The Cleveland 216ers AAU basketball program was created a mere four years ago and are playing in their fourth season this summer.  As in the name, the majority of players in the program hail from Northeast Ohio.  But, in the last couple of seasons, the Sixers have expanded by way of I-71 South toward the state’s capital.  This season, one-third of the 216ers are from Columbus.

Connor Herrick (#33) from The Wellington School

The first time a player from outside Northeast Ohio suited up for the Sixers was in the 2017 season when Casey Jones from Upper Arlington High School joined the club as a junior.  Since Jones, the 216ers have been represented by many more Golden Bears, and this season, have expanded past just Upper Arlington and have had players from five different Central Ohio high schools.  Below is a list of who has suited up from Central Ohio in the history of the 216ers:

Andrew Butcher (#8) from Dublin Jerome

Casey Jones-Upper Arlington HS c/o 2018, Sixer in 2017

Miles Eriksen-Upper Arlington HS c/o 2020, Sixer in 2017-2019

Max Mollmann-Upper Arlington HS c/o 2019, Sixer in 2017 (partial season)

Quinn Corna-Upper Arlington HS c/o 2022, Sixer in 2017 and 2019 (partial seasons)

Coleman Kegler-Upper Arlington HS c/o 2021, Sixer in 2018 and 2019

Sammy Sass-Upper Arlington HS c/o 2019, Sixer in 2018 (partial season)

Clint Younkin-Upper Arlington HS c/o 2020, Sixer in 2018 and 2019

John Basil-Upper Arlington HS c/o 2020, Sixer in 2019

Jack Purcell-Upper Arlington HS c/o 2022, Sixer in 2019

Connor Herrick-The Wellington School c/o 2020, Sixer in 2019

Andrew Butcher-Dublin Jerome HS c/o 2021, Sixer in 2019

Jacob Schneider-Upper Arlington HS c/o 2022, Sixer in 2019

Nick Heath-Upper Arlington HS c/o 2022, Sixer in 2019 (partial season)

Owen Gawel-Upper Arlington HS c/o 2022, Sixer in 2019 (partial season)

Chase Oullette-The Wellington School c/o 2022, Sixer in 2019 (partial season)

Jonathan Weir-Hilliard Davidson HS c/o 2022, Sixer in 2019 (partial season)

Kalil Camara-Westland HS c/o 2020, Sixer in 2019 (partial season)

Elijah Meredith-The Wellington School c/o 2020 (partial season)

The Columbus-Cleveland 216ers connection is more than all the players – it’s a lot of the coaching staff too.  Coach Ben Gordesky is a varsity assistant coach for Upper Arlington and Coach Jeremy Gordesky has spent time on the Golden Bears staff as well.  Coach Dave Herrick was the varsity assistant coach at The Wellington School before becoming the JV assistant at UA.  When asked about the importance of the growth of the program throughout the state, Jeremy had this to say: “[The] relationships we’ve built with coaches and players in the Cleveland/Akron area [have] enabled us to do our best for those programs and their players.  Living in Columbus the past few years has enabled us to spread our network to Columbus schools and players at tournaments and on social media.”  Jeremy went on to talk about how “exposure and trust” are the two key elements in growing throughout the Midwest.  “With guys seeing Sixers and what we do, we have a platform.  [Once] we have a player or coach’s attention, we can display our values of developing guys the right way [by] preaching fundamentals that can be applied to high school systems and for some guys, build a foundation for the next level.”  

John Basil (#9) from Upper Arlington

The platform Coach Jeremy was talking about is important in every facet of both coaching athletes and building a business, which at its core is what the AAU basketball business is all about.  But one thing that makes it interesting for the Central Ohio guys is the novelty of it.  John Basil (2020 guard) said that one of the more interesting parts of this season is being able to play with a lot of talented guys he doesn’t normally see during a high school basketball season.  “You have to be able to communicate better on the court,” Basil said.  “Because everybody is used to playing in different systems, [you] need to talk more than you usually would to make sure everybody’s on the same page.  This really helped me improve my communication skills, which are extremely important in basketball.”  Looking at the major programs in the state and country, players come from all over states.  Part of the reason (aside from talent) these teams are great is they pull players from all different systems which, like Basil said, stresses communication and enhances everyone’s overall game. 

Coaching family can be difficult, but it’s something Coach Ben and Coach Jeremy have been used to since the beginning of the program.  As he is coaching his son, Connor, on the varsity team, Coach Herrick had this to say: “Being a veteran coach for 25 plus years and having an opportunity to coach your son is something you dream of.  This spring has been somewhat of a blessing for us because we decided to play with the Cleveland 216ers.  Connor gets to reunite with some teammates from Upper Arlington and [also] meet some quality players from the Cleveland area.  I [also] get to coach with Ben again like we did a few years ago for the Upper Arlington basketball program.”  Coach Herrick went on to say how coaching with the 216ers was an opportunity he could not pass up.  “It has been an awesome experience for both of us (Dave and Connor).  [From] a player’s perspective it’s important to get outside your box and experience new challenges to improve your game.  Connor has really enjoyed playing with the Cleveland guys: they have been very receptive to his style of play and he has done likewise.”  

Jonathan Weir (#19) from Hilliard Davidson

“Expanding throughout the state is a huge goal of ours,” Coach Ben says.  “The more of a reach we have to different parts of the state, the more our guys can benefit down the road in their basketball careers and in life.”

Kalil Camara (#5) from Westland

Photo taken by Deborah Fish!

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