LEWIS CENTER, Ohio -- More than 90 of the best freshmen in the greater Central Ohio area converged on Olentangy Orange High School for the inaugural "The Intro" showcase on Saturday. Going through a day's worth of skill drills, team contests and scrimmages, the participants from the class of 2022 put it all on the line in front of a packed house.
Let's take a look at how the event went down.
We tipped off the day with a series of stations in which each player rotated through drills where they not only competed, but had to make decisions on the fly.
Receiving instruction from some of the top skills coaches in the area, here were some of the standouts from the first morning session.
Splitting the 94 participants into groups of three, we finished up the morning session with a lengthy 3-on-3 competition on all eight baskets in the gym. In the first session, players were not allowed to set ball screens or perform dribble handoffs, which forced participants to move without the ball, cut and screen away to get open.
Ball movement, spacing and defensive communication created a winning formula for the top teams, as these four groups won more than anyone else in the gym.
Ryan Paris (Hilliard Davidson), Sean Jones (Gahanna), Jerry Saunders (Pickerington North)
Josh Harlan (Pickerington Central), Ethan Smith (Olentangy), Luke Lyall (Tri-Valley)
AJ Clayton (Philo), Josh Whiteside (Gahanna), Miles Poindexter (Westerville Central)
Joel Addo (Olentangy Orange), Ryan Lynn (Dublin Coffman), Dior Conners (Pickerington North), Ayden Parsons (Worthington Kilbourne)
With the morning session complete, players returned from lunch for the highly anticipated 5-on-5 games. Broken up into 10 teams, we saw plenty of players turn up for the game action. Playing two 30-minute games, these were the following players selected to the Top 20 All-Star Game to wrap up the afternoon.
Honorable mention: Denim Craig (St. Charles), Isaiah Johnson (Westerville South), Dante Collier (Licking Heights), Aidan Dring (Dublin Coffman), Dylan Thompson (Buckeye Valley), Jamari Strickland (St. Charles), Jacob Pleiman (Botkins), Andre Crockwell II (Pickerington Central), Jaylon Clark (Bedford), Joel Addo (Olentangy Orange), Emmanuel Hood (DeSales), Jake Werling (Olentangy Orange), Cooper Davis (Reynoldsburg), Michael Sekyere (Thomas Worthington), Brae Friesner (Berne Union), Amil Upchurch (Northmor), Ayden Parsons (Worthington Kilbourne)
Most Valuable Player
Sean Jones (G, Gahanna): Jones won MVP honors of the inaugural event, dominating at the point guard spot. There's not enough you can say about how good Jones is. He might just be the best freshman guard that we've ever covered, as in addition to his natural athletic gifts, he has a mature and poised game. Jones doesn't rush, he doesn't get sped up, he doesn't get out of control and he makes the most difficult finishes and dribble moves look routine. There was not a player in the gym who could guard Jones, as he averaged a very efficient 28 points per game in addition to playing superb defense on the perimeter. Despite being about 5-foot-9, Jones has great burst and an ability to hang in the air for tough finishes at the rim. The most impressive part of Jones' game is his body control, as he finishes at a level that is very uncommon for high school players of any age. Jones will be the starting point guard from day one at Gahanna and could be well on his way to a decorated career.
Dior Conners (G, Pickerington North): Conners was one of the more entertaining players to watch in the gym. Productive in all areas of the game, Conners showed the type of upside that caused Stony Brook to offer him last month. Conners could end up as the best prospect in this class three years from now. However, look for him to receive early action for a Panther team that may be young, but will not lack talent.
Lason "LA" Walker (G, Beechcroft): Walker was the best player on Court 2 all Saturday, showing off an intriguing ability to score. While Beechcroft may have just graduated a decorated senior class that put the Cougars back on top in the City League, prospects like Walker, Jordan, and Jaylen Simmons will help Beechcroft stay there for years to come.
AJ Clayton (PF, Philo) - At 6-foot-6, Clayton was the biggest player in the event. While many young players his size may be a little stiff, Clayton is the opposite, as he moves well, is an above-average athlete and has great hands. Clayton looks to still have a few more inches to go, which could turn him into one of the more intriguing prospects from eastern Ohio in recent years. We were really impressed with Clayton's discipline and interior defense.
Ethan Smith (G, Olentangy): Smith took full advantage of his opportunity on Saturday and never looked back. A talented scorer whose game doesn't lack bravado, Smith stole the show at The Intro. While Smith is a near elite level shooter, he has an ability to get places off the dribble and finish with grace at the rim. Smith is next in line in an impressive recent lineage of talented Olentangy guards.
Jared Rose (F, Fairfield Christian): Rose stole the show on Court 3 on Saturday, proving to be the best big in the aux gym all afternoon long. With a soft touch, quality motor and tough rebounding ability, Rose is a name to remember in the Lancaster area. Look for Rose to have a chance to receive immediate minutes for FCA this winter.
Check out all the event photos from The Intro here. Photos courtesy of Mitch Brown from Central Ohio Photography. Book Mitch for your next event!