As a long-suffering Cleveland fan, I want to use this space to thank someone who was instrumental in LeBron James' return to the Cavaliers.
Sure, Dan Gilbert played a key role by making amends, and James' agent Rich Paul initiated most of the negotiations between the two sides. That, the draw of home and the people of Northeast Ohio weren't enough because James still needed a little push during his four days in Las Vegas:
I told Lebron I'm going to Ohio State and I would love to see him play close to me. He smiled and said "I know." Your welcome Cleveland— Daniel Giddens (@DGOOD__) July 11, 2014
The future Buckeye big man, meanwhile, announced he is transferring a little closer to Columbus – to basketball powerhouse Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va.
Other OSU Prospects at LBJ Skills Camp
Giddens wasn't the only one caught up in the LeBron hysteria. The national media spotlight swirled above Ohio State target and Shaker Heights forward Esa Ahmad.
In a moment that would be captured on SportsCenter, Ahmad (wearing No. 65) went one-on-one with the event's host:
OK Esa "Know Betta" Ahmad... Never shy away from greatness... Walk amongst it... pic.twitter.com/VPC5sz0k5h— Rashid Hill (@ArtxPhenom) July 10, 2014
Ahmad held his own against the Cavaliers' star, forcing a missed jump shot. Afterwards, James responded with a transition dunk and a lay-up in the following two possessions against Ahmad.
"Probably not coincidence he did that right after I scored," Ahmad told Fox Sports Ohio's Zac Jackson. No coincidence, either, Ahmad has donned the No. 23 jersey for a high school that is, approximately, a 15-minute drive to Quicken Loans Arena.
Based purely on his performance at the camp, Ahmad ranked No. 17 overall by StudentSports.com. Other Buckeye targets ranked in their top 40 include Thomas Bryant (No. 7), Giddens (No. 12), Jayson Tatum (No. 19) and commit Austin Grandstaff (No. 39). Ohio State pledge Mickey Mitchell was also in Vegas, and ESPN.com labeled him as "the best glue-guy" at the camp.
St. Vincent-St. Mary wing and five-star 2016 recruit V.J. King – ranked No. 10 by StudentSports.com – told SNY.tv about OSU's push for his services.
"I’ve talked to all the schools, but I don’t really have a personal relationship with any of the colleges," King said. "I have a relationship with Ohio State because they’re the hometown team, but that’s about it."
King also said he's not worrying about college until next year.
Buckeyes offer Spellman, Simmons
King remains a priority for Thad Matta's 2016 class, but the Buckeye coach is reaching out to others.
July 9-13 was the first "evaluation period" for college coaches since the last weekend of April – which was the one of the first weekends of major AAU competition. So, Matta spent his birthday and 10-year anniversary at Ohio State by watching some of the top high school prospects in the country.
Matta and assistant Jeff Boals were also at the LeBron camp watching four-star power forward Omari Spellman, as well as the previously mentioned recruits. When the camp concluded, Spellman announced – via Twitter – he received an offer from the Buckeyes.
I previously wrote about the 6-foot-8-inch, 270-pound forward when he was still at North Royalton. To ensure he'll play his senior season, Spellman is transferring to the MacDuffie School in Granby, Mass. His former high school coach, North Royalton's Tim Matus, said Spellman can be a "stretch four" at the next level.
"Everybody is looking for a big guy who can step out and shoot. He's a very good shooter for his size and his position," Matus told Eleven Warriors, in February. "He's exactly what colleges are looking for, as far as a skill set to be able to do that."
According to Scout.com's Evan Daniels, Ohio State also offered five-star point guard Kobi Simmons, after watching him play at the Adidas Unrivaled event in Chicago. Simmons is a 6-foot-5-inch, rising junior and also earned an offer from Kansas.
"The tall, lanky junior point guard was impossible to keep out of the lane and out of the scoring book," Hoopniks.com's Sean Moran wrote. "He led the camp in scoring at 16.5 points per game but also kept his teammates involved leaving them with pinpoint passes at the basket."
Peach Jam Begins
That is the play-in game for a 24-team tournament, which features the best teams on the EYBL circuit. With the amount of talent there, the Ohio State staff will certainly be present. They have an opportunity to watch two Buckeye commits – Giddens for E1T1 and Mitchell for the Texas Titans – as well as several OSU targets, such as Ahamad with the All-Ohio Red.
You can see the full schedule on the official EYBL web site, D1Circuit.com.