National Signing Day: Central Ohio athletes make commitments official

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Africentric senior forward Maliyah Johnson will play college basketball for Pittsburgh. Although she couldn't officially sign until Nov. 11, she committed last winter because the program "felt like home to me. It was all positive energy, even down to the coaches and players."

The unpredictability of the past few months had a heavy impact on athletes such as Africentric senior girls basketball players Maliyah Johnson and Arianna Smith.

The Nubians had their opportunity to win a third consecutive Division III state championship end March 26 when the Ohio High School Athletic Association canceled the state tournament because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

While Johnson committed to Pittsburgh last winter before the pandemic, Smith remained uncommitted but wasn’t able to visit the colleges from which she received offers.

She ended up choosing Indiana State in June and was among many central Ohio athletes to make their commitments official during the latest signing period, which began Nov. 11.

“I ended up picking in the middle of quarantine,” Smith said. “It was just a time that stuff was crunching down when I didn’t know if I was going to have an AAU season or not. I didn’t take a visit (to Indiana State), but I liked the coaches. They were on top of me asking me questions and making sure I still felt good about going there.”

>>Where they’re going: A list of central Ohio athletes who announced their college decisions to ThisWeekSPORTS.com<<

Smith was first-team all-City League-South Division, second-team all-district and honorable mention all-state last winter. A guard, she also was a key player when the Nubians beat Waynesville 51-47 for the 2019 state title.

Johnson is a forward who has been a key player throughout her prep career, including when Africentric beat Versailles 53-47 for the 2017 state title.

“I just liked the environment (at Pittsburgh),” she said. “It felt like home to me. It was all positive energy, even down to the coaches and players. Everyone was showing genuine energy to me.”

Johnson and Smith are among about a dozen girls basketball players from central Ohio to sign in November.

Jocelyn Tate and Skye Williams, who helped Pickerington Central to a Division I regional runner-up finish last season, will play for Bowling Green and Purdue, respectively.

Katherine Weakley will play for Lipscomb after helping Worthington Christian to a Division III district runner-up finish.

Thomas Worthington basketball standout Jalen Sullinger will play for Kent State.

From the area’s 2021 senior class in boys basketball, Jalen Sullinger and Tyrese Hughey will play for Kent State and Furman, respectively, after helping Thomas Worthington win its first Division I district title since 2001.

DeSales’ Desmond Watson, who was the Division II district Player of the Year last season when he averaged 22.7 points, will play for Davidson.

Keaton Norris, who helped Hilliard Bradley reach a Division I regional final before the remainder of last year’s postseason was canceled, will play for Wright State.

While football will hold signing periods in December and February and other prep sports will have signing periods in February and April as well, here are highlights from the November signing period:

BASEBALL — The 2020 spring sports season was canceled because of the pandemic, but there remain plenty of strong prospects from the area.

Among those who signed are Dublin Jerome’s Ryan Miller (Tennessee), Olentangy’s Jace Middleton (Ohio State), New Albany’s Brock Tibbits (Indiana) and Centennial’s Charles Dean (Cincinnati).

CROSS COUNTRY/TRACK & FIELD — Central Ohio has become a hotbed in track and field in recent years.

Canal Winchester’s Korbin Martino, a two-time Division I state qualifier in the 400 meters, will compete for the Penn State men’s team.

Grandview’s Derek Amicon, who was third in the Division III state boys cross country meet Nov. 7 and won the title last fall, will run for Cornell.

In women’s track, Thomas' Carina Napoleon will compete for Ohio State. She helped the Cardinals’ 3,200 relay win a Division I state title in 2019.

Hilliard Davidson distance runner Lindsay Stull will compete for Penn State and Reynoldsburg's Avril Moyer will compete in women's cross country at Ohio University.

Olentangy Liberty golfer Grant Smeltzer will compete at Dayton.

GOLF — After helping New Albany win its third consecutive Division I state girls golf title, Madison Spiess will compete for Santa Clara.

Also in women’s golf, Grove City’s Lizzie Saur will compete for Youngstown State and Upper Arlington’s Julia Rabadam will compete for Cincinnati.

Jerome had five members of its boys program commit to colleges, including 2019 state medalist Tyler Groomes with Ohio State and Logan Menning with Xavier.

Olentangy Liberty’s Grant Smeltzer will play men’s golf at Dayton and Olentangy Berlin’s Bryce Reed will do the same at Kent State.

LACROSSE — In addition to leading the Liberty football team to a regional runner-up finish this fall, Aidan Kenley will compete in men’s lacrosse for Ohio State.

In women’s lacrosse, Thomas had a pair of commits in Bella Avila (Tampa) and Mollie Estepp (Denver), as did Upper Arlington in Clara Gallapoo (Lindenwood) and Annie Hargraves (Ohio State).

SOFTBALL — One of the area’s top recruits in softball is Hartley shortstop Kami Kortokrax, who will play for Ohio State.

Davidson’s Courtney Keidel and Grove City’s Maddie Wilcox will play for Ohio University, and Worthington Christian’s Lily Heidorn will play for Liberty.

Dublin Coffman's Ellie Andrews will swim at Texas. She won the 200-yard individual medley and 100 breaststroke in the Division I state meet last winter, helping the Shamrocks girls capture the team title.

SWIMMING & DIVING — After leading the Dublin Coffman girls squad to its first Division I state team title last season, Ellie Andrews will have a younger team around her this winter. But she has her college future secure after signing with Texas.

“Their program and coaches are some of the best of the best and I love the culture of the team,” said Andrews, who won state titles in the 200-yard individual medley and 100 breaststroke. “On my visit when I went there, right when I stepped on campus, I just kind of knew it was where I was meant to be. Looking at all the different schools, I knew I wanted to go to a high-level athletic college.”

Also in swimming, Columbus School for Girls’ Nyah Funderburke will compete for Ohio State after winning Division II state titles in the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly.

In diving, Liberty’s Olivia Lynch (Miami University) and Worthington Christian’s Lena Morgan (Ohio State) will compete collegiately after winning girls state titles last season in Divisions I and II, respectively. Gahanna’s Ashleigh Provan will compete for Ball State after being a state qualifier.

Liberty’s Jack Matthews will compete in men’s diving at the University of Miami after being a two-time state qualifier, and Hilliard Darby’s Hayden Apel will dive for West Virginia after finishing third in last year’s Division I state meet.

Upper Arlington’s Avery Voss and Hayden Jay will compete for Stanford and Virginia Tech, respectively, in men’s swimming. Voss was state runner-up in the 100 freestyle and third in the 50 free and Jay was third in the 200 free last season.

VOLLEYBALL — The Watterson girls team had several college recruits spark its run to its first state tournament this fall, with Olyvia Kennedy (George Mason), Margo Lawson (Miami University), Sophie Mangold (Nevada Reno) and Sydney Taylor (Ohio State) all signing.

Olentangy Orange’s London Davis will compete for Kansas after leading her team to a regional runner-up finish, and Liberty’s Logan Flaugh signed with Xavier after helping her team earn a district title.

Alayna Johnson will compete for Arizona after helping Thomas go 16-6 this fall.

Committing to play women’s beach volleyball were Jerome’s Jaci Carpenter (Florida Gulf Coast), Bradley’s Clare Flanagan (Saint Leo) and Darby’s Destiny White (Georgia Tech).

TENNIS — The Ohio State women’s team recruited a trio of players from central Ohio in Liberty’s Maddie Atway and Dani Schoenly, who won Division I state doubles titles in 2017 and 2018, and Columbus Academy’s Sydni Ratliff, who was the Division II state singles champion in 2019.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek