Buckeye Elite field stacked again

PHS, Minford, Aspire, Athlete Institute among top names

By Kevin Colley - kcolley@aimmediamidwest.com

Over the past three years, the staff members involved with the Buckeye Elite National Showcase have attracted the best traditions and individual talents that one can hope to find across the basketball landscape.

That point hasn’t changed, especially when one considers the amount of talent — both at the local and North American stages — present in the Fourth Annual Buckeye Elite National Showcase.

In addition to the great coaching minds of Portsmouth’s Gene Collins, Minford’s Josh Shoemaker, and Eastern’s Tom Barrick, the athletic abilities of local talents in Portsmouth’s Reese Johnson, Daniel Jordan, and DJ Eley, along with Minford’s Cam Dalton, Kelton Kelley, and Darius Jordan, join a list that includes the No. 2-ranked player in the entire junior class, Charles Bassey, fellow five-star prospects Luguentz Dort and Addison Patterson, and Wake Forest commit Sharone Wright, Jr. in the Miles Lee Ferguson-ran event, which will commence on Thursday, Dec. 7 and run through Saturday, Dec. 9 at Portsmouth High School.

For Ferguson, the opportunity to have such an event inside local territory is one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

“Each year, we’ve tried to keep the level of competition at a high level,” Ferguson said. “We’ve been very fortunate this year with the level of talent that has committed to participate in the showcase, both locally and across North America. It’s very exciting.”

The tournament, which starts on Thursday at 6 p.m., immediately gets off and running in a fast manner as First Love Christian Academy (Pa.) and Legacy Charter (S.C.) square off in the first of 12 games throughout the three-day session. Wright, Jr. (Legacy Charter) headlines the game, but Division I prospects Darius McGhee and Sardaar Calhoun (Blue Ridge School) are also big time standouts, as well.

“Sharone’s a very exciting player to watch,” Ferguson said. “He’ll be a fun one to watch in that game.”

Following the 6 p.m. bout, the hometown Trojans, who feature Eley, an All-Southeast District selection from last year, and Johnson, who poured in 31 points against Jones Leadership Academy, will take on Huntington St. Joe, who won the WVSSAC Class A State Championship in 2016, at 7:30 p.m. The nightcapper, which is schedule to tip at 9 p.m., features Mono, Ontario-based Athlete Institute — a program led by Dort, Patterson, and three-star recruit Jevonnie Scott and one that Ferguson raves about as being “stacked with talent” — and Mount Zion Prep (Md.), who features 7-3 Jordan Whilmore, four-star Trace Young, and three-star Rob Carpenter.

“Huntington St. Joe is a very fun team to watch,” Ferguson said. “Their coaching staff is filled with great people. They won the (WVSSAC Class A State Championship) a couple of years ago, but have a younger team this year. It should still be a very fun game to take in.”

On Friday, Mount Zion will play Thornlea Secondary School — the latter being a Thornhill, Ontario-based club — at 5 p.m., while Blue Ridge School (Va.) — who has won two Virginia High School League (VHSL) state championships over the last three seasons — and RISE Prep, the third Ontario-based school to participate in the showcase, will play at 8 p.m. and precedes the showcase’s dunk contest, which will start at 9:15 p.m.

However, the main card of the day on Friday evening will be in between the aforementioned events, as Bassey, a highly-touted 6-10, 220-pound forward who is being recruited by virtually every major college program in the United States, will take the floor for Aspire Academy (Ky.), who will play First Love at 6:30 p.m.

“Charles is one of the best in the country, no doubt about it,” Ferguson said. Aspire is loaded, in general.”

On Saturday, six matchups — including a primo bout that includes at least a dozen Division I prospects on its own when Aspire and Athlete Institute square off at 2:30 p.m. — highlight the day. Two great battles within state lines — Minford/Dayton Northridge and Eastern/Columbus Africentric — are the main contests that will draw eyes.

However, as big as those matchups are, and as much talent that is present at the Fourth Annual Buckeye Elite National Showcase, the crowd factor, Ferguson says, is among the biggest of concerns.

“That’s been the hardest thing on our end that we’ve had to deal with,” Ferguson said. “The word’s gotten out, but we haven’t had all of the avenues. Trying to get the community support for this event is our biggest thing right now.”

So if you enjoy a great blend of local talent and national/international talent that can ball, Portsmouth High School may very well be the place to be from Thursday through Saturday.

“They enjoy big crowds,” Ferguson said. “These kids want to play in front of big crowds. Last year was our biggest year, and on our biggest night, we had 300 to 400 people. That sounds like a lot, but in most gyms, the stands are going to look pretty empty. That’s the big thing that we’re trying to do now.”

Game Schedule

Thursday, Dec. 7

Game 1 — First Love Christian Academy (Pa.) vs. Legacy Charter (S.C.) 6 p.m.

Game 2 — Portsmouth vs. Huntington (W. Va.) St. Joseph 7:30 p.m.

Game 3 — Athlete Institute (Canada) vs. Mount Zion Prep (Md.) 9 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 8

Game 4 — Mount Zion Prep (Md.) vs. Thornlea Secondary School (Canada) 5 p.m.

Game 5 — Aspire Academy (Ky.) vs. First Love (Pa.) 6:30 p.m.

Game 6 — Blue Ridge School (Va.) vs. RISE Prep (Canada) 8 p.m.

DUNK CONTEST — 9:15 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 9

Game 7 — Legacy Charter (S.C.) vs. Vision Prep (Ky.) 11:30 a.m.

Game 8 — Blue Ridge (Va.) vs. Thornlea Secondary (Canada) 1 p.m.

Game 9 — Athlete Institute (Canada) vs. Aspire Academy (Ky.) 2:30 p.m.

Game 10 — Minford vs. Dayton Northridge 4 p.m.

Game 11 — RISE Prep (Canada) vs. Kingston Prep (Ohio) 5:30 p.m.

Game 12 — Eastern vs. Columbus Africentric 7 p.m.

PHS, Minford, Aspire, Athlete Institute among top names

By Kevin Colley