If you’re ever curious for stats, schedules, rosters and recaps of anything NBA or college basketball, there’s a treasure trove of information available at the touch of a button, but drop down a level and it’s much more difficult. There are places with information on high school basketball, but schedules might not be accurate, rosters aren’t always totally filled out and game coverage is sparse.
That is, unless you live in Central Ohio.
In November 2015, Zach Fleer and Jason Morrow launched 270 Hoops, an online outlet dedicated to the comprehensive coverage of high school basketball in Central Ohio, where both were born and raised. The site has grown massively in only a few years, and Fleer, Morrow and their seven staffers cover hundreds of games every season, from the biggest to smallest schools in the area, and put it all out for free on 270Hoops.com.
The idea came to Fleer while covering the AAU Super Showcase in Orlando, Florida, the summer of 2013. He was working for 24/7 Sports at the time, following Georgetown and Kansas prospects and focusing on the likes of Karl Anthony-Towns, Myles Turner, Jahlil Okafor and several of the other highly touted talents of the day. After watching Tyus Jones, Reid Travis and their squad defeat D’Angelo Russell and his team in the final of the top division, Fleer stepped out onto the pavilion at the Disney Sports Complex for a break. Two kids he recognized from his hometown came to him and excitedly explained how well their teams had done in the lower divisions.
That’s when it clicked.
“Why am I covering these five-star guys?” Fleer asked himself. “I’m not getting paid anything, I travel all over the place to write about these dudes who everyone knows about. They’re going to go where they’re going to go regardless when there’s kids in my city who are doing good things that no one knows about. No one’s following them, no one’s writing about them. I’m going to give them an ESPN-type experience that these five-star guys are getting but just for being in Columbus and being local kids.”
That epiphany finally came to fruition two years later, and Fleer hasn’t looked back since.
The site has gone above and beyond perhaps even what the nation’s elite recruits get. 270 Hoops provides all the basic information basketball fans, players and coaches in the area could want, but it also offers power rankings for each division through a point system based on opponent quality and venue, scouting and prospect rankings and grades, and game video, plus events founded and run by 270 Hoops for local kids wanting to show their stuff.
According to its website, 270 Hoops’s stated mission is “to help as many high school basketball players in Central Ohio receive the exposure needed to play at the next level,” and through the years, it has been able to help hundreds of Central Ohio basketball players achieve that goal, many of whom might not have been noticed otherwise. Fleer has a bevy of stories about kids he helped personally find offers and earn attention through his platform, and for as much as he loves seeing live basketball and getting a behind-the-scenes look at how Central Ohio basketball operates, the impact 270 Hoops has had on young lives is the most rewarding aspect of the endeavor.
“I can cover all the best games and cover amazing buzzer beaters, but nothing beats that moment where you talk to a kid and give a kid an opportunity, and their eyes light up because they know someone has noticed who they are and what they do,” Fleer explained. “Being able to help kids who are in tough situations and show them that they have the talent and ability to take them places they might never have imagined or known was possible, nothing is better than that. That’s by far the best feeling I have in all of this.”
Fleer and everyone else involved with 270 Hoops works tirelessly, especially during the winter months, to cover and promote basketball in their area. There is not another site like it in the country, and Fleer said he thinks it has helped elevate Central Ohio basketball to another level.
“I think it’s gotten to the point where other parts of the state are a little jealous,” he said. “There were around 80 kids in the graduating class this year who had opportunities for college basketball or maybe post-grad opportunities, so that’s about double the number from when I started, if not higher than that. You see schools that are getting kids recruited where it never used to happen, and I think part of it is what we’ve done. The players have to perform and have to be talented, so they get the credit, too.”
Right now, 270 Hoops doesn’t provide a breadwinning salary for anyone involved, but Fleer said he wants it to be his full-time job in the future. It connects his passions: basketball, community and Columbus, and that’s not something he ever wants to lose.
On Feb. 1, Fleer was in the building to witness Bishop Hartley toppled rival St. Francis DeSales, 57-56, on a buzzer beater in overtime from senior Morgan Safford, who also made the game-saving block toward the end of regulation before hitting the game-tying triple to send it into the extra period. Fleer has known Safford since well before he became Hartley’s star and watched him grow into the player he is today. Seeing him score 28 points and have the best game of his career was one more of the many moments that keep Fleer going.
“In a game Hartley wasn’t supposed to win, seeing a kid like that who you’ve watched grow up the whole time, played in your events and was dominating people, proving that he was underrated, to see him do that in high school, that gave me chills,” Fleer said. “Being there to capture that moment, there’s just nothing else I can do that can duplicate that type of feeling. It just feels right.”