Dayton, Ohio– On October 17th, 2020, twenty-four of Dayton’s best high school basketball prospects were gathered together in one gym, and battled it out for one goal . . . to represent Dayton overseas!
It all started on September 11th. The Wright Way Foundation announced through their social media, that the foundation, along with Chris Wright, would be taking “10 boys and girls from the Dayton area 2022 class and younger”, to travel “to Lausanne, Switzerland to compete against teams from all around the world in the summer of 2021 while also creating unforgettable life experiences.” These ten boys and girls would be determined through a tryout held at the historic HBCU, Wilberforce University.
The Wright Way Foundation announces the Team Flyght World experience. (via The Flyght Network)
16 days later, the tryout invitations were made public! The first draft of the invitations were put together by Prep Hoops’ senior scout and co-founder of the SWO Full Court Press, Tony Peters. Peters, having a very experienced, and respected eye for Dayton’s many prospects, saw many of his invites end up on The Wright Way Foundation’s final list on announcement day. Dayton’s state-wide recognized names would be in attendance, Jacob Conner, Lawrent Rice, Mekhi Elmore, and Gabe Cupps. But, some lesser known names would also be provided the chance to put their names on the map, including Jacob Pleiman, Layne Sarver, Lee Benson, and Kylan Tucker.
A week prior to tryouts, the Team Flyght World coaches were introduced to the public. Leading the boys’ side would be Dunbar’s Coach Dixon, Centerville’s Coach Cupps, Trotwood Madison’s Coach Rockhold, and Trotwood’s former coach during Chris Wright’s time at the powerhouse, Coach Thornton. Each coach was presented through a set of interview questions, along with their standalone interviews. The astounding quality of the interviews and other promotional material published by the Wright Way’s content creators, give the whole experience a docuseries feel. This is primarily thanks to a couple of the foundation’s essential personnel, Ro Grigsby, and Matthew Barnes, who you might know as “MC.HoopFlicks” on social media for his breathtaking photography in the Ohio hoops scene.
Four days following the coaches being announced, a new addition to TFW was introduced. . . Team Flyght World: Future Stars! It was explained in the following,
“We are watching throughout the tryout and this upcoming season for kids to be on our Team Flyght World Future Stars Roster. This roster will consist of players eligible to tryout for the 2022 Team Flyght World. The roster will join our 2021 Team Flyght World team during training camp next summer and will scrimmage the traveling team before leaving for Switzerland. This gives us healthy competition before heading to the tournament while also getting to see out future talent compete against the current 2021 World team.”
The Future stars team is expected to consist of the city’s top 2023-2026 prospects. This will give them a chance to be in the Team Flyght World environment, as well as early exposure to TFW coaches and directors. An abundance of Dayton’s up and coming stars will be on the WWF’s radar, including Trotwood’s Delamarr Blanton, Preble Shawnee’s Mason Shrout, Chaminade Julienne’s Jonathan Powell, and Miami East’s Wes Enis.
Preceding these announcements, the only thing left were for the tryouts themselves to commence!
It was the day, October 17th, 1:30pm, I approached the doors to the Gaston Lewis Gymnasium in Wilberforce, Ohio. Upon entering, I was immediately greeted and put through COVID protocols, including temperature checks and hand washing.
Following check-in, I was gifted Team Flyght World apparel, and introduced to the Chatterbox Sports crew, who’d I’d be doing commentary alongside throughout the scrimmage portion of the tryouts.
I was able to finally, and formally meet Prep Hoop’s Tony Peters and Overtime’s Ethan Morris. A number of other public figures were in attendance for the tryouts including, Wilberforce’s Coach Mark Mitchell, West Carrollton’s Coach Anthony Parker, Orion Sports Medicine’s Coach Bobby Crawford & Dr.Phil Anloague, along with the Wright Way Foundation team, the TFW coaches, twenty-four of Dayton’s top high-school boys prospects, a handful of other behind-the-scenes contributors, and my partner, Rob Ellis.
The tryouts began with a few words from one of Dayton’s most influential leaders, Chris Wright, as the invitees sat in attendance.
Succeeding Wright’s words, the Orion Sports Medicine team, led by Dr.Phil Anloague, put the invitees through a warm-up routine, consisting of an assortment of stretches. Secondly, one of the area’s most respected and well-known trainers, Coach Crawford, led the prospects through a collection of ball handling drills, as the TFW coaches observed from the sidelines.
Next, the players were split up into four groups of six and put through an array of stations by the Team Flyght World coaches themselves, each with their own set of drills. These drills consisted of individual drills, two-player drills, and king of the court esc games consisting of 1v1’s, 2v2’s, and 3v3’s. On one side of the court, Coach Cupps and former division one basketball coach, Coach House, tested the invitees ability to score off screens, while Coach Crawford and Meadowdale’s Coach Sumlin assessed the prospects capability to handle the ball against pressure around the perimeter. While on the opposite side, Coach Dixon & Coach Parker examined their pool of possible TFW players going head to head in competitive king of the court esc games, meanwhile Coach Rockhold analyzed the players ability to attack downhill and score around the rim, as well as finding shooters around the perimeter.
Finally to precede the long awaited scrimmages, Crawford put the participants through an array of weave drills to test their ability to run the floor and communicate.
Lastly, it was time for the scrimmages. Here are a handful of players that stuck out from the boys’ Team Flyght World tryout!
Player Performance Observations
‘24 Wes Enis – Miami East
Heading into the Team Flyght World tryouts, there were a handful of 2024 names to look out for. But, when it came time, only one arrived to put their talents on display.
Miami East’s Wes Enis silenced any doubters by the time five o’clock came around, including myself. I must admit, upon receiving Tony Peter’s first draft of tryout invitees, I was surprised, and even a bit bewildered to see Enis’ name on the list over some other more well known 2024’s.
Proving me wrong, Enis looked incredibly comfortable throughout the tryout, while being the youngest in the gym. He might’ve not been the most skilled or athletic in the gym, but he did what many others fail to do. Wes Enis stuck out!
He moved well without the ball in his hands, screening & cutting consistently. He gave some of the best effort on the defensive end, aggressively going at his opponents. And, hit shots when the opportunity was given. He never gave up on the play, boxing out and sprinting after loose balls.
I trust that Enis will be able to immediately come on and contribute at the varsity level for a promising Miami East team. I’ll be looking forward to seeing his teammate, Jacob Roeth, along with his other Ohio Stars’ teammates. To sum it up, I’ve learned to no longer question Mr.Peters.
The youngest of Centerville’s three invitees was 2023 stud, Gabe Cupps. Cupps natural ball handling stuck out as soon as the drills commenced. His playmaking skills also were on sight for those watching, finding gaps with ease, and setting up his dimes nicely with fake passes. He showed off his quick hands on the defensive end, forcing a few deflections and forced turnovers in result.
Cupps has made great strides with his athleticism, and I honestly believe he’ll be a problem for a handful of Dayton’s defenders. He showed that he had one of the most efficient shots in the building and had no hesitation when it came to racking the ball against more athletic and experienced varsity defenders.
After a year of competing in a competitive AAU scene with Indy Heat & The Leftovers, along with a tough varsity season under his belt, Gabe Cupps is going to be an extremely impactful point guard at the varsity level for the Centerville Elks.
Another young piece in Alter’s new group of Knights, ‘23 Gavin Geisel did a good job of being in the right place at the right time throughout the tryout. Made it easy for ‘22 Anthony Johnson to find him off cuts, in transition, and spotting up around the perimeter for easy buckets.
He didn’t get many touches throughout the first couple scrimmages, but he did take advantage of his opportunities when they were made present. In the final scrimmage, Geisel started off with a tough air-ball, but proceeded to produce 12 of his team’s 18 points in a true leader’s fashion.
It’ll be interesting to see his adaptation to the varsity level, after spending his whole freshman year as a starter on junior varsity. I believe he’ll be able to produce for Alter at the level they need him to. If you need a player who will push through adversity and finish strong, Gavin Geisel is your player.
Another super efficient shooter of the tryout was ’23 Will Maxwell. When he received his touches, he took advantage, consistently knocking down shots around the perimeter against elite varsity talent.
He didn’t look to get downhill much, but he did run the floor well, spotting up for knock down threes. A bit hesitant to shoot over defenders while behind the arc, even when he was given enough space to get his shot off. When left wide open though, Maxwell was automatic.
Another player who did the little things well, communicating and boxing out throughout the scrimmages. As a sharpshooting wing, he’s receiving notable division one interest and will be one of the SWBL’s most dominant prospects.
Even with the loss of SWBL Player of The Year, Darren Rubin, Maxwell will be paired alongside a lot of returning youth, and ‘22 transfer out of Kettering Fairmont, Keon Wright. This new addition should propel Maxwell and the Oakwood Lumberjacks into conference title contendership.
Proving to be one of the strongest players in the gym, ‘23 Sam Walker was far from afraid to battle in the paint at the Team Flyght World tryouts.
Throughout the scrimmages, he posted up and finished on top prospects. He did a great job of screening, popping and rolling for touches from his scrimmage squads’ guards.
Predominantly setting on-ball screens, would’ve liked to see a bit more off-ball screening from Walker. Walker made up for a bit of lack of touch around the rim with pure strength.
One of the city’s most underrated in the class of 2023, Walker has the potential to be one of Dayton’s best scorers in the post. Expect Sam Walker’s name to blow up this season, potentially starting for a top ten team in the city, while only entering his sophomore year.
’23 Lawrent Rice
High School: Huber Heights Wayne
Travel Team: All-Ohio
2-Step Vertical: 35 inches
Standing Vertical: 30 inches
Shuttle Time: 12.06 seconds
Standing Reach: 97 inches
Photo via Matt Barnes
Another natural with the ball in his hands, ‘23 Lawrent Rice showed spurts during the day that gave me the idea he could’ve been the most offensively gifted player in the gym.
Rice had an easy time using his handle to penetrate, finish around the rim and pull up off the dribble. His handle wasn’t the only thing responsible for Rice’s scoring, but also his elite footwork and change of speeds.
He sometimes dribbled a bit excessively, not creating any separation or opportunities off of it.
Off ball, Rice read his defenders coming off screens well, curling and popping for additional touches. He could certainly be a defensive nightmare this season.
Rice’s talents will be on display at the second biggest high school basketball showcase in the nation, Dayton’s own Flyin’ To The Hoop! Rice, a top five state ranked ‘23, will be going head to head with top ten state ranked ‘22 out of Gahanna Lincoln, Sean Jones. Jones currently holds seventeen division one offers, including Cincinnati, Kansas State, Houston, and Mississippi State. Meanwhile, Rice holds offers from Central Michigan, Ohio, and Purdue. He’s being heavily recruited by Dayton, Indiana, Louisville, Syracuse, and Ohio State. This match-up will be one of the most anticipated of the year!
Johnson not only stuck out as one of the few players to have a natural handle during the drill sessions, but also stuck out as one of the best play-makers in the gym. He consistently made the right play, showing off his pass first mindset, but ability to score when needed.
To the naked eye, I couldn’t recognize how well Johnson stuck out, but re-watching his performance on Chatterbox’s live stream, I was amazed by his ability to read the defense perfectly each play. His quick reaction time and decision making resulted in a couple buckets at the rim, using his quick handle to beat his on-ball defender, then reading the help defender perfectly on the finish. He saw the floor very well in transition, boxed out, and showed his ability to still flourish off the ball, spotting up with his quick release.
Johnson got his name on the radar this off-season with the Midwest Basketball Club, attending local open runs, and at our Dayton Elite Run. Don’t expect his name to stop buzzing anytime soon.
‘22 Rich Rolf easily stuck out as the event’s most talented rebounder. Rolf repeatedly grabbed board after board on the defensive, and especially the offensive end!
Competing as one of the most impressive invitees of the day, he ran the floor and finished in transition with expertise. Not only contributing to many second chance points for his scrimmage squads, he showed off his ability to stretch the floor and shoot the ball efficiently from behind the arc. Whether it was wide open, or with a hand in his face, he was able to put the ball through the net consistently.
I can say without a doubt that Rolf will finish within the top five in conference rebounding, along with being top ten in points per game. If the board man truly gets paid, then ‘22 Rich Rolf will certainly live up to his name.
Alter’s newest knight, ‘22 Ryan Chew, is arguably the best passer in Dayton’s 2022 class. Chew did an impressive job of making the right decision each play, reading the defense exceptionally.
He wasn’t only an elite passer and play-maker, moving the ball without hesitation, adding his usual flash, but did an amazing job at turning his weaknesses into strengths. Chew has been known for hitting tough shots from around the perimeter, but sporadically settling in shot selection and shooting efficiency. But, Chew showed that he can play with a pass first mindset, and hit the occasional three when needed, playing super efficiently.
Another surprise was his incredible intensity and effort on the defensive end, which blended with his offense perfectly. He pressured his defenders around the perimeter with his quick hands and defensive sliding, to the point where they were forced to move the ball, and even left the tryout with a block on his stat sheet.
’22 Jacob Pleiman
High School: Botkins
Travel Team: Mid-Ohio Pumas
2-Step Vertical: 30 inches
Standing Vertical: 27 inches
Shuttle Time: 12.58 seconds
Standing Reach: 104 inches
Photo via Matt Barnes
The attention stealer of the day. Another name to make sure you know is ’22 Jacob Pleiman out of Botkins. The 200lb big showed that he can stretch the floor, shooting without hesitation. He showed off his consistent, nice handle, especially for a big, during the ball handling drills.
Pleiman was not much of an offensive threat down low throughout the scrimmages, settling for perimeter shots. But, he did box out well and crashed the offensive boards consistently.
Side note, he was easily the most aggressive dunker in the gym.
More importantly, Pleiman is one the most humble prospects you’ll meet. After our Dayton Elite Run, he was one of the only players to approach me in person and thank me for the opportunity.
In SWO Full Court Press’s interview with Matt Barnes & Chris Wright, Barnes stated that Pleiman reported he’d analyzed film on his potential match-ups going into the tryout!
Jacob Pleiman and the rest of the Botkins Trojans will be a team to look out for this year, and will be participating at this year’s Flyin’ To The Hoop Event. Keep an eye out for Jacob, his right hand man, ‘21 Jayden Priddy-Powell, and Jacob’s younger brother, ‘23 Carter Pleiman!
Beavercreek’s ‘22, Adam Duvall, did an amazing job at doing the little things, diving for loose balls, hitting the occasional mid-range jumper, and boxing out.
While playing with the ball, he was a good play-maker. Off-ball, Duvall read the defense well, finding open lanes and cutting for easy touches from ‘22 Ryan Chew. He also ran the floor well, resulting in easy, fast break possessions. He finished around the rim with some of the nicest touch and post-game of all the low-post scorers in the gym.
The question everyone is asking is how will Duvall’s performance and productivity be affected with the loss of Beavercreek’s two next-level guards due to graduation, Yousef Saleh and Chris Herbort?
Personally, I believe with Coach Pittman at the lead, and the Beavers’ length, Duvall will still find a way to produce a conference player of the year caliber season. He will still find ways to score, make plays, and most importantly . . . win games.
’22 Jacob Conner
High School: Kettering Alter
Travel Team: Wildcats Select
2-Step Vertical: 32 inches
Standing Vertical: 29 inches
Shuttle Time: 11.85 seconds
Standing Reach: 95 inches
Photo via Matt Barnes
The face of Dayton’s stock rise Summer, ‘22 Jacob Conner managed to pull in thirteen division one offers by the end of this off-season.
At our MVHV Dayton Elite Run, we saw a new side of Conner, a score-first Conner, after seeing him being a pass-first playmaker for the Knights. This was evident in his 3.3 assists per game.
Fast forward to the Team Flyght World Tryout, and we saw neither of those sides of Conner, but instead a shot blocking machine. Defensively, he acted as his teams’ post defender, while offensively Conner shifted over to the wing, occasionally spotting up for a three.
In the final scrimmage, we saw why he was a top five rebounder in the GCL. Alongside ‘22 Rich Rolf, they almost doubled their opponents shot attempts, due to the duo’s offensive rebounding. It’s safe to say, Jacob Conner’s biggest offer has yet to come!
During the weave drills, Coach Crawford pointed out a minor detail, with major impact. There was a lack of communication among the invitees. A surprising observation, that could’ve been the difference maker for if some prospects made the final roster or not. But, ‘22 Tom House took advantage of the absence, and ran with it.
House stuck out perfectly once scrimmage time came around, communicating loud and clear, boxing out, and being in great defensive positioning. He was one of the best help defenders in the gym. He was one of the many invitees that showed that they truly wanted a spot on this team.
He consistently pointed out & directed where his teammates should be on defense, resulting in forced turnovers & easy points off turnovers. Not only was he excelling at the ‘little things’, his handle has improved immensely over the off-season.
This will open up so many more opportunities in his game. Expect House to not only be deadly from the perimeter, but also the mid-range. Tom House’s off-season improvement is going to be a huge bonus for the Elks, and for the fans viewing.
Going into this season, Chaminade Julienne will be an interesting team competing in an unpredictable conference. ‘22 Kylan Tucker will be expecting a role increase, after serving as a key role player for the Eagles as a sophomore.
Not the most attractive player, but Tucker finds a way to make an impact on the floor, whether it’s sinking an open mid-ranger, boxing out & crashing the boards on both ends, or making the right play.
He made multiple nice passes during the scrimmages, recognizing the open teammate and getting it out of his hands quickly and accurately, even through narrow passing lanes.
Re-watching the tryout, Tucker was one of the most intense players on both ends, giving it his all.
One of the tryout’s most aggressive slashers, ‘22 Dasan Doucet, showed no hesitation in going into contact on the drive. This is just one of the many assets appealing to colleges recruiting the up & coming wing.
Rising his stock this off-season with his contribution to the Hopson Elite AAU Program, he rounded up interest from several colleges including Ja Morant’s Murray State.
Some missed finishes through contact, but might receive a foul call on the majority of his takes once the season rolls around. Played with a ton of intensity on the offensive end. He has grown tremendously in his skillset and with his athleticism. When he wants something, he goes for it.
Doucet is one of the more raw and promising prospects in the Dayton area, and will be a player to keep an eye out for his remaining two seasons.
Heading into tryouts, Oakwood’s newest addition, Keon Wright, was coming off an unfortunate playoff loss the night before to Olentangy Liberty’s football team, while still playing for Kettering Fairmont. This didn’t seem to have a huge effect on Wright’s productivity on the floor, but it might’ve impacted Wright’s score first mindset that we’re used to seeing in previous matchups, and at our MVHV Dayton Elite Run.
But, Wright did do a successful job of compensating with some eye-catching playmaking. He looked like he fit in very nicely working the combo guard, alongside Centerville’s Gabe Cupps, with Rich Rolf stretching the floor. Wright consistently & effectively found ‘23 Sam Walker down low, and off the screen, as well as Rolf in transition, and Cupps around the perimeter.
He showed intermittent spurts of effort on the defensive end, closing out aggressively and sporadically pressuring his on-ball match-ups. Also being one of the tryouts’ best athletes, Wright used his above impressive vertical to occasionally grab a rebound. He had good speed, first step, and change of speeds.
He forced three’s a handful of times, but is known to be a shooter. Wright also showed to be good at creating separation off the dribble.
After having one of the best performances at our Dayton Elite Run, Keon Wright became one of Dayton’s biggest stock risers. Don’t expect his name to go away anytime soon, looking to instantly make a case for a SWBL Player of The Year Candidate. Wright, alongside Will Maxwell will compete as one of the city’s most competitive duos.
By The Numbers
NBA Draft Combine Average (Guards): 6’1″ – 6″4″
NBA Draft Combine Average (Forwards): 6’5″ – 6’8″
NBA Draft Combine Average (Centers): 6’10” – 7’0″
Comparisons: Stephen Curry (6’3″), Dwayne Wade (6’4″), James Harden (6’5″), Zion Williamson (6’6″), Kawhi Leonard (6’7″), LeBron James (6’8″)
Lane Agility (seconds)
- ’22 Keon Wright (Oakwood) – 11.68
- ’22 Ryan Chew (Kettering Alter) – 11.72
- ’22 Rich Rolf (Centervile) – 11.73
- ’22 Kylan Tucker (CJ) – 11.78
- ’23 Will Maxwell (Oakwood) – 11.84
Photo via Gene Peters
By The Numbers
NBA Draft Combine Average (Guards): 10.8 – 11.2
NBA Draft Combine Average (Forwards): 11.3 – 11.6
NBA Draft Combine Average (Centers): 11.7 – 12.1
Comparisons: Devin Booker (10.27), Draymond Green (11.01), Damian Lillard (11.15), Kawhi Leonard (11.45), Stephen Curry (11.07), Russell Westbrook (10.98)
Standing Reach (feet)
- ’22 Jacob Conner (Kettering Alter) – 8’8″
- ’22 Jacob Pleiman (Botkins) – 8’8″
- ’22 Rich Rolf (Centervile) – 8’7″
- ’22 Adam Duvall (Beavercreek) – 8’6″
- ’23 Lee Benson (Meadowdale) – 8’6″
Photo via Matt Barnes
By The Numbers
NBA Draft Combine Average (Guards): 8’0″ – 8’5″
NBA Draft Combine Average (Forwards): 8’8″ – 8’11”
NBA Draft Combine Average (Centers): 9’1″ – 9’4″
Comparisons: Tacko Fall (10’3″), Bol Bol (9’8″), Anthony Davis (9’0″), LeBron James (8’10”), James Harden (8’8″), DeMarcus Cousins (9’5″)
By The Numbers
NBA Draft Combine Average (Guards): 29 – 31
NBA Draft Combine Average (Forwards): 29 – 32
NBA Draft Combine Average (Centers): 28 – 30
Comparisons: Donaven Mitchell (37), Zach Lavine (34), Aaron Gordon (33), Jimmy Butler (32), James Harden (32), Stephen Curry (30)
2-Step Vertical (inches)
- ’23 Antaune Allen (Dayton Dunbar) – 36
- ’23 Lawrent Rice (Wayne) – 35
- ’23 Dayjuan Anderson (Ponitz) – 34
- ’22 Kylan Tucker (CJ) – 33
- ’22 Keon Wright (Oakwood) – 33
- ’22 Anthony Johnson (Fairmont) – 33
Photo via Matt Barnes
By The Numbers
NBA Draft Combine Average (Guards): 35 – 38
NBA Draft Combine Average (Forwards): 35 – 38
NBA Draft Combine Average (Centers): 33 – 36
Comparisons: Donaven Mitchell (41), Devin Booker (35), Zach Lavine (42), Draymond Green (33), Kemba Walker (40), Klay Thompson (32)
In the end, there could only be ten players given the chance to represent Team Flyght World in Switzerland, along with two alternates. It would be a tough decision, but ultimately up to the coaches.
The event genuinely felt like a tryout. It didn’t feel like a showcase or have an all-star game environment. It was great to see Dayton’s top prospects actually going at it on both ends, playing defense, sharing the ball, running the floor, screening & cutting, communicating, and COMPETING!
The hospitality of the tryout was also on point. The players and other personnel were provided with merchandise and food. Personally, I enjoyed every moment of it and was blessed to be given the opportunity.
For the players, these events are really more than just a tryout. There’s so much more that can be extracted from these then just a roster spot. The ability to network and meet other top prospects in the area, and experienced coaches and media personnel. The fact that you’re getting your measurements taken and provided to you (height, vertical, shuttle run). And, so much more. I hope more invitees take advantage of this opportunity in the future, as it is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
In an interview with SWO Full Court Press, Chris Wright announced a handful of countries that would have teams representing them in Switzerland, to compete with Team Flyght World. These countries included Brazil, Italy, Austria, Iceland, Serbia, Switzerland, Lithuania, Germany, Israel, and Qatar.
Finally, here is your Team Flyght World 2021 boys’ roster . . . See you in Switzerland!
Even though the Team Flyght World rosters have been announced, the TFW Future Stars rosters are still highly anticipated and awaiting release.
All photos via Matt Barnes
Dear players & coaches, if you come across any misinformation about you or your players, be sure to let me know by contacting me on one of my social media platforms!