Two of the biggest recruits that central Ohio has possessed in recent years seem poised to lead their respective teams to memorable seasons this winter.
A year ago, Africentric was the Division III state runner-up with several juniors and sophomores providing key contributions along with 2013 graduate Marley Hill, who is now playing for Cincinnati.
Taking Hill’s place is in another talented post player in senior Alexa Hart, who is 6-foot-3 and has signed with Ohio State, which should make the Nubians the favorite to win the state championship this winter.
Hart is joined by seniors Darianne Seward, Alexus Parks, Sierra Harley, Kyra Jones and Ayrielle Stith on a roster that teams will struggle to keep up with this winter. Seward has signed with Detroit Mercy and Parks has signed with Western Michigan.
There should be plenty of good things in store for central Ohio’s big-school powers as well, considering that there will be four district champions and a guaranteed spot in the state tournament for at least one Division I program.
The favorite for that spot should be Reynoldsburg, which boasts 6-3 post player and Kentucky recruit Alyssa Rice.
The Raiders also return Nicole Orr, who has signed with Butler, and should be tough to beat once a rebuilt backcourt matures.
Dublin Coffman, which was the fourth seed for the district tournament and lost in a district final last season, projects as one of the area’s top programs with the return of juniors Sade Olatoye and Kamerine Taylor.
Newark, Pickerington North, Westerville North and Northland should be among other teams fighting for Division I district championships as well.
Newark has back a talented senior in Maggie Mitchell, who missed most of last season with an injury but has signed with Ashland University, as well as a junior in Kym Royster who averaged more than 20 points last season.
Pickerington North enters the season without senior forwards Brittany Johnson and Jordan Toohey, who are out with injuries, but have a scrappy junior point guard in Emily Thomas to lead the way.
The return of junior Symone Simmons should have Westerville North among the area’s best until senior Kelsey Walker and junior Devin Jackson return from injuries in what is expected to be late December.
Northland lost two-time district Player of the Year Alexis Peterson but returns almost all of her supporting cast, including senior Brooklynn Peterson and junior Miesha Howard. The Vikings also have added junior guard Carli Codner-Pinto, who was a standout last year for DeSales.
Joining Africentric in Division III as teams to watch include Johnstown, which won a district title last year, and Ready, which returns nearly all of its key players as well.
Eastmoor Academy could be the best area team in Division II, with respectful nods to Centennial, DeSales, Hartley and Utica.
Newark Catholic, which returns juniors Jill Blacksten and Ashleigh Parkinson, is the standout team in Division IV.