Bank Hoops College All-American Team

An improved shot and MSU’s success helped Cassius Winston earn MVP honors.

2017-18’s top college players from Michigan high school alumni.

MVP Cassius Winston  6-0  So  Michigan State (Detroit U-D Jesuit): Michigan’s 2016 Mr. Basketball became a vastly improved point guard who led MSU to the Big 10 regular season title. Winston averages 12.6 points and 6.8 assists per game with some incredible shooting numbers — 52 percent overall, 54 percent from the arc and 89 percent from the line.

Zach Hankins  6-10  Jr  Ferris State (Charlevoix): Back-to-back GLIAC MVP for a Bulldogs team that’s reached the NCAA D2 Elite Eight. Averages 15 points, 10 rebounds, 3.4 blocks and 1.5 assists per game while shooting 64 percent from the field.

Yante Maten  6-8  Sr  Georgia (Bloomfield Hills): While Georgia struggled, Matten carried his weight and more earning SEC player of the year honors. He averaged 19.3 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.5 assists per game while shooting, 46 percent from the floor.

EC Matthews  6-4  Sr  Rhode Island (Romulus): This was his lowest scoring season at Rhode Island, but one which has seen the team have its most success. He’s averaging 13 points, 4 rebounds and 1 assist for a Rams squad that’s reached the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament.

Kyle Steigenga  6-5  Sr  Cornerstone (Holland Christian): One of the most decorated college players the state has ever seen. He’s the all-time scorer for the Michigan college ranks. Steigenga was the NAIA II national player of the year — and the first four-time first-team All-American — after averaging 20.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and shooting 60-percent from the floor as a senior.

Justin Tillman  6-8  Sr  VCU (Detroit Pershing): His offensive game exploded as a senior, with his scoring average jumping over six points to 19 per game along with 10 rebounds per game while shooting 56 percent from the field.

Second team
  • Wes Clark  6-0  Sr  Buffalo (Romulus)
  • Jalen Hayes  6-7  Sr  Oakland (Lansing Sexton)
  • Nick Perkins  6-8  Jr  Buffalo (Milan)
  • Jaylin Walker  6-4  Jr  Kent State (Romulus)
  • Martez Walker  6-5  Sr  Oakland (Detroit Pershing)
third team
  • Jalen Adams  6-5  Sr  Olivet (Saginaw Arthur Hill)
  • Corey Allen  6-3  So  Detroit (Ypsilanti)
  • Kenny Carpenter  6-5  Sr  Cleveland St. (Detroit Cass Tech)
  • Drew Cushingberry  6-2  Sr  Ferris State (Romeo)
  • Eric Williams  6-5  Fr  Duquesne (New Haven)

Freshman MVP: Eric Williams  6-5  Fr  Duquesne (New Haven)


Quick Turnaround: Monday’s best-bet regional semifinals

Mr. Basketball finalist Brandon Johns and East Lansing look to avenge last year’s regional loss to Kalamazoo Central.

Class A

Clarkston 21-1 vs. Troy 17-5 @ West Bloomfield: This is the third meeting between OAA-Red opponents, and the Colts were within single digits of Clarkston the first two times. With Foster Loyer back in Clarkston’s lineup, an upset becomes a lot less likely.

East Lansing 20-3 vs. Kalamazoo Central 19-2 @ Battle Creek Lakeview: They didn’t look like much in the summer, but K-Central has quietly won 19 games when it matters. The Maroon Giants took this regional matchup last year, though they had Mr. Basketball Isaiah Livers in the lineup. Now it’s just East Lansing with a future Michigan forward, Brandon Johns.

Class B

17-6 Boyne City 17-6 vs. 17-6 Ludington @ Petoskey: This is Boyne City’s first year in Class B but the Ramblers won a district title anyway. Ludington is the defending state runner-up in B. The hero of last year’s state semifinals, Josh Laman, is back and the 6-5 junior is the Orioles’ leading scorer. The host site Petoskey, isn’t completely unfamiliar to either team. Boyne City plays the Northmen regularly in the regular season, and P-town is the hometown of Ludington coach Thad Shank.

Detroit Henry Ford Academy 14-7 vs. Detroit Old Redford 16-5 @ Livonia Clarenceville: There are three for sure and possibly four high-major recruits in this one — but Old Redford has the advantage with three of them, junior guard Mark Watts, sophomore forward Isaiah Jackson and sophomore center Aundre Polk.

Class C

DEPSA 12-10 vs. Detroit Pershing 12-10 @ Bishop Foley: Never mind the records, these are the two most talented teams in Class C and a rematch of the Detroit PSL championship game, which Edison won in one of the biggest blowouts in the history of that storied game. That can’t sit well with the Doughboys, who have a senior sleeper in 6-8 Johnny Davis who can now beat you inside as well as outside as he continues to fill out.

Dansville 17-6 @ Pewamo-Westphalia 18-5: These two split in the regular season, each winning on the others’ home court. P-W finished a game ahead of Dansville for second-place in the rugged CMAC — the Aggies already beat the first-place team, Laingsburg, in district play. 6-9 Dansville junior Caleb Hodgson is a triple-double waiting to happen.

Class D

Buckley 17-5 vs. Muskegon Heights 11-11: This is a great deal for $5 if you like up-and-down basketball. Buckley is finally looking like the team that made it to last year’s championship game, and as long as there’s high school basketball in Michigan, you know a Muskegon Heights team won’t be an easy out.

Potter’s House Christian 18-5 vs. Howardsville Christian 19-5: Howardsville Christian has a prolific scoring junior guard in Dylan Jergens. Potter’s House has a good guard of its own, senior Josh Cassell, as well as a 6-5 junior Nyuon Nhial averaging a double-double, and has played a stronger schedule.

Districts from Hell: Class A

Senior guard Brandon Wade led Ann Arbor Skyline to a 19-0 regular season mark.

Districts from Hell refer to those opening week basketball brackets where not only are there two or more teams capable of winning it, but could do damage further into March once they do.

Detroit Renaissance: Every team in this district is at least .500. U-D Jesuit has proved it’s a state-caliber program in the post-Cassius Winston years. The forgotten Cub is Eli Collins, since he’s going to MSU for football, but he’s an athletic, tough guard an an X factor for 17-3 U-D. They open Monday with Warren Fitzgerald. Where’s Carlos English when you need him? Awaiting the winner is Hazel Park, in its first year in Class A but fitting right in with an 18-2 mark and an athletic, senior-dominated lineup. The Vikings’ only two losses were to defending state champion Clarkston. The home team and lone PSL representative, Renaissance, is 12-6 and, like U-D Jesuit, features a pair of 2019 D1 prospects, 6-7 Carrington McCaskill and 6-5 Chandler Turner. Renaissance opens with Berkley, and the winner will have 16-2 Oak Park, which has won 15 straight games including a 43-point dismantling of Flint Beecher.

Detroit Western: 16-4 Cass Tech has a first-round bye and will likely play 10-6 Detroit King in the semifinals. That’s a grudge match, as MLK’s top guard, senior Marcus Gibbs, is a transfer from Cass. Mr. Basketball finalist leads 14-3 East English Village against Detroit Western in the other Monday game. Western didn’t win a league game in the regular season, but any team with 6-7 Tray Jackson, a top five unsigned senior, on the court and coach Derrick McDowell on the bench has a chance. Hamtramck will play that winner in the semifinals.

Ann Arbor Skyline: Skyline is undefeated this year — but its senior class has yet to win a district game. They’ll have to get their first one Monday against intradistrict rival Pioneer, which is dangerous with a healthy junior point guard Drew Lowder in the lineup. Look for his Skyline counterpart Brandon Wade to show the world why he deserved to be a Mr. Basketball finalist. 12-6 Romulus plays the winter, still stinging from a 40-point shellacking by Skyline last week. 15-5 Ann Arbor Huron should be a finalist in the other side of the district bracket. Its point guard, Lewis Willis, has been playing great down the stretch.

Salem: 12-8 Novi is the only team this year to have beaten 18-1 Canton. The Wildcats await Monday’s Canton vs. Novi Catholic Central winner in the district semifinals. Canton has the advantage at guard play with speedy juniors B. Artis White and Vinson Sigmon who average 28 points and 8 assists between them. CC counters with size, including bouncy 6-7 junior Justin Rukat one of the real sleepers in Michigan’s 2019 class and 6-7 all-around scorer Davis Lukomski. Novi has seniors and guard play, so could make up for a disappointing early regular season with a March run. On the other side of the bracket Plymouth will meet Salem or Northville in the semifinals.

Districts from Hell: Class B

Mario Whitley looks to lead Frankenmuth to another district title.

Districts from Hell refer to those opening week basketball brackets where not only are there two or more teams capable of winning it, but could do damage further into March once they do.

Lansing Eastern: 15-5 Haslett is back down from Class A and the CAAC-Red champion after going 10-0 in league play. Junior guard Mitchell Mowid will lead Haslett in the semifinals against the winner of either Lansing Eastern or Lansing Catholic. Williamston was Bank Hoops’ preseason pick to win the state championship and the Hornets look the part of a contender as they’re 18-2, 10-0 in the CAAC-White and they haven’t lost in 2018. Senior guard Cole Kleiver has had an all-state caliber season. Everyone knows about Williamston’s 6-7 junior Sean Cobb and it’s been a breakout season for another 6-7 junior Joseph Hahnenberg. Williamston will play Fowlerville or Lansing Sexton in the district semifinals.

Detroit Mumford: Detroit Henry Ford opens with Detroit Cornerstone on Monday and has the district’s strongest resume with a 15-5 mark and Detroit PSL-West title. Coach Ken Flowers knows how to advance in March and has an All-City senior guard, Anthony Roberts, ready to earn offers after de-committing from Bryant. A likely Friday matchup awaits between Henry Ford and Detoit Old Redford, which will mean the Trojans’ x-and-o’s and toughness against ORA’s sheer talent with the state’s No. 1 junior guard Mark Watts and No. 1 2020 prospect 6-7 Isaiah Jackson. Old Redford is 14-5 but those losses include top 10 Class A teams Ann Arbor Skyline and Hazel Park. The district darkhorse is Detroit Mumford, awaiting the Cornerstone-Henry Ford winner. Mumford is 15-1 but did it largely in the obscurity of the PSL’s second division.

Frankenmuth: A terrific semifinal awaits between TVC-East rivals 19-1 Bridgeport and 18-2 Frankenmuth. The Eagles’ two losses are both to Bridgeport. They led at halftime of the second one but lost 60-53. The Bearcats haven’t lost since the season opener against Lansing Everett and went 10-0 to win their league. They play very hard, taking on the image of their coach Kevin Marshall who is old school and into it. 6-5 junior SirQuarius Ball is one of the few who can match up physically with Eagles all-state senior Mario Whitley. Also for Bridgeport senior guard Charles Garrett is an all-around athlete and the leading scorer and junior guard Markele Garrett the top perimeter threat. Muth senior guard Sam Gray is a talented complement to Whitley.




Districts from Hell: Class C

All-state junior Xander Okerlund and Maple City Glen Lake are at home Wednesday against Manton.

Districts from Hell refer to those opening week basketball brackets where not only are there two or more teams capable of winning it, but could do damage further into March once they do.

Montrose: If you’re going to get three-time defending state champion Flint Beecher, this is the time to do it. 13-5 Flint Hamady already has, splitting with Buctown in the regular season. But March is a different beast, even when Beecher is just 12-8. Round 3 will likely come in the district final. Beecher opens with Montrose with 13-6 Burton Atherton in the semifinals, while Hamady plays Burton Bendle with 15-5 Burton Bentley in the semifinals.

Bath: 15-3 Laingsburg and 14-6 Dansville meet for the third time this season on Monday. Laingsburg took the previous two, 51-40 at home and 70-67 at Dansville. The Wolfpack won the state’s best small-school league, the CMAC, despite a starting lineup averaging sub-6 feet led by 5-9 senior guard Kam Brown. Dansville counters on the other end of the scale with 6-9 junior Caleb Hodgson, who averaged 24 points and 17. 5 rebounds in the two Laingsburg games. Another CMAC team, 13-7 Bath, opens with New Lothrop and is dangerous playing on its home court with a senior scorer, Harry Gilstrap, who can get hot.

Covenant Christian: The defacto district final will take place in the only Monday game in this district, where 2017 state runner-up Grand Rapids Covenant Christian plays host to 2016 state runner-up Grandville Calvin Christian. Covenant won the regular season meeting at home in January 54-45. Covenant is 16-4, Calvin 14-6. Expect some college coaches in the stands for this one, as Covenant’s 6-7 Carson Meulenberg is the focus of a recruiting battle between Cornerstone and Hope, while Calvin Christian’s 6-10 Blake Verbeek is one of the state’s top 10 available seniors. Meulenberg is one of four senior starters back for Covenant from last year’s Breslin team.

Glen Lake: The district semifinal between Manton and host Maple City Glen Lake is more like a state quarterfinal. 18-2 Glen Lake won a share of the NWC with Buckley and Frankfort, while 17-3 Manton shared the Highland title with McBain. Manton is even stronger than it was a year ago when it made the state semis. The senior backcourt of Jayden Perry and Hunter Ruell is diminutive but deadly, as both are 1,000-point career scorers. Junior guard Trever Salani is the perfect complement to them as he brings physicality along with another three-point threat. The Rangers will need a big effort from 6-6 senior Ethan Ancick against a pair of talented Glen Lake forwards, 6-6 senior Cade Peterson who is going to Grand Valley State as a quarterback and 6-5 sophomore Reece Hazelton, while 6-4 junior Xander Okerlund can play 1-4 and is Glen Lake’s best all-around player. The winner shouldn’t celebrate too soon, as awaiting in the final is likely 15-5 Traverse City St. Francis, which went undefeated in the LMC.


Districts from Hell: Class D

All-state forward Mason Pline and Fowler will likely see CMAC rival Fulton or upstart Ashley in the Merrill district final.

Districts from Hell refer to those opening week basketball brackets where not only are there two or more teams capable of winning it, but could do damage further into March once they do.

Merrill: Ashley against Fulton is the lone Monday game. 16-4 Ashley was one of the nice stories in the state with one of the best Bears teams in years. They’ll have to overcome the heartbreak of losing the regular season finale to Carson City-Crystal 42-40 — which denied this little school that’s dropping to eight-man football a share of the MSAC title. If they hang their heads just a little this has trap game written all over it, because Fulton took its lumps in the state’s top small school league, the CMAC, and is a program used to recent March success. The Pirates have two dangerous senior guards in Cole Blair and Evan Barton. Ashley counters with one of the top post combos in Class D, rugged 6-3 senior Colin Dolloff and finesse passer/shot-blocker 6-7 senior Nick Sperling. Vestaburg awaits the winner. The district favorite, however, sits atop the bracket, where 15-5 Fowler opens in the semifinals against terrible Merrill. Fowler, like Fulton part of the brutally tough CMAC, has lost three straight, but hasn’t fallen to a Class D team all season. Fowler has the top player in the district, 6-7 Mason Pline who is headed to Ferris State, but the guard play from Ashley or Fulton would give them a chance.

Bellevue: Can anyone stop the host school, Bellevue? It’s 19-1 and has convincing wins over the best teams here including 16-4 Athens, which awaits the winner of Battle Creek St. Philip and Marshall Academy in the semifinals. Bellevue has won five straight district titles, but this is its best team yet. And should only get better, with just one senior starter. Junior guard Wyatt Waterbury leads a balanced attack at 16 points per game. St. Philip is 10-9 under first-year coach Jay Luoma and has the best size in the district with a pair of 6-7s, Morgan Bohanan and Sam Conkley. 16-2 Marshall Academy has the most talented player of the bunch, sophomore guard Ta’vas Lawler-Showers.




February’s Top 10 Teams by Class

Class A

  1. Clarkston 12-1
  2. Ann Arbor Skyline 12-0
  3. Detroit East English Village 12-2
  4. Hazel Park  11-1
  5. Canton 13-0
  6. Flint Carman-Ainsworth 9-1
  7. West Ottawa 10-1
  8. Grand Ledge 11-1
  9. Detroit U-D Jesuit 10-3
  10. East Lansing 10-2

Class B

  1. Benton Harbor 13-0
  2. New Haven 13-0
  3. River Rouge 13-0
  4. Wyoming Godwin Heights 11-1
  5. Detroit Henry Ford 11-3
  6. Detroit Old Redford 10-2
  7. Grand Rapids Catholic Central 10-1
  8. Williamston 11-2
  9. Bridgeport 10-1
  10. Coloma 11-0

Class C

  1. Grand Rapids Covenant Christian 12-2
  2. Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 11-0
  3. Flint Beecher 7-5
  4. Flint Hamady 9-3
  5. Maple City Glen Lake 11-1
  6. McBain 12-0
  7. Kent City 12-0
  8. Iron Mountain 12-0
  9. Detroit Edison 3-8
  10. Detroit Pershing 5-8

Class D

  1. Southfield Christian 10-2
  2. Frankfort 9-1
  3. Fowler 10-1
  4. Buckley 9-3
  5. Marine City Cardinal Mooney 12-1
  6. Dollar Bay 10-0
  7. Ewen-Trout Creek 13-0
  8. Dollar Bay 10-0
  9. Oakland Christian 10-2
  10. Hillman 10-0



Top 25 Teams: February

Preseason No. 1 Clarkston is back on top in the February team rankings.
  1. Clarkston 12-1 (No. 5 in previous ranking): Last we checked in with the defending Class A champion the Wolves were fresh off a loss to East English Village. With some distance it’s easier forgive a loss when you have a top 50 national recruit like EEV’s David Dejulius playing at his peak. Clarkston reasserted itself as the bully of the block Tuesday going into Hazel Park and bringing down the high-flying and previously unbeaten Vikings 73-39. Top Available Prospect: 5-11 Sr CJ Robinson.
  2. Benton Harbor 13-0 (No. 1): Offensive juggernaut averaging 83 points per game. The Tigers have length and talent across the board, more now with transfers second-semester eligible. They showed they could win a close game, 71-70 over Chicago Bogan on a neutral court, and will be tested against Saturday at Grand Rapids Union against No. 5 Hazel Park. TAP: 6-6 So Carlos Johnson.
  3. Ann Arbor Skyline 12-0 (No. 4): This school didn’t exist the last time Ann Arbor won a state title. Now Skyline has a chance as few groups of players are in sync with each other quite like Brandon Wade, Ryan Wade and Jack Ammerman. TAP (tie): 5-11 Sr Jack Ammerman & 6-2 Jr Ryan Wade.
  4. East English Village 12-2 (No. 7):  While the rest of the PSL East has been cannibalizing itself, East English hasn’t lost since before Christmas. TAP: 6-4 So Jayshawn Moore.
  5. Hazel Park 11-1 (No. 2): Took their first and only loss Tuesday to new No. 1 Clarkston. TAP: 6-3 Sr Carl Bow.
  6. Canton 13-0 (No 10): Came through January clean including 30-point wins over Wayne Memorial and Westland John Glenn. TAP: 5-11 Jr B. Artis White.
  7. New Haven 13-0 (No. 14): Blowing through the MAC-Blue schedule. While Romeo Weems is a potential McDonald’s All-American who just picked up offers from Oregon and Rutgers, New Haven has other guys who can go like much-improved senior guard Tavares Oliver and Austin Sherrell a 6-7 senior who was offered by Lake Superior State. TAP: 6-6 Jr Romeo Weems.
  8. River Rouge 13-0 (No. 16): Freakishly good defensive team. In January the Panthers allowed no opponent more than 45 points and two of those unlucky souls couldn’t even reach 20. TAP: 6-1 Jr Nigel Colvin.
  9. Flint Carman-Ainsworth 9-1 (No. 17): Undefeated in January. Lone loss remains to No. 1 Clarkston in the first week of the season. TAP: 5-11 Sr Jakavien Lewis.
  10. Godwin Heights 11-1 (No. 21): The Wolverines were undefeated in January. TAP: 6-2 Sr Lamar Norman.
  11. West Ottawa 10-1 (NR): The Panthers are proving 2017 was no fluke Their lone loss was to Godwin Heights in the season opener. WO has the length and experience to blanket you in its halfcourt D. Only two opponents have broken 50 points. Big matchup Saturday at Grand Rapids Union against No. 9 Carman-Ainsworth. TAP: 6-3 Sr Drew Pedersen.
  12. Grand Ledge 11-1 (NR): The Comets streaked undefeated through January, beginning with a defeat of East Lansing the Trojans’ first regular season loss in over two years. Grand Ledge plays host Friday to Okemos with lone possession of first in the CAAC-Blue at stake. TAP: 6-3 Sr Alex McCready.
  13. Detroit Henry Ford 11-3 (NR): Henry Ford is going to be a problem in Class B. The Trojans have Cass Tech’s number with a pair of wins over a team that entered January No. 2 in the state. A win Friday over Northwestern will give Henry Ford the PSL West title, which not many saw going into the season. The way senior guard Anthony Roberts is playing he should be going to Kobe not Bryant. TAP: 6-2 Sr Deontae Ulmer.
  14. Detroit U-D Jesuit 10-3 (NR): Bolstered by the return of the state’s top 2019 center Jalen Thomas from Las Vegas, the Cubs lost just one game in January and that was out of state. TAP: 6-4 Jr Daniel Friday.
  15. East Lansing 10-2 (No. 6): Took January losses to Grand Ledge and Okemos the latter East Lansing without the services of Brandon Johns. Johns is one of the most talented forwards to play in Michigan in the past 25 years. Among the legends of that quarter century Shane Battier won three state titles; Draymond Green two; Johns can still join the likes of LaVell Blanchard and Winfred Walton with one state championship. TAP: 6-4 Sr Noah Schon.
  16. Detroit Cass Tech 10-3 (No. 2): Came into 2018 undefeated but .500 since. The schedule doesn’t get any easier, with Renaissance on Friday, Grand Rapids Christian on Saturday then the start of the Detroit PSL tournament, of which Cass is the defending champion. TAP: 6-3 So Tyson Acuff.
  17. Detroit Renaissance 9-3 (NR): The Phoenix didn’t lose a game in January. And the best is yet to come, as the top talent is in the junior class. TAP: 6-7 Jr Carrington McCaskill.
  18. Southfield Christian 10-2 (No. 12): Didn’t lose in January, but Class D school drops a bit because of weak league and the two teams that beat Southfield Christian, Pershing and Edison, have fallen on hard times. TAP: 6-4 Jr Harlond Beverly.
  19. Warren De La Salle 10-3 (No. 25): Just one January loss, by 20 at U-of-D. The Pilots have a chance to avenge that loss next Friday and claim a share of the Catholic League-Central regular season title. TAP: 6-5 Sr Jordan Winowiecki.
  20. Old Redford 10-2 (NR): A recent loss to Chandler Park not withstanding, this roster is as talented as any in the state. They’ve twice topped 100 points. TAP (tie) 6-3 Jr Mark Watts & 6-8 So Isaiah Jackson.
  21. Grand Rapids Catholic Central 10-1 (NR): Ended an undefeated January by doubling up 2017 Class B runner-up Ludington. The Cougars’ only loss came before Christmas to Godwin Heights.  TAP: 6-8 Sr Jacob Polakovich.
  22. Wayne Memorial 10-3 (No. 13): The Zebras’ losses are to top 10 teams — Clarkston, Skyline and Canton. TAP: 6-1 Jr Terrence Williams.
  23. Troy 9-3 (No. 24): See Wayne above, the Colts’ only losses are to top 10 teams — Canton, Clarkston and Hazel Park. TAP: 6-4 Sr Jason Dietz.
  24. Belleville 8-4 (NR): A preseason top 10 team that fell on hard times early but showed some life this week with a win over Romulus. TAP: 6-1 Sr Kaevon Merriweather.
  25. Petoskey 11-1 (NR): Didn’t lose in January. Going with point guard by committee, which will be put to trial in March. TAP: 6-5 Sr Seth Mann.

Five for the 5: Remaining 2018 scholarship posts players

Grandville Calvin Christian’s 6-10 senior Blake Verbeek.

All good things must come to an end. But not quite yet with Michigan’s 2018 class, which isn’t just rich in Big Ten talent but has an abundance of scholarship players for various levels many still uncommitted. Size included. Here are the top five remaining college post prospects in the state’s senior class.

Daniel Cluster  6-10  Sr  Watervliet: The remaining of the West Michigan Lakers’ big three from the AAU season, as Spring Lake’s 6-9 Sam Johnson is going to Claremont McKenna while Wayland’s 6-8 Carter Nyp signed with Cornerstone. In the winter Cluster is the 5 on one of the tallest teams in Class C. Has a go-to half-hook and he’s good at finding mismatches to fire it over. Needs to get taller, wider, stronger with rebounds to keep the Lilliputians away.

Cassius Phillips  6-9  Sr  Lakeland: Double-double machine, including against Purdue-bound Trevion Williams in December. Phillips is the best athlete on the list, also a standout baseball pitcher who on the hardwood can defend the rim and also get out on the floor and makes plays. Rare motor for a high school big. Can still be raw but when it’s clicking is a versatile offensive threat. Compares favorably to Lake Superior State’s four-year starter at center Michael Nicholson.

Jacob Polakovich  6-8  Sr  Grand Rapids Catholic Central: One half of a rare, old school twin towers with 6-10 MSU bound Marcus Bingham. He has a noteworthy improvement arc over his high school career and was able to be a productive role player in the EYBL with Spiece Indy Heat. He has a preferred walk-on invitation to Michigan and there are some similarities to Graham Brown with his production on the glass and physicality. Polakovich has a back-to-basket game and can step out to knock it down from 20. Plays below the rim or would be an obvious D1 guy.

Blake Verbeek  6-10  Sr  Grandville Calvin Christian: The most natural stretch 4 on the list, but with the wingspan to defend the paint — if not the base and strength for it. Which is the rub for Verbeek, as college coaches worry about him not packing on weight. Because the offensive package is largely there, possessing a modern skillset with footwork, handle and shot all high-end for a 6-10 kid. Differentiates from the other three-point shooters on the list because he’s not just a screen/fade threat, but will come off screens himself or catch and shoot from more open sets. Moves well defensively.

Tariq Woody  6-8  Sr  Novi: A transfer from Plymouth. With Woody now eligible and senior point guard Trendon Hankerson back from a broken foot, Novi looks a lot more like the top 10 Class A team many had anointed the Wildcasts in the preseason than the one that went 1-5 in December. Like Polakovich, Woody is strong and playing at closer to a college weight than the other three. Anchors a team like a Brad Stevens center, excelling at “boring” things like rebounding horizontally, hedging on ball screens, playing position defense, piling up garbage points. Has a very easy-looking shot from 3 on the pick-and-pop.

Nothing given, everything earned: Conference showdowns

Tuesday, Jan. 9
Chelsea at Ypsilanti: The favorites in the SEC-White, where both schools are 2-0 and 5-0 overall. This has been a breakout campaign for Ypsi’s Josh Perkins, a 6-6 senior post player. Like most of Steve Brooks’ teams, Ypsilanti earns its rep on the defensive end where it has held four of five opponents to fewer than 30 points.
Detroit Pershing at East English Village: The PSL-East is as rugged a division as there is in Michigan, case in point here were EEV has proven capable of beating anyone in the state — Clarkston — but is in danger of going 1-2 in the conference if don’t show up against a Pershing squad that is Class C in name only.
Grand Rapids South Christian at Grand Rapids Christian: These O-K Gold rivals are a year removed from state title contention — Christian in Class A in 2017 and South in Class B in 2019. South has the wing size to match up with the Eagles’ 6-5 senior Setrick Millner.
Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart at Ashley: Ashley is 3-0 in the Mid-State Athletic Conference and SHA is 2-1. The Bears’ lone loss was in the season opener by three to Portland St. Patrick and they’ve been rolling since. Ashley has a tough high-low combo in 6-7 senior Nick Sperling and 6-2 senior Colin Dolloff who is averaging a double-double. SHA has a talented 20-a-game junior guard in Colton Nelson.
Manton at McBain: Manton finally got the McBain Monkey off its back in last year’s state tournament. Now the Rangers will see if they can do it in the regular season. Which is no easy task, as personnel comes and goes but with Bruce Koopman on the sideline it’s been nearly impossible to win at McBain.
Maple City Glen Lake at Buckley: This is Buckley’s third game against a top 10 Class C team — the Bears lost the two previous on the road to Kalamazoo Hackett and McBain. The Northwest Conference is top-heavy with future college talent, and it’s apparent in this one with Glen Lake junior Xander Okerlund and sophomore Reece Hazelton, and Buckley seniors Denver Cade and Austin Harris.
River Rouge at Ecorse: The MMAC-Blue is “low key” a pretty tough league. These are two of the three members currently undefeated, along with Harper Woods, plus there’s a Big Ten big man in Trevion Williams at Detroit Henry Ford Academy for Creative Studies. Rouge is tough and not going anywhere under coach Mark White, as two-way guard Javion Torrance-Jackson is the only senior starter. River Rouge has played a much tougher schedule, so this is Ecorse’s chance to gain some believers.
Watervliet at Coloma: The home team is 5-0 and the lone unbeaten in the SWAC Lakeshore, where Watervliet is a game out. Coloma has one of the top three point guards in Michigan in the 2019 class, Zach Goodline, while the ‘Vliet has his AAU teammate 6-10 Dan Cluster is a top five available post in the senior class.

Wayne Memorial at Westland John Glenn: They sit on opposite ends of the KLAA-Black, Wayne on top and the Rockets grounded. But this is an intra-district rivalry and on John Glenn’s home floor, so it could be quite competitive. To the Moon, baby!

Thursday, Jan. 11
Frankfort at Buckley: No rest for the wicked as Buckley goes from a top 10 Class C team to another NWC contest this time against a top 10 Class D team Frankfort. How good is Frankfort’s 6-3 senior Matt Loney? He held Hazel Park star Carl Bow to a goose egg in an AAU contest last April.

Fulton at Fowler: Fowler is a top 10 team in Class D, undefeated both overall and in perennially the state’s toughest small-school league the CMAC. Seemingly forever undersized, Fulton will look to out-gun its rival.

Friday, Jan. 12
Ann Arbor Pioneer at Ann Arbor Skyline: Even early these are the lone undefeateds remaining in the SEC-Red. It’s a brutal stretch for Pioneer, which is at Belleville on Tuesday, then at Pioneer and on the road against Ann Arbor Huron the following Friday.
Detroit King at Detroit Pershing: It’s a twice-a-week grind in the arduous PSL-East. The Doughboys could conceivably be coming off three straight losses. MLK has one of our favorite unsigned seniors, 6-4 Antonio Marshall, who could be a less beefy, less shooting Eric Williams, the A-10’s top freshman for Duquesne via New Haven.
East English Village at Detroit Edison: These teams have lost five games between them but not for lack of talent, just reflective of highly competitive schedules. DEPSA can afford for one of its D1 seniors to have an off afternoon, because there are two others. East English doesn’t have that luxury with David DeJulius.
East Lansing at Holt: The Trojans are aiming for a third straight undefeated regular season. This week could be a challenging stretch in the CAAC-Blue against would-be contenders Grand Ledge and Holt. Everyone knows about Michigan-bound forward Brandon Johns for East Lansing. But how about this quick-on-quick senior point guard matchup with EL’s Malik Jones, who is headed to Aquinas, and Holt’s Caleb Cooper.
Orchard Lake St. Mary’s at Detroit U-D Jesuit: This is the Catholic League opener for U-D, which has weathered early personnel losses via transfers out West and the Cubs two losses are to top 10 Class A teams, East English and Hazel Park. And it’s not like they’re lacking for talent with senior guard Zach Winston having a strong season and Daniel Friday emerging as one of the top guard prospects in the 2019 class. It’s back-to-back tough league contests for OLSM, which is at home against undefeated Catholic Central on Tuesday.