Solon shines brightest
By Bob Corwin
There remains nothing quite like the Classic in the Country Challenge in Berlin, Ohio! Presented by the Ohio Girls Basketball Report, the event, in its 14th year, was sponsored by Berlin Resorts and Under Armour. Over the three days (January 14-16), 112 colleges (mostly NCAA Division I from the eastern half of the USA) attended. Perhaps more interesting is that around 5000 spectators paid to see one or more games (gym seats about 1600) and as usual for the Classic, players were treated like rock stars with interviews by print, internet and broadcast media.
Jenkins passes the torch
Tom Jenkins, the driving force behind the Classic and Director for 19 years of the Ohio Girls Basketball Report (OGBR), is turning the leadership of OGBR over to his longtime aides Bryce McKey and Tenishia Benson. I consider Tom one of the most knowledgeable in the game when it comes to evaluating talent (quantity and quality) of high school players and teams in their home state (for Tom obviously talent rich Ohio) . His development of the Classic, where every detail from the official program (full of information) to the on-court match-ups to complete box scores for each contest, has been truly amazing. He has set the bar high for others to follow after him!
Solon the big winner
Solon had previously lost twice coming into the event and recently was ranked third in 1A (the large school class) in a pre-event AP ranking. Solon shined with wins over highly regarded Wayne (Huber Heights, Ohio) 56-48 and Lakota West (West Chester, Ohio) 66-54. Glen Este of Cincinnati was the only other team to win two games at the Classic and they did so versus weaker competition. Solon was led by its senior guard Dee Bekelja who garnered our choice for event MVP.
Lakota West won (48-43) a tight contest with St. Rose of Belmar, New Jersey The talk in the gym was that St. Rose would be one of the top teams in Ohio as they are considered in New Jersey. In Ohio, the team would be called “Belmar St. Rose” (town and school) but in New Jersey it is known as St. Rose of Belmar.
Homestead of Fort Wayne, Indiana, split two exciting games defeating nationally ranked (by MaxPreps) Mason 53-46 on Saturday before dropping Monday’s game to Wayne (Huber Heights, Ohio) 64-59 in overtime. All three teams are considered among the cream of the respective states which near the top appear competitive with each other.
Looking at some of the individual talent in alphabetical order with listed height, position and school within graduation year. Location of school is in parenthesis. Awards are unofficial and from Pass Tha Ball.
Dee Bekelja, 5-8, guard, 2017, Solon High School (Solon, Ohio) MVP
Bekelja, a DePaul signee, was the driving force behind her team’s two wins at the Classic. She is a physical player who posted a double double (points, rebounds) in each contest. Against Wayne, she posted 30 points including three threes. For her efforts, she garnered our event MVP award.
Maddie Blyer, 5-5, point guard, 2017, Hoover High School (North Canton, Ohio)
Blyer, committed to D2 power Ashland, is a good ball handler who picks her spots when to attack the basket mixing in a nice change of pace move. In a win over Reynoldsburg, she posted 17 points handing out six assists.
Destiny Bohanon, 5-8, guard, 2019,Wayne High School (Huber Heights, Ohio)
Bohanon can be described as athletic, long in build looking taller than her actual height with a steady on court demeanor. She posted 24 points at the event primarily looking to drive. Needing to increase shooting range, Power 5 schools are monitoring her progress.
Nevaeh Dean, 6-1, power forward, 2020, Lakota West High School (West Chester, Ohio)
At the Classic, Dean showed flashes of why she is considered a likely future Power 5 player. A good athlete, she has a nice face-up stroke knowing when to take a quality shot.
Maya Dunson, 5-10, small forward, 2018, Wayne High School (Huber Heights, Ohio)
Dunson, orally committed to Loyola of Chicago, starred in her team’s victory over Homestead. A lefty, she posted 21 points, hitting 3 three’s, handing out four assists and collecting five rebounds.
Jasmine Hale, 5-11, guard, 2018, Glen Este High School (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Hale is a superior athlete who can score in attacking the basket, mid-range and behind the arc. A definite DI prospect, she needs to use her left more productively (dribble and layups) to garner Power 5 offers (if that is her desire). Her efforts contributed to two wins at the Classic.
Naz Hillmon, 6-2, center, 2018, Gilmour Academy (Gates Mills, Ohio)
Hillmon is a worker in the lower paint, physical with a good motor. She is a likely double double (missed by a point in one game at the event). Receiving Power 5 offers, she still needs to finish better around the rim to maximize success at the next level.
Julia Hoefling, 6-0, forward, 2019, Mount Notre Dame (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Hoefling, getting D1 offers, knows how to hunt for shots moving without the ball, patrolling the baseline and going through the paint. She can hit the three or post up. In her team’s 44-42 loss to Pickerington Central, she posted 14 points and 4 rebounds.
Jordan Horston, 6-0, guard, 2019, Africentric High School (Columbus, Ohio)
With long arms and active feet, Horston is like having six players on defense. Offensively, she is an unselfish player very willing to pass. She still needs to build shooting range but Power 5 schools are lining up regardless.
Anyssa Jones, 5-10, shooting guard, 2020, Westerville South High School (Westerville, Ohio)
With good perimeter size and athleticism, Jones, a lefty who can go right, posted 12 points. She showed good poise on the court in her team’s 54-42 win over Archbishop Hoban. Power 5 schools should be monitoring her progress.
Mikayla Markham, 5-6, point guard, 2018, St. Rose High School (Belmar, New Jersey)
Markham, committed to Columbia, is the engine that powers her team. Drive oriented, she posted 13 points and 6 assists in her team’s loss to Lakota West, which successfully (and smartly) forced the ball out of her hands in the closing minutes of the game.
Gabbie Marshall, 5-9, guard, 2019, Mount Notre Dame (Cincinnati, Ohio)
A good athlete, Marshall posted 27 points as her team split two games at the Classic. She can shoot the three, hit in the mid-range and drive but needs to become more consistent at all to turn Power 5 interest into Power 5 offers.
Karissa McLaughlin, 5-7, point guard, 2017, Homestead High School (Fort Wayne, Indiana)
McLaughlin, signed with Florida, posted 52 points on 15/40 from the field at the event. While
she hit fives threes and showed the mid-range pull-up jumper, hitting 17/18 from the charity
stripe was most impressive as her team split its two game stay in Ohio.
Shai McGruder, 6-2, power forward, 2018, Wayne High School (Huber Heights, Ohio)
McGruder posted 24 points (mostly around the basket) and 23 rebounds as Wayne split its two games at the Classic. On top of that, she made the game saving block versus Homestead as time was about to expire with a game winning layup on the buzzer. Instead, Wayne won in overtime. McGruder has D1 offers including the Power 5 variety.
Valencia Myers, 6-2, center/power forward, 2018, Solon High School (Solon, Ohio)
A quality athlete with Power 5 offers, she posted 15 points and 18 boards in her team’s win over Wayne, scoring primarily in the key. She needs to add to her shooting range and become a more consistent producer (as in the Wayne game) to maximize her results at the next level.
Morgan McMillen, 5-8, forward, 2018, Hiland High School (Berlin, Ohio)
McMillen was the star of host Hiland’s 67-61 upset of in-state power Africentric. She posted 26 points repeatedly attacking the basket plus collected 8 boards. She has several non-Power 5 D1 offers thanks to compensating height with strong body, power and good motor.
Maliya Perry, 6-0, small forward, 2019, Pickerington Central High School (Pickerington, Ohio)
Having seen Perry play previously in Florida just after Christmas, this evaluator can understand she will give you something be it the three or hitting the glass. A good athlete, Power 5 schools should be monitoring her progress.
Abby Prohaska, 5-10, small forward, 2018, Lakota West High School (West Chester, Ohio)
Prohaska, a baseline operator, finds a way to beat you. Sometimes it is with points, sometimes a rebound and even more subtly making the pass that that will lead to the pass that became the assist. Orally committed to Notre Dame, she most needs to become a more consistent perimeter shooter to maximize her success at the elite college level.
Emma Tecca , 5-9, shooting guard, 2019, Archbishop Hoban High School (Akron, Ohio)
Tecca showed well in her team’s 54-42 loss to Westerville South. She posted 19 points (including four threes) and grabbed 11 boards. The word in the gym was that her sister played at a Division I school. One needs to take her as well.
Samantha Puisis, 6-2, forward, 2019, Mason High School (Mason, Ohio) Top Underclass Player
One of the top players nationally in her class, Puisis posted 42 points and 15 rebounds at the Classic. She scored via the three, the mid-range (off pass and bounce) and going to the basket.