Despite losing the Division III state Player of the Year to graduation, the Africentric girls basketball team likely will have talent that’s unmatched in central Ohio this season regardless of division.
The Nubians have a trio of major-college signees in senior guards Alexia Smith (Minnesota), Nyam Thornton (Texas Tech) and Sakima Walker (Rutgers) after going 28-0 and winning their second consecutive title. Juniors Arianna Smith and Maliyah Johnson are among six other returnees as Africentric moves on after losing Jordan Horston to graduation.
Horston, last year’s Gatorade Ohio Player of the Year, is now playing for Tennessee.
Pickerington Central, the Division I state runner-up last season, features senior point guard Nicole Stephens, a Columbia commit, and junior shooting guard Skye Williams, who has received nearly 20 scholarship offers.
Another of last year’s Division I district champions, Westerville South, has its third coach in as many years but returns a pair of Ohio State recruits in seniors Anyssa Jones and Gabby Hutcherson.
Two teams that should challenge Central in the OCC-Ohio Division are Gahanna and Reynoldsburg.
The Lions were district runners-up last season and return senior guards Edyn Battle and Morgan Darnell and sophomore forward Gabby Anderson as part of a deep nucleus.
The Raiders feature senior guard Kyria Walker and a strong sophomore class after losing to Central in a regional final last season.
Another team that should compete for a district title in Division I is Olentangy Liberty, a district runner-up each of the past two seasons.
The Patriots’ depth will be tested early as 6-foot-1 senior forward Teegan Pifher, a High Point commit, recovers from an injury. Senior wing player Kelly Levering and sophomore point guard Trinity Ramos are other key returnees for Liberty and senior forward Maddie Majewski has joined the program.
Majewski is closing in on 1,000 career points and averaged 16 points last season for Village Academy, which closed in July.
Watterson and Hartley, which shared the CCL title last season, and Dublin Coffman, which won 22 games a year ago, also figure to remain strong in Division I.
Northland has added senior forward Saige Glover, a transfer from Pickerington North, as it looks to defend its City League-North Division title.
Worthington Christian (Division III), which features junior guard Katherine Weakley, and Delaware Christian (Division IV), which is led by senior forward Lyssi Snouffer, are other small schools to watch.
ThisWeek Super 7 preseason rankings (with 2018-19 record in parentheses):
1. Africentric (28-0)
2. Pickerington Central (28-2)
3. Westerville South (21-6)
4. Gahanna (18-8)
5. Olentangy Liberty (18-8)
6. Reynoldsburg (21-7)
7. Watterson (23-3)
ThisWeek Super 12 preseason team
Edyn Battle, Gahanna, Sr., G
Saige Glover, Northland, Sr., F
Gabby Hutcherson, Westerville South, Sr., F/G
Anyssa Jones, Westerville South, Sr., G
Teegan Pifher, Olentangy Liberty, Jr., F
Imarianah Russell, Dublin Coffman, So., G
Alexia Smith, Africentric, Sr., G
Lyssi Snouffer, Delaware Christian, Sr., F
Nicole Stephens, Pickerington Central, Sr., G
Nyam Thornton, Africentric, Sr., G
Sakima Walker, Africentric, Sr., C
Katherine Weakley, Worthington Christian, Jr., G
Alexis Amabile, Delaware, Jr., G
Kiara Bagley, Whitehall, Sr., G
Chloe Callahan, Hilliard Bradley, Jr., G
Haley Cox, Central Crossing,
Morgan Darnell, Gahanna, Sr., G
Lauren Erickson, Dublin Scioto, Sr., F
Mabinty Kebe, Westerville Central, Sr., G
Kami Kortokrax, Hartley, Jr., F
Kelly Levering, Olentangy Liberty, Sr., F
Jess Nation, Olentangy Berlin, Sr., F
Erisa Pippins, Upper Arlington, Sr., F
Avery Schone, Big Walnut, Sr., G
Lauren Scott, Worthington Kilbourne, So., G
Arianna Smith, Africentric, Jr., G
Jocelyn Tate, Pickerington Central, Jr., F
Kyria Walker, Reynoldsburg, Sr., G
Skye Williams, Pickerington Central, Jr., G
Paige Woodford, Watterson, Sr., G