Notebook: Ward drawing closer?

In our weekly Notebook feature, the national team explores creative and broad topics from the grassroots hoops realm.

Ward a candidate for acceleration

Unfortunately for Nick Ward (pictured above) and his Gahanna (Ohio) Lincoln teammates, they lost a late lead and fell in the state tournament, but now with the season over, Ward can focus on his recruiting. And the word is that things could be picking up steam.

The 6-foot-9 and 240 pound center/power forward had a tremendous junior season, and it seems that Ohio State and Michigan State are the two teams to beat, as Ward has been to both campuses several times. Ward also recently visited Purdue, Iowa and Cincinnati, though those schools seem to be in the chase group right now.

While no specific timeframe has been announced by Ward, the word is that he could look to end things by the time the spring really gets going. Michigan State was his first offer and Ohio State is right by home, so this one should be interesting to watch.

It’s probably too soon to count out the others, but overall we probably won't have to wait too long to get a final answer from the four-star prospect.

— Brian Snow

Ballard one to watch

Sophomore wing DeAndre Ballard is certainly a young prospect to keep an eye on in the south.

Ballard stands 6-foot-6 and has a strong, chiseled frame. An impressive athlete, Ballard is tough to contain when he gets a head of a steam and looks to make play in transition or at the rim. He has potential as a wing defender and slashing scorer.

“I bring energy and defense,” Ballard said when asked to describe his game. “I can get to the cup. I can knock it down from mid-range.”

Ballard said he’s yet to receive much college attention. He said he’s heard from Georgia, but is just getting letters from other schools.

When asked if there is a school he would like to hear from, Ballard said Kentucky.

“I like the way they play on both the offensive and defensive end.”

Ballard will play on the spring and summer AAU circuit with the Georgia Stars.

— Evan Daniels

Johnsons worthy of attention

Without question, Fayetteville (N.C.) Terry Sanford features a loaded squad and relied on balance, rather than any one dominant player, to capture the state 3A championship.

Even so, there’s no overlooking the team’s outstanding brother tandem: Telligence Johnson & Malik Johnson.

Telligence, a 6-2 sophomore shooting guard, is an extremely explosive athlete who plants off two feet and soars for shocking blocks. He also averaged more than six rebounds per game this season. Though not a textbook shooter, he hits his share of jumpers thanks to a tucked in elbow and nice follow through. (If anything, his jumper might be a little too compact.)

Malik, meanwhile, is just a freshman yet clearly steadied the ship and like his brother is a top athlete. The 6-0 floor general doesn’t jump as well (at least not yet) but is quick, agile, possesses a lean strength and sees the floor. He should develop into a fixture as he continues to mature physically and gain experience.

It’s obviously very early, but major conference coaches within the region should make a point to put eyes on the two Johnsons during the upcoming months.

— Rob Harrington

West Coast junior center inventory expands

The West Coast's 2016 class may not be as deep or talented at the top as it has been in recent years, but if there's one position that is filled with prospects, it's the center spot.

Collins is but one of many talented Western junior big men

This week, Las Vegas Bishop Gorman's Zach Collins made a commitment to Gonzaga, joining Lucas Siewert (Arizona State), Mitch Lightfoot (New Mexico) and Bryson Williams (Fresno State) as junior West Coast centers making early decisions.

Even though there's some nice players off the board, however, several potential high major prospects remain uncommitted.

Corona (Calif.) Centennial's Ike Anigbogu, Aurora (Colo.) Overland's De'Ron Davis, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei's M.J. Cage, Los Angeles Loyola's Henry Welsh, Pasadena (Calif.) Maranatha's Trevor Stanback, Santa Monica (Calif.)'s Jayce Johnson and South Jordan (Utah) Bingham's Yoeli Childs make up a handful of the several West Coast centers who will get serious high majors looks before it's all said and done.

— Josh Gershon

Evan Daniels, Brian Snow, Josh Gershon and Rob Harrington contributed to this article

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