Libbey’s Buford tops deep local talent poolWritten by Scott Calhoun | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The 2007-08 boys prep basketball slate got under way last week, and Lucas County could be doing a lot of bragging by season’s end.
Setting the tone is Libbey Cowboys senior shooting guard and Mr. Basketball Ohio front-runner William Buford (6’5’), one of Toledo’s most-heralded prep players ever.
Buford (ranked 19th nationally as a college recruit by Rivals.com and third as a shooting guard by Scout.com) has Libbey easily remaining at the top of the City League contender list.
The All-Ohio First Team selection and unanimous City League Player of the Year as a junior has signed on to play with Ohio State next year.
Before that, Buford intends to guide the Cowboys, who fell to Division II to enrollment declines, to a state hoops title. He won’t have to do it alone by any means. Libbey boasts a seasoned roster of nine seniors and the rest juniors.
Marist College signee Julius Wells (6’6”) is a senior forward who will wreak havoc down low and up high. Start transfer Rodney Everage (6’6”) heightens the inside presence.
The Cowboys have four effective guards in seniors Tony Brown (6’3”), Brad Burton (6’2”) and Lance Jones (6’4”) and junior Brandon Hamm. All can jam.
“We only have four players under six feet,” said athletic director John Snyder.
“Libbey is obviously heads above the rest this season,” said St. John’s Jesuit coach Ed Heintschel.
Central Catholic returns a feared starting backcourt and five key seniors overall from a 2006-07 team that went 14-7 and secured a City Final Four spot.
Senior 5-foot-10-inch guards Corey Lehman and Matt Collins each averaged double-digit scoring last season. Senior forward Donte Johnson also brings back starting experience for Irish coach Paul Patterson.
“The huge thing for us is having that senior leadership, because we’re not the biggest team,” said Patterson, “but this is an experienced group definitely looking to compete in the league.”
Whitmer welcomes back four multi-year starters and eight lettermen, led by senior guard and Purdue signee Ryne Smith (6’3”).
Six-foot-4-inch senior Kevin Koger will man up in the post for the Panthers before packing his bags for a football career in Ann Arbor. Senior guard Jeremy Jones and senior center Antwan Willis (6’4”) comprise the rest of the returning starter roll call.
Coach Bruce Smith intends to play nine guys regularly, banking on his squad’s experience and athleticism to generate a league Final Four spot.
“I think a good start to our season is pretty important in terms of making the league top four,” Smith said.
Under Heintschel, St. John’s is a perennial City contender, and should be right there in the mix again, despite losing guard Joe Jakubowski to BGSU.
Junior guard Michael Taylor, sophomore guard Jay Springs and 6-foot-7-inch junior post Tim Simmons are just three players who must fill the void, while becoming the latest feared crop of Titans.
“We really need to show that we can shoot the ball and have stability at guard,” Heintschel said.
Clay has senior center Zac Taylor (6’8”), the league’s top big man. A dominator on the inside, Taylor will be playing for Stan Joplin’s Toledo Rockets next fall.
First, he wants to make the Eagles a dark horse league contender. Junior guards Drew Kuns and Matt Swaim will help the cause.
Speaking of Joplin, his interest in the area hoops scene will be augmented this winter by Southview, the preseason consensus favorite in the Northern Lakes League.
His son, junior guard-forward Shaun Joplin, returns as one of seven key Cougar lettermen along with junior all-league point guard Tim Hausfeld and 6-foot-4-inch forward Josh Craig from last year’s second place NLL finish.
Senior forwards Derrick Creque and Jordan Scott, senior forward Araya Berhane and a talented young crop add in to make coach Marc Jump’s crew one of the area’s best.
“Even though I’ve got seven kids back, I’ve probably got nine competing for starting positions,” Jump said. “We’ve got some incredible depth.”
Anthony Wayne, Perrysburg, Bowling Green and Rossford are expected to give the Cougars a run for their buck.
The Generals have one of the county’s top players in 6-foot-7-inch senior center Kyle Jazwiecki. He dunks, can hit threes and strokes the net from anywhere inside the arc.
No single NLL player can match up with Jazwiecki, making double-teams likely each game. Coach Scott Riley has an arsenal of young shooters at the other four slots to take the pressure off his big guy. Junior guards Cam Walton (6’) and Mike Mangotic (5’10”) return to give AW a very athletic backcourt.
The Yellow Jackets lost NLL Player of the Year Andrew Wood, but return a good core of veterans. Senior sharpshooter Neal Linthicum, junior David Heber and senior David Boyce all return as guards to head a balanced, but dangerous squad. Thomas Salmon, a 6-foot-1-inch forward who served as the main sub a year ago, will be back as a starter.
“We don’t have any really great players,” Boyce said, “but we’ll play very well as a team.”
Area coaching legend Von Graffin returns as the Bobcats’ sixth-year mentor. He has quite a project on his hands with only two primary shooters returning in senior forward Connor Kilpatrick (6’5”) and junior Pat
Senior letterman forward Mike Vannett also returns, but the rest of the roster is inexperienced.
Graham and Kilpatrick give BG solid height inside the arc. Sophomore guard Tony Dible is a star shooter in the making, and the Cats play the toughest non-conference schedule by far.
Rossford was a surprise contender in the NLL race last season. Coach Brian Vorst has junior point guard Tommy Kralovic and senior post Jordan Nichols (6’4”) back on board for another potential fun ride.
“We’re a small, guard-oriented team,” said Vorst, “so we’re going to try and push up the tempo of the game.”
With just four lettermen back for Rossford, senior guard Dustin Sattler can help ease the lack of depth by stepping up as a veteran varsity member.
Toledo Area Athletic Conference champion Toledo Christian is picked to defend its title this year, returning last year’s conference Player of the Year in dynamic 6-foot-6-inch junior post-guard Ethan Michaels.
“He’ll be able to score down low and he’s developed a really nice mid-range game,” coach Dave McWhinnie said.
Senior forward Kyle Witlow, senior guard Carson Oostra, senior post Jordan Bradish, senior guard Joe Claytor and junior point guard Grant Sims comprise the remainder of the top six in McWhinnie’s ranks.
Ottawa Hills lost star Andrew Wolf, but has three starters back, including one of the TAAC’s top returning scorers in senior Brent Abendroth (13.3 ppg). He was second team all-conference a year ago.
As a sophomore last season, post player Phillip Beans (6’7”) averaged over 11 points and nine boards a game, but missed 10 contests with an injury. A full junior year out of him should give the Green Bears an edge in the paint.
Cardinal Stritch coach Jim Sheehy has a talented returning trio, starting with senior guard Brenton Webb (5’11”).
Senior wingman Eric Rutkowski (6’1”) started for the Cardinals last year. He figures to be a top scorer for his team.
“We have some inexperience because we lost a lot of minutes and a lot of scoring,” Sheehy said.
His son, senior 6-foot-4-inch post player Kevin Sheehy missed most of last season with an injury, but is fresh and ready to contribute in the paint.
Junior guards Will Kamelesky, Josh Palmer and Patrick Hohenberger shore up the Cardinals.