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Battle for the City: Junior Stock Risers

By Zach Fleer, 04/01/18, 12:00PM EDT


The second of a three part series detailing the top underclassmen stock risers

POWELL, Ohio - With Battle for the City coming and going this past week, it's time to reflect back on Tuesday's Buckeye Nissan Underclassmen Challenge.

This is the second of a three-part series from the event that hosted more than 85 of the area's best underclassmen.

All photos are compliment of Central Ohio Photography. Schedule your senior photos today with Central Ohio Photo!

Sean Marks (5'10 PG / Olentangy): Garnering MVP honors in the junior class, Marks wrapped up a season that was downright remarkable. After leading all point guards in scoring this season, Marks again led that position group on Tuesday. Going for 20 points per game in two wins over City League and Central Ohio teams, Marks scored on every defender placed in front of him. A high IQ ball handler who is great at creating separation for his shot, Marks kept defenders on skates and put the ball in the bucket with great efficiency. Look for Marks to be one of the area's highest priority Division II prospects this summer. 

Jordan McMillian (6'1 PG / Westerville South): When it comes to scoring, McMillian is as good as anyone in the 2019 class at the point guard spot. A few weeks from his breakout game in the district finals against Hilliard Bradley, McMillian brought much of that flavor to the main court at Olentangy Orange. As he and Olentangy's Sean Marks took turn torching opposing defenses, McMillian showed his versatile scoring ability, as he was able to score on all three levels with great consistency. You won't find many tougher kids who compete on the level that McMillian does on both ends.

Tre Watkins (5'11 PG / South): A few weeks removed from leading South to its second district title in four years, Watkins had arguably his best shooting display in the Buckeye Nissan Underclassmen Challenge. Watkins shot lights out from the three-point line, doing it off the dribble, off the catch and shoot and everywhere else in between. A talented scoring guard with a good handle, Watkins has improved between the ears more than anywhere else, as his shot selection and overall feel for the game have drastically improved since his sophomore year.

Evan Conley (6'1 PG / Fairfield Union): The first area 2019 guard to commit to a Division II program, Conley, who committed to West Liberty during the season, impressed for the Central Ohio All-Stars on Tuesday. The ever growing guard shot the ball at a very high level, pulling up with a quick release and burying shots from all over. Conley appears to not be done growing and could end up being a steal for West Lib, as his strengths fit the up and down offensive system for the Hilltoppers. Conley can do a bit of everything at the guard spot and should carry the load for a Fairfield Union team replacing a ton of production in its senior class.

Javohn Garcia (6'3 PG / Pickerington Central): The star of Pickerington Central's run to the state final four, Garcia showed why on Tuesday. A talented ball handler who can score and create as good as any in the 2019 class, Garcia did much of that for the OCC, helping the junior class go undefeated as the 6-foot-3 junior created many opportunities for his cast of shooters. With just one Division I offer from Stony Brook, you can expect that list to explode this winter as Garcia will run with All-Ohio Red in the EYBL. The biggest advancement for Garcia has been with his improved feel for the game, which mixed with his intriguing length and athleticism, has made him a top guard prospect in Ohio. 

Zach Sawyer (6'1 PG / Bishop Watterson): Sawyer was THE breakout player in the Central Catholic League this past winter, helping Watterson surge to a tie for the CCL title. The junior guard is a multi-level scorer and knockdown perimeter shooter who can mix it up against anyone. Sawyer has big game scoring potential but plays with a calm demeanor and pace and is quick enough to get by defenders and score at the rim. Sawyer should receive plenty of attention from Division II and III programs over the next year.

Tronny Keaton (5'10 PG / Marion-Franklin): When it comes to overall name recognition and awareness, no prospect benefitted more than Keaton on Tuesday. After leading the entire City League junior class in points per game this past season for a Marion-Franklin team that mightily struggled, Keaton proved that his breakout year was not a fluke. A talented scoring guard who can put the ball in the bucket at the rim better than we expected, Keaton did more than just that. Knocking down open threes and handling the rock against pressure, Keaton and Watkins formed a kick-ass backcourt duo for the City League. Keaton's best stretch came in a head-to-head battle with Marks in which the Marion-Franklin junior scored eight-straight points in the night's most entertaining series of possessions. Keaton is a no brainer for Division III programs looking for a scoring guard with grades.

Kayin Derden (6'3 SG / DeSales): Volume. Scorer. That is what Derden is. On Tuesday, nobody did it better, as Derden led all players in points scored, averaging 23 per game on the night. While Derden got his fair share of shot attempts, he knocked them down at a high percentage. The athletic Derden can get to the rim and finish, but also has the shooting touch to knock down threes at a consistent rate. Derden is another prospect who should garner much attention from Division II programs in the region this summer during the AAU season.

Owen Hazelbaker (6'7 PF / Johnstown): Hazelbaker may just be the best rebounding big man in Central Ohio. Fortunately for the Johnstown junior, he can also do way more than just control the glass. Hazelbaker can bang inside and score on the interior, while also having the shooting touch to knock down perimeter shots with consistency. The 6-foot-7 junior is a physical presence on the interior, as he can defend bigger forwards, but can also step out and guard on the perimeter. Look for Hazelbaker to be one of the most highly recruited Division II prospects in the area this summer.

Josh Osei (6'4 SF / Licking Heights): One of the key members of a Licking Heights team that enjoyed great success in the LCL, Osei had a solid night on Tuesday, scoring on multiple levels and defending the ball very well. Osei is lengthy, strong and athletic with a skill set that continues to improve. As Osei's confidence improves, look for him to continue to have performances like he had at Battle for the City. The junior wing will run with a talented Columbus Kings program in AAU that had several players in the event including McMillian. Look for Osei to take the next step as Licking Heights' top returning senior next winter. 

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