Basketball players

LaMelo Ball to Luke Kennard

Ohio has a rich history of high school men’s basketball. Of course, any list of Ohio’s best starts with LeBron James who played at St. Vincent-St. Marie and is considered by some to be the best high school player in history, and one of the NBA’s all-time greats.

But there is much more to ohio basketball than LeBron.

In the early 1960s, Buckeye State produced Basketball Hall of Famers Jerry Lucas (Middletown, 1964), John Havlicek (Bridgeport, 1963), Nate Thurmond (Akron Central, 1964), and Gus Johnson (Akron Central, 1964).

In the 1980s, the state pumped in future NBA toughs like Charles Oakley (Hay, 1986) and Alvin Robertson (Barberton, 1985) and professional snipers like Ron Harper (Kiser, 1987) and Jim Paxson Jr. (Archbishop Alter, 1980).

Even contemporary NBA stars like Michael Redd (Columbus West, 2001) and CJ McCollum (GlenOak, 2014) call Ohio home.

Chris and Cordell Livingstone:Twins transferred to Oak Hill Academy from Buchtel

With Chris Livingston, who is transferring from Buchtel to Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, about to join them, we wonder. Who are the best high school basketball players in Ohio over the past 10 years?

LaMelo Ball, SPIRE Institute and Academy

Can Ohio Claim Ball? Sure why not? Yes, he played in several professional basketball leagues — including for his father’s Los Angeles Ballers in the ill-fated Junior Basketball Association — but he ended his prep career in Ohio. Ball joined SPIRE Institute and Academy in Geneva during his senior year. Leaving SPIRE, 247 Sports rated Ball a five-star rookie. After high school, Ball played professionally in Australia before being selected in the first round of the 2020 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets.

Darius Bazley, Princeton

Name a high-profile high school basketball event and chances are Bazley is one of them. He was named to the 2018 McDonald’s All-American Game, participated in the Jordan Brand Classic and the Nike Hoops Summit. Bazley was so acclaimed coming out of Princeton that he skipped college altogether. He was initially will play in the NBA G League, but instead spent a year working at New Balance on a $1 million deal before being taken in the first round of the 2019 NBA draft by the Utah Jazz before being traded to the Memphis Grizzlies and then the Thunder d ‘Oklahoma City.

Malaki Branham, St. Vincent-St. Married

He has yet to set foot on the basketball court at Ohio State, but a lot is expected of him the reigning Ohio Mr. Basketball. At James’ alma mater, Branham won two state titles and scored 1,501 points. That was topped off with 37 in a state finals win over DeSales last season.

Meechie Johnson Jr., Garfield Heights

Johnson’s high school basketball career in Cleveland was not the typical star player route. He burst onto the scene as a high school freshman scoring 50 points against Benedictine. He averaged 23 points per game as a sophomore before injuring his knee. He didn’t play at all as a junior while recovering, then skipped his senior season to enroll early at Ohio State University. He was still good enough to finish second in Ohio in the 247 Sports Rankings for 2020.

So what’s so special about a player who averaged just 1.2 points per game for Ohio State last season? Anyone know something since Johnson spent time with the USA Under-19 team this summer. With guards CJ Walker and Duane Washington Jr. out of sight, Johnson should see an increased role in Columbus.

Luke Kennard Franklin

“Cool Hand Luke” had one of the most prolific careers in Ohio high school basketball history. Kennard is Ohio’s second-leading all-time scorer with 2,977 points and the most free throws with 760. As a senior, he averaged 38.1 points, 9.7 rebounds, 5 .9 assists and 2.2 steals per game and was named Parade National Player of the Year.

After his record high school career, Kennard attended Duke University for two years before being selected in the first round of the 2017 NBA draft by the Detroit Pistons. He now plays for the Los Angeles Clippers.