With our all-city team already released, and now our conference previews going public, the last piece of the puzzle will be CPHR's team power rankings poll; with the first weekly edition coming out on Tuesday night.
Here are the conference and team previews......
CINCINNATI METRO ATHLETIC CONFERENCE
1. Aiken Falcons: As often is the case, this year’s Aiken team led by Coach Ellison will feature one of the more talented guard corps in the area. The top prospect in the city league this season might be the Falcons senior wing Austin Grimes (who averaged a double-double each of the last two seasons). Filling in the other perimeter spots alongside Grimes will be junior point guard Paul Jones (a transfer from the Lexington area), senior wing DeMarcus Cook (a transfer from North College Hill), and returning junior Correy Cavins. Jones brings toughness and ballhandling ability to the Falcons, Cook is a smart scorer who can distribute as well, and Cavins is a proven big game player with a will to win and streaky scoring ability. Combined with Grimes, that four guard rotation is among the most experienced and gifted in Southwest Ohio. The front-court at Aiken will revolve around 6’8 senior center DeMonte Jones, promising 6’5 freshman forward Kameron Moore and 6’5 senior forward Antwan Dean. Unfortunately for Aiken, the Falcons will be without the services of senior forward Mikey Thompson, who started last season. With that shortened rotation, the final piece of the puzzle for Aiken could be the role playing of senior guard Chris Carter and talented sophomore forward DJ Harris. With the toughness, athleticism, and defensive abilities of this Falcons team, they look like the early pick to bring home the CMAC crown. Aiken has a proven star in Grimes, two very good players in Cook and Cavins, and some promising talent in Jones and Moore; if they get good play from their rotation then CPHR believes that this is the Falcons’ year to shine.
|Aiken's Austin Grimes|
2. Withrow Tigers: At one point in the spring the Tigers were the overwhelming favorite to become CMAC champions this season, but that changed when senior power forward Devin Williams elected to go the prep school route and transfer to Montverde (FL) Academy. Coach Gilbert is still left with the most talented perimeter threesome in the league with seniors Tim Coleman and Corey Wise, as well as junior point guard Tyonte Robertson. If Aiken’s Austin Grimes isn’t the favorite for league MVP then the nod would go to Coleman, who was one of the most efficient guards in the city league last year; while Wise and Robertson overcame some inconsistencies to show off as much talent as any guard in the Cincinnati area. The Tigers will also have help on the perimeter from senior hustle player Devin Ibbott, as well as junior guards Isaiah Thompson and Malik Bland. Withrow doesn’t return much experience on the inside, but does have two talented prospects in junior power player Landen Jackson and skilled 6-foot-7 forward Lamont West. Rounding out the interior rotation will be transfer senior post Darrius Cannon and 6’4 junior power forward DeJuan Jones, a great athlete. After losing so much size from last year, expect this to be a more up-tempo Tigers team, who will be led by Coleman’s fiery demeanor and has the attitude that they are the team to beat in the CMAC.
3. Hughes Big Red: Coach Wyant’s squad has shown plenty of signs to that this will be a year of rapid ascension up the CMAC standings for Hughes. Point guard Angel Rivera took the city league by storm last year after transferring in from Puerto Rico. This summer, Rivera was forced to reclassify from a junior to a senior; but he’ll still be the man at the helm for this season for the Big Red. Also returning for Hughes will be four year starter Terry Cook, a proven wing scorer who is back for his senior campaign motivated to make a splash since returning from a fall injury. Alongside Rivera and Cook expect to see talented junior Kevin Daniels, one of the top returning scorers in the league, as well as the versatile Kris Harris (who missed last season with injury). Harris is one player to keep an eye on, as he should have a breakout senior campaign. In the front-court Hughes should be led by junior power forward Dwight Nared, sophomore power forward Jay Motley, and talented junior transfer and small forward Derrick Long. With Long, Daniels, Cook, and Harris on the wing the Big Red had four very good scorers for Rivera to set up. Nared has established himself as one of the CMAC’s top posts, and Hughes also has two freshmen to bring into the rotation in wings Israel Griffin and Elijah Walker. They haven’t had great success the past two seasons, but this should be the year that Hughes breaks out towards the top of the CMAC standings.
4. Taft Senators: After graduating 9 seniors, including their top 7 players, this was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Coach Mitchell and the Senators. But with the way that Coach Mitchell runs the program the word “rebuilding” is not in their vocabulary. In fact it’s more of a “building” year, as this season’s varsity team is made up entirely of juniors. The most exciting news for Taft is that this season they’ll have the services of junior guard Aaron Oden, who sat out last year due to transfer rules. Oden is a talented combo guard who could be one of the breakout players in Ohio this season. Also returning for Taft are juniors Kenny Kaufman, Marcus Scott, Rob Smith, Tamarik Washington, Keron Harris, Devon Matthews and DeAndre Smith. Those seven are part of a group that dominated the CMAC junior varsity league last year, and play a style very similar to the Taft group that just graduated. Kaufman and Scott are the top scorers in the group; Smith is a solid big man with power, while Washington and Smith are great hustle players with versatility. Taft might be small, but this team has heart, will play Coach Mitchell’s aggressive style, is accustomed to winning, and has the speed and depth to give teams problems with their defensive pressure.
|Withrow's Tim Coleman|
5. West High Mustangs: Three three-year starters from last year’s team might have graduated, but coach Kerley still has no shortage of talent walking through the hall in Western Hills. Sophomore point guard DeJuan Sherman will get his chance to run the show, which should be an exciting experiment as Sherman shows as much promise as any young lead guard in Cincinnati. West High also returns reliable senior power forward Marquez Carpenter and senior center Cortez Adams. Look for these two wide-bodies to man the interior for the Mustangs. The question mark at West High surrounds senior forward Will Clifton, a high flying athlete who missed last season; Clifton’s presence should really help the Mustangs this season. On the wing West High has four seniors in LeMontay Conyers, Randen Clark, Bailey Woodard and the promising Kevin Bracey-Davis. A late bloomer, the 6’5 Bracey-Davis could be the breakout player in the CMAC, as well as one of the league’s leading scorers.
6. Woodward Bulldogs: The scrappiness of Coach Timmons team helped earn wins last year, making them the surprise team in the CMAC. That same recipe could be what the Bulldogs use to cook up success this season in the league. Sophomore point guard Isaiah Jones transferred in from Northwest, and should be the primary playmaking option for Timmons. Watch out for junior forward Devon Johnson, who has the athleticism and power to have a breakout season this year. Woodward also returns senior guards Dionte Sanders and Shawn Carter, both of whom saw minutes last season, and senior forward Ryan Connell, a hardworking player who has really improved.
7. Shroder Jaguars: Coach Gentry will begin his first year at the helm in Madisonville without a whole lot of proven talent to work with. The graduation of the last two classes has left the cupboard of experience bare at Shroder; however, the Jaguars did get a break when senior wing Jarred Wilkins decided to transfer in from Lakota West. Shroder does return a trio of seniors in guards Kenny Duke and Dexter Bedgood; as well as center Darrius Evans. Expect Wilkins to lead this Shroder team, which will be a young one.
GREATER MIAMI CONFERENCE
1. Lakota East Thunderhawks: After being hit hard by the injury bug last season, Coach Vickers is ready to take his team back to the top of the GMC, something that the Eastside boys did two seasons ago when they won the league outright easily. Vickers has the exact type of team he loves this season at East; they’re big, tough, defensively disciplined, and East has a lot of different ways that they can run offense to create chances. While they have multiple scorers, there are three players who will do most of the scoring for Lakota East. Senior wing Stedman Lowry, back from injury, could lead the GMC in scoring as one of the premiere shooters and slashers in the league; while senior guard Robbie Harpring and sophomore forward Myo Baxter are also two of the better players in the league on the offensive side of the floor. In addition to their scoring ability, East has a ton of size. 6’6 senior center Zach Panzeca returns, 6’7 sophomore Alex White should breakout this season, and athletic 6’5 sophomore Mike Norris is one of the league best kept secrets in what looks to be the deepest group of sophomores in the city. East will round out their deep rotation with role player Austin Emrick, a senior wing, and junior PG Abdul Bah, on a team with the toughness, defensive ability, and competitive spirit to maneuver through a brutal GMC schedule.
2. Lakota West Firebirds: While CPHR feels that East is the best team in the GMC pre-season, there is absolutely no doubt that West has the most talent. Coach Van Winkle returns his “Big Three” in senior guards Monty Boykins and Ali Barnes, along with junior point guard Tyler Williams; all three of whom were all-league players last season. Joining a small, but offensively prolific, perimeter will be junior guard Malik Grove and senior wing Zach Moo-Young, setting up a rotation that is as good as any back-court in the state. Up front this could be a breakout season for junior center Tyler Bowling, a skilled 6’7 scorer and rebounder. Joining Bowling, West’s other interior threat is football star Kyle Meadows, a strong and tough 6’6 banger. West has all the talent, experience, defensive ability, and depth to not only take the GMC crown, but take it easily. If this team can optimize all of their weapons by moving the ball well offensively then the sky is the limit for the Firebirds.
|Lakota East's Stedman Lowry|
3. Fairfield Indians: Coach Austing might only return one player from his rotation on last year’s Division I SW Regional Champions, but his group might be just as successful as last year’s. Junior PG Tim Fleming has waited his time, and after starting last year he’ll have a chance to be the go to guy this season. Joining Fleming in the backcourt will be junior guards Herman Brunis, a good slashing scorer, and fellow scorer Errend Long. A balanced team, Fairfield also has plenty of talent up front in 6’5 sophomore post Justin Johnson, 6’4 freshman forward TC Wells, and 6’5 senior post Cody Minella, and 6’5 junior forward Ben Horn. The Indians will be one of the most competitive teams in the league, will play fast, defend hard, and easily could steal the GMC crown if other teams sleep on them.
4. Princeton Vikings: This might seem a little low for a team that has dominated the GMC this decade, but Coach Anderson’s team should get better as the season progresses. Like always, the Vikings have some of the best guards in the area, led by three-year starter Dorian Jordan, a small but crafty human highlight film. The addition of fellow small point guard Deiontay Waiters should really help this team play at the tempo they like to play, and give Jordan even more space to attack. Rounding out the Princeton rotation will be senior forwards Darius Hilson and Eric Tivis, two high level athletes who bring energy, senior post Mac Bosel, a 6’6 body with strength, and two newcomers to the varsity team in North College Hill transfer Wany’e Colson, an athletic junior forward, and junior scoring guard Ryan Bricking. This Princeton team will be deep, talented as always, athletic, and should play a style that is tough to prepare for in practice; as always, the Vikings will contend for the league title.
5. Middletown Middies: Coach Andrews has a tough task ahead for him in year one of the post-Geovonie McKnight era, which led to an outright GMC championship last season. That being said, Middletown will boast the best player in the conference again this season, as they return stud junior combo forward Vincent Edwards, the league’s likely player of the year. While most of the offense will facilitate through Edwards, the Middies will have to find additional scoring. The most logical place to look is with senior wing Jalin Marshall, an OSU football commit, a returning double figure scoring threat. The Middies also will return 6’6 junior center Chance Sorrell, three-point specialist Ryan Smith, and hardworking forward Mark Fayne. With the best player in the league, a winning tradition, and a great home-court advantage, Middletown could easily finish much higher than fifth this season.
6. Colerain Cardinals: Coach Higgins squad has a lot of talent on it, but there are some major question marks for the Cardinals going into the season. Colerain will be without the services of junior PG Kiere Bennie until after Christmas break due to an injury, and will also not have senior SG Kane Thompson at all this season. What Higgins does return is a dynamic scoring duo in senior guards Milt Davis and Bryan Porter, last year’s top two scorers. With the athleticism up front of junior football star, and power forward, Trevon Hudson, and 6’6 shotblocking senior post CJ Reed, the Cardinals should be good defensively on a team that is both deep and athletic. If they can find scorers besides Davis and Porter to hold them over until Bennie returns then this team could finish much higher than 6th.
|Middletown's Vince Edwards|
7. Sycamore Aviators: Coach Moss brings back a nice nucleus of both talent and experience this season. Sycamore returns guards Mitch Hill, Zach Farqhuar and leading returning scorer Joey Gruden on the perimeter, to go with Withrow transfer, and junior point guard, Larry Moore. Inside Sycamore should be led by athletic forward Isaiah Brown and 6’6 senior Mason Morgan.
8. Hamilton Big Blue: Coach Robinson’s team has a bright future, but they’ll be very young this season. Hamilton has the top freshman in the league in combo guard Ashon Riggins, who should be a varsity starter. The Big Blue also have three proven guards in Quentin Bailey, Christian Jones, and Keimon Sims. The interior should be held down mostly by sophomore power forward Jamil Daniels.
9. Oak Hills Highlanders: With leading returning scorer Jake Richmond, a senior guard, giving up basketball to pursue his baseball career, Coach Price is left with somewhat of an empty cupboard this season. Guards Ben Laumann and Tyler Walter return, and the Highlanders also have a big body in 6’7 junior Andrew Chisholm, but this will be a tough year in the league for them.
10. Mason Comets: One of the area’s top teams last season, Coach Richards lost his entire varsity rotation to graduation. Mason is left with only two players who played on the varsity last season, and both were seldom used. Senior guards Drew Matula and Conner McVey will lead the Comets this year, on a team that will have to out-scheme the opposition to find wins.
GREATER CATHOLIC LEAGUE – SOUTH DIVISION
1. Moeller Crusaders: Coach Kramer is gearing back up for another run at a GCL championship, after finishing second to LaSalle last year. First and foremost, Kramer will rely heavily on the scoring of one of Ohio’s most dynamic guards in senior Josh Davenport (who is committed to Winthrop). Along with Davenport, who brings a great ability to slash to the basket, look for scoring from the Crusaders to come from skilled and wide-bodied sophomore center Nate Fowler (a massive 6’9 prospect) and smooth-shooting junior wing Grant Benzinger. The Crusaders also have a plethora of talented big men including 6’7 senior Patrick Wrencher, 6’8 junior Jack Anton, 6’6 senior forward Corey Muchmore, and 6’6 junior forward Adam Gigax; all of whom will work inside along with the talented Fowler, making the Crusaders one of the biggest teams in the state, and definitely the team with most interior depth. While Davenport, Fowler and Benzinger will do much of the scoring; the interesting storyline to follow early on at Moeller will be to track who does the ball-handling. Questions surround whether senior Keith Watkins will play basketball; as the talented athlete is committed to Northwestern for football. If Watkins steps on to the hardwood then it will he his team to run. If not, look for juniors Trey Hawkins and Gus Ragland to battle it out for the majority of the playing time. With Moeller advancing to the state finals in football the team will definitely revolve around the ballhandling of Hawkins early, as Ragland, Benzinger, and Watkins are all football players who could miss the beginning of the season. This Moeller team has more depth from last year, great size, a combination of skill and athleticism and players who are familiar with the system. But, does this group have the experience necessary to win the GCL? Look for the Crusaders to rely heavily on senior leadership from Davenport, Wrencher and hopefully Watkins; while hoping for breakout years from Benzinger, Hawkins, and Fowler; as they try and capture the GCL South crown.
2. St. Xavier Bombers: The Bombers, like Moeller, have plenty of frontcourt size; starting with their go to guy in junior combo forward Roderick Mills. The 6-foot-7 Mills will see time at the power forward spot as skilled 6’11 senior center Tyler Hadden should see the majority of the minutes in the middle. At guard Coach Martin has a lot of depth, shooting ability, and toughness, led by returning leading scorer, and senior combo guard, Alex Blink; who could break out this season. In addition to Blink, look for senior guards Ben Carroll and Joe Barrett to provide scoring and defense for the Bombers, while fellow seniors Kevin King, Deontae Bolling, and Aaron Berry will all be in the rotation as well on a senior laden squad. To add even more to the depth, St. Xavier has extra size coming off the bench with high energy senior posts Joe Gellenbeck and 6’10 center Chris Steffanou. Several area coaches think that this Bombers team could challenge for the city title; when you have that much size, defensive prowess, and shooting ability, it is definitely more than just a possibility.
|Moeller's Josh Davenport|
3. LaSalle Lancers: Last year’s GCL champions graduated a good one in current Toledo guard Josh Lemons, but return their other two main scorers on a team that has become accustomed to winning championships. Senior guard Connor Speed is back to bring his defensive presence and hot three-point shooting, while junior combo guard Jeff Larkin is one of the best shot-creating guards in the city. Those two should do the majority of the scoring for Coach Fleming’s Lancers; but they’ll get help from junior post Blake Simpson (who transferred in from Moeller), as well as senior perimeter players Eric Southers and Brett Cooper. The question mark surrounding LaSalle is whether or not the team will be supplemented by and big bodies from the football team, who were so critical to their success as a team last year. If the Lancers are forced to go small, with all of their rotational players being guards except for the athletic Simpson, then it will be interesting to see if Coach Fleming is willing to go young and let talented underclassmen Jeremy Larkin, a freshman, and sophomore guard Donte Buycks get minutes. Expect LaSalle to do what they do best; compete, defend in the full-court, push the tempo, shoot the three-pointer, and execute their Princeton offense in the half-court.
4. Elder Panthers: Coach Schoenfeld gets a major break this season now that he has junior post Devin Pike eligible to play, after Pike sat out last season due to transfer rules. Adding Pike to the interior rotation to go along with proven junior scoring forward Taylor Lee will give the Panthers a reliable one-two inside punch. The Panthers don’t have the most talented set of guards, but they do return some experience in senior guard Alex Lind and junior guards Jake Lammers and Thomas Autenrieb. Expect those five players to get the starting nod early for the Panthers, with Lee and Pike looking like the go to scorers on an offense that might start inside and look to the perimeter for timely long-distance shooting.
OTHER TOP AREA TEAMS
· Walnut Hills Golden Eagles: The city’s most senior dominated team would be Coach Hill’s group at Walnut Hills, who boast a super-talented seven man rotation of fourth year players. The Eagles are led by two MAC commitments in 6’9 center Isaiah Johnson (Akron) and 6’5 transfer wing D.J. Wingfield (Ohio University), who should combine to be Ohio’s top duo. Wingfield was CPHR’s pre-season player of the year, while Johnson was included on our 1st team all-city. Besides just those two, Walnut Hills has three veteran guards in floor general Sterling Gilmore, tough shooter Ricardo Hill Jr, and jitterbug Kyree Burton. Rounding out the rotation will be 6’5 athletic power forward Kodey Jackson and 6’10 transfer Jordan Tyson, who moved to Cincinnati from the Columbus area. Walnut Hills is not only the most talented team in the Cincinnati area but could arguably be the top pre-season pick for Division I State Champions. Coach Hill has changed the culture at Walnut, making them a tougher and a more free flowing team, and Wingfield and Johnson as a duo is near unstoppable. Add in the fact that this group has great chemistry and experience, and it should be a special year for Walnut Hills.
|Walnut Hills' Isaiah Johnson|
· Winton Woods Warriors: In predicting orders of finish this season CPHR has put a lot of emphasis on experience, depth, size, athleticism, and skill. Winton Woods has all of that and then some. They might not be the most structured team, but in the full-court the Warriors have exceptional talent. WW’s “Big Three” of senior forwards Trent Donald and Kwan Cheatham, as well as junior point guard Ronnie Rousseau all return after great campaigns last season, and are arguably the most dynamic three-man scoring punch in all of SW Ohio. Looking at the depth, Winton Woods has a ton of talent in 6’5 transfer junior forward Latrell Tidwell, junior wing Martin Jones, junior wing Devon Goodson, senior wing Darnell Dees, senior guard Lance Primus, and senior guard Dylan Wedlock. Expect to see Coach Gillespie play at least nine players in his rotation, move up and down the floor quickly, and facilitate offense through his three main scorers as the Warriors try to navigate a brutal schedule, created by the AD after Winton Woods decided not to join a conference for this school year. The Warriors have to show us that they have the desire to be a great defensive team, but with Donald, Rousseau, and Cheatham (an Akron signee), as well as a loaded supporting cast, this team could easily finish at the top of our post-season power rankings.
· Summit Country Day Silver Knights: Last year’s D-III State Champions return their two best player in future Bearcat guard Kevin Johnson, a 6’2 senior, and junior point guard Antonio Woods. To make things even better for Coach Bradley, he finally has the shooting abilities that he so desperately wanted last season, led by transfer sophomore wing MaCio Teague; a high major recruit. Joining Teague behind the three-point line will be junior guard Joey Kreyenhagen and sophomore guard Evan Davis, two other big time shooters. To round out the perimeter rotation expect to see seniors Jake Rawlings, who started last season, and David Herron both see the floor as defensive stoppers and athletes. The interior for Summit is a little thin after graduation, but the Knights have the state’s best undersized defensive post in beastly junior Mike Barwick, to match with athletic senior forward Brett Teppi. Are the Silver Knights as good as last year? That remains to be seen, but Coach Bradley has star power, unlimited offensive potential, and smart players who will execute his system as Summit tries to repeat as State Champions.
· Roger Bacon Spartans: A much more experienced team then last year will hit the floor for Coach Neal, as he tries to build on last season’s regional final appearance. In fact, the Spartans will be one of the favorites in D-III to get back to at least the regionals again this season. Bacon is led by returning starters in junior guard Carlas Jackson and fellow junior wing Austin Frentsos; the team’s two leading scorers a year ago. Add in sophomore wing Dahmere Epperson, a varsity contributor last year who will miss the beginning of this season with injury, and senior wing Erik Edwards and you have a talented, athletic, and versatile perimeter core. Rounding out the rotation for Roger Bacon will be senior post Jake Westerfield and junior guard Cody Neisen. The Spartans will have to prove that they have great point guard and interior play to make a run up state, but this team is good enough to cruise through the GCL-Central again this season.
· Turpin Spartans: Returning leading scorer Zach McCormick, a junior guard who was named to CPHR’s all-city first-team, will lead the way again this season for interim coach Pat Stricker. McCormick is one of the more dominant scorers in the area, is a great athlete, and has the ability to dominate the game by attacking the lane as a ballhandler. Joining McCormick as team leaders will be senior forward Connor Grotton, another high flyer with an aggressive mentality, and senior wing Clay Johnson. The Spartans also have two more quality guards in Hunter Sadlon and Cameron Atkins, as well as a nice group of shooters off of the bench. This isn’t the biggest team, but Turpin now has a winning attitude, a depth of talent on the wing, and should finish second to Walnut Hills in their league.
· Milford Eagles: Coach Cambron’s team has great size, led by 6’9 senior center Garrett Mayleben, a Bowling Green State University signee, and a plethora of shooters, led by Brennan Ferrell, in a deep rotation that should keep them in the hunt behind Walnut Hills and Turpin in their league. Senior guards Josiah Greeve and Josh Roof return to lead the deep rotation, while the big men will be supplemented by the help of 6’7 senior center Cy Overbeck and 6’3 forward Austin Taylor.
· Madeira Mustangs: The senior trio of guards Andrew Benintendi, Brad Almquist, and John Michael Wyrick all return to make Coach Reynolds’ team the favorites in the CHL this season. Last year Benintendi, an Arkansas baseball signee, was the leading scorer in the area at just under 24 points per game, while Almquist would’ve been well into the double-figures had he not missed the year with injury. Look for the Mustangs to not only win the CHL, but to be a major threat in the D-III regional tournament.