Boys Basketball

Plenty of talent returns to Central District's top teams

The last time two teams from the Central District won state boys basketball championships in the same year was 1973 when Ready won the Class AA title and Marion Pleasant did the same in Class A.

Could that drought be broken this year?

With the talent that returns to central Ohio’s top Division I teams and with Watterson bringing back nearly every key player after winning the Division II title a year ago, it might not be out of the question.

Northland, Pickerington Central and Gahanna slugged it out in the regional a year ago, and all indications are that those three will be among central Ohio’s four district champions in the big-school division.

At least one area team is guaranteed to make it to the Schottenstein Center, and we’re projecting it to again be Northland, but Central and Gahanna have solid arguments as well.

The Vikings went 28-1 last season and return seniors Ty Hairston, Derek McKeithen, Jaylen Tucker and Shemar Waugh as well as one of the area’s top sophomores in Seth Towns. Waugh is an Ohio Dominican recruit.

Central’s Jae’Sean Tate and Gahanna’s Javon Bess, meanwhile, should duke it out to determine who the area’s best player is after signing with Ohio State and Michigan State, respectively.

The Tigers return another future collegian in Connor Kern (Arkansas State) while Gahanna should benefit from the addition of sophomore Whetstone-transfer Matt Moyer.

The area’s fourth-best big-school program should come from a pool that includes Olentangy Liberty, Newark and Dublin Coffman. Westerville’s three programs, Central, North and South, also should have strong teams.

Watterson didn’t have a superstar last year and might not again this winter, but depth took it all the way to its first state title a year ago in Division II.

Brookhaven lost its top two players after being the area’s second-best Division II team last year but returns an Ohio Dominican-signee in Ronnie Williams and has a veteran coaching staff.

Other strong City League programs in Division II should include Mifflin, which has a new coach in Mike Thornton, as well as Marion-Franklin and Eastmoor.

Bloom-Carroll has been one of the area’s premier Division III programs for years but is now in Division II.

That should leave the door open for Hartley, Ready and Worthington Christian to battle for supremacy in Division III.

Africentric should have a chance to make it to the state tournament for the third time in four years after getting upset in a Division IV district final last season because of a young but talented roster led by returning junior guard Jaquan Harrison.

— From staff reports