The offseason for two of the Miami Valley’s best high school basketball players means 6 a.m. workouts with new teammates, a busy AAU schedule and college visits.
Jonathan Powell and Collin O’Connor enrolled at Centerville High School in March. They are an unexpected boost to a roster that graduated five seniors, including all-state performers Rich Rolf and Tom House.
“Obviously, they’re both really good players,” Elks coach Brook Cupps said. “We do things a little bit differently than some other places and we’re going to see how how they fit into our culture, and how willing they are to buy into the things that we do. I hope it’s something that they’ll embrace. So far they’ve done a great job, they’re working hard, and they’re listening to their teammates.”
Powell, a 6-foot-6 guard who averaged 16.8 points this past season, played two years at Chaminade Julienne and helped the Eagles reach the Division II state tournament as a freshman. He played well in spring AAU tournaments and the college offers are rolling in. He was offered by Ohio State and Indiana this past week after unofficial visits. He also holds offers from Dayton, Illinois, Texas A&M, Cincinnati and Xavier.
O’Connor, a 6-2 guard and three-year starter at Tecumseh, has an offer from USC Upstate and interest from Radford, Akron, Toledo, College of Charleston, Furman and Robert Morris. After his AAU team won its division two weekends ago at an AAU tournament in Fort Wayne, Dayton invited him to play in open gyms in June.
The Elks are coming off a Division I state championship in 2021 and a state runner-up finish this year. They return point guard and Indiana commit Gabe Cupps, who won Ohio’s Mr. Basketball award. Cupps, Emmanuel Deng and Kyle Kenney are the core returning players.
“Our guys are excited to have them, and hopefully they’re looking forward to competing at the level that we want to compete at,” Brook Cupps said.
Powell and O’Connor were unaware the other was considering Centerville. Powell moved to Centerville from Akron before his freshman season at CJ. His family had a longstanding relationship with former CJ assistant coach Rich Kidd, who died during this past season.
“Me and my family talked about it, and it was serious conversation,” Powell said. “We all believe this will help me get ready for next level because we know that Coach Cupps is an amazing coach.”
O’Connor, who averaged 22 points for Tecumseh, moved to Centerville in March. He has known Brook and Gabe Cupps since playing on summer teams with Gabe in the fourth and fifth grades.
“I needed to grow as a player, so I thought Centerville was a really good opportunity,” O’Connor said. “I wanted to win at a higher level, and now I want to compete at the state level.”
Powell and O’Connor are learning quickly what it takes to be an Elk. They are in the gym with most of the team every morning at 6 a.m. for “The Breakfast Club” workout that Gabe Cupps, House and Rolf made famous. And some days they are back in the gym at 8 p.m.
“We’re always working when everybody’s sleeping or at home chilling,” Powell said. “Just know that we’re always in the gym working. Once we start clicking and practicing and having scrimmages and playing good throughout the year, I believe we can definitely go back to state.”
Powell has two seasons to improve and plenty of time to choose a college. He said the following about three of the schools that want him.
- Indiana: “They’ve got a great coaching staff. They really show that they want you there and make you feel welcomed and loved like you are one of the guys there.”
- Ohio State: “Real good coaches and the facility was good. Basically just everything I said about Indiana. They’re two really good schools.”
- Dayton: “I’ve been on the campus a couple of times and watched a couple practices and talked to Coach Grant numerous times. I have a really good relationship with him. I’m not from Dayton, but from my two or three years being in Dayton, Dayton is like my home.”
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