By the end of the AAU season, All-Ohio Red coach Marcus Gill hopes his team can ascend to the same heights as the one that featured Jared Sullinger and Aaron Craft.
The 2009 All-Ohio Red 17U squad – which also had Adreian Payne, Jordan Sibert and J.D. Weatherspoon – won the Nike Peach Jam that year, the same tournament the 2014 version just qualified for. After going 13-3 in the 2014 EYBL regular season, Gill believes the All-Ohio Red can pull of the same feat as the 2009 group.
"We want to go down there and carry the momentum we built throughout the season and compete to win in the Peach Jam," Gill told Eleven Warriors. "We really like our team this year, I like the way we're playing, I like the makeup of our team and I think we have a legitimate shot to compete for a championship."
Their first game in the Peach Jam, which takes place in North Augusta, S.C., will be July 17.
Ahmad, The Catalyst
One of the biggest reasons for the All-Ohio Red's success – both physically and metaphorically – is Shaker Heights native Esa Ahmad.
In the past year, he's received offers from Indiana, Wisconsin and Ohio State. High-major programs are finally starting to notice Ahmad's versatility, which is highlighted by the makeup of his AAU team.
"In high school, he scores more points than he does for us. But, for us, he does a little bit of everything," Gill said. "We have a bunch of guys that can score it on our team and he realizes that."
Ahmad is averaging 12.6 points per game, the second highest mark on the team. He does lead the team in rebounding, however, and only has 10 fewer assists than guard Josh Williams.
"Esa is what you'd call a 'matchup problem,'" Gill said. "If you try to put a big guy on Esa, we let him play on the perimeter and he can take the defender off the bounce. If they try to put a smaller guy on Esa, we put him down on the block and he's really good down there."
Ahmad led Shaker Heights in points (26.5), rebounds (11.5), assists (3.5), blocks (2) and steals (2) per game. He led the Raiders to a district title, but fell short of an appearance in the state Final Four.
With one year left in his high school career, he has another shot to get to Columbus and, individually, repeat his award winning 2013-14 season. His potential is well beyond "regional player of the year" caliber, according to Gill.
"Esa could be a pro," Gill said. "He's 6-8, versatile, he's got his body together where, now, he's playing above the rim and he wasn't really doing that a couple years ago. When he gets to college and they turn all of that into muscle, really getting him into the weight room, his ceiling can be a pro."
Ahmad visited Maryland and West Virginia in May, telling SNY.tv's Jason Morrow he plans to cut his list during the summer.
Gill On Other Top Prospects
Jalen Coleman (offers from Ohio State, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State)
"Jalen can play anywhere in the country . . . A lot of people think the best thing he's got going for him is that he's a knock-down shooter, but I think it's how hard he plays. It doesn't matter who we play against. Sometimes we step on the floor and we're more talented than the other team. Other times, we're an underdog. Doesn't matter who we're playing, Jalen is going 110 percent. On top of that, he can really shoot the ball."
Noah Bramlage (offers from Harvard, Miami University, Princeton, Yale)
"He's starting to get some looks because he's a stretch-four that can shoot the ball. A lot of Ivy League schools love Noah and some high-majors are looking at him, but haven't pulled the trigger yet."
"When he's playing, he's shooting a [67 percent] clip from three. He's a combo guard, he can really shoot it. He came back two weeks ago, just for one game, and went 5-6 from three, then got hurt again."
MaCio Teague (offers from Akron, Seton Hall, Yale)
"Same as Noah, Ivys like him and has some mid-major stuff . . . I've been telling people he's our sleeper and he's a kid that plays hard all of the time."
D'Mitrik Trice (offers from Akron, Cleveland State, Toledo)
"He has basketball in his blood and he's pretty good, but he's been hurt, as well."
Ahmad Wagner (offers from Iowa, Minnesota)
"Scouts are loving him right now because he's so tough. He can guard anybody and he's athletic . . . He's a glue guy."