VASJ Boys Basketball tops Division IV Overview

Excerpted from JJHuddle Boys Basketball D-IV Preview: All-Ohio, Top Teams & More. JJHuddle.com

*Cleveland VASJ (15-9)
Last season, with a team playing three freshmen significant minutes, VASJ made the district final in its first year in DIV. The Vikings fell 67-64, in overtime, to a veteran and talented Richmond Heights’ squad. The Cleveland-based school returns the nucleus of its squad and has the potential to start five Division 1 prospects.

Four-year starter Demonte Flannigan leads the Vikings. The 6-foot-7 Flannigan, aCleveland Statepledge, is one of the best athletes in the state with a college-ready body. Flannigan averaged a team-leading 16.5 points and 10.7 rebounds per game as a junior.Seniorguard Duane Gibson, an Evansville commit, will flank Flannigan, who swatted away just over two shots per game a year ago. Gibson, at 6-foot-3, averaged 10.7 points and 6.5 rebounds, and led the team in assists with 154. Sophomore Brian Parker (6’2) was third on the team in scoring at (10.8 ppg.) and third in rebounding (6.0 rpg.). Parker, who is a strong and athletic lefty, is also drawing D1 interest. The fourth and final returning starter may be the hottest name in Ohio right now in 6-foot-9 Carlton Bragg. The sophomore is loaded with potential and has turned heads over the last couple months at several elite camps/showcases. Bragg is a long and athletic big with a vastly improved offensive face up game along with being a very good eraser on the defensive end. His ability to run the floor, be active, and create match up problems should be a huge bonus for the Vikings. He owns offers from several high-major schools already. Look forhis numbers to seriously increase this season.

Sophomore Derek Pardon (6’6) has a chance to the fifth starter, and should be another “big” piece of the puzzle. The big lefty should give head coach Babe Kwasniak another option in the paint along with Flannigan and Bragg. Pardon is another kid who could eventually land at D1 university. Junior Deandre Forte (6’1) and sophomores Vaughn Johnson (5’10) and Simon Texidor (6’0) are more returnees for the Vikings.

Sophomores Tre Williams (6’3) and Jeff Grudzinski (6’1) are newcomers that Kwasniak will be counting on to provide depth against a brutalschedule.

VASJ opens up with Columbus Africentric in the Clark Kellogg Tip-Off Classic before road games with DI’s Lakewood St. Edward and Euclid. The Vikings will also take part in the Cure for Cancer Shootout at Massillon Jackson where they will meet DI power Westerville North. A very good DIII Beachwood team will be at home along with home/away versus rival Cleveland Central Catholic. In addition, games with Cleveland John Hay, West Virginia power Martinsburg, Akron SVSM, Brush, Cleveland St. Ignatius, Dalton, and home/away against rival Bedford Chanel.

We can say this with confidence, no Division IV team in the state plays a tougher schedule than VASJ and it’s not close. The Vikings, along with their schedule and elite talent, are no doubt our favorite to win the state championship. However, Coach Kwasniak isn’t ready to hear it.

“We have a team that has never accomplished anything in a school that has a storied tradition,” Kwasniak noted.

Cleveland VASJ will have to replace graduates Karl Garner (11.5 ppg.) and Mel Burke Jr. (4.4 ppg.), both guards.

Bottom Line:VASJ plays an absolutely ridiculous schedule for any high school team let alone a DIV outfit, so the Vikings will have some losses coming into tournament play. Nevertheless, this is one of most talented teams in the state regardless of division with the possibility of five future D1 players on the roster. No doubt, it will take a monumental effort for a DIV team to beat this squad.

FIRST TEAM:
Demonte Flannigan (6’7/Sr.)- Cleveland VASJ
Wade Gelhaus (6’5/Sr.)- Fort Recovery
Rico Jones (5’10/Sr.)- Richmond Heights
Duane Gibson (6’3/Sr.)- Cleveland VASJ
Jett Speelman (6’7/Sr.)- Newark Catholic

SECOND TEAM:
Zach Garber (6’8/Sr.)- Vanlue
Brian Parker (6’2/So.)- Cleveland VASJ
Carlton Bragg (6’9/So.)- Cleveland VASJ
Kenny Robinson (6’0/Sr.)- Columbus Africentric
Max Kapron (6’5/Sr.)- Malvern


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