Ohio's Top Basketball Underclassmen

If you are a fan of Ohio high school basketball, the crop of in-state underclassmen is something to get excited about. Several players are already on the radar as being some of the very best prospects in the country, and more came on the scene this season. Kyle Lamb takes a look today at the top sophomores and freshmen in the state of Ohio and ranks them in order of their talent and potential.

The class of 2006 is very well known, and highly regarded with a lot of publicity. However, the classes of 2007 and 2008 in Ohio have just as much, if not more potential, and it's time to take a look at some of the key players in the state the next couple of years.

From top to bottom, the class of 2007 is probably better than 2006. At the top, you have two instant NBA lottery picks in O.J. Mayo and Bill Walker, but there are a half a dozen big time college prospects even after those two.

As far as the freshmen class (class of 2008), it's still unclear how deep the class will be until after the class begins to emerge more in the coming months, especially AAU season and into their sophomore years, but at the very top, there's no fewer than three or four players capable of being top 25 or top 50 national talents.

Let's first take a look at the top 13 players in the class of 2007 in Ohio. To help us with the rankings, we asked Ohio's own Hoopscoop Online Editor, Chris Johnson, to give comments on many of the players.

CLASS of 2007 (SOPHOMORES)

1. O.J. MAYO – 6-4 PG, CINCINNATI NORTH COLLEGE HILL

Mayo is the easy pick for being the top player in the state, even over Daequan Cook, much less the sophomore class. At 6-4, you simply don't find point guards with his size, body, and athleticism very often, so it makes sense that Mayo would be ranked first.

Under the current landscape, Mayo is practically a waste of time to recruit for college, but given a possibility of the NBA passing a collective bargaining agreement forcing rookies to be at least 20 years old before they can enter the league, Mayo might be obligated to spend at least one season in college before coming out.

Should that happen, Louisville, Cincinnati, Ohio State, Kentucky, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Duke are a few of the schools you can expect to see involved with Mayo.

2. BILL WALKER – 6-6 WF, CINCINNATI NORTH COLLEGE HILL

Like his high school teammate, Mayo, Walker could be expected to hit the road on to NBA glory immediately after high school unless the NBA forbids it. Walker is also very athletic and plays most of the game above the rim.

His power and leaping ability was evidenced by the fact he's already broken one backboard this season in the third quarter of a North College Hill basketball game. How many high school sophomores do you know that have ever done that?

The same schools will be calling on Walker if he entertains the college route. For right now, both Mayo and Walker are claiming they will attend college, but as we said, don't look for that to hold up unless the NBA intervenes.

3. DALLAS LAUDERDALE – 6-9 C, SOLON

Perhaps the biggest of ceilings as far as realistic prospects go for college programs might belong to Lauderdale. Standing 6-9, Lauderdale has the type of wingspan of a 7-footer and beyond. His reach and jumping ability make him a nightmare for opposing post players.

Lauderdale thrives on changing or altering shots, when he's not sending them into the third row of the crowd. He's not just a defensive stopper, however. He also has developed a very solid offensive game where he's constantly adding nifty inside moves to his repertoire, and his range to 15-feet is constantly improving.

He helped lead his high school team, the Solon Comets, to an undefeated regular season in front of regular visitors such as Roy Williams of North Carolina, Bruce Weber of Illinois, and Thad Matta of Ohio State.

"He's a great rebounder and a great defender," Johnson said of Lauderdale. "His offensive game keeps improving. He will compete with Keenan Ellis and Aaron Pogue for the best big man in this class. Right now he's already there. It will be interesting to see how it finishes."

4. KEENAN ELLIS – 6-11 C, CINCINNATI NORTH COLLEGE HILL

If you don't already know much about Ellis, you soon will. Ellis is ranked as one of the top centers in the entire country by Scout Hoops in the class of 2007.

Ellis, originally from Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, transferred and became eligible for NCH earlier this season—giving them three of the top four players in the state, and in fact, three of the top four in the entire country.

Ellis is a little on the thin side, but he's a shot-blocker who runs the floor well and has an enormous amount of talent. Given his roots, and the fact he's from Indianapolis (a John Groce and Thad Matta stronghold), expect the Buckeyes to be very much involved in his recruitment.

"He runs the floor like a kid that's 6-1, but strength is the only thing keeping him from being even bigger," Johnson added. "Strength and free throw shooting are his weaknesses. He's a tremendous shot-blocker just like Lauderdale with his long arms."

5. NATE MILES – 6-6 WF, TOLEDO LIBBEY

Miles doesn't get nearly the press of some of the other players in his class get, and rightfully so. However, Miles has plenty of upside and should not go unnoticed.

Currently, Miles' biggest obstacle is getting stronger and being able to continually refine his mid-range game and penetration ability. His assets, however, are his fluid release, quick stroke, and ability to score points in bunches—especially from the outside.

"He has tremendous skills for a wing player," Johnson said. "He's a big time 3-point shooter, and he kind of reminds you of a smaller (former Kentucky star and current Detroit Piston) Tayshuan Prince. His game is similar to Prince anyhow. At just 175 pounds, much like Ellis, strength is something Miles needs to work on."

6. DANTE JACKSON – 6-5 PG/SG, GREENFIELD MCCLAIN

Jackson is a coach's dream considering all of the things he brings to the table. He has a keen court awareness and unbelievable ability to distribute the basketball, but he can also light up the scoreboard when his team needs it.

His stats for just a high school sophomore have been nothing short of incredible as he's started from game one for McClain even since his freshman season. This year, Jackson has averaged 24 points a game, 11.7 rebounds a game, and 6.7 assists a game as just a sophomore.

He's arguably the best player ever to come out of Highland County and is quickly becoming a legend in South Central Ohio.

"He's a well-coached kid who excels in all phases of the game," Johnson added. "He's probably too unselfish sometimes. He's a great team player who is as good off the court as on."

7. AARON POGUE – 6-9 PF, DAYTON DUNBAR

The fact Pogue has fallen to seventh on this list is more of a testament to the great talent in the class of 2007, and not a slight on Pogue himself.

Without question, Pogue is still a big time prospect whose striking similarity to Sean May in both looks and style of play are uncanny. As of now, Pogue needs to work on the type of skills that May possesses, which is very likely to happen with his constant devotion to getting better.

"He's not as skilled as May, but he does have the strength and bulk that Ellis sure would like to have," Johnson noted. "He needs to become a little more explosive, but he's the best offensive post prospect in the state offensively. Compared to the others, Lauderdale still doesn't quite have his moves and Ellis just doesn't have his strength."

8. JON DIEBLER – 6-7 WF, UPPER SANDUSKY

Diebler is a scoring machine who joined his brother Jake this season at Upper Sandusky after their father, Keith, took the job from Fostoria, where both players scored over 20 a game last season as a freshman and junior respectively.

As just a sophomore, Diebler has already committed to Valparaiso after his brother signed there this past November. Some were surprised at the early commitment as Diebler has a high ceiling and could still develop to another plateau with more strength and a little more growing.

Upper Sandusky was undefeated this season and finished the regular season ranked #1 in the state in Division II.

"He's a wing player who can shoot and also score off the dribble," Johnson said. "He's a great scorer."

9. CHRIS WRIGHT – 6-7 WF/PF, TROTWOOD-MADISON

If the game of basketball and some of the skills needed to be a star catch up with Wright's athleticism, look out.

Wright is a fantastic athlete whom many opposing coaches in the Southwestern portion of Ohio really love a lot. He's a guy who plays above the rim and is very versatile.

"If not for (Bill) Walker, Wright would be the most explosive player in this class," Johnson remarked. "He runs the floor tremendously well, but he does need to develop some perimeter skills. Right now, he's more of a power forward, but he has a future at either position (the wing or power forward)."

10. BILLY ALLEN – 6-6 WF, HAMILTON

Much like Diebler, Allen is a coach's kid who has led his team to a lot of success. As just a freshman, Allen was one of the leading scorers in helping Hamilton to a Division I state championship, beating state powerhouse Toledo St. John's in the finals.

Allen has a lot of early interest from schools, and he's already been up to Ohio State to visit unofficially a few times.

"He's a good shooter," Johnson said of Allen. "He's a good leader. He's kind of like another coach on the floor."

11. CHRISTIAN SIAKAM – 6-9 PF, CINCINNATI HUGHES

For the second consecutive season, Siakam is waiting to be cleared to play for Hughes by the OHSAA. He's a native of Cameroon, Africa and is a physical specimen down in the paint.

Siakam is a kid that many colleges love, but his development might be hampered a bit as he's still been unable to play a single game for Hughes. Ohio State has already been mentioned with Siakam quite often, as have Cincinnati and many other top schools.

There's one thing for sure -- Siakam's strength, large hands, and tenacious attitude make him a high major prospect if the other issues work themselves out.

"He has yet to be cleared, but college coaches do know all about him from fall and spring workouts," Johnson acknowledged. "He's a tremendous athlete who jumps out of the gym. He's got long arms and he plays really hard."

12. WILLIAM THOMAS – 6-5 SG/WF, EAST CLEVELAND SHAW

Thomas is a late bloomer who few people know a lot about, especially considering he doesn't play for a high school that gets a whole lot of attention.

Blessed with the ability of playing three positions, Thomas is versatile and does a lot of things very well. He might not have the upside that others ahead of him in this class have, but he's certainly a solid mid-major prospect.

"He's really a wing player who could be a point guard with his tremendous passing skills," Johnson said. "Due to a lack of size on his high school team, he's been somewhat forced to play under the basket a lot."

13. KOSTA KOUFOS – 6-10 PF, CANTON GLEN OAK

Koufas is a talented forward prospect whose parents were born in Greece. Much like many European big men, Koufas possesses a great outside shot and a good inside-outside game.

On the season, the little-known Koufas is averaging 16.1 points a game, 8.3 rebounds, and 4.2 blocks a game. Being a very skilled big man, Koufas is a guy who you should keep a close eye on. Many college coaches definitely will be already.

 

CLASS of 2008 (FRESHMEN)

1. YANCEY GATES – 6-8 WF/PF, CINCINNATI HUGHES

There's not a whole lot not to like about Gates. He's got a very developed body for just a freshman, he can go inside or hit shots behind the arc if necessary, and he's pretty good with the basketball.

By the time he's a senior, Gates is the type of player that could be entertaining offers from any major program in the country. In fact, that could come sooner rather than later.

Right now, Gates is very good friends with Ohio State commitment, B.J. Mullens, and will be very involved with the Buckeyes over the course of the next few years. If the cards play out as they could, Ohio State could be looking at an extremely talented 2008 recruiting class.

"He's a 6-8 man-child who has gotten better all year long," Johnson said of the freshman averaging 13.9 points, 9.1 rebounds, and nearly two blocked shots a game. "He has all the tools necessary to become an elite player."

2. B. J. MULLENS – 6-10 PF/C, HARVEST PREP ACADEMY

It's scary enough when a freshman in high school is good enough to receive a scholarship offer from Ohio State that ultimately is accepted. It's even scarier when that freshman arguably isn't even the most talented freshman in the state.

We rank Gates slightly higher than Mullens for now, but make no mistake about it, either player would be quite a catch, let alone the possibility of both in the future.

Mullens struggled early in the season adjusting to double and triple teams down inside, as you would expect from a young kid. However, towards the end of the season, Mullens began coming into his own and started playing like you would expect from his caliber.

"He has tremendous skills for a freshman, especially of his size," Johnson said. "He shows a tremendous work ethic and desire to get better. He will be the cornerstone of Matta's 2008 recruiting class."

3. DELVON ROE – 6-7 WF/PF, LAKEWOOD ST. EDWARD'S

Roe is a guy who has really come on late in the year. Two weeks ago, he scored over 20 points in back to back games.

His coach, Eric Flannery, believes Roe might be the most talented player he's ever coached. That's quite impressive. Especially when you consider Jawad Williams was a McDonald's All-American, and Steve Logan and Sam Clancy were from the same school.

"Really, the major question is which position he will be in college," Johnson said. "He looks like he's still growing, which means he could be a good PF, but even if he doesn't, he's got the temperament to be like solid 6-5 wing players."

4. RAYSHAWN GOINS – 6-4 SG/WF, CLEVELAND RHODES

Goins is another guy in the Gates and Mullens posse who is very interested in playing with his pals. Goins is an athletic combo who can do a little of everything.

Ohio State has already been keeping a close eye on Goins.

"Goins is a 2/3 combo who has tremendous poise and awareness for a freshman," Johnson said.

5. ANTHONY MCBRIDE – 6-1 PG, CINCINNATI WITHROW

McBride is a quick guard who is a very good passer. He's coming on strong late in the season and should develop into a D-I point guard with seasoning.

"McBride is the best point guard in this class," Johnson said. "He's getting major minutes for an experienced and talent-laden Withrow Tigers team."

6. WILLIAM BUFORD – 6-5 SG/WF, TOLEDO LIBBEY

Buford is an up-and-comer who, at 6-4 or 6-5, averaged 16 points a game this season as the top freshman in the Toledo area. He joins Miles as a great scoring tandem, and should be a big name over the next couple of years.

"Increasing his outside shot will be a key," Johnson noted. "All early indications are that he will be a high D-I player. He's very athletic, and very tough, and he plays under great control for a freshman."

7. DAMON BUTLER – 5-10 PG, CINCINNATI NORTH COLLEGE HILL

Butler is probably the most talented point guard around that doesn't even start. Well, perhaps that's premature, but being O.J. Mayo's backup, you can understand what we mean.

Butler is a small but quick guard who should only get better—provided he has the chance to play enough.

"He will compete with McBride as the best PG in the Queen City and the entire state," Johnson said of Butler. "He dishes the ball better than McBride, but playing with Mayo, Walker, and others, he doesn't have a chance to showcase his talents."

8. DEVON MOORE – 6-2 SG, COLUMBUS NORTHLAND

Playing for J.J. Sullinger's father, Satch, Moore is a tremendous talent who will learn from one of the better coaches around.

Moore is a top talent who is exciting to watch and has a very high ceiling.

"He is the top freshman in the Columbus City League," Johnson added. "He's got tremendous offensive skills."

Click the link below for a look at Ohio's top junior boys basketball prospects.

Ohio's Top Juniors


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