If you grew up in Ohio enjoying sports, chances are a tour of the state's flagship and an exclusive seat to watch Buckeye practice would top the list of your recent life experiences.
That's not necessarily true in Esa Ahmad's case. The Shaker Heights native, and self-professed Ohio State fan, kicked off July by meeting his idol – LeBron James. Ahmad didn't just receive a simple handshake and autographed picture. No, the highlight of his summer was his part in "LeBron Watch: 2014."
Ahmad participated in the LeBron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas. As usual, James played the role of instructor and challenged some of the campers during games of five-on-five (remember Jordan Crawford?). The slight difference with this year's camp: the NBA's marquee player was a free agent.
With the eyes of the sports world on him, James took to the courts and ignored the media horde. Whether it was by design or just a mere coincidence, James picked Ahmad as his first matchup. A day later, it was on SportsCenter:
OK Esa "Know Betta" Ahmad... Never shy away from greatness... Walk amongst it... pic.twitter.com/VPC5sz0k5h— Rashid Hill (@ArtxPhenom) July 10, 2014
This past weekend, while the cameras weren't on him, Ahmad took another unofficial visit to Ohio State. Usually, Thad Matta's team isn't practicing this time of year, but they were preparing for their trip to the Bahamas.
"The visit was first class," said Ahmad's father, Ibby. "We got to watch practice."
Esa planned on making a decision some time this month, but his busy summer might have pushed that timeline back a few weeks. Ibby said it's "likely" Esa makes his decision in early September.
Recapping Ahmad's AAU Season
As was the case with Mickey Mitchell and Daniel Giddens, this week's piece features analysis from Russ Daum – who you can find on Twitter, @RussDaum2. At the Nike Peach Jam, he watched Ahmad and the All-Ohio Red take on Boo Williams (Virginia), a team that made the Peach Jam's final four.
"My impressions of Ahmad from video was that he had an on court locomotion, which flowed and was smart with on-court decisions," Daum said. "With the exception of turnovers, I came away with that same feeling in person."
Despite the summer hysteria, Ahmad's main focus was on getting All-Ohio Red to the Peach Jam. On top of that, winning the entire tournament once they qualified. In leading his team to a 13-3 record, Ahmad accomplished one of those goals.
Individually, Ahmad averaged 12.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per regular season contest. He only shot 41 percent from the field, but his offensive production increased in the Peach Jam. In that Nike EYBL postseason tournament, he averaged 15.4 points per game, hitting 49 percent of his shots.
"On the dribble, Ahmad uses his body effectively to lengthen out and shield defenders away," Daum said. "I can see him being effective at grabbing rebounds and rolling down court, off the dribble, to push the ball to threaten a defense."
In the game Daum watched, Ahmad turned the ball over six times. Those were not selfish plays nor a result of poor ball handling, according to Daum.
"Ahmad sees the court on the fast break or within half-court sets, and is willing to take a few chances to make a play [for his teammates]," he said. "Ahmad was not a gunner. He took what was given him. Loved that aspect of his playing personality."
Buckeyes Offer Matthew Moyer
In other native-Ohioan news, Ohio State extended an offer to the 2016 Gahanna Lincoln product:
Wow! I have come a long way! Jesus has truly blessed me! I have just received an offer to THE Ohio State University!H-!— Matthew moyer (@ballout4ever) August 1, 2014
Moyer is a 6-foot-8-inch wing and a composite four-star in his class. According to 247Sports' composite rankings, he is also a top-100 player. With both V.J. King (formerly of St. Vincent-St. Mary) and Omari Spellman (previously at North Royalton) transferring out of state, Moyer might be Ohio's top player in the class of 2016.