Because the inaugural Ohio Top 25 Combine was an “invitation only” event designed to attract the top 25-40 3rd and 4th graders in the state, we were not surprised at the level of talent and the competitiveness of the players. For the most part, almost all of the top 10-15 rated players at the event handled thier business; however, by design, there were several players who surprised us with their play, and have made cases for more respect and exposure.

Part of the event’s mission was to provide a platform where a previously unknown player could compete on the big stage and make a name for himself. Well, Durant Smith (4’8”/PG/2032/Cincinnati) did just that! Despite being a virtual unknown prior to the event, Smith created a buzz on Saturday with his outstanding play. We were most impressed with his ball skills, pace of play, poise and ability to score the rock. He also displayed solid court vision, passing skills and a good feel for the game. In addition, Smith defends well and scores at 3 levels. For his efforts, he was selected to the all-star game, received an All-Combine Team nod, and recently debuted in the top 15 of our 2032 player rankings!

Also from Cincinnati was Casen Glass (4’7”/PG/2031/Cincinnati), who was a straight dog! Glass is an high energy player, who played hard on both ends of the court. He’s not just a good on-ball defender, as he can score the ball as well. Although Glass was unknown before this event, he’s firmly on our radar now! Jett Darbyshire (4’7”/SG/2032/Cincinnati) is another Cincinnati-based unknown who made some noise on Saturday. Darbyshire has a quick release and he shot the ball with range and at a high clip. The lefty did most of his damage in catch and shoot situations, and he proved that he must be guarded at all times. Maxwell Ratica (5’0”/PF/2032/Cincinnati) had a good day on Saturday as well. Blessed with good size, Ratica can handle the ball in the open court, rebound at a high rate and score around the basket. He’s also tough and physical and an absolute stat stuffer! As an editorial note, Cincinnati guys really need get out of Cincinnati more often and let people see them! I know the culture seems to be a bit anti travel, but kids are going unrecognized for far too long! With that being said, I rock with the Nati since my younger sons was embraced by Cincinnati programs several years ago; we just want to see the kids more often so they can receive the exposure they deserve!

Dayton’s Will Harding (5’1”/WF/2032/Dayton) had a big day on Saturday and continues to move up the rankings after a breakout season. Harding has great positional size and his skill set continues to improve. Moreover, his on-ball defense is solid, as is his ability to rebound the ball at a high rate. In terms of upside potential, Harding has a chance to be big time with continued growth and development.

We also got a real good look at JJ Maly (4’5”/PG/2031/Avon). We saw him last weekend at the Nike Summer Championship and we loved his floor game and skill set. Mally has a great feel for the game, makes great decisions with the ball and plays with good pace. Add Braylon Carry (5’0”/WF/2031/Brook Park) to the list of previously unknowns who came down to Columbus and left with an upgraded reputation. We liked Carry’s size for position, athleticism and ability to put the ball in the basket. Consequently, his ranking has been upgraded.

Jonathon “JJ” Moore (5’0″”/CG/2031/Painesville) was already on our radar, but his big time performance on Sunday was noteworthy. A big, athletic PG, Moore consistently attacked the rim. In addition to his ability to get to the rim and finish, he can shoot the rock if left open. Moore finished off the event with an All-Combine Team nod! Other Northeast Ohio-area kids who raised their stock this weekend included: Charlie Lombardy, Brayden Owens, Maddox Gamble (Norwalk) and Jaxon Vrona (Youngstown). Lombardy impressed us with his all around team-oriented play, ability to score the ball and find open teammates. We always knew he could play, but his performance on Saturday reminded us about what he can do. Gamble is a big, physical post player who rebounds at a high rate and scores the ball. We saw him last school ball season and was impressed with him then, but has continued to develop and could be a real problem going forward. Every time we saw Owens he was making plays. Highly skilled, Owens was a goo looking prospect.

Because they are Columbus kids, we already knew that Chris Blalock (4’9”/SG/2031/Pickerington), and Aiden Williams (5’2”/C/2032/Columbus) could play, but their individual performances this past weekend has us more excited with thier long term potential. Blalock has been a stud on the local scene for a while now, but his impressive play on Sunday announced his arrival on the stewed scene! Blalock has good length, is athletic and he has a certain fluidity to his game. We think Blalock has a lot of upside potential. From what we saw on Saturday, Williams was the best big man at the combine. Williams moves his feet well, has a soft touch around the rim, sets great screens, and is physical in the post. As his skill set improves, Williams has a chance to be the best post player in his class.

In closing, we appreciate the parents for bringing their son to the event and allowing them to put it all on the line. We certainly understand the “risks” associated with participating in elite and highly competitive events, but if a kid wants to get better and continue to develop, they have to put thier reputation on the line every time they step on the court. Regardless of their success, they will continue to develop and grow! Bottom line, no risk, no reward!

Name Position Class City/State
Durant Smith CG 2032 Cincinnati
Will Harding WF/PF 2032 Northmont
Maxwell Ratica PF 2032 Cincinnati
Charlie Lombardy WF 2032 Avon Lake
Jett Darbyshire SG 2032 Cincinnati
Aiden Williams C 2032 Columbus
Chris Blalock WF 2031 Pickerington
JJ Mally PG 2031 Avon lake
Braylon Carry SG 2031 Cleveland
Casen Glass CG 2031 Cincinnati
Maddox Gamble PF/C 2031 Norwalk
Jonathon “JJ” Moore CG 2031 Cleveland
Brayden Owens SG 2031 Cleveland
 Jaxon Vrona  G/WF 2031 Youngstown

Durant Smith

Jonathon “JJ” Moore

Will Harding

JJ Maly

Charlie Lombardy

Chris Blalock

Casen Glass

Maddox Gamble

Braylon Carey

Jett Darbyshire

Aiden Williams

Gerald Warrick IV

Jaxon Vrona

Brayden Owens