Super 12 Boys Basketball Team

Phasing out football worked well for Gahanna's Bess

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With his 6-foot-5 frame and quickness, it's reasonable to think that Javon Bess would have been a standout high school football player had he stuck with the sport.

He played quarterback and wide receiver in youth leagues before turning his athletic focus solely to basketball in 2011 after his freshman season at Pickerington Central.

Three years later, Bess, a forward who transferred to Gahanna before his junior season, has been named the ThisWeek Super 12 captain.

"We always thought I'd play football because I played when I was younger," said Bess, a Michigan State signee who projects to be a guard or small forward in college. "After my freshman year, something told me I just wanted to play basketball."

Bess averaged 20.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists and shot 65 percent from the field this season. He was named Division I district Player of the Year and shared OCC-Ohio Division Player of the Year honors with a former teammate, Central's Jae'Sean Tate, who missed the second half of the season with a shoulder injury.

Bess and Tate, who was the Super 12 captain a year ago, helped the Tigers win the 2012 state championship.

Bess, who grew up in Gahanna and attended Middle School West as an eighth-grader, averaged 18.1 points and made second-team all-district and Super 12 in his first season with the Lions last winter while helping Gahanna win a district title.

This season, the Lions went 22-4 and earned a share of the OCC-Ohio championship with Central and Newark. Seeded second in the district tournament, they lost to Upper Arlington 55-49 in a district final March 8 at the Fairgrounds Coliseum after being regional runners-up a year ago.

Bess finished his prep career with more than 1,200 points.

"Javon Bess, over the last two years, has really elevated his game," coach Tony Staib said. "He can play inside or outside. He's so versatile, and that's what everybody likes about him."

Bess' sister, Zenobia Bess, is a 2013 Gahanna graduate who plays basketball for Illinois State. Their father, Myron, played football at Kent State.

"I definitely improved on my jump shot this year," Javon said. "Me and my coach sat down and said that's what I needed to improve on. And I improved vocally this year because I wasn't much of a leader last year."

First Team

NICK BAPST

The 6-4 junior guard averaged a team-high 20.8 points in being named first-team all-OCC-Ohio and second-team all-district as Grove City finished 17-7.

One of Bapst's top performances came in a 68-64 win over Reynoldsburg on Jan. 17, as he scored 13 of his game-high 22 points in the third quarter to help Grove City overcome a 34-25 halftime deficit.

"Nick is one of the hardest workers we have ever had here at Grove City," coach Greg Waits said. "He is always working on his game and looking for ways to improve from day to day. He has an excellent attitude."

JORDAN DARTIS

Because of the contributions of this 6-3 junior guard, Newark finished 20-5, earned a share of the OCC-Ohio title and reached a Division I district final for the third consecutive season.

Dartis averaged 17.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and three rebounds in being named first-team all-OCC-Ohio and all-district.

Dartis is drawing interest from several Mid-American Conference schools, according to coach Jeff Quackenbush.

"Jordan's a really good kid," Quackenbush said. "He's well-mannered and doesn't have a big head. He's probably at times too unselfish."

CHARLES HOLLAND

There might not have been a more proficient scorer in central Ohio the last two seasons than this 6-3 senior guard for Columbus West.

Holland averaged 25 points and was named second-team all-district and first-team all-City League-South. Holland, who plans to play football and basketball at Tiffin, scored 36 points in a 76-71 loss to City-South champion Walnut Ridge on Jan. 21. West finished 7-16 overall and 2-12 in the league.

"This year we didn't have that much talent, and I tried to get him into the role of leader," coach Orlando McCoy said. "Everybody double-teamed him, but nothing fazes him."

MATT HUGHES

The 6-5 senior center was averaging a team-high 13 points and six rebounds and was shooting 54 percent from the field through 25 games for Watterson, which was 25-2 before facing Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in a Division II state semifinal March 20.

Hughes made first-team all-district and all-CCL.

"Matt's a great competitor and a great teammate," coach Vince Lombardo said. "Matt's our best inside presence offensively and he could score more and have bigger numbers if we needed him to, but we're fortunate to have guys who are able to score at all five positions."

KHALIL IVERSON

The 6-4 junior guard helped Delaware break its program record for victories.

The Pacers, who shared the OCC-Capital title with New Albany, finished 21-4 overall. The previous record was 19, set in 1976-77 and matched in 1985-86.

Iverson led the Pacers in scoring (17.4), rebounding (11.2), steals (2.8) and blocks (2.5). He was named first-team all-OCC-Capital and second-team all-district. According to coach Jordan Blackburn, Iverson is drawing interest from Division I college programs, including nearly all of the MAC schools.

"He's a winner who will do anything we ask for the good of the team," Blackburn said.

ERIC JAMES

The 6-5 senior guard/forward helped lead Westerville Central to a Division I district final, where it lost to top-seeded Northland 64-53 on March 8.

James, who has committed to play at Duquesne, averaged a team-high 18.3 points and was second in rebounding (5.2). He was named OCC-Cardinal Player of the Year and second-team all-district as Central finished 19-5 overall and went 13-1 in the OCC-Cardinal to capture its first league title since 2007-08.

"Eric James is one of those special players," coach Donovon Barrett said. "What I'm so proud about him is he continually got better throughout the year."

CONNOR KERN

The 6-3 senior guard led Pickerington Central to its third consecutive Division I district championship and a share of its third OCC-Ohio title in a row.

An Arkansas State signee, Kern averaged 19.4 points and 5.3 rebounds and shot 93 percent from the free-throw line in being named first-team all-league and all-district. Central finish 20-6 overall and went 11-3 in the OCC-Ohio.

Kern finished as the second-leading scorer in program history with 1,414 points, 75 behind classmate Jae'Sean Tate.

"He's a self-made guy," coach Jerry Francis said. "It's tough to find someone who works harder than Connor."

CHRIS MOXLEY

After averaging 11 points a year ago, this 5-10 senior guard for Hartley developed into the Division III district Player of the Year and led the Hawks to a district runner-up finish.

Moxley averaged 18.1 points, six rebounds and four assists. The top seed in the district, the Hawks lost to Ready 51-41 in a district final to finish 16-8.

"He was not only our leader on offense, but he's an outstanding defensive player," coach Randy Kortokrax said. "The big thing with him is that he does many things well. He led us in points, but he also averaged six rebounds and four assists and we only had two players coming back from last year."

JAE'SEAN TATE

The 6-5, 220-pound senior forward for Pickerington Central was averaging a double-double through 15 games before undergoing season-ending surgery for a torn labrum in his right shoulder. The Ohio State signee, who averaged 20.7 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists, was named first-team all-OCC-Ohio and all-district in Division I for the second consecutive year despite the injury.

Last year as a junior, Tate averaged 21.9 points and 12 rebounds and was named Super 12 captain. He finished as Central's all-time leading scorer with 1,489 points.

"He's the best player in Ohio," interim coach Eric Krueger said. "He's a guy we can't just simply replace."

KEVIN VANNATTA

The 6-3 senior guard led Upper Arlington to the outright OCC-Central title and its first Division I district title since 2007.

The North Carolina-Asheville signee was averaging 17.7 points, six rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.4 steals through 26 games and was named first-team all-district and all-league.

The Golden Bears were 26-1 before facing Trotwood Madison in a state semifinal March 21 and went 13-1 in the OCC-Central to win their fourth league title in five years.

"I can't say I have ever coached anybody who epitomizes what you look for in a high school player more than Kevin," coach Tim Casey said. "His work ethic and attention to detail are unmatched."

RONNIE WILLIAMS

Led by this 6-3 senior guard, Brookhaven won its first City League title since 2006. Williams, an Ohio Dominican signee, averaged 16.9 points and four rebounds and was named first-team all-City-North and district Player of the Year.

The Bearcats went 20-5 in what likely was their final season, as Columbus City Schools recently announced that Brookhaven will close at the end of the school year.

"Ronnie has not played with as much talent as some of the kids from our program have, but he held us together," coach Hali Robinson said.

"His steadiness was invaluable."

Honorable Mention

Mason Baich (Dublin Jerome, So., G); Mike DeLeon (Olentangy Liberty, Sr., C); David Dennis (Harvest Prep, Jr., G); Akiean Frederick (Franklin Heights, Sr., F); Jimmy Gundling (Olentangy, Jr., G); Jaquan Harrison (Africentric, Jr., G); Babe Murphy (Licking Heights, Sr., F); Sam Nolan (Bexley, Sr., F); Will Orr (Johnstown, Sr., G); Logan Roston (Marysville, Sr., G); Hunter Schmalz (Grandview, Jr., F); Joe Thomas (Centennial, Jr., F); Seth Towns (Northland, So., F); Luke Vargo (Dublin Coffman, So., G/F); Tarik Wright (Walnut Ridge, So. G).

Past Captains 

Pickerington Central's Jae'Sean Tate (2013), Pickerington Central's Caris LeVert (2012), Northland's Trey Burke (2011), Northland's Jared Sullinger (2009-10), Canal Winchester's B.J. Mullens (2008), Eastmoor Academy's Ron Steward (2007), Reynoldsburg's Javonte Clanton (2006), Brookhaven's Jamelle Cornley (2004-05), Brookhaven's Andrew Lavender (2003), Dublin Coffman's Chris Quinn (2002), Thomas Worthington's J.J. Sullinger (2001), Worthington Christian's Sam Smith (2000), Columbus West's Isaac Jefferson (1999), Brookhaven's Antwain Lavender (1998), Westland's Doug Davis (1996-97), Westerville North's Shaun Stonerook (1995) and Eastmoor's Lamont Barnes (1994).

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