It’s not often a 6-foot-8 Michigan State recruit and a 6-10 West Virginia recruit square off on the hardwood.
In Medina County, it’s the equivalent of a Haley’s Comet.
Tonight is about as big as it gets — pun intended.
Defending Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division champion Medina vs. bitter rival Brunswick. Junior forward Kenny Kaminski vs. senior center Pat Forsythe.
Both players are the cornerstone of their team’s offense. Both have blossomed into elite high school players with All-Ohio ability that made them among the most highly sought-after recruits in the Midwest this summer.
Both are respectful young men born just seven days apart in July of 1993, but each has his own unique style.
Kenny with a ‘J’
When he first arrived at Medina High School, Kaminski was essentially a 6-foot-5 spot-up shooter. He was the third option on an average team building for the future.
Last season, Kaminski grew as a person and athlete, and added a few post moves to his game. The Bees won 20 games and advanced to the Grafton Division I District championship game behind Gazette MVP Peters and Kaminski, who was already a deadly 3-point shooter and an underrated defender.
The only things left were to hone off-the-dribble moves, inside scoring and rebounding.
That came to fruition this summer, culminating with a full-ride scholarship from coach Tom Izzo and Michigan State.
As a member of the Indiana Elite’s under-16 team — a unit that featured two 7-footers and an AAU program that boasts Clippers guard Eric Gordon as an alumnus — Kaminski competed with the nation’s best all over the country.
“I think playing the best kids in the country all the time makes me play as hard as I can throughout the entire tournaments I was in,” he said. “That alone makes me better as a player.”
With such impressive size at the Elite’s disposal, Kaminski played a guard position, so he concentrated on penetrating to the basket. He didn’t neglect the paint, however, and fine-tuned an up-and-under move designed to draw fouls.
Now, Kaminski will get his shot to show off those skills as the go-to guy. With the graduation of Peters and Matt Ellenbest focusing on baseball, Medina will feed its offense through its stud.
Though that will translate into double teams that could limit his scoring, Kaminski doesn’t mind.
“I know I have to come out and perform the best I can for us to be successful,” he said. “Our goals haven’t changed since last year — defending conference championship for sure and win the in-county rivalries — so that makes myself and the rest of the team work that much harder.”
Big Pat is back
Seven days older than Kaminski, Forsythe would make a great cover boy for a book about late bloomers.
He didn’t start basketball until the eighth grade. He often was known as simply Brooke’s “little” brother when she tore it up for Brunswick and later Cloverleaf as a 6-3 beast of a center. Pat’s offensive prowess was never showcased, though he never looked awkward or out of place like so many tall players do, either.
Through pure determination, he matured on the court.
Forsythe was largely ignored in Brunswick’s offense last season with forwards Tyler Ferrell and Kyle Payne and guard Jeremy Salmonski handling the scoring. Forsythe’s job was to rebound (7.1 per night) and be a force with his 7-foot wingspan on defense (56 blocks in 22 games) that made him the most feared interior defender in the Northeast Ohio Conference.
Forsythe knew he could earn a D-I scholarship like Brooke, who is playing at American University in Washington D.C. As a result, he followed a similar path to Kaminski’s with the Cleveland Cavs AAU program.
More importantly, his regimen consisted of old-fashioned hard work with post coach and former Brunswick standout Brian Schmidt, which included pumping iron at a feverish pace that added 25 pounds of muscle to his frame.
“Defensively, he was one of the best in the state last year, but now he’s more confident on offense,” Blue Devils coach Mackey said. “He’s dramatically improved with reading the defense and the ability to score the ball down low.”
Now, Forsythe sports a 12-15 foot jumper, an effective drop-step, an up-and-under, a spin move and a devastating baby hook that is unstoppable without a double team because of his reach.
Those moves have translated into 19, 21 and 16 points during the Blue Devils’ 2-1 start. Much to Mackey’s delight, Forsythe’s play on the block has opened up the outside as Brunswick has drained a whopping 21 3-pointers.
“My left hook shot is pretty much my most dominant move,” Forsythe said. “But I also have an up-and-under, quick spins and a face-up, jab baseline and go middle. The moves we put in the summer helped my game tremendously, but I can do counter moves off it. Now I’m putting even more in so (opponents) can’t pack it in.
What about the heavily increased workload?
“Over the summer, I was the most dominant player on my AAU team, so I got used to it,” he replied. “It’s been an adjustment, but I’m comfortable with it.”
Forsythe and Kaminski play different positions, so the one-on-one battle won’t happen every possession. Kaminski will get the pleasure of trying to handle Brunswick’s spread attack featuring hoards of guards, while Forsythe will be guarded by a combination of Kaminski, 6-5 Mason Schreck, 6-4 Jake Kinsey and 6-6 backup John Hudak.
Both will see plenty of touches, however, as each team will run through them as the first, second and oftentimes third option.
When they do lock horns, it will be a sight to watch.
Strength vs. length. The tallest players on the floor. The Division I recruits.
“I know I will have to step it up,” Kaminski said. “I’m guarding Pat Forsythe.”
“Going up against him is going to be a war,” Forsythe added. “There’s going to be no easy baskets for either of us. They’ll be doubling and we’ll be doubling. It’s going to be a brawl and I’ll be ready for it.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.