FINNEYTOWN, Ohio — Darius Bazley is a 6-foot-8 wing, wears a size-15 shoe and enjoys playing NBA and NHL video games.
The 15-year-old also happens to be the state’s No. 1-ranked basketball player in the 2018 class. And he is very proud to say he attends Finneytown High School.
“I didn’t want to be one of the kids who just win here for two years then transfer to a better school because they were getting better looks,” Bazley told WCPO.com.
“I get all my looks from AAU. I have coaches who watch me in the gym or watch me in the weight room.”
In the 24/7, global world of recruiting, Bazley is the focus of several college programs that have either visited Finneytown or text or call Wildcats coach Kimar Morris to keep tabs on his top-40 national recruit.
Bazley’s biggest decision this week might be whether he’s getting another cell phone or a Google number dedicated to answering college coaches.
Bazley, a smooth ball-handling player with excellent size and length, has offers from Toledo, Florida and Saint Louis. More will soon follow. Bazley is considering visits to Ohio State and Purdue next week.
“His upside is really ridiculous,” Morris said.
Xavier, Dayton, Butler, Ohio State, West Virginia and Purdue were at Finneytown this past school year.
“Ohio State has been calling me like crazy,” Morris said.
Last week, Bazley was ranked the No. 1 player in the 2018 class in Ohio by ESPN.com and No. 38 nationally. Like Wilmington’s Jarron Cumberland (UC) and Franklin’s Luke Kennard (Duke), Bazley plays for the esteemed King James AAU program.
And like Cumberland and Kennard, Bazley made the decision to remain with his home district and not leave the community.
Finneytown had 328 students in the high school this past school year and is a Division III program tucked back into a neighborhood on Fontainebleau Terrace.
“I used to argue with players for years and years,” Morris said.
“It makes no difference where you play high school basketball. You can get a scholarship in our day that we live in and play AAU only. That’s just where we are at.
"I told him you can go somewhere and be a really good player. Or you can stay here and be the best ever to walk these halls. He’s accepted the challenge.”
Bazley has been compared to Stacy Augmon (Morris told Bazley to look up the former NBA and UNLV standout on YouTube) and because of his advanced skill set he played all five positions for Finneytown last season.
This upcoming season, Finneytown will still play him inside from time to time, but will pop him out for isolation plays.
Bazley, a left-handed shooter, averaged 15.8 points, 12.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.4 blocks and 1.5 steals last season and will certainly be in the spotlight again next winter. Finneytown is considering an opportunity to play in the nationally recognized Flyin’ to the Hoop Invitational in January 2017.
Finneytown Athletic Director Mike Stevens says Bazley has brought increased exposure to the school, but the standout remains humble in everything that has happened.
“You would never know he’s the No. 1-ranked player in the state – he just goes about his business,” Stevens said. “He is a kind of a quiet kid in school. Overall, he’s what you hope for in a good student-athlete.”
Bazley often calls Assistant Athletic Director Shery Enderle for permission to work out in the school.
“He’s a gym rat,” Stevens said. “If he could play from eight in the morning to 12 at night, he would do it. That’s where a lot of times we tell him, ‘hey, you've got to go home.’”
Bazley has worked on improving a consistent jump shot and getting stronger in the weight room. Longtime basketball recruiting observer John Stovall tweeted at the end of May that Bazley was likely the best sophomore in Ohio.
Morris has also emphasized defense to Bazley. Morris tells him that aspect of his game will carry him far.
“The biggest thing I have told him now is he’s got to be able to handle the criticism,” Morris said. “When you start getting those high majors' offers like that every time you shoot the ball, somebody is going to pick you apart. If you can handle that criticism you can be a really good player.”