Holdin’ It Down in C-Town
Recapping the Ohio’s Finest Showcase.
For nearly a decade now, Garfield Heights High School coach Sonny Johnson and John Stovall have been collaborating for The Ohio’s Finest Showcase. With an admission fee that used to barely cost more than the price of the jersey and gym rental, the Showcase provided a cost efficient way for parents and coaches to get their children potential college scholarships in a city that has been battling infamy as one of the poorest major cities in America for the last decade. Being from Cleveland myself, I know first hand the opportunities that the Ohio’s Finest Showcase offers inner-city youth to stay off of the streets and get a diploma.
With over 50 colleges and 120 players in the building, things were jumping. Some of the higher profile DI prospects sat out and let the lesser known guys get some shine. When things concluded shortly after 9 p.m., countless DII, DIII, NAIA and JuCo coaches chopped it up with coaches and players alike, trying to sell them on why their school was the best fit. Given all of the talent there in the gym, here’s a look at a few of the guys who caught our eye:
Trevell Beck, 6-6, SF, Cleveland Central Catholic, 2016
Perhaps the best player in the event was also one of its youngest players. Freshman Trevell Beck showed everyone in the building why the city of Cleveland has been buzzing. The 6-6 (and even taller with his high top) wing was outstanding in transition, showed off an excellent handle of a big guard, and put the clamps on people defensively. It’s too early to draw any long-term conclusions on Beck, but the potential is most definitely there for him to wind up at a high-major college down the road.
Willie Jackson, 6-5, SF, Garfield Heights, 2016
Next in line to come out of Sonny Johnson’s player factory is Willie Jackson, a slithery 6-5 wing. A gifted athlete with explosive bounce, Jackson also proved to be a capable slasher who could finish in a variety of ways going to the cup. Given Johnson’s track record of pumping guys out to big time schools, there’s no reason that Willie shouldn’t be right there, provided he puts in the work in the gym over the next four years.
Maurice O’Field, 6-5, SG/SF, John Hay, 2013
On the radar ever since he was putting up serious points as a freshman at NDCL, Maurice O’Field has bounced around to a few different high schools and AAU programs, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s a very intriguing college prospect. The explosive leaper is blessed with a great first step and all the tools that you’d look for out of a lockdown defender. He still needs to get his jumper a little more consistent, but the package of raw talent he has been enough for him to garner more than a dozen DI offers.
Kash Blackwell, 6-4, SG, Shaker Heights, 2013
A long time fixture on Mike Duncan’s adidas-based Ohio Basketball Club, Blackwell has been well known around the city ever since he was a freshman. That never stopped the swingman from constantly improving his game, though. Deadly from beyond the arc, Kash also showed off an improved game off of the bounce while playing within himself on the evening.
Esa Ahmad, 6-6, PF, Shaker Heights, 2015
A man-child who started varsity last season as a freshman, Ahmad showed major improvement in his game facing the cup at the showcase. Now equipped with a mid-range J to go along with his bullish presence in the paint, expect Ahmad to take his game to another level now that Louisville-bound Terry Rozier is off at prep school.
Mitch Peterson, 6-3, SG, Walsh Jesuit, 2016
After hearing a few mumblings about a freshman from Walsh Jesuit, I presumed this had to be him even though he was listed as “Peters” in the roster. I was right, and I was impressed. The lanky freshman showed that he was more than a three-point shooter, putting the ball on the deck a little bit and showing off an adequate mid-range J. It’s tough to tell how the future will project for Peterson, but on this day, he was one of the best players, regardless of class.
Nolan Gerrity, 6-9, C, Midpark, 2015
One of the bigger surprises at the showcase was Nolan Gerrity, a 6-9 sophomore. Still a developing big man, Gerrity ran the floor, finished around the rim, and offered many of the tools that a college would look for out of a young post player.
Kyle Sturgis, 5-8, PG, Garfield Heights, 2015
One of the smaller players in the gym also happened to be the best passer of the group of well over 100. Diminutive Kyle Sturgis played a huge role in his team winning its fair share of games not because of the amount of points he was putting on the board, but because of the high IQ and absurd amount of dimes that he kept dropping. Playing for one of the best teams in the city, expect Sturgis to emerge as one of the city’s top lead guards in the sophomore class.