The sacrificing of personal glory by members of All-Ohio Red, an AAU basketball team brimming with many of the top players in northwest Ohio, has been integral to an offseason highlighted by impressive wins, tournament championships, and scholarship offers.
The Columbus-based team, which likely includes 10 future Division I college players -- four of which hail from this area -- is ranked among the nation's best as they head into the final days of the summer season.
Chemistry on the court, derived from individual's unselfishness and their acceptance of roles, is key, says Napoleon's Jordan Lauf. Entering this week's Peach Jam in North Augusta, S.C., All-Ohio Red enjoyed a spring and summer that saw them capture a state championship, win about 85 percent of their games, and finish second in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League regular season. They are ranked fourth nationally.
"When we get these guys together, it's not who scores the most or who has the best stats," Lauf said. "Most importantly, we want to win. That's how it all unfolds."
Lauf, a University of Toledo verbal commitment, is joined in the starting lineup by his future college teammate, Zach Garber of Vanlue, along with St. John's Jesuit's Marc Loving and Whitmer's Nigel Hayes.
The Peach Jam, which draws in the top 24 Nike teams in the nation, got off to a rocky start, with All-Ohio Red dropping two of its first three games heading into a match up Friday night against an opponent from Chicago. They will play at least one game today depending on if they finish first or second in their pool and advance to quarterfinals. From there they will board a flight for the national tournament in Orlando, Fla.
"This being our last AAU go around, we're shooting for that national championship and also a Peach Jam championship," Lauf said this week before play began. "We're trying to leave our AAU careers on top and leave our legacy for the All-Ohio Red program."
The four local players on the team already established a legacy in this area. Considered by many to be the best collection of talent this section of the state has produced, Loving, Hayes, Garber, Anthony Wayne's Mark Donnal, and Bowling Green's Vitto Brown make up half of the state's top 10 recruits, according to respected ranker John Stovall. Lauf is 18th. Another local prospect, Bedford's Jackson Lamb, played on one of Michigan's top AAU teams but will play baseball in college at the University of Michigan.
Donnal, who is committed to Michigan, plays for an adidas-sponsored team out of Indiana that is oversaw by former Bowling Green State University coach Dan Dakich. Brown, who is at the Peach Jam with Indy Spiece, has generated offers from Wisconsin, Tennessee, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Iowa State among others.
All-Ohio Red coach Quentin Rogers said one could argue the Toledo area boasts the finest talent this year, an impressive distinction given its small population relative to Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland.
Rogers is in his third year coaching All-Ohio Red, which in recent years has been the offseason home of local stars Aaron Craft (Liberty-Benton), Chauncey Orr (Bowling Green), and Cheatham Norrils (St. John's). Loving, the No. 1 player in the state and an Ohio State recruit, is in his third year, as is Hayes. Lauf and Garber joined the squad last season.
"I think all of them improved from last year," Rogers said. "Lauf, I don't think was really known throughout the state before he came with us. He made a name for himself. Garber came out of nowhere and he made a name for himself."
Lauf, a prolific scorer who led the Northern Lakes League in points per game in 2011-12 with 21.9, has contributed mostly on defense. Rogers assigns him to cover the best offensive player on the opposing team. In an overtime win in May over a team from Chicago, Lauf held the nation's top recruit, Jabari Parker, to 10 points on 5-of-16 shooting.
"Basically bottled him up," Rogers said, adding that Lauf requested to guard Parker, who many tout as the best high school prospect since LeBron James in 2003.
Asked to confirm reports that Bowling Green recruit Zach Denny has shot the ball well, Rogers replied, "That might be an understatement." Denny, of Germantown Valley View, shelved his attacking ways to be the team's top marksman.
Loving and Hayes have become better leaders, said Rogers, who saved his highest praise for Hayes, whom he called "the nation's most underrated player." Hayes, ranked sixth in the state, has offers from Stanford, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. UCLA, Vanderbilt, and Boston College are showing interest and could extend an offer if Hayes plays well to close out the summer.
Lauf lost track of all the cities and states the team has visited since the spring, but he is sure of something.
Time spent together on buses, in airplanes, and in hotel rooms has made the players grow close.
"Right now, our chemistry level is as high as it has been all summer," he said.
Contact Ryan Autullo at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.