Originated a season ago by brothers Michael and Jason Bates, The Challenge again will feature five games and a group of talented central Ohio high school boys basketball teams.
The event begins at 1 p.m. Jan. 6 at Pickerington North and includes both Africentric, which is coached by Michael Bates, as well as the Panthers, who are coached by Jason Bates.
“I’m super excited about that event,” Michael Bates said. “It’s 10 local teams, but most of the matchups are matchups you wouldn’t see during the year.”
Here’s a look at the schedule:
•Linden-McKinley vs. Westerville North, 1 p.m. — Led by junior guard Jeremiah Keene, who averages 15.5 points, North is 6-2 heading into its OCC-Buckeye Division matchup Jan. 5 against Westerville South. Julius Brown and Philip Alston also average in double figures for the Warriors.
Linden is led by senior forward Faizon Tucker, who averages 14.5 points, and features five other players who average between nine and 11 points. The Panthers are 4-3.
•Groveport vs. Hartley, 2:45 p.m. — Hartley has one of the area’s top junior post players in 6-foot-7 Payton Collins, who averages 17 points, as well as a talented senior guard in Garrett Tipton, who averages 16.7 points.
The Hawks are 6-2 heading into their matchup Jan. 5 at St. Charles.
Tyreese Cherry, a 5-8 senior guard, averages 15 points and 6-3 senior forward Antwon Hampton averages 13.5 points to lead the Cruisers, who are 3-6 heading into their Jan. 5 game against Newark.
•Hilliard Bradley vs. Northland, 4:30 p.m. — Paced by senior forward Isaiah Speelman and sophomore guard Matt Allocco, Bradley is 6-1 heading into its game Jan. 5 at Delaware.
Speelman is a Cedarville recruit who averages 14 points, and Allocco leads in scoring at 14.5 points per game.
Northland is led by 6-3 senior forward Jejuan Weatherspoon, who averages 17.5 points, as well as junior guard William Mfum, who averages 15 points. The Vikings are 4-3.
•Africentric vs. Upper Arlington, 6:15 p.m. — The Nubians, who were a Division IV district runner-up last season but now are competing in Division III, are 6-2.
Leading Africentric are senior guard Tre Baumgardner, a Minnesota State commit who averages 19 points, and senior Jah Bennett, a 6-8 post player who averages 15 points and has committed to Kentucky State.
UA is 8-0 heading into its game Jan. 5 against Marysville and has one of central Ohio’s top players in senior guard Dane Goodwin, a Notre Dame recruit who averages 26 points. Junior guard Max Martz averages 13.5 points.
•Beechcroft vs. Pickerington North, 8 p.m. — The event’s finale pits North, a Division I regional runner-up last season, against Beechcroft, which is a co-leader in the City League-North.
The Panthers are 6-2 heading into their game Jan. 5 against Reynoldsburg and are led by senior Jerome Hunter, a 6-7 forward who averages 22 points and has signed with Indiana. Seniors Eli McNamara (6-10, post player) and Dondre Palmer (6-4, forward) have committed to Miami University and Findlay, respectively.
McNamara and freshman forward Jack Sawyer (6-6) both average 12 points for the Panthers.
Beechcroft is 8-0 and features senior Jelani Simmons, a 6-6 guard who averages 23 points and has committed to Youngstown State. Other key Cougars include seniors Ther’Ron Jennings (6-3, forward) and Datrey Long (6-3, guard), who average 16 and 15 points, respectively.