Each has lost its top player, but that shouldn’t keep the Pickerington Central and Pickerington North boys basketball teams from succeeding this winter.
The overall talent level remains high for the Tigers and Panthers, as it does with Hilliard Bradley, which returns one of central Ohio’s most polished players in senior guard and Princeton recruit Matt Allocco after winning 22 games a year ago.
Those three teams, along with Thomas Worthington and Columbus South, should be among the last area squads competing in March. Thomas might have central Ohio’s best crop of juniors, and South is making the transition to Division I after being the Division II state runner-up last winter.
The area’s top returning player, though, might be Walnut Ridge senior forward VonCameron Davis, a Kent State recruit who has scored nearly 1,500 career points. He averaged 27.3 points last season.
Bradley shouldn’t struggle to find motivation after being upset in a Division I district semifinal last season, with senior guard A.J. Mirgon and senior forward Chris Mayfield likely serving as strong complements to Allocco.
North lost junior Jack Sawyer for the foreseeable future with an injury that occurred during football, but senior guards Hunter Shedenhelm and Chris Scott give it a base to fill the void.
Central lost one of the area’s top players, Javohn Garcia, to graduation, but players such as junior forward Garner Wallace and senior guards Tahleik Walker and Connor Maciag are ready to take the reins.
Many of South’s leaders from last season, including senior forwards Marcus Johnson and Ta’Quan Simington and senior guard Trevell Adams, have returned.
That should set up a tight competition again in the City League-South Division against Walnut Ridge, which also features senior guard Qian Magwood and senior forward Kaveon Ross.
Junior guard Jalen Sullinger is primed to lead Thomas into new heights after a Division I district runner-up finish last winter. The addition of junior Licking Heights transfer Tyrese Hughey should help in that pursuit.
Players such as Dublin Coffman’s Keaton Turner, a senior guard, and Gahanna’s Sean Jones, a sophomore guard, also should be among the area’s top players in Division I.
Plenty of talent abounds in the smaller divisions.
In Division III, senior guard Christopher Anthony will try to lead Harvest Prep to its second consecutive state title and sophomore guard D.J. Moore shined for Worthington Christian last winter.
Grandview, a Division III regional semifinalist that has dropped to Division IV, has senior guard Brian Collier and senior forward Luke Lachey ready to lead another postseason run.
Wellington, which was in Division III the past two seasons, should be another team to watch in Division IV.
ThisWeek Super 7 preseason rankings (with 2018-19 record in parentheses):
1. Hilliard Bradley (22-2)
2. Pickerington North (23-5)
3. Thomas Worthington (17-8)
4. Pickerington Central (25-2)
5. Columbus South (28-2)
6. Walnut Ridge (19-5)
7. Dublin Coffman (22-2)
ThisWeek Super 12 preseason team
Matt Allocco, Hilliard Bradley, Sr., G
Christopher Anthony, Harvest Prep, Sr., G
Calijha’won Davis, Africentric, Sr., G
VonCameron Davis, Walnut Ridge, Sr., F
Marcus Johnson, Columbus South, Sr., F
Sean Jones, Gahanna, So., G
D.J. Moore, Worthington Christian, So., G
Hunter Shedenhelm, Pickerington North, Sr., G
Bilal Sow, Canal Winchester, Sr., F
Jalen Sullinger, Thomas Worthington, Jr., F
Keaton Turner, Dublin Coffman, Sr., G
Garner Wallace, Pickerington Central, Jr., F
Brian Collier, Grandview, Sr., G
Ryan Cutler, Olentangy Orange, Sr., F
Jared Frey, St. Charles, So., G
Nate Griggs, Delaware, Sr., G
Kegan Hienton, Big Walnut, Sr., F
Henry Hinkle, Olentangy Liberty, Jr., G
Tyrese Hughey, Thomas Worthington, Jr., F
Luke Lachey, Grandview, Sr., F
Dan Lee, Dublin Jerome, Sr., G
Makhale Massey, Northland, Jr., G
A.J. Mirgon, Hilliard Bradley, Jr., G
Sean Moore, Reynoldsburg, Sr., G
Kobe Righter, DeSales, Sr., G
Kaveon Ross, Walnut Ridge, Sr., F
Chris Scott, Pickerington North, Sr., G
Ta’Quan Simington, Columbus South, Sr., F
J.J. Simmons, Beechcroft, So., G
Tahleik Walker, Pickerington Central, Sr., G