He still has two years of high school basketball left, but Ohio State target Jeremiah Francis provided a glimpse of what he is capable of during Pickerington (Ohio) Central’s game vs. Cincinnati Archbishop Moeller in the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division I boys’ basketball state semifinal game at Value City Arena on Friday.
Playing on the Buckeyes’ home floor, Francis (6-1, 190) got off to a hot start. The three-star point guard hit his first three shots, which included two three-pointers, to score eight quick points in the first quarter. Francis credited his fast start to practicing Friday morning at Capital University, which is located in Columbus, with Pickerington Central head coach Eric Krueger.
“This morning I had a good shootaround,” Francis said after the game. “Coach Krueger and I went to Capital and it’s a similar court with the pull-out rims because we don’t have one at Pickerington Central. We had a shootaround over there (at Capital), and I just felt good today. My shot was going in and it just felt good to hit that first one.”
After making a jumper earlier in the second quarter, Francis casually dribbled the ball behind his back twice while walking up the court and stepped into a three that hit nothing but the net with 1:10 left until halftime. He finished the first half with 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting, including 3 of 6 from distance. The 10th-best point guard in the 2019 class was the only player for either team to reach double figures in scoring through the first 16 minutes. Francis also had half of Pickerington Central’s points by the break, as the Tigers led, 26-22, at intermission.
Francis, who holds offers from Ohio University, OSU, Purdue and West Virginia, could not get into a rhythm during the second half, however. Moeller hounded him in the final 16 minutes and forced him to go 1 of 7 from the field in the second half, with the one make being a triple in the fourth quarter.
“Our plan was to put length on him and then crowd him,” said Moeller head coach Carl Kremer of Francis. “If he sees space on the floor, he’s so incredibly strong that he’s going to be able to create and carry a team. I thought we did a pretty good job. I think he saw gold (Moeller’s uniform color) all night long on either side of whoever was defending him, so that was our plan. It’s easier said than done.
“He’s such a strong kid but I thought overall, as someone who could carry the game for them, I thought we did a pretty good job. Particularly on those stops we had to have in the fourth quarter, I thought he had to take some really tough shots.”
Kremer had Caleb Canter and Jeremiah Davenport, who are both 6-4, primarily guard Francis, who went 1 of 5 in the fourth frame.
“Different bodies,” Francis said of what Moeller threw at him defensively in the second half. “They tried the zone (defense) and then they went back to the man (defense). They really just threw different bodies at me, bigger bodies at me, longer people.”
Pickerington Central ended up falling to Moeller, 57-47. Francis finished the game with 16 points while going 6 of 17 from the field and 4 of 10 from beyond the arc.
“I could’ve done a little bit more in the second half,” said Francis, who also had five rebounds, two assists and four turnovers. “My second half was like my first half, really, I just knocked down a lot more shots in the first half than the second half. I couldn’t get my rhythm going in the second half and that’s really it. Falling short, it kind of sucks right now but we can just suck it up right now.”
Francis is the son of Jerry Francis, who played for OSU from 1985-89. The older Francis became Pickerington Central’s head coach in 2010 but stepped down during the 2013-14 season because of health concerns. Before resigning, Jerry Francis led the Tigers to a Division I state title in 2012, when Jeremiah Francis served as a ballboy for the team. Experiencing that championship moment has been the driving factor for Jeremiah Francis’ pursuit of a state crown as a player.
“I’m always going to be wanting to come back (to the state tournament),” he said after the loss to Moeller. “I’ve been wanting to come back since 2012 when my dad went, and I’m actually playing this time. It’s going to give a lot of motivation in the offseason to come back and just go through AAU and just get better. Just for everybody, the coaching staff, us (the players), everybody get better and just come back and win it next year - maybe.”
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