MANSFIELD – Plymouth basketball star Tyrell Edmiston got his wish. And, much to his surprise, so did Plymouth coach Troy Keene.
Instead of asking Edmiston to stop Mansfield Senior big man Naradain James, Keene can now dream up ways to use his 6-5 standout and the 6-4 James together in the 37th News Journal All-Star Basketball Classic.
Keene, who will man the North bench, saw James fall into his lap during Monday’s player draft. South coach Tom Cooper of Mount Gilead had first pick, but opted to defer to Keene and grab the No. 2 and 3 picks, which Cooper used on Ashland teammates Isaac White and Brett Vipperman.
There was no wrong choice for Cooper. The only wrong choice would have been if Keene had taken anyone other than James with the No. 1 pick because Keene would have heard about it from his star player.
“That’s one guy Tyrell said, ‘I can’t guard him. I don’t want to attempt to guard him,’” Keene said. “He never says that about anybody.”
James is averaging 19 points and 9 rebounds for the Tygers. He’ll form an imposing frontcourt duo with Edmiston, who averages nearly 21 points and is one of the top career rebounders in OHSAA history, pulling down close to 15 a game this season.
“It’s going to be a dunk fest,” Keene crowed. “Tyrell has 50 dunks this year alone. Against Mapleton, our first six points came on three dunks by him. With (Colonel Crawford’s) Dylan Gulley at point guard and (Ashland’s) Trey Smith penetrating and kicking the ball out, I just think it’s going to be a good time.
“I think (Edmiston and James) will be a great combo if they can play together at the same time.”
James, informed by phone that he was the top pick, doesn’t think meshing with Edmiston will be a problem. In fact, his reaction upon hearing they would be teammates was, “Oh, wow!”
“We’ve played a whole lot of ball together,” James said. “I played two years of AAU ball with him and I’ve also played against him. Last summer I played for All-Ohio and he played for the Hidden Gems (out of Columbus). I think his team won every time, but we went at it.
“I was expecting us to be on different teams (for the Classic), and that kind of competition is always fun. But I think this will go well. When we’ve been together, we’ve been successful.”
The biggest difference between the two is that James will venture outside the low post more, which should make it easier for them to complement one another.
“He can handle the ball,” James said of Edmiston, who is averaging six assists, one less than Gulley, his North teammate and area assist leader, “but he’s more of an ‘overpower you’ type of guy.”
The firepower on both teams could be overpowering. While Edmiston and James do their thing inside, the North also has arguably the area’s best perimeter threat in Colonel Crawford’s Todd Entenmann. He’s averaging nearly 22 points and went into last weekend leading the area in 3-point goals with 76.
The North’s Carson Ebert of Willard, Kadin Chrastina of Clear Fork, Dalon King of Bucyrus and Paul Homan of Ontario also rank among the area’s best beyond the arc, while Buckeye Central’s Austin Wurm gives Keene another 20-point scorer and South Central’s Dallas Yost boasts the all-around game that made him an easy pick for Keene.
The South will counter with the dynamic inside-outside punch of White and Vipperman, 22-point scorer Jett Swetland of Highland and potent scorers like Fredericktown’s Michael Miller and Cooper’s own Mount Gilead duo of Xavier Harris and Chris Godfrey, both averaging 17 a game.
The News Journal staff selected 24 all-stars from senior nominations submitted by area schools. Both head coaches were assigned their own players from that pool of talent — Plymouth’s Tyson Beebe checks in at 18 points a game for the North — and drafted from the remaining 20 on the board.
An extra roster spot was made for Mansfield Christian’s Ryan Smith. He was well on his way to a stellar career as a freshman and sophomore for the Flames before being struck down by injuries the last two seasons. Rather than quit, he has continued to battle, exemplifying the same qualities as the children with special needs for whom this game is played.
The Classic has raised nearly a half-million dollars for the Rehab Center over the years, with all proceeds going toward kids helped at the center.
If Smith can play, his participation will be an added bonus for the South squad. If not he has still earned the right to be part of these festivities.
“In the half-court, (the North) will have the advantage, but if things open up I like us, and most of these games are wide open,” Cooper said. “Miller and Swetland have to be two of the best shooters in the state.”
The South’s Asante Wilder of Mansfield Senior and Lenell Shelby of Ontario might be the two quickest players on the floor, while Swetland, Harris and Crestline’s Nate Coffman are all double-double guys. Crestview’s 6-7 Ben Olewiler, who can jump out of the gym, and Clear Fork’s Griffen Robinette give Cooper a pair of 15-point scorers and Charlie Keller of host Lexington ranks among the area’s best long-range shooters.
Cooper was able to rest easier after the draft than before he arrived.
“I think I changed my mind (about keeping or dealing the first pick) four or five times and probably a couple of times on my drive over,” he said. “I watched White and Vipperman on TV. The speed with which they played and the skill with which they played, Ashland’s as good a team as I’ve seen this season.”
If You Go
•What: 37th News Journal All-Star Basketball Classic
•When: Thursday, April 2
•Where: Lexington High School
•Tip-off: 7:30 p.m. It will follow the 6 p.m. contest showcasing the Richland County Bears, the reigning Special Olympics state champions, against a rival team from Ashland.
•Beneficiary: The Rehab Center Children Fund
•High school teams: Two 12-man squads of area seniors, nominated by their coaches
•Coaches: Tom Cooper, Mount Gilead (South); Troy Keene, Plymouth (North)
•Tickets: $10, all proceeds going to the Rehab Center Children Fund. Go on sale in March.
• South squad: Xavier Harris, Mount Gilead; Chris Godrey, Mount Gilead; Isaac White, Ashland; Brett Vipperman, Ashland; Ryan Smith, Mansfield Christian; Asante Wilder, Mansfield Senior; Charlie Keller, Lexington; Griffen Robinette, Clear Fork; Nate Coffman, Crestline; Michael Miller, Fredericktown; Jett Swetland, Highland; Lenell Shelby, Ontario; Ben Olewiler, Crestview
• Head coach: Tom Cooper, Mount Gilead
• North squad: Tyrell Edmiston, Plymouth; Tyson Beebe, Plymouth; Naradain James, Mansfield Senior; Todd Entenmann, Colonel Crawford; Dylan Gulley, Colonel Crawford; Austin Wurm, Buckeye Central; Dallas Yost, South Central; Trey Smith, Ashland; Kadin Chrastina, Clear Fork; Carson Ebert, Willard; Paul Homan, Ontario; Dalon King, Bucyrus
• Head coach: Troy Keene, Plymoth