Nike EYBL program All-Ohio Red hosted its fifth annual showcase, and the event did not disappoint with a plethora of future college basketball players.
Malaki Branham lives up to the hype in the final game of the day
The final game of Saturday evening was Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary against one of the host schools, Pickerington North. St. Vincent-St. Mary is coming off a state runner-up performance in 2019 and is known for its top-notch basketball program that has produced NBA star LeBron James. And this season is no different with the Irish being led by the top junior in the state of Ohio, Malaki Branham, a target of Ohio State.
Branham is a top-25 player nationally and a near five-star prospect in the 2021 class. He and the whole Irish team got off to a slow start against Pickerington North. After only holding a four-point lead at the half, Branham turned it on. Throughout the second half, Branham showed off all the aspects of his game, knocking down multiple 3s then dishing the ball to teammates to build their lead. Then in the fourth quarter, he took it upon himself to close out the game by driving to the hoop and getting to the foul line, finishing the game with 19 points.
Branham is pretty close to as complete of an offensive player as there is at the high school level. He even displayed the ability to make mid-range shots on Saturday with a shooting stroke that will only improve as he continues to develop.
Defensively, Branham was all over the place, playing solid man-to-man defense, even causing a few turnovers. He still has some work to do till he is a high-level defender but with his length and tenacity, he is well on his way.
As for his recruitment, he is Ohio State's top priority when it comes to 2021, which was evident in the fact that assistant coaches Ryan Pedon and Jake Diebler made sure to stay late and watch Branham put on a show.
We caught up with Branham after the game and he had this to say about the Ohio State assistants being on hand to watch him: "It shows me that I am important to them, that they are showing a lot of interest in me." When asked if his recruitment has been put on the back burner with his season starting he said, "If they really want me they me they will be coming to the games like coach Pedon did." He also made sure to mention how much he enjoyed the official visit he took earlier this fall.
Overall, not only did Branham impress us, but he also impressed everyone in attendance. After talking to a few high school coaches and other people at the event, everyone came away impressed by the junior out of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary.
Three stud sophomores impressed
After watching a handful of games throughout the day and talking to those in attendance, there were three players in the 2022 class that caught the attention of people at the showcase. Those three sophomores were shooting guard Sencire Harris out of St. Vincent-St. Mary, power forward Josiah Harris out of Richmond Heights, and point guard Sean Jones out of Gahanna Lincoln. None of them have offers from Ohio State, but they each hold interest from Chris Holtmann's program
As for Harris, if Malaki Branham hadn't been named the Irish's most outstanding player of his team's game, it would have been Harris. He had 13 points, including a few electric dunks that help the Irish make their second-half push. Harris has a similar build to Branham; he stands at roughly 6-foot-4 and 165 pounds and has very long arms that bother the player he was guarding all night. Harris is still young and his recruitment hasn't exploded yet, but he will be a rising prospect down the line and the Buckeyes took notice of his abilities after seeing him live.
SCARY HOURS pic.twitter.com/Ph0A5hXSFQ— Buck (@SencireH) December 3, 2019
Josiah Harris, another sophomore that put on a show, was named Richmond Heights' most outstanding player in its loss to Cincinnati Taft. Harris is 6-foot-6 and multiple small schools have already offer. He has long arms to go along with a big frame; he just needs time to grow and develop but he’s got major potential. Harris is another sophomore that Buckeye fans should keep in an eye on.
The last of the three standouts is also the shortest. Gahanna's Jones, who is only 5-foot-10, plays extremely hard. We didn’t get to see Jones in person since his game at Gahanna conflicted with the final game at Pickerington North, but he had 17 points and took home most outstanding player honors in a win. Jones isn't the biggest player, but there isn't much he can’t do. He led his team in both scoring and assists while also playing hard on the defensive end. He is a guy that might not get his deserved attention because of physical limitations, but if he gets taller, watch out. He is still receiving a lot of attention from college programs.
Beginning his high school career
Rayvon Griffith, a freshman at Cincinnati Taft high school is a young player that has already caught the attention of many. Griffith played this past AAU season with LeBron James' son and has multiple viral videos of him throwing down dunks before making his high school debut.
As a player, Griffith is still quite raw but he has elite level athleticism that he constantly puts on display. He had multiple finishes around the rim on Saturday and even showed the ability to step out and knock down threes a few times.
Physically and athletically there are not many players that are on Griffith's level, and he is only going to get better. With four full seasons of high school basketball in front of him, his development will be fun to watch.
Like we said earlier Griffith has caught the attention of many and he even has an offer from Kent State that he recently earned before playing at Taft. When talking to Griffith after the game he did mention that Ohio State has reached out, but as a freshman, the communication is very limited. As Griffith continues through high school look for his connection with the Buckeyes to heat up.
Jalen Sullinger starts off the season strong
Jalen Sullinger, a 2021 point guard has a very familiar last name to Buckeye basketball fans seeing as his father and uncle both played at Ohio State. The youngest Sullinger had 28 points and scored in a variety of ways in the first game of his junior season.
Jalen Sullinger was IN HIS BAG to start the season last night— Jake Spegal (@JakeSpegal270) December 2, 2019
The Thomas Worthington junior point went for 28 points in front of Ohio University head coach Jeff Boals in a dominant showing @jalensullinger1 @JJSullinger @Jared_Sully0 pic.twitter.com/yNYAn8EnTR
Sullinger is very talented, but at 5-foot-11 he has obvious physical limitations. However, he has visited Ohio State and the communication is there. But Sullinger seems potentially bound for Athens. Former Ohio State assistant and current Ohio head coach Jeff Boals was in attendance to Sullinger and Thomas Worthington play. And after landing the top player in central Ohio last year in Ben Roderick, Jeff Boals and his young staff at Ohio are looking to do more of the same in 2021 class.
Jack Sawyer injury update
As we said earlier, Pickerington North was the host school for part of this event which meant Jack Sawyer was in attendance. We caught up with Sawyer before his team took the court and he was in great spirits.
Sawyer started the conversation by talking about Ohio State's big win over Michigan and how impressed he was by the team. He said that his knee is doing well and is beginning the rehabilitation process. The next step for Sawyer is getting away from his crutches and being to walk then speed it up after that.
Possibly the best news for Buckeye fans, though, is that Sawyer made sure to tell us that he would not play be playing quarterback next season. Buckeye fans that are excited about Sawyer can rest easy knowing he'll be putting all his focus on his long-term position.