A day with Robert BobroczkyiMaxPreps
host Chris Stonebraker headed out to Ohio for the latest on arguably
the most intriguing prospect in high school basketball.By JJHuddle Basketball Senior Writer Kurt Stubbs (@ohiohshoops)
The 2017-2018 Ohio High School basketball season came to a close, which is always bitter sweet. Kids will be moving on to college, getting jobs or getting ready for their next sport or next season. It’s like a constant, repeating cycle. Wash, rinse and repeat!
I’ve been following high school basketball since the early 1990s and really began to dissect state-wide basketball following my graduation from high school in 1999. I put to bed my 21st state tournament this past Saturday, which started in 1997 (I missed the 1998 tournament due to my emerging baseball career).
The tournament has changed slightly over the years for me. I grew up in St. Clairsville, Ohio, which is roughly 120 miles from the campus of The Ohio State University. So, the Wednesday before the state tournament was always a little like Christmas Eve. I knew in the morning we would be loading up the car, packing the snacks and heading to Columbus for the next three days. It was sort of like a mini-vacation.
However, in 2009, I moved west to Pickerington, which is about 25 miles from OSU’s campus, so the staying over night thing was off the table. At the end of each night, I would travel back to my home and do it all over again the next day. To be honest, that took a little fun out of it and decreased some of the anticipation.
Regardless, the state tournament will always be one of my favorite events of the year. The anticipation of which teams are going to make it and who will be upset and following the scores night-after-night once the tournament gets rolling are some of my favorite things to do.
As we wrap up the season, there are a few things I want to cover before we put a bow on the 2017-2018 campaign.
Attendance…where were the people?
This past weekend, there were a lot of fans dressed up as empty seats. So, where have nearly 5,000-7,000 people gone? I think the answer to this question has many layers.
1.) It all started when the state tournament moved from the nostalgic St. John Arena to the Schottenstein Center
. Most hardcore Ohio high school basketball fans died a little death the day the tournament was moved from SJA. So many memorable games were played in this historic venue and atmospheres that will last a lifetime. There was competition outside the arena for tickets, because of the size of the venue and competition creates buzz! I know people that haven’t crossed the bridge or left the St. John Arena parking lot since the tournament moved to Value City Arena in 1999. VCA just isn’t conducive for a big time atmosphere. It was built for concerts not a rowdy sports environment. And yes, before you ask, the OHSAA has inquired numerous times about moving the site back to SJA, but OSU responded with…No!
2.) Next, the turning of the Holiday Inn
(anyone over 30 knows what I’m talking about) into more dorms
. People loved congregating in the lobby or hotel bar between games. Many games were won and lost in that lobby. When people talk about the state tournament, the Holiday Inn is most definitely mentioned. Now, if you can’t fit into the Varsity Club (which is a sauna), there really is nowhere to go between games without walking a country mile.
3.) Ticket prices
are too high to see high school basketball. A high school basketball game, no matter what level, should be less than $10 per ticket. I get it, the OHSAA is probably paying an absurd amount of money to rent the Schottenstein Center. You know, because Ohio State is hurting for money. It’s an expensive weekend to take one, two or three kids to the state tournament. I mean, $4 for a bottle of Powerade? Yikes. People would rather spend their hard-earned money on other things.
4.) The games just aren’t that good
. There are too many different variables here. With regional equality, many times you don’t get the four best teams to Columbus. Even if you do, that doesn’t ensure the match ups will be good. It all depends on the style of play of each team. This weekend, we got great match ups with Pickerington Central/Solon and Pandora-Gilboa/Marion Local, because the styles jelled well together.
5.) Lack of superstars
. Ohio was spoiled for a period of time in the early to late 2000s. Four of the top 5 attended games in Value City Arena involved LeBron James. The other game in the Top 5 was high-scoring Upper Sandusky against Wooster Triway in 2005. Both teams brought massive crowds, and after watching US score 95 points on Dayton Dunbar in the semifinals, the hype was real. After the graduation of James, we got two years of OJ Mayo and Bill Walker before the duo moved back to Huntington (WV) along with a great Canton McKinley team in 2005 and 2006. Jon Diebler’s Upper Sandusky squad in 2007 followed that in a primetime finals match up with Dayton Dunbar. Despite 48 points from Diebler, the Wolverines were able to outlast the Rams, 87-85. Since 2007, the only thing close was the 2010 Northland Vikings that got upset in the regional final by Gahanna Lincoln and most recently in 2015 with Luke Kennard’s Franklin Wildcats. Kennard’s team blew a 13-point 2nd half lead and watched Dunbar advance to the state tournament yet again with a, 77-76, victory despite 41 points from the state’s 2nd all-time leading scorer (Diebler is No. 1). The OHSAA lost a potential sellout crowd had Franklin won that game. Dunbar and Defiance in the next round reached nearly 11,000, which tells me a Franklin/Defiance game had sellout written all over it. Whenever or wherever Franklin played, it was like a rockstar concert, which hadn’t been seen in Ohio since the days of LeBron.
6.) I think the number of coaches going
to the state tournament has decreased
significantly. This may be for a couple reasons. First, school districts are making it more difficult for coaches to miss school. Second, and probably the main reason, a lot of schools that do it the “right way” are tired of seeing handpicked teams play for state championships. This is another subject all in itself and I don’t have 24 hours or more to come up with something.
7.) The games can now all be seen on Spectrum
and the semifinal games can all be seen live streamed on Spectrum as well. If the game is bad, just turn it off and go do something else.
8.) There is so much more to do in this day and age
along with attention spans shortening. People can follow all the games on Twitter or other social media outlets and get second-by-second updates without ever leaving their living room. See, this generation, wants to do three or four things at once and going to multiple games would hinder that. All highlights can be seen online as well. Kids, due to short attention spans, have a hard time watching and studying full games, and have got use to just checking out Youtube highlights (a reason the understanding of the game has dropped off). Unless, you just like being there in person, there really isn’t a selling point to get you in the building. I mean even schools like Berlin Hiland didn’t have as many people as they normally do. I can remember having to call a hotline at Ohio State to find out semifinal scores if I wanted to know. If not, it may be a week or two before I found out who won. Now, if you don’t know within the hour of the conclusion, it’s old news.
9.) Social media and the internet
has taken a lot of the mystery out of the state tournament. It use to be, unless you traveled the state (which was a very small number of people), the only teams you knew anything about were the teams from your area and maybe not all of those. So, when you got to Columbus, it was always exciting seeing new teams and names of players you knew nothing about. That isn’t the case anymore. If you follow high school basketball, outside of some the smaller school hidden gems, nothing is a mystery. The internet, smart phones, and social media take the imagination and wonder out of things. Less is still more in my opinion.
10.) Players are bigger, stronger, faster and more athletic than they’ve ever been, without question, but as all of that has increased, fundamentals, skill level and basketball IQ has decreased
immensely. A lot of games are won by the team with the better athletes and stronger players, because the way the game is called, which is a really hard brand of basketball to watch. The amount of teams that are easy on the eyes are far less than the ones that make you want to ask for your money back. Akron SVSM claims its record-setting 8th title
Dru Joyce catches a lot of heat (some is warranted and some is not), but make no mistake about it, he can coach. The Irish will always have talent, but plenty of schools have talent and get talent the same way, and can’t finish the job. Joyce has finished the job on five occasions as head coach and twice as an assistant. He seems to do his best job when his teams lack a megastar. Don’t get me wrong, the Irish have better players than 99-percent of the competition, but state championships didn’t come in 2013 and 2014 when SVSM sported not one, not two, but three high-major players (you see what I did there). The result was back-to-back losses to Columbus Bishop Watterson. Joyce’s team tied Middletown and Cleveland VASJ last season with its seventh state title and took sole possession of first this seaosn place by defeating Trotwood-Madison, 60-51. The bad news for the rest of the state? The Irish only had one senior (Scott Walter), who played minutes. We could likely see a rematch (Irish-Rams) in 2019.
The Mighty MAC does it again!
When you go undefeated in the Midwest Athletic Conference, chances are high of making a deep tournament run in March and that is exactly what Maria Stein Marion Local did. The Flyers won the D-VI state football title in December, and with a lot of the same players, did the same on the hardwood beating a very good Cornerstone Christian team led by Furman signee Michael Bothwell. Kurt Goettemoeller’s club needed overtime to defeat St. Henry in the districts, beat a team in Fort Loramie in the regional final which beat the Flyers by double figures in the regular season, outlasted a good Pandora-Gilboa team in the semis by a deuce and handed the Patriots a one-point loss in double OT on Saturday. That’s MAC strong!
Big Moe’ is back on top of the mountain
The Moeller Crusaders don’t do a lot of losing…in any sport. Coach Carl Kremer’s team was left with a bad taste in its mouth after losing to Massillon Jackson in last year’s state title game, 39-38, on a very questionable call that put the Polar Bears at the line for what proved to be the game-winning free-throws. This year, after a hard-fought battle with Lorain in the semifinals, Kremer’s team left no doubt in its, 83-65, thumping of a good Solon club. Moeller shot nearly 71-percent from the floor and held a (64-24) edge in points scored in the paint. Wright State signee Jeremiah Davenport led the way with 22 points and eight rebounds. Moeller held the Comets below 35-percent shooting. The Crusaders claimed their fourth state title since 1999 under Kremer and didn’t lose a game to an Ohio team.
He Carry(ed) the load
Despite the loss in the finals, Sincere Carry was the talk of the tournament. The Solon point guard was nothing short of sensational in his two games in Columbus. The West Liberty signee scored 29 points and handed out 11 assists in a semifinal comeback win over Pickerington Central and totaled 27 points despite foul trouble in the loss to Moeller. I mentioned it on Twitter, but this is total thievery by West Liberty. There is absolutely zero chance this kid isn’t a D-I guard! He checks all the boxes.
Undefeated but questioned
Cincinnati Deer Park completed its perfect season (29-0) with convincing wins over Lutheran East and Columbus Africentic over the weekend. The Wildcats were one of the most talked about teams of the weekend, but for the most part, it was mainly about how the team was pieced together. I’m not the transfer police by any means, and I don’t usually entertain those conversations and think the argument and debate is tired, but it was definitely a story. I’m not going throw out an exact number, but I know at least eight of the Deer Park players didn’t start their high school careers at DP. This is usually a good way to get the masses in an uproar especially when the team resides in Division III or IV.
Division I All-Tournament Team
Jaxson Hayes (Cincinnati Moeller)
Jeremiah Davenport (Cincinnati Moeller)
Javohn Garcia (Pickerington Central)
Adrian Nelson (Pickerington Central)
Michael Bekelja (Solon)
Taevon Pierre-Louis (Lorain)
Devone Grant (Lorain)MVP:
Sincere Carry (Solon)
Division II All-Tournament Team
Amare Davis (Trotwood-Madison)
Myles Belyeu (Trotwood-Madison)
Cade Stover (Lexington)
Lunden McDay (Akron SVSM)
Keyshawn Jones (Akron SVSM)MVP:
Scott Walter (Akron SVSM)
Division III All-Tournament Team
Jalen Rose (Deer Park)
Damani McEntire (Deer Park)
Tre’ Baumgarnder (Columbus Africentric)
Dorian Holloway (Columbus Africentric)
CJ Anthony (Harvest Prep)MVP:
Joseph Hocker (Deer Park)
Division IV All-Tournament Team
Tyler Prenger (Marion Local)
Tyler Mescher (Marion Local)
Michael Bothwell (Cornerstone Christian)
Kendall Saunders (Cornerstone Christian)
Drew Johnson (Pandora-Gilboa)
Jared Breece (Pandora-Gilboa)MVP:
Nathan Bruns (Marion Local)