The Dru Joyce Classic tipped off at the IX Center in Cleveland, Ohio this weekend and played host to over 300 teams from across the country. Once the largest and most prestigious youth tournament in the the country, when it was more affiliated with King James, the event continues to grow in terms of numbers, competition and prestige. Although the event hosted divisions from 2nd grade to high school and a girl’s division, as we most often do these days, we concentrated our coverage on the class of 2032.
In terms of the 3rd grade division, other the TNBA Elite, all of the top Ohio-based teams showed up at the event. Consequently, our ability to evaluate individual players and teams was greatly enhanced. Unfortunately, in the class of 2032, there was no Cincinnati, Dayton or Toledo representation at this event. On another note, as long as we have been in the business, there has been a debate about what region of the state plays the best basketball. Well, in terms of the class of 2032, Columbus is basketball central hands down, as the 4 teams that made it to the Gold Bracket final four were all Columbus-based teams!
In the first semifinal game, All Ohio matched up against Charging Elite, while Buckeye Prep squared off against the Columbus Monarchs in the second semifinal. The first game required overtime before a winner could be produced, as All-Ohio won a 46-45 nail biter to punch their ticket to the title game. All Ohio’s trek to the championship included wins over MKU PA (43-20) and Michigan Titans (42-21). There was not much drama in the second game, as Buckeye Prep jumped out to an early lead over the Monarchs and never looked back. By the time the horn sounded, Buckeye Prep was comfortably up 36-16. Much like the game against the Monarchs, the Hoopsters raced out to an early lead before cruising to an easy 42-10 win to claim the crown. Buckeye Prep finished pool play with lopsided wins over OFF (35-11) and HoopTech Select (39-21).
As we eluded to earlier, this event allowed us to get a fresh look at the best players and teams Ohio has to offer. Because of that fact, we have recently updated our recently released 2032 Team Rankings and Watch List. Based on what we saw at the Buckeye Prep Invitational and the Dru Joyce Classic this season, the 2 most consequential tournaments of year (for Ohio teams), we feel real comfortable with our decision making with both products. We know that not everybody will agree with our lists, but rest assured, we talked to a number of coaches in the class for their feedback, and there appears to be a pretty good consensus in terms of the top kids and teams.
Although we’ve highlighted the top players we saw at this event in the “Standout Players” list below, we wanted to acknowledge a few players who have demonstrated that they have gotten better, and who have raised their stock in our eyes.