option at DeSales, as he is talented enough to lead the Stallions to the top of the CCL.
Alex Smith (6'6 C / Amanda-Clearcreek): Outside of Boyle, Smith received the second most "who's that?" questions to us on Wednesday, as the big 6-foot-6 post certainly passed the look test against the area's best sophomores. A thick post with good footwork inside, Smith showed flashes of being a full scholarship level big man. While Smith will have to work on finishing consistently around the rim, he certainly has the tools to get himself good looks inside, while having a big body that will wear down defenders.
Ryan Wolfe (6'3 SF / Teays Valley): A thick wing forward who appeared to be more athletic than we previously though, Wolfe looked good in our viewings of him on Wednesday. Able to knockdown outside jumpers with regularity, Wolfe has enough athleticism to score at the rim among bigger defenders. After a breakout sophomore season at Teays Valley, look for Wolfe to be one of the top scorers in the Mid-State League next winter.
Marcus Johnson (6'4 SF / South): The top freshman performer on Wednesday, Johnson was an all-out stud in our viewings of him. While some freshmen may fall off track when going up against older players, Johnson is the exception, as his athleticism and play style translates against any competition. Going up against all freshmen on Wednesday, Johnson looked like a grown man at times, throwing down some incredible dunks, as he has some of the best explosiveness out of a freshman that we have ever seen. A terror in transition that gets to the rim in a hurry, Johnson reminds us of a young Frankie Hughes at this stage. A key player in South's run to its first City League title in more than 30 years, Johnson should step into the No. 1 option next year, as he is as athletic as just about any player, other than Taevion Kinsey, in the City League. We love Johnson's motor and energy level, as he plays every possession like its his last.
Qian Magwood (5'11 PG / Walnut Ridge): Starting in the backcourt for Walnut Ridge all season long, Magwood was primarily outshined by the high-level production of fellow freshman Von Cameron Davis, who was first team All-City League. However, do not let that distract you from the fact that Magwood is one of the very best point guards in the 2019 class. An elite-level ball-handler who is a treat to watch in transition, Magwood is a confident player who makes some of the most difficult passes look routine. Still wiry and growing into a frame that looks like it could stretch out a few more inches, Magwood is an intriguing guard prospect that could become a truly impossible matchup if he develops into a consistent shooter. Regardless, we love Magwood's attitude and the way he competes each time out.
Chris Mayfield (6'2 SF / Hilliard Bradley): In an event filled with high-wire athletic acts, Mayfield did not fade into the crowd as the Hilliard Bradley freshman forward was one of the top shot blocking forces at the rim. Showing no sign of intimidation in the Buckeye Nissan Underclassmen All-Star Game, Mayfield had the highlight block of the contest, meeting a 2018 wing at the rim for a powerful rejection. A talented finisher inside, Mayfield's stock going forward will be contingent on what skills he adds on the perimeter.
Max Mollmann (6'7 C / Upper Arlington): While playing JV all season long, Mollmann showed that he is varsity ready in helping lead the OCC to a title. An improving post player with length and touch inside, Mollmann has continued to get better each time we've watched him this season. The freshman post can also step outside and knock down jumpers, which will make him into a very intriguing prospect as he continues to grow, mature and add strength to a lanky frame that he is currently filling out.
CJ Anthony (5'11 PG / Harvest Prep): The leading scorer among 2020 players on Wednesday, Anthony could not be stopped attacking the basket, as the powerful guard always plays hard and with confidence. Also knocking down shots and creating off the dribble, Anthony more than held his own with against the top guards in his class.
Marquis Moore (6'2 SG / Hamilton Township): An athletic wing guard that we had not seen prior to Wednesday, Moore took advantage of a big opportunity to impress against the top talent in the area and did just that. Scoring off the bounce and near the rim, Moore and Anthony formed for a solid backcourt for a Columbus mix team that otherwise struggled on Wednesday. Look for Moore to help lead a young Hamilton Township team to greater heights over the next few years.
Marcus Peaks (6'4 SF / Watkins Memorial): One of the most athletic players, if not the most athletic player in the Licking County League, Peaks is a raw, but improving wing forward with terrific upside. After playing varsity action all season, Peaks finally was able to play against players his own age on Wednesday, as he impressed in our viewings of him. A strong inside finisher that can rise up and dunk on anyone, Peaks was also impressive as an interior rebounder and defender on the post and perimeter. As Peaks continues to work at becoming a pure wing, look for his stock to rise as he has all the physical tools to be a special player.
Marcus Johnson (46 Clicks Photography)