The high school basketball season began in earnest this past weekend for the girls, and most of the boys’ programs will make their debut this Friday. We have been spoiled the last several years as local squads treated fans to some spectacular basketball and trotted out some of the finest talent in the state. There are a lot of intangibles that go into the making of a great team, but talent still ranks as the leading contender. Several local players who proved that point during their high school careers are making a similar impact for their respective college teams. Here is a sampling:
Dakota Mathias (Elida/Purdue University)
It seems like just yesterday I was watching Mathias help lead the Bulldogs to their first appearance at state. Elida was just seconds away from capturing a state championship. Although only a sophomore at the time, Dakota was clearly one of the best players on the floor. His confidence and poise under pressure belied his age. Now in his senior year at Purdue, Dakota’s career as a Boilermaker has been spectacular.
When Dakota first arrived at Purdue he described himself as, “the worst defender on the team.” He did not back down from the challenge and went to work on improving his game at that end of the court. Last year Mathias was named to the Big Ten all-defensive team and Sports Illustrated named him to their prestigious “All Glue Team,” labeling him the best defender in the Big Ten. But it has been at the offensive end of the court that Mathias has made the most noise. He is in range of becoming the all-time leading 3-point shooter in Boilermaker history. After seven games this year, Mathias is hitting on a remarkable 57 percent from 3-point range and averaging 16.0 points a game. Over the weekend Dakota scored 24 points in leading Purdue to a win over Arizona, at the time, the number two ranked team in the nation. Mathias, a management major, has been named to the Big Ten All-Academic Team twice.
Taren Sullivan (Bath/University of Findlay)
Sullivan was a key player on Bath’s two regional final squads, that school’s most successful tournament runs. Taren was not heavily recruited but Oiler head coach, Mike Ernst, saw the potential in the 6’6” Sullivan and his hunch has paid dividends. Taren led UF in rebounding, assists, blocked shots and steals last season while averaging 18.1 points per game. The Oilers won 25 games and advanced to the NCAA division II Midwest Regional Championship game. Sullivan was named 1st team all-Conference. This season UF is off to a good start against a grueling schedule. Sullivan is averaging 18.8 points a game and leading the Oilers in virtually every statistical category.
Martyce Kimbrough (LCC/University of Findlay)
Kimbrough led Lima Central Catholic to a state championship before beginning his college career at the University of Indianapolis. He transferred to UF joining his lifelong friend, Taren Sullivan, and together they have been the driving force behind the Oiler’s success. Kimbrough led UF in scoring (19.3) last year and set a school record for most 3 pointers in a season (114). Martyce also established a new a single game mark nailing 11 3’s vs Tiffin University, a feat that earned him Division II National Player of the Week. The two time first team All-Conference performer is a Pre-Season All-American selection. The atmosphere at the University of Findlay home games is electric. If you have a chance to take in one of their games, don’t miss the opportunity.
Maddie Dackin (Bath/Ashland University)
Maddie was an All-State player at Bath and led them to state. She played a key role in Ashland’s remarkable run to the NCAA Division II National Championship last season. Dackin averaged 8.0 points off the bench as the Eagles ran off an amazing 37 wins without a defeat. She was 2nd on the team with 42 3 pointers. This season Maddie has moved into a starting role and is averaging 12 points a game for the nation’s top ranked team. Ashland is off to a 6-0 start and has extended their winning streak to 43 games. Dackin was also named to the Conference All-Academic Team.
Zavier Simpson (LSH/LCC-University of Michigan)
Simpson led LCC to a state championship and Lima Senior to a state title game while in high school. The 2016 Ohio Player of the Year saw limited action as a freshman at UM but began his second season at Michigan as the starting point guard. He is currently competing with two others for that position. He is a shut-down defender on the perimeter and has one of the best handles in college basketball. In the games I’ve watched, the Wolverines appear to be much more comfortable when Zavier is at the wheel. Michigan plays at defending National Champion North Carolina Wednesday night.
Indiya Benjamin (LSH/Youngstown State University)
This former Spartan star has enjoyed an outstanding career for the Division I Penguins and enters her senior year chasing several YSU records. She returns as her team’s leading scorer and recently passed the 1,000 career point total. Benjamin led the Horizon League in assists the past two seasons. She was a pre-season all-conference selection. Indiya will graduate with a degree in nursing.
Dantez Walton (LCC/Northern Kentucky University)
Walton wears two state championship rings he earned while playing for LCC. He played in 29 games and averaged 4.0 points as a freshman for NKU. He made some crucial shots during their exciting post season tournament run. This year Dantez has moved into the teams sixth man role and is averaging 7.0 points a game for the Norsemen who are expected to challenge for the top spot in the Horizon League.
Tre Cobbs (LCC/Northern Kentucky University)
Cobbs and Walton were teammates at LCC and both were named first team All-State. Cobbs arrived at NKU as a walk-on but quickly earned a scholarship. He spent his first year learning the ropes of Division I basketball and played sparingly. This season Cobbs has moved up in the rotation and earning more minutes.
Essence Cowan (LSH/Owens Community College)
Essence ranks fifth on the all-time scoring list for Spartan Lady basketball. She was the starting point guard for the Express in her first year. Owens won 30 straight games before losing the district championship game. Essence averaged 12.2 points a game. She is back running the point for Owens this season.
Marquevious Wilson (LSH/Owens Community College)
Wilson was a member of the Spartan team that played for a state championship in 2016. He was a starter last year for Owens and averaged 10.3 points a game. He is off to a good start this season and
scoring 14 points a game. Marquevious recently made a verbal commitment to play for Division II Grand Valley State next season. Rico Stafford, Marquevious’ teammate at LSH, is also in his second year at Owens and is scheduled to rejoin the team in the second semester.
Bruce Hodges (Perry/Dodge City Community College)
Bruce transferred to Dodge City from Cuyahoga C. C. following last season. The Perry Commodore is the starting point guard for the 4-1 Conquistadors and averaging 13 points a game. Interestingly, Bruce’s dad, Bruce Sr., also played for Dodge City’s head coach, Steve Tucker, while playing at Sam Houston State several decades ago.
Bob Seggerson is a retired boys basketball coach and guidance counselor at Lima Central Catholic. Reach him at email@example.com.