An unfortunate injury prevented Oak Hill Academy from fully realizing its potential last season. The Warriors put together an impressive regular season, but in the first round of the GEICO Nationals, Keldon Johnson suffered an ankle injury which limited his ability going forward.
With Johnson unhealthy, Oak Hill appeared out of sorts in a semifinal loss to University School (Fla.).
Out of the ashes of defeat, legendary head coach Steve Smith is back in pursuit of a 10th national championship. Leading the charge is a solid group of returning players and an exciting class of newcomers.
Team photo shoot today! pic.twitter.com/eT8qVQHRnI
— Steve Smith (@OHACoachSmith) October 2, 2018
Nationally Ranked Players (via 247Sports)
Cole Anthony: 6-foot-3 Combo Guard | No. 3 in the Class of 2019
Kofi Cockburn: 6-foot-10 Center | No. 31 in the Class of 2019
Cam Thomas: 6-foot-1 Shooting Guard | No. 58 in the Class of 2020
Chandler Lawson: 6-foot-8 Small Forward | No. 77 in the Class of 2019
Lynn Greer III: 6-foot-1 Point Guard | No. 111 in the Class of 2020
Evan Johnson: 5-foot-11 Point Guard | No. 198 in the Class of 2020
B.J. Mack: 6-foot-8 Center | No. 295 in the Class of 2019
Oak Hill benefits from returning several players from last year’s team. Leading the way is 6-foot-8 center B.J. Mack who recently committed to South Florida.
After Mack, the Warriors feature two talented juniors in Darrick Jones and Evan Johnson. Both players are being pursued by Division I programs with Jones receiving offers from Old Dominion, UMass, Virginia Tech and Winthrop.
Johnson holds offers from Penn State and Hampton.
Oak Hill will be tasked with replacing four starters from last year’s 40-plus win team. Keldon Johnson (Kentucky), Keyontae Johnson (Florida), Will Richardson (Oregon) and David McCormack (Kansas) are all set to showcase their talents at the next level.
Coach Smith scored big this offseason when two of the top prospects from New York City decided to transfer to Oak Hill. In previous years, Cole Anthony and Kofi Cokburn were rivals in the New York Catholic league— now they’re teaming-up with national championship aspirations.
Anthony is the type of player that can carry a team to a title. The GEICO Nationals has a history of rewarding teams with star players— Ben Simmons (Montverde) in 2015, Jarren Jackson (La Lumiere) in 2017, and most recently R.J. Barrett (Montverde) last season.
Anthony can be a similar force at Oak Hill. He’s a game-changer that can dominate every facet of a game.
The addition of Kofi Cockburn was especially important because he provides the Warriors with another elite post presence. Balsa Koprivica (Montverde), Vernon Carey (University School), Isaiah Stewart (La Lumiere) and Armando Bacot (IMG Academy) are just a few of the top centers that might appear in the postseason. Cockburn’s presence will be much needed.
Chandler Lawson was one of the initial players to announce that he would be transferring to Oak Hill. The 6-foot-8 small forward won three state titles at Memphis East. Lawson will bring versatility and a championship mentality to Oak Hill.
Also incoming is a a pair of talented guards from the Class of 2020 in Cameron Thomas and Lynn Greer III. Both players are being heavily pursued by schools such as Florida, Oregon, Penn State and others.
Oak Hill adds even more depth with 6-foot-10 forward Dylan Cardwell and 6-foot-6 guard Tobias Rotegard. Cardwell is coming off a breakout sophomore season in which he received an offer from Penn State. Rotegard was a member of the Norwegian National Team during the FIBA U-18 European Championship.
Part of me wonders how much better this Oak Hill team might have been if Jahmius Ramsey decided to stay. Ramsey initially chose to transfer to Oak Hill from IMG Academy, but before the start of the season he changed his mind— choosing instead to return home to Duncanville High School in Texas.
Anthony and Ramsey would have been an interesting backcourt duo. Both players bring an uncommon toughness to the guard position. Nevertheless, even without Ramsey, there’s no question that this team is talented enough to win another national championship.
In my mind, the success of Oak Hill largely depends on the leadership of seniors Cole Anthony, Kofi Cockburn, Chandler Lawson and B.J. Mack. Last year’s seniors, Keldon Johnson, Keyontae Johnson, Will Richardson and David McCormack developed a unique energy on the court. There was a real sense of unity among those players.
Can this new group develop something similar?
If Oak Hill played against your HS, what would the score be? pic.twitter.com/pvekMuFZJh
— Mars Reel (@marsreel) September 23, 2018
Oak Hill guards Cam Thomas, Lynn Greer III, Darrick Jones and Evan Johnson will need to step-up in major ways. Anthony will attract a lot of the attention from defenses, so it’s up to one of them to provide another offensive threat in the backcourt. Thomas looks especially poised to fill that role after scoring 31 points in a scrimmage against Massanutten Military Academy.
I’m also interested to see who gets minutes down the stretch for the Warriors:
Oak Hill might play small featuring three guards, Lawson at the four, and Kofi Cockburn at center.
Another option is to put Lawson at the three with Cockburn and B.J. Mack controlling the paint. Both Cockburn and Mack are more traditional big men, but they are likely to play at the same time frequently this season.
My final thoughts are centered around Cole Anthony. During the summer, when Anthony announced his intentions to transfer, I told myself that whichever school he picked— that program would win the national championship… Why? Simply because Anthony has the type of talent that can dominate a title run.
I still have similar feelings.
Michael McLamb is the Sports Editor at Mars Reel. Check back daily for his in-depth perspective on the top teams in high school hoops. Follow him on Twitter: @McLambSays
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