Even with central Ohio’s highest-profile recruit from the 2019 class not at its disposal, the Pickerington High School Central boys basketball team has the makings of what again could be the area’s best squad.
Senior point guard Javohn Garcia, who has Division I offers from a group that includes Miami University, 6-foot-7 senior center Coleton Landis and senior Springfield transfers JuJuan Rodgers and Sam Towns give the Tigers a talented and experienced cast.
That should be more than sufficient to help Central build on a season in which it was the ninth seed for the Division I district tournament but emerged to make a state semifinal even without Jeremiah Francis, a senior guard and North Carolina recruit who is out with an injury after also being out all of last season.
Injuries also have impacted two of central Ohio’s other top players, Olentangy Liberty senior forward Ben Roderick and Gahanna senior guard Josh Corbin.
Roderick already had scored his 1,000th career point when he suffered a season-ending injury last January, but he is expected to be back in top form for a Patriots team hungry to improve on an 11-12 finish.
Corbin is a Winthrop recruit who was expected to combine with senior Elijah Thomas to give the Lions one of central Ohio’s best backcourts, but he is expected to be out for the season with an injury that occurred during a preseason practice.
The other three defending Division I district champions, Dublin Coffman, Hilliard Bradley and Reynoldsburg, all have deep pools of talent that should keep them among the area’s elite.
Junior guard Dominiq Penn was a second-team all-district selection for the Shamrocks, who also return Derek Van Vlerah, Will Hunter and Luke Bartemes after avenging a pair of regular-season losses to beat Upper Arlington for a district title last winter.
Bradley also is led by a junior guard in Matt Allocco as it looks to build on a 25-2 finish.
Reynoldsburg lost several key players to graduation but returns senior guard Ben Fort and has a group of high-ceiling players who are new to varsity but should keep the Raiders competitive.
Westerville North and UA were district runners-up last season and again should be playing deep into the postseason.
Warriors senior guard Jeremiah Keene and Golden Bears senior guard Max Martz were third-team all-district last season as their teams won titles in the OCC-Buckeye Division and OCC-Central, respectively.
While the City League-North again should begin with Beechcroft after it won the City title last season and was a Division II district champion, Walnut Ridge and Columbus South look like the starting point in the City-South.
The Scots have one of central Ohio’s top talents in junior forward Von Cameron Davis. They also return junior guard Qian Magwood and they’ve been boosted by the addition of junior forward Daveon Ross, who averaged 14 points for Hamilton Township last season.
South was a Division II district champion last season and returns senior guard Treohn Watkins and junior forward Marcus Johnson.
The CCL could end up as a three-way tussle between Hartley, which returns senior guard Morgan Safford and senior center Payton Collins; DeSales, which is led by senior guard Kayin Derden; and Watterson, which is led by senior guard Zach Sawyer and senior forward Jimmy Patton.
In the MSL, Harvest Prep and Wellington again figure to have strong teams in the Cardinal Division, with Grandview, Bexley, Columbus Academy and Worthington Christian all returning key players in the Ohio Division.
ThisWeek Super 7 preseason rankings (with 2017-18 record in parentheses)
1. Pickerington Central (18-9)
2. Dublin Coffman (20-7)
3. Westerville North (21-5)
4. Upper Arlington (23-2)
5. Hilliard Bradley (25-2)
6. Reynoldsburg (19-8)
7. Walnut Ridge (12-9)
ThisWeek Super 12 preseason team
Matt Allocco, Hilliard Bradley, Jr., G
Christopher Anthony, Harvest Prep, Jr., G
Von Cameron Davis, Walnut Ridge, Jr., F
Javohn Garcia, Pickerington Central, Sr., G
Jeremiah Keene, Westerville North, Sr., G
Sean Marks, Olentangy, Sr., G
Max Martz, Upper Arlington, Sr., F
Jordan McMillian, Westerville South, Sr., G
Dominiq Penn, Dublin Coffman, Jr., G
Ben Roderick, Olentangy Liberty, Sr., F
Morgan Safford, Hartley, Sr., G
Treohn Watkins, Columbus South, Sr., G
Brandon Beavers, Harvest Prep, Sr., G
Payton Collins, Hartley, Sr., C
Calijha’won Davis, Africentric, Jr., G
Kayin Derden, DeSales, Sr., G
Ben Fort, Reynoldsburg, Sr., G
Marcus Johnson, Columbus South, Jr., F
Terin Kinsway, Delaware, Sr., F
Luke Lachey, Grandview, Jr., F
Coleton Landis, Pickerington Central, Sr., C
Qian Magwood, Walnut Ridge, Jr., G
Dallas Patrick, Wellington, Sr., G
Jack Sawyer, Pickerington North, So., F
Zach Sawyer, Watterson, Sr., G
Na’elle Simmons, Beechcroft, Sr., F
Brady Snyder, Canal Winchester, Sr., G
Elijah Thomas, Gahanna, Sr., G
Derek Van Vlerah, Dublin Coffman, Sr., G
Ben Wight, Thomas Worthington, Sr., C