Two seasons ago, the Thomas Worthington boys basketball team had a talented group of freshmen but won just five games.
CORRECTION: Pickerington Central boys basketball player Garner Wallace is not a Western Carolina commit and Chris Livingston no longer plays for Akron Buchtel. Because of inaccurate information on playbyplayclassics.com, ThisWeek's Dec. 12 story on the Ohio Scholastic Play by Play Classic had incorrect information for these players.
Fresh off a season in which they improved by 12 wins and reached a Division I district final, the Cardinals find themselves in what should be one of the season’s highest-profile events in the Midwest.
On Saturday, Dec. 14, at Nationwide Arena, Thomas will play Columbus South in the first of four games in the Ohio Scholastic Play by Play Classic, which also will feature the sons of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
James participated in the event with Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary during the 2002-03 season.
“I got a call from Jeremy Treatman, the (Play by Play Classic) director, probably in August,” Cardinals coach Sean Luzader said. “We actually had to kind of move our schedule around to accommodate it, but the experience for our athletes is one we had to take advantage of. It’s being marketed as the biggest showcase in the Midwest, so anytime you can be involved in that type of event, it’s fun for your program. We’re excited about that opportunity.”
Hilliard Bradley, Pickerington Central and Pickerington North are the other central Ohio teams competing in the Play by Play Classic, which is in its 20th year.
Also competing are St. Vincent-St. Mary, Akron Buchtel and Chatsworth (California) Sierra Canyon, which is ranked No. 3 in the nation by MaxPreps.com and features Wade’s son, Zaire Wade, and James’ son, Bronny James.
“We’re very excited to be a part of such a special event right here in central Ohio,” North coach Jason Bates said. “This will be a great opportunity for our program to compete against another great program in Hilliard Bradley, as well as enjoy a memorable experience at a big-time venue. The fact that the sons of some NBA greats will be competing adds that much more to a phenomenal day of high school hoops.”
Here’s a look at each of the matchups:
•South vs. Thomas, 3 p.m. – The event’s opening game features last year’s Division II state runner-up in South, which has moved up to Division I, against the Cardinals.
The Bulldogs won their second City League championship in three seasons and finished 28-2 last season. They opened this season with a 78-74 victory over Buchtel on Nov. 30.
Seniors Trevell Adams (6-foot, guard), Sam Barton (6-4, post player), Marcus Johnson (6-4, wing player) and Ta’Quan Simington (6-2, guard) lead the way for South.
The Cardinals have one of the state’s top juniors in Jalen Sullinger, a 5-10 guard who averaged 17.1 points and 3.4 assists last season and is the son of former Ohio State standout J.J. Sullinger.
Juniors Isaac Settles (6-5, guard), who averaged 13.4 points last season, and Maurice Collins (6-4, guard) are other top returnees for Thomas, which went 17-8 a year ago. The Cardinals also have added juniors Tyrese Hughey (6-7, forward) and Omari Effiong (6-2, forward), move-ins from Licking Heights and Pickerington North, respectively.
•Buchtel vs. Central, 4:45 p.m. – After going 25-2 and reaching a Division I regional semifinal last season, the Tigers lost their top two scorers to graduation.
Still, players such as junior Garner Wallace (6-5, forward/guard) and seniors Conner Maciag (6-2, guard) and Tahleik Walker (6-3, guard) give Central more than enough talent to work with. Wallace also was a key player during the Central football team’s run to the Division I state title.
Buchtel which was a Division II state semifinalist last season. Juniors Ronnell Perie (6-2, guard) and Noah Peeples (6-4, forward) averaged 12.7 and 11 points, respectively, last season as the Griffins went 20-8, but Peeples is out with an injury.
Sophomore Cordell Livington (5-11, guard) and junior Vernon Smith Jr. (6-8, forward) are other key players.
•Bradley vs. North, 6:30 p.m. – Despite not having junior forward Jack Sawyer, who averaged 21.8 points and 10.8 rebounds a year ago but is expected to miss the season with a torn MCL in his left knee, North figures to have enough depth to remain one of central Ohio’s top teams.
Seniors Hunter Shedenhelm (6-5, guard) and Chris Scott (6-3, guard/forward) and junior Casey George (6-0, guard) lead the way for the Panthers, who went 23-5 and were a regional finalist last season.
Bradley is coming off a 22-2 season and has four returning starters, including 6-4 senior guard and Princeton commit Matt Allocco, who averaged 15.2 points and 5.2 assists last season. Senior Chris Mayfield (6-4, forward) and juniors A.J. Mirgon (5-11, guard) and Keaton Norris (5-11, guard) are other key returnees. Mayfield, who is a Michigan State football commit, has been recovering from an injury.
•St. Vincent-St. Mary vs. Sierra Canyon, 8:30 p.m. – The finale of the event features last year’s Division I state runner-up in St. Vincent-St. Mary against a nationally ranked program in Sierra Canyon.
The Irish feature junior Malaki Branham, a 6-4 guard who has scholarship offers from Alabama, Xavier and Ohio State. Senior Isaiah Ingol (6-0, guard) is another key player.
Sierra Canyon is led by 6-6 senior shooting guard Brandon Boston Jr., a Kentucky commit, and 6-7 senior forward Ziaire Williams, who has offers from a list of schools that includes North Carolina and Duke.
Zaire Wade is a 6-2 senior point guard with offers from DePaul, Rhode Island and Toledo and Bronny James is a 6-2 sophomore guard who has been offered by Kentucky.