CINCINNATI, Ohio — The latest stop for 275 Hoops came on Saturday when we headed to Deer Park High School to check out a loaded event put on by Head Coach Steve Gentry and the Wildcats. Let’s take a look at the kids that stood out as some of the best performers in the building.
Mark Wise (6’3 CG/Deer Park/2020): It was more of the same this weekend for the Wildcats all-time leading scorer. Wise, a rising senior, put on a show with his ability to find high percentage looks in close and used his frame to absorb contact when inside. He showed off his unselfishness as a player by setting up the other Deer Park talent on the court. It’s really simple, Wise is a Division 1 talent on the hardwood and that’s not hard to see but it’s the little things about him that stood out on Saturday. Wise is the type of guy that wants to see his teammates make plays and when they do, he cheers on his guys unlike anyone I have seen. Perhaps the biggest thing that I personally took from the entire event is seeing how badly Wise wanted to be victorious in their final scrimmage against St. Xavier. He gave everything he had until the clock hit triple zeros. When I went to chat with him after the final whistle, he was visibly upset with the outcome and it showed me just how much he cares about winning — a quality trait. College coaches that want a ball player, leader, great teammate, and winner on their team should look no further than Wise.
Nekhi Smith (6’6 PF/Taft/2020): It was our first time getting a look at Smith in person and the first thing that stood out was that he has a college ready body right now. He looks like he could be a starting small forward at the Division 1 level and you can just just tell it would be hard to stay in front of him if having the task to defend him — and he was. Smith got to the rim at will by out-muscling defenders or blowing by them off of the dribble and he made the most of his opportunities in the paint including a few monster throw downs and some nice finishes through contact. Smith will let it fly from the perimeter and does not lack the confidence when doing so. Against Badin, the rising senior that shot 36% from distance last season, had a stretch in which he knocked down three triples in a row from the corner. For now, Smith holds a low major offer to his name but I would expect that to change — especially with his final season with the Senators on deck.
Steve Gentry Jr. (5’11 PG/Deer Park/2020): Gentry was a tough guard all night for the opposition. His composure, quickness and ability to handle the ball allowed him to beat pressure and get into the interior of the defense seemingly whenever he wanted to. When he got there, Gentry converted some successful drives whether that meant having to elevate over defenders for layups or using his floater. His aggressiveness was rewarded as the Wildcat point guard got to the line with consistency. One of the best passers in the Cincinnati Hills League, averaging over five per night, also dropped of some nice dimes to open teammates when help arrived. On another note, Gentry can get it done on the defensive end as well as his active hands turned into several steals and deflections for Deer Park.
Greg Stewart (6’4 WG/Aiken/2020): The only game we were able to take in for Aiken this weekend was against Deer Park. However, Stewart looked really good when driving inside against the Wildcats. Through two viewings of the upcoming senior for the Falcons, he’s been one of best at getting to and finishing at the bucket. The lefty is very athletic and he just glides through the air. He offers some finesse with a euro-step that he likes to use at times but don’t get it twisted, he will put you on a poster if the opportunity arises. Stewart is mostly looked at as a slasher but he dialed in some three’s against the Wildcats as well. We are definitely excited to see how Stewart progresses as the season gets inches closer.
Kodee Holloway (6’1 CG/Finneytown/2021): A new name for us as we continue to discover the talent in the area. Holloway stood out to me when pushing the pace and getting out in transition. Despite delivering on two shots from beyond the arc, his contest against the Firebirds was littered with successful drives off of turnovers and/or missed shots. He’s an intriguing kid and definitely one to keep your eye on. After what we saw, last years 10.8 point average seems like a sure fire bet to see a bump for his junior campaign.
Julian Mackey (6’1 CG/Lakota West/2021): Much like Holloway, here is another kid that we weren’t aware of prior to Saturday. He got our attention in that same game that Holloway got our attention and it was immediate. Mackey is a right-handed rising junior that has no problem using his left hand. He can shoot it from distance and had it working in the mid-range area as he drained a couple of the pull-up variety against the Wildcats of Finneytown. Mackey also likes to equip his euro-step when he gets down by the trees. For my money, he was the most impressive player in the early slate of games.
Demetrius Watkins (6’0 CG/Western Hills/2020): For Coach Stokes, Watkins provided a ton of energy and effort on the defensive side of the ball. The Mustangs rising senior guard put pressure on opposing ball handlers in both the half court and when chasing them down the length of the floor. In doing so, he was able to force a few turnovers for the undefeated Mustangs on the day. Lastly, Watkins excelled in the open court on Saturday while using both hands and didn’t allow contact to phase him at the tin.
Honorable Mention: Jackson Ames (6’11 C/West Clermont/2020), Dekarion Branch (6’2 CG/Western Hill/2021), Mickel Clay (6’4 C/Finneytown/2020), Carter Combs (6’1 WG/Lakota West/2020), Curtis Harrison (6’6 PF/Seven Hills/2020), Tre Munson (6’1 CG/Deer Park/2021), Isaiah Myers (WG/Colerain/2022), Julien Norman (6’1 CG/Western Hills/2021) Tony Russell Jr. (5’10 CG/Western Hills/2022), Jakada Stone (6’0 PG/Aiken/2021), Kollin Tolbert (6’0 PG/Mount Healthy/2022), Kelvin Turner II (5’10 CG/Lakota West/2021), LeRoy Walker Jr. (6’2 WG/Taft/2020) Aaron Ward (6’6 PF/Winton Woods/2020).