2015-16 Harding Boys’ Basketball Preview

2015-16 Warren Harding Raiders’ Boys Basketball Preview
Head Coach: Andrew Vlajkovich, 4th season at Harding (46-27)
Record: 20-6 (11-1), T-1st in AAC American
5-Year Winning Percentage: 71.4%
5-Year League Record: 36-22*
*-From 2010-14, Harding was a member of the Lake Erie League

Season in Review
In 2014-15, the Raiders took a share of the All-American Red Division championship and won 20 games for the first time in three years (21-4 in 2011-12). Harding cruised past Euclid (82-61) and Lakeside (90-36) in their first two post-season matchups before being tested in overtime by Mentor (49-38) before falling to Shaker Heights by eleven in the District Finals.

All-American Conference Basketball Champions
Red Division
2014-15: Poland & Warren Harding (11-1)
2010-11: Howland (7-1)
2009-10: Canfield & Poland (7-1)
2008-09: Poland (7-1)

White Division
2014-15: Jefferson (10-0)
2010-11: Struthers (8-0)
2009-10: Struthers (8-0)
2008-09: Lakeview (7-1)

Blue Division
2014-15: Girard (10-2)
2010-11: LaBrae (8-0)
2009-10: Campbell (10-0)
2008-09: Campbell & Newton Falls (9-1)

AAC American Division
2013-14: Poland (11-1)
2012-13: Canfield & Poland (8-2)
2011-12: Struthers (9-1)

AAC National Division
2013-14: Campbell, Girard & LaBrae (8-2)
2012-13: LaBrae (10-0)
2011-12: LaBrae (10-0)

Key Losses
Shondell Jackson
Jarelle Johnson

Key Returnees
Harding returns six of their top eight players from last year’s 20-6 team. Senior Gabe Simpson averaged 15.1 points per game as a junior while shooting 46% from beyond the three-point stripe. Simpson also led the team in assists and steals. Gabe’s classmate Shakem Johnson almost averaged a double-double (13.9 points, 9.4 rebounds). Coach Andrew Vlajkovich sees a big year out of his 6’7 wing. “(Shakem) has excelled this summer and his recruitment has really picked up (as well). He’s poised to have a monster senior year.” Junior Derek Culver, who stands 6’9, has received offers from numerous Big 10 schools as well as North Carolina State and West Virginia. Culver averaged 13.1 points and grabbed 8.8 rebounds per outing. Vlajkovich is quick to point out his most dominant performance, “Last season was highlighted by our district semifinal (matchup) with Mentor. (Derek) went 27 points and 17 rebounds against Ohio State commit Micah Potter.” Mark Herron and Marlin Richardson both should see significant time. Herron was praised by Vlajkovich as being a strong and athletic guard with an excellent outside touch. Richardson was identified as the Raiders best defender and one of the team’s outside threats. Newcomers Tiryn Frank and Lynn Bowden both should make an impact this season while Kahmaree Bush brings his experience, intelligence and poise to a talented lineup.

Kahmaree Bush (Sr.)
Mark Herron (Sr.)
Shakem Johnson (Sr.)
Gabe Simpson (Sr.)
Derek Culver (Jr.)
Lynn Bowden (Jr.)
Tiryn Frank (Jr.)
Marlin Richardson (Jr.)

AAC Red Division Outlook
Boardman The Spartans made strides last year. Gannon Murray leads a hungry bunch into the 2015-16 season.

Canfield When you talk Canfield basketball, the conversation should start with 6’3 senior forward Mason Mangapora, who is coming off of a junior campaign which saw him average 16 points and 5 boards.

East The Panthers turned the ball over 20 times a game (19.9) and only shot 31.9% from the floor. Both numbers will have to increase if East has plans on crashing the AAC party this year.

Fitch Fitch has a pair of seniors – Anthony Pangio and Dominic DiFrancesco – both returning as coach Brian Beany likes what he has seen out of his team this off-season.

Howland Coach Jason Lee may have lost Julian Lanier but he has a wealth of support returning such as Luciano Romeo, Connor Antinone and Victor Williams just to name a few.

Lakeside The Dragons enter the All-American Conference in their initial campaign.

Poland Three years in a row, the Bulldogs have won or shared their league championship. Coach Ken Grisdale’s bunch should have an opportunity for a fourth straight with Jared Burkert, Mike Gajdos, Matt Baker and Jake Burns all back in the fold.

Warren Harding Harding returns seniors Gabe Simpson and Shakem Johnson from last year’s 20-win team. Oh yeah, the state’s highest rated junior (Derek Culver) also is back to cause mayhem near the bucket.

2015-16 Schedule
Dec. 1 – Boardman, 7
Dec. 4 – at Lakeside, 7
Dec. 8 – at Fitch, 7
Dec. 11 – at Canfield, 7
Dec. 15 – Howland, 7
Jan. 5 – at Poland, 7
Jan. 9 – Cleveland Heights, 7:30
Jan. 12 – at East, 7
Jan. 15 – at Boardman, 7
Jan. 19 – Lakeside, 7
Jan. 22 – Fitch, 7
Jan. 26 – Canfield, 7
Jan. 29 – at Howland, 7
Feb. 2 – East, 7
Feb. 5 – Poland, 7
Feb. 12 – Canton McKinley, 7
Feb. 16 – at Ursuline, 7
Feb. 19 – at Jackson, 7:30

Post-Season History
State Championships: None
Regional Championships: 2 (2009, 1966)
…Within the last eight years, the Raiders have won 23 playoff games. Harding has won three district championships and has appeared in the district final six times, including last year’s 49-38 loss to Shake Heights.

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