The seven-game 2006 Ohio Scholastic Play-by-Play Classic will live up to its' name as there will be plenty of big players to see.
Beginning at 10:30 a.m., 14 teams, including a pair of central Ohio's better girls teams will square off in an all day event promising to give basketball fans their money's worth.
Upper Sandusky junior standout Jon Diebler, an OSU verbal commitment for 2007, will be on display as will several other key prospects. The marquee match-up pits defending Division I state champion Canton McKinley, with Michigan State verbal Raymar Morgan, against defending Division III state champion North College Hill, with top national junior stars O.J. Mayo and Bill Walker.
Here is a look at games scheduled on Saturday:
* 10:30 a.m.: Jonathan Alder vs. Pickerington North, girls -- The morning kicks off when the Jonathan Alder girls' basketball team meets perennial power Pickerington North. The lady Tigers (6-3) have struggled this year at times facing a tough schedule that has included powerhouses from Kentucky and West Virginia.
They should have a significant advantage tomorrow given their advantage in experience in big games. They are led by 5-10 guard, Lindsay Smithberger, who averages just shy of 15 points a game. North also counts on 5-11 forward, Megan Askew for support.
However, North will have their hands full with 5-11 junior guard Lauren Prochaska for Jonathan Alder (10-0). Prochaska averaged 24.3 points a game last year as a sophomore, and is receiving attention from several of the top schools in the country.
This year, Prochaska is scoring nearly 30 points a game.
* Noon: Zane Trace (2-6) vs. Greenfield McClain (8-0) -- To say the Pioneers of Zane Trace are underdogs is probably an understatement. They will have to think of some way of stopping 6-5 junior Dante Jackson.
The junior for the McClain Tigers has been nothing short of amazing this season. Jackson is averaging nearly 25 points, six rebounds and over five assists. In leading McClain to a dominating start, he is coming off a recent career-high against Adena where he scored 45 points.
While Jeremy Webster and Heath McNeal have both contributed to the Tigers this season, it will be Jackson that Zane Trace will try to contain. The Pioneers are led by 6-3 Zach Roll who is averaging double-digits in scoring.
* 1:45 p.m.: Cincinnati Taft (7-0) vs. Columbus Brookhaven (5-1) -- In a day filled with many top match-ups, this one would come close for taking the cake if not for the highly anticipated North College Hill-Canton McKinley game.
The Senators enter this game high off their trip to Binghamton, N.Y., where they captured the Stop-DWI Championship against Landstown (Va.). In the three-game tournament, Taft's all-everything guard Heath White won the tournament MVP and scored 20 points in the final.
White enters the game averaging 24.6 points while Gray adds another 14.4 points.
The Brookhaven Bearcats, on the other hand, are trying to rebound from their first loss of the season last week to the defending Division I state champion Canton McKinley Bulldogs.
Brookhaven was simply dominated in Canton last week, 74-48, by the Bulldogs. Although the Bearcats are talented up front with 6-7 center Julian Young and 6-6 forward Jeff Cumberland, to be able to match Taft's quickness in the backcourt, they will need a big game from 5-11 Jawanza Robinson.
* 3:30 p.m.: Hamilton (4-4) vs. Upper Sandusky (3-3) -- Something has got to give in this one.
The Big Blue has yet to find any consistency and have yet to win the big ones. However, the fortunate thing for them is that their opponent, Upper Sandusky, has had largely the same problem.
The Rams are still in fact the defending Division II State Champions and play an up-tempo style of game, but unlike last year, they pretty much have to rely on one person.
That one person is 6-7 Ohio State basketball commitment Jon Diebler. Diebler is a junior averaging 35 points a game through six games but has struggled to find any help.
When the Rams have given him help, it has usually been from freshman guard Alex Falk, a talented 6-3 wing that head coach Keith Diebler thinks highly of.
The Big Blue has had problems scoring this season, averaging just barely over 50 points a game. They have played a slow-down style and rely on half-court execution.
Hamilton has depended all season on 6-5 guard Billy Allen. The son of respected coach Larry Allen is averaging nearly 20 points a game this season for the Big Blue.
* 5:15 p.m.: Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (8-1) vs. Lancaster (7-0) -- The Irish come to Columbus not with another LeBron James, but plenty of athletes to present plenty of problems for a bigger, and more halfcourt oriented Gales' roster.
SVSM's success usually coincides with 6-3 senior guard Marcus Johnson. The combo guard heading to Dayton next season on a basketball scholarship is averaging over 20 points a game and has led the Irish to big wins this season, including one over Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph and David Lighty.
Guards Cameron Joyce and Pat Nygard have also played a big part in St. Vincent-St. Mary's season as well as junior forward, Anthony Anderson.
Akron is a familiar place for Lancaster's Chris McKnight. The 6-6 forward will be heading to play basketball for the Zips next year along with Joyce's older brother Dru.
McKnight is the heart and soul of the Lancaster cause, although 6-9 Brant Leitnaker, who is committed to Indiana State, is also a key cog. For the Gales to have a chance against the Irish, 6-3 guard Kevin Carr will need to hit some big shots.
The Gales, if anything, should at least have the size advantage against the Irish.
* 7 p.m.: Canton McKinley (7-1) vs. North College Hill (10-0) -- As the aging hall-of-fame broadcaster Keith Jackson would say, ‘whoa, Nellie, we got a big one here.'
This is the game that any basketball fan in the state of Ohio have had circled on their calendars for months. The defending Division III state champion Trojans will look to clash with the Division I state champion Bulldogs in a mythical test to see who the real best team in Ohio really is.
McKinley has been nearly unstoppable since their early loss to perennial power Oak Hill Academy at the Marshall County (Kent.) Hoop Fest in early December. Since then, they have reeled off seven consecutive victories behind 27 points and 11 rebounds a game by 6-7 Raymar Morgan.
Morgan, who is committed to Michigan State, has dropped in big games all over the place, including over 30 points against Canton GlenOak and 7-1 junior Kosta Koufos.
The Bulldogs have a deep and balanced attack that includes 6-4 guard and Wright State commitment, Todd Brown; 6-6 wing, Ricky Jackson; 6-3 guard, Marcus Parker; and 6-5 guard, David White – a transfer from Urichsville Claymont that averaged 19 points a game last season.
The Trojans have been invincible all season thus far. With O.J. Mayo dropping 29.4 points a game and Billy Walker averaging 19.9 points and eight rebounds per game, North College Hill has obliterated everyone on their schedule, including Cincinnati St. Xavier and a pair of out-of-state powers from California – Harard-Westlake and Compton Dominguez.
The worse news for the Bulldogs is that NCH is not a two-man show. Center Keenan Ellis has been solid in the middle with 10.8 points, and over two blocks and nearly five rebounds a game.
North College Hill has also received better-than-expected production from the power forward position with 6-4 senior Andre Evans as well as 6-3 sophomore Courtney Davis. NCH is outscoring its opponents 92.5-52.0 per game.
Even Jackson probably doesn't have the words to describe the atmosphere for this showdown Saturday evening.
* 8:45 p.m.: Fairbanks vs. Worthington Christian -- For Fairbanks, the strategy is simple – shut down senior Chris Beals to have any shot of winning.
The 6-0, guard has paced the Warriors this season by averaging 25 points a game, including a season-high 41 points against De Sales. He has well over 1,000 points for his career.
Last year, Beals averaged 17.4 points a game in earning First-Team All-Central District. This year, Beals has taken his game to another level.
* MLK Day Challenge -- High school basketball returns to the Schottenstein Center Mon., Jan. 16, for the Martin Luther King Day Challenge.
That day, Dayton Dunbar with Daequan Cook will tackle Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph and Lighty in a match-up of OSU signees. Also that day, Canal Winchester World Harvest Prep, with OSU 2008 verbal B.J. Mullens, meets Wellington.
* Ticket Information -- Here is ticket information for Saturday's event:
Ticket prices are $25 (Sections 121-124 & 104-107), $16 (Sections 101, 110, 111, 117, 118, 127, 128, 134, 204-207 & 221-224) and $10 (rest of arena). They are on sale now at the Schottenstein Center Box Office and Kroger Ticketmaster Centers. Charge at 614-431-3600 or on-line at ticketmaster.com.
Tickets information for the MLK Day Challenge: Tickets ($7) - General Admission seating. Tickets are available at the Schottenstein Center Box Office and Ticketmaster outlets. Charge at 614-431-3600 or print your tickets today with ticketfast at ticketmaster.com!