This past weekend, young hoop dreamers across Ohio slugged it out for highly coveted bids to the AAU Nationals. AAU National Tournaments will be held in prime vacation spots such as Orlando and Cocoa Beach, Florida, and Virginia Beach, Virginia. In each age group, Ohio will send between 1 and 4 teams to various AAU National tournaments across the country where they will compete against other elite teams from across the country.

Over the course of the summer, young basketball players may play up to 90 basketball games against other elite players from across the state, region and country in weekend tournaments. The success AAU basketball can be summed up in one word, "dreams." The majority of these hoop-alcoholics dream of one day landing a full-ride scholarship to one of this country's major D-1 colleges. Although not all of them will realize their dreams, many players will look back at their youth basketball experience as positive, and will be able to apply the many lessons they learned on the basketball court to the real world.

Because of all of the young talent in Ohio from year-to-year, traditionally, Ohio teams have faired well at national tournaments. This year should be no different. According to Ozie Davis III, Director/founder of the Queen City Prophet summer basketball program, "Youth basketball talent is at an all time high in the state of Ohio. Traditionally, Ohio has been a football state, but with the nationwide movement away from baseball (particularly in the inner city) to basketball, basketball is growing in importance in the mind of today's parents. Hence, our youngsters are beginning to play at an earlier age."

At the 4th grade level, the following teams have qualified for the AAU Nationals: D-1 Greyhounds, All-Ohio Red, Ohio Show Stoppers, Cincinnati Friar/Warriors. Last year as third graders, the Cincinnati Friar/Warriors finished second in the AAU Nationals in Orlando, Florida.

At the fifth grade level, the Columbus Jaguars, Cincinnati, Royals, Westwood Ballers, Team Reebok, and A.A.A. Basketball will represent Ohio at the AAU Nationals located in Cocoa Beach, Florida. In 2002, the Columbus Jaguars won the USSSA National Championship and the Cincinnati Royals finished second at the AAU Nationals.

The sixth grade AAU National representatives include: the Cincinnati Bearcats, Lincoln Heights Tigers, and Team Reebok. The sixth grade nationals will be held in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Last year the Cincinnati Royals finished eighth in the AAU Nationals.

Ohio will be send the following seventh grade teams to the U-13 AAU Nationals in Memphis, Tennessee: Cincinnati Royals (A), Dayton Salvation Army, Cincinnati Bearcats, and Cincinnati Royals (B). In 2002, of the teams who participated in national tournaments, four teams made it to the championship round, and the Cincinnati Royals finished in eighth place.

Below is a list of the top youth travel teams in Ohio. As a preface to these rankings, there was no scientific method used in determining the top teams, only anecdotal observations from youth basketball fans who have sat in hot gyms and watched countless games.

The top forth grade teams in Ohio are as follows: 1) Cincinnati Friars/Warriors, 2) Ohio Show Stoppers - Canton, 3) Columbus Jaguars, 4) All-Ohio Red - Columbus, 5) D-1 Greyhounds - Dayton, 6) Moore Sports Tigers - Canton, 7) Cincy Hoops, 8) Dayton Nets, 9) Dayton Metro and 10) Dayton Flames.

The top fifth grade teams in Ohio are as follows: 1) Cincinnati Royals, 2) Columbus Jaguars, 3) Westwood Ballers, 4) Moore Sports Tigers - Canton, 5) A.A.A Basketball - Akron, 6) Team Reebok - Columbus, 7) Cincinnati Royals (B), 8) Dakota Warriors - Dayton, 9) FCA - Cincinnati, 10) Hot Homes.com-Cleveland.

The top sixth grade teams are: 1) Force All-Stars-Cincinnati, 2) Lincoln Heights Tigers-Cincinnati, 3) Cincinnati Bearcats, 4) Team Reebok-Columbus, 5) Central Ohio Comets-Columbus, 6) Capital City Cobras-Columbus, 6) Cleveland Basketball Club, 7) NEO Shooting Stars-Cleveland, 8) Dayton Salvation Army, Dayton Parkside and 10) Dayton Metro.

Top seventh grade teams are: 1) Cincinnati Royals (A), 2) Cleveland Basketball Club, 3) Dayton Salvation Army, 4) Cincinnati Bearcats, 5) Dayton Metro, 6) All-Ohio Red-Columbus, 7) Gym City Preps-Dayton, 8) Cincinnati Royals (B), 9) Team Reebok-Columbus and 10) Dayton Parkside.

In addition to the of wealth great youth basketball teams, Ohio is blessed with young basketball talent at the forth through seventh grade level. At the forth grade level, top players include: Stevie Taylor - Columbus Jaguars, Trey Burke - Team Reebok-Columbus, Cheatham Norrils - All-Ohio-Toledo, Don Bush - Cincinnati Friars/Warriors, Marcus Crider-D1 Greyhounds, A. Jordan - D1 Greyhounds-Dayton, James Witherspoon- Columbus Jaguars, Kyle Seyfried- Cincinnati Friars/Warriors, Chris Humphrey- Eastside All-Stars-Solon, and Jeff Copland- All-Ohio-Toledo.

At the fifth grade level, top players include: Kevin Gray- Columbus Jaguars, Storm Sanders- Moore Sports Tigers, Marcus Davis-Cincinnati Royals, Juwan Staten-Westwood Ballers-Dayton, Jarred Sullenger-Team Reebok-Columbus, Nick Kellogg-Columbus, Marcus Rush-Cincinnati Royals, Kenny DeBoer-Columbus Jaguars, Anthony Jackson-Columbus Jaguars, LeVeon Bell-Columbus Jaguars and Oliver McGlade-Columbus Jaguars. At the sixth grade level the top players include: Nehamia Trotter-Team Reebok-Columbus, Rolin Morris-Capital City Cobras-Columbus. At the seventh grade level top players include: Kenneth Gray-All-Ohio Red-Columbus, Chris Crockett-Team Reebok-Columbus, Quintin Harris-All-Ohio Red, Quam Sikute-Team Reebok, and Robbie Taylor-All-Ohio Red.

Although AAU/ summer basketball is often criticized, it is clear that the level of competition cannot be matched at the local level. Mike Milligen of the Dayton Metro summer basketball program feels that AAU/summer basketball is so important because "better players get to play with the better players, forcing them to step up their games due to the higher competition level."

If you ask Ozie Davis III, AAU basketball is the "only arena where the best can play against the best. It's has little to do with AAU, but AAU is the term most associated for select basketball. Generally, when it gets down to it it's the best kids from a particular city all playing together, or exceptionally oiled teams that have played together for a length of time. Either talent or teamwork prevails, and in "AAU" you get to see that up close and personal! "

In closing, we in Ohio should be proud of our rich hoops tradition and the significant pool of young basketball talent that reside within our borders. Although most basketball observers don't see or hear about young talented basketball players until they reach high school, the true basketball fanatic and gym rat understands and appreciates the high level of basketball which is being played at the youth level. I highly encourage you to get off the couch and attend a local youth basketball tournament and see for yourself the future of Ohio prep basketball. God Bless!





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