Arguably no prospect in the Toledo area has blown up with attention from college coaches and basketball people in recent months like senior guard Zachary ‘Zac’ Szul of Anthony Wayne High School has. Flourishing in what seems like event after event from late summer into the early parts of fall, Szul has really put himself on the radar of everyone who follows basketball in Northwest Ohio and should without a doubt earn himself a scholarship to play the game at the next level.
Few in Northwest Ohio have had a better showing thus far into the Fall season than Toledo Christian junior guard Cole McWhinnie. Participating in the Toledo Elite Fall League and the Hidden Gems Showcase down in Columbus, McWhinnie has strung together one impressive performance after another. With attention from numerous college programs already, expect McWhinnie’s recruitment to continue to grow in the coming months.
The first Toledo Elite Fall League rolls on, as some of Northwest Ohio’s finest gather at Maumee Valley Country Day High School on Sunday evenings. The fourth week of the league took place on Sunday night, with two weeks left until its conclusion. Here is who stood out in the games I was able to see in the latest edition of the Fall League:
2021 F Jamiya Neal (Rogers) – Hasn’t been able to play much since the summer with an elbow injury, made a surprise appearance on the night and has everyone talking. Regarded by many as the best in Ohio in his class at his position, Neal showed why he has the potential to be something truly special and has the attention of scouts and college coaches. Extremely long and athletic, he was all over the floor, scoring it and making his presence felt from baseline to baseline. Unique combination of bounce and quickness for his size around 6’6″. Really active around the rim and in the paint on both ends of the floor. Impressed with his ability to shoot it from the outside, as he did so consistently and with flair on this night. Needs to bulk up and put on weight, but his upside, skill, and talent cannot be denied. Earning interest from high-major programs across the state and it was easy to see why.
2023 G CJ Hornbeak (Toledo St. Johns) – This young man has the skill, smarts, and presence to have a very bright future. Will contribute for a storied St. Johns program as a freshman. Has pretty good size from the point guard position for his age. Equipped with a tight handle, makes good reads, pushes the pace, and is becoming increasingly comfortable with Varsity competition. Capable scorer around the rim, can shoot it from deep with relative consistency. Has quick hands on the defensive end, isn’t afraid to get down in a stance. Competes, plays hard. His name is one you’ll want to remember for a long time.
2020 G/F Mason Loeffler (Evergreen) – Understands spacing, was locked in, and poised to score it on Sunday night. Had a nice spring and summer on the AAU circuit and continues to develop into one of the most skilled and productive prospects out on the wing that the area has to offer. Has good size and uses it to his advantage on the outside. More athletic than he gets credit for, quick first step, packs some bounce. Already holds one DII offer from Urbana, don’t be surprised to see more schools be added to that list in the coming months.
2020 G Ketaan Wyatt (Rogers) – Was ready to compete and was aggressive in making things happen. Attacked the rim off of the dribble, whether in transition or in the pick and roll. Scored it with efficiency in the paint and from the perimeter. Looks primed for a big senior season as the floor general for arguably the most talented team in NW Ohio. Back to back impressive showings for him.
2022 F Sean Craig (Sylvania Northview) – Continues to develop and add more consistency to his play. Finished around the rim at a high rate, active in the paint, knocked down perimeter shots. Runs the floor for easy ones and put-back opportunities. Rebounds well and is strong in the outlet pass and with the ball in his hands. Contests shots, communicates, and engaged on defense. One of the more promising prospects in the area.
2022 G Nate Houston (Rogers) – Gifted with some natural ability and athleticism, Houston is someone that is easy to get excited about. Bouncy, strong, and full of promise. Excels in getting downhill and to the rim. Finishes through contact and with creativity. Consistent shooting the ball from the perimeter, has the skill to create off the dribble and get a good look at the rim whenever he wants. Improved handle. Sound defender, welcomes competition. Good showing from him on the night.
Others who stood out: Cole McWhinnie (Toledo Christian), Ethan Loeffler (Evergreen), Curtis Jackson (Rogers), CliRon Hornbeak (Toledo Central Catholic), Dez Jett (Maumee Valley), JR Lumsden (Maumee Valley).
Once again the annual Hidden Gems Fall Showcase took place at Thomas Worthington High School in suburban Columbus with over 300 players both boys and girls in attendance. Like usual, the event provided numerous student-athletes with the opportunity to play and showcase their skills in front of dozens of college coaches. Many individuals stood out, including a few from Northwest Ohio:
2021 G Cole McWhinnie (Toledo Christian) – Again showed he is developing into one of the better floor generals in his class in Toledo. McWhinnie makes good decisions with the basketball, facilitates, moves the ball, makes the right reads, and knocks down open shots with high-efficiency. Solid lateral quickness and understanding allow him to be sound defender as well. Proved why he is a prospect worth following for small college coaches over the next 18 months.
2020 G Zachary Szul (Anthony Wayne) – Already creating a buzz in Northwest Ohio for his play over the past few months, Szul solidified the hype and created even more of a following with his play on Saturday. With a pretty and reliable stroke as a jump shooter, along with his ability to get to and finish around the rim, Szul is a true three tier threat on the offensive end. Defensively he brings intensity, hustle, and is locked-in providing a strong presence on that side of the floor. Rebounds and is active in the paint for his position. Calm demeanor, smooth brand of basketball. Buy stock now in this young man before its too late.
2022 F Brock Makrancy (Findlay) – In the freshman and sophomore division Makrancy showed he was without a doubt one of the best talents in his class at the event. Delivering what was probably the most dominant performance we saw all day, Makrancy was all over the floor and making his presence known on every trip down the court. Can knock down perimeter shots with consistency, slash to the basket, and bang in the post. Runs the floor hard and competes. Very skilled, looked the part of a sure scholarship college basketball player in the future.
2021 F Justin Garcia (Westlake) – Someone who proved to be a true ‘hidden gem’ on Saturday, he was very impressive playing inside-out all day. Can knock down the deep ball with consistency, score with his back to the basket, and finish around the rim. Plays hard and with a chip on his shoulder. Good size standing around 6’7″, showed the makings of a quality prospect to track moving forward.
2020 G Kameron Taylor (Spire Institute) – Has nice size at the guard position with good athleticism and a quick first step out on the perimeter. Consistent shot off the dribble or the catch. Spaces the floor and has a good feel.
2022 G John Castrilla (Jefferson) – Really had a nice day out on the wing with his ability to score it, see the floor, and find his way around the basketball. Plays hard on both ends of the floor, doesn’t force things, and picks his spots well in the flow of a game. Should round out into a nice prospect with continued development.
2020 G Scottie Baldwin (Indiana Elite Prep) – Plays the game with a great joy and passion, can tell he likes to compete. Gets the ball moving on the offensive end, pushes the ball up the floor, can be a load in transition. Ability to score it with relative consistency, sets up teammates. Pretty good size around 6’1″ with quickness, solid communication on both ends of the floor.
Others who stood out: Lee Sims (Northland), Isaac Settles (Thomas Worthington), Sohn McGee (Westland), Sihr Summer (Delaware Hayes), Kenneth Hunter (Indiana Elite Prep), Savion Hamilton (Pickerington North), Landon Tillman (Westerville Central), Eddie Muhammed (Holland Springfield).
On Sunday evenings, beginning last week and running through the middle of October, the new Toledo Elite Fall League is taking place at Maumee Valley Country Day. The league is run by some high-quality individuals, and they certainly have done a nice job of putting on a high-quality evening of basketball every week. Numerous talents from Toledo and around Northwest Ohio are taking part in the action, below is a recap of Week 2:
2020 F Da’Sean Nelson (Rogers) – Already having blown up on a state level from his performance on the AAU circuit this spring and summer, Nelson continues to mold into what now has to be considered near a potential high-major prospect. His athletic ability and bounce are off the chart, while his control around the rim and in the paint continues to improve. Runs the floor exceptionally well, plays hard, and can take over a game with ease. Had 26 points in the one contest I saw; that coming in 16 minute running halves. Virtually all of the top JUCO programs across the country have reached out.
2020 G Zachary Szul (Anthony Wayne) – Having heard about Szul, and seeing him briefly in the summer, he really impressed on Sunday night. Steadying presence on the offensive end, getting to the rim and excelling in the mid-range. Can score it from distance, sees the floor well, moves the ball, and makes those around him better. Expecting big things from him over the next 7 months.
2021 G Cole McWhinnie (Toledo Christian) – Known throughout the area as one of the best shooters NW Ohio has to offer, McWhinnie showed that and more in his play on Sunday. Whether off the bounce or spotting up, McWhinnie torched the nets, from mid-range on out to the perimeter. He ran the point well, has an improved and tight handle, gets into the paint, creates for others. Fundamentally sound on both sides of the floor. Maturing physically and in his game. Already hearing from multiple DIII and NAIA programs across the Midwest.
2020 G Tavaz Lawler-Showers (Start) – A new prospect to the Toledo basketball season, Lawler-Showers recently moved into town from nearby Albion, Michigan. Has the ability to get buckets and do so in bunches. Quick, and brings swagger to both ends of the floor. Will need to be consistent, but is capable of being an instant impact guy in his one and only season in the City League.
2020 G Ketaan Wyatt (Rogers) – Delivering multiple dimes, with flair and excellent court vision, Wyatt was what we’ve come accustomed to seeing in recent months. Good size, feel, handle, and ability to break down the defense. Ever improving shot-making, gets teammates involved, wins. Current interest from multiple mid-major programs in the region.
2021 G Feisal Crumby (Toledo St. Francis) – Looks ready to be a major factor for the Knights this coming season and take that next step. Always has been able to score it, and did so on this night, doing a better job of letting the game come to him. Improving as a facilitator of the basketball. An asset on the defensive end. Quality handler of the ball, pushes the pace and can excel in transition.
2020 G Joey Holifield (Cardinal Stritch) – The recent Oakland University commit is the definition of consistency as you know what you’re going to get from him every time he takes the floor. Knows when to kick it into next gear, picks his spots, scores it at a high level, and is relentless on the glass for his position. Always a joy to watch, plays the game the right way.
2020 G Mike Rightnowar (Genoa) – Can really fill it up from the perimeter. Great form and consistency as a spot-up shooter. Plays with grit, doesn’t shy from contact. Tough, makes plays. With quite a void left with the graduation of Andrew Bench and Jacob Plantz, expect Rightnowar to put his share of points on the board.
2021 F JR Lumsden (Maumee Valley) – Looked more trim, quicker, and more confident since seeing him in the summer. Went into his bag of moves in the paint for a handful of impressive finishes. Going to have a big season in the TAAC.
2021 G CamRon Gaston (Rossford) – What he lacks in height he makes up for in heart, which may seem cliche, but Gaston fits the description perfectly. Always a threat to make something happen when the ball is in his hands. Quick, nimble, and capable of getting a shot up whenever he wants. Scrappy on the defensive end. Special when he gets to the cup. Must be accounted for on the perimeter. Brings swagger and competitive fire to the floor.
2020 F Curtis Jackson (Rogers) – Jackson has struggled with consistency in the multiple viewings of him of late, but he looked solid from start to finish in his play on Sunday. Broad shoulders, and a strong build make him a force in the paint when he wants to be. Rebounds well, finishes more times than not. Capable scorer from the perimeter. Can be an anchor in the paint on the defensive side of the floor.
2021 F Cli’Ron Hornbeak (Toledo St. Francis) – Still somewhat raw as a prospect, Hornbeak has the potential to be an asset for someone at the next level. Has good size and a strong build. Improving motor and feel. Doesn’t shy away from contact, really goes after rebounds.
Others who stood out: Ethan Loeffler (Evergreen), CJ Hornbeak (Toledo St. Johns), Shane Garcia (Toledo St. Johns), Kaleb Wannamaker (Start), Dashad Floyd (Start), Tony Delvaux (Whitmer), Grant Hartnett (Sylvania Northview), Frank Wagenfeald (Oregon Clay).
2020 G Josiah Fulcher of Lima Senior High School has committed to Bowling Green State University. He chose the Falcons over offers from numerous other MAC and mid-major programs.