Looking Back at Local NBA Draft Prospects

With Thursday’s NBA Draft approaching, let’s take a look back at some local prospects through various Bank Hoops scouting reports from their high school and AAU careers.

Matt Costello  6-9  Sr  Michigan State (Bay City Western ’12)

Matt Costello made the Portsmouth all-tournament team after four years at MSU.
Matt Costello made the Portsmouth all-tournament team after four years at MSU.

He led Dorian’s Pride to the 16-under championship and looked like the best prospect in the tournament for any age. He’s top 50 in 2012 and good enough to play anywhere in America because he has the body of a power forward with the skill of a small forward. Pride was at its best, beating Ohio Basketball Club in the semis then the Mustangs in the final, when it ran its offense through Costello. Whether he was on the wing or on the block, he was able to pass or make scoring moves. Favorite series for Matt came when he bounded out of the paint to block a jumpshot, then on the other end hit the floor for a jumpball and kept fighting after the whistle … and was T’d up. (May 24, 2010)

Would’ve loved to see Costello at the previous week’s prospects camp at U-of-D, in Jay Smith’s big man group. At U-M, all the drills and games involved guards, who control the frontcourt’s fate in these thrown-together camp games and hardly ever get big men the ball where they need it most. That said, Costello was the biggest kid at the camp and he has so much talent it can’t be fully repressed, so it’s not like he was lost. He’s just an all-around big and strong kid for his age and height. Costello went hard after rebounds and shot the three-pointer with an easy touch. To his credit, even when he went yet another series without getting a post touch, he would run hard to get back defensively. (June 27, 2010)

Deyonta Davis  6-10  Fr  Michigan State (Muskegon ’15)

2015 Mr. Basketball Deyonta Davis is projected as a late lottery pick after one season at MSU.
2015 Mr. Basketball Deyonta Davis is projected as a late lottery pick after one season at MSU.

The Big Smooth is steady and productive. Like so many young big guys, kind of easy going. Can’t wait to see him get a kick-butt attitude, because he’s already one of the elite prospects in 2015. That would make him one of the best actual players. As well as he scored it from the blocks, my favorite play from Davis was when he blocked a shot, then corralled the ball himself.

“This kid is long, long, long, and has the softest touch around the rim I’ve seen in awhile,” a coach said. “Yes, a bit of a project, but the upside on him is crazy off the charts. If he learns to play hard, it’s over. Long and is a natural in everything he does. Great shot blocker, can run the floor, and puts the ball in the basket. A mini William Bedford, on the court. Needs maturing and someone to work with him daily and the sky’s the limit.”

“One word: intriguing,” another coach said. “The kid runs like a deer and it’s obvious to the human eye that he’s a gifted and talented prospect. However, he tended to go through the motions and rely on athleticism rather than give maximum effort. I know camp experiences for bigs can sometimes be painful because of uneven guard play, but Deyonta looks to have the ability to be more than a traditional big where he can go get the ball and make a play for himself or others. He has the body and skill level to one day be a college wing forward. Long stride on the run and just a ton of upside if he can harness it and develop a more assertive attitude in developing all facets of his game. The second most naturally talented, gifted prospect in camp behind Josh Jackson.” (August 6, 2012)

Put an exclamation point on a June which has seen Davis vault to the No. 1 spot in the 2015 class with his performance at Toledo’s elite camp. Toledo’s team only lost one game. That was against DD’s team, thanks in part to a combination of his lucky off-glass three-pointer, and his defensive domination around the basket. His 7-1 wingspan, timing and surprising toughness turned what had previously been a dunk contest, into a physical, chippy, grinding game. Davis could’ve finished better and run the court more consistently, but wow when he did it was so quickly. Didn’t take the drills as seriously as the 5-on-5 — where he was a game-changer. MAC offers and hearing from half the Big 10 and major programs nationally. (July 1, 2013)

He’s one of the trending recruits in the entire country, with 20 offers including MSU, Memphis, Iowa State, Missouri and Xavier. Lumbered at times in drills, but turned it on in games and made a bunch of future college 4s and 5s look silly. His skill level continues to improve, passing the ball smartly on the break or from the block; made a number of three-pointers. Most of those were with a hand in his face but it didn’t matter with Davis’ 7-1 wingspan. (September 26, 2013)

It’s not uncommon for a junior to stamp his name on a state title run, but it’s almost always a junior guard — Mateen Cleaves, David Kool or Keith Appling. Deyonta Davis looked ahead of schedule with head-to-head domination of a series of D1 senior forwards, Ann Arbor Skyline’s Tristan Wilson, Mt. Pleasant’s Jaleel Hogan and finally Blomfield Hills’ Yante Maten in the Class A championship game. He held Detroit-signee Hogan dunk-less and 4-of-13 shooting in the semis. Muskegon won the final in the largest margin of victory since Detroit Pershing whupped Benton Harbor over 20 years ago. Davis made 12-of-14 field goals, from alley-oops to a three-pointer, in the championship game, which solidified Muskegon as a top 20 national team, and DD as a to 20 national prospect. When dialed in like that, Davis looks like a young Marcus Camby or Sam Perkins. (March 25, 2014)

The Michigan State signee recorded a triple-double in the feature game against Arthur Hill — 16 points, 16 rebounds and 10 blocked shots. The final block came after running down Eric Davis full court to block a would-be tying layup as time expired, no doubt locking up some Mr. Basketball votes in the process. (December 23, 2014)

Kay Felder  5-9  Jr  Oakland (Detroit Pershing ’13)

Kay Felder left Oakland a year early and is a projected late-first or a second-round pick.
Kay Felder left Oakland a year early and is a projected late-first or a second-round pick.

Which leads us to 5-8 junior Kahlil Felder. He’s the consistent one, the tough one, the leader. He’s Pershing‘s best player, with the heart for competition that his bigger teammates don’t necessarily carry in the same volume. The lefty hits big shots and is able to pull up to get them over taller defenders, has tremendous vision and the knack for delivering the ball in a crowd, gets in there to rebound and even blocked from behind the shot of a 6-4 player. (November 28, 2011)

Lefty never takes a play off. He scored 31 points in REACH’s 72-64 championship game win. He sealed the victory with his clever ball-handling and money free throw shooting.  At the mid-major level could be a star, because he gets a lot done and has the talent to transcend his size if not going up against guys with monstrous physical advantages. (May 1, 2012)

Among college coaches at the Adidas Invitational, the most oft heard sentence regarding Felder was “He’s so good.” This recalls the ranking system of Hope hall of fame coach Glenn Van Wieren: he’s good; he’s really good; Stephen, he’s really good! So it is with Felder. Not many 5-8 guards rebound like this kid against big, and big-time, athletes. Nate Robinson maybe. Plays really hard. (July 16, 2012)

Bryn Forbes  6-3  Sr  Michigan State (Lansing Sexton ’12)

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Bryn Forbes became one of the nation’s top three-point shooters for Michigan State.

The Mustangs beat the Grady Elite Hurricanes for the 16-under title. The best player on the floor in the championship was 6-1 Lansing Sexton sophomore Bryn Forbes. He played a really mature game at the point keeping everyone involved, not sitting on the ball, attacking from various spots on the floor. When he was open, Forbes knocked down the shot. D1 guard.  (April 20, 2010)

He was terrific a couple weeks ago when the Mustangs won the 16-under title at the Grand Rapids Storm Classic, and may have been even better in the Stangs’ overtime elimination loss to JP Tokoto’s Wisconsin Playground Warriors team. He had five second-half three-pointers in that game, and all of them seemed to come in rhythm. (May 6, 2010)

Shot the heck out of it in AAU with the Mustangs, and didn’t see him miss a three-pointer here (albeit while trying to see three courts at once). He’s also going to Stanford’s prospects camp. (June 18, 2010)

He just wasn’t ready for the defense of Country Day guards Chris Fowler and Lee Bailey. The majority of Forbes’ value comes from his three-point shooting. But this wasn’t 16U AAU or summer team camp. Those looks were hard to come by, and without the shots Forbes lost all confidence. Country Day owned him physically and mentally, he just shrank. (Nov. 30, 2010)

Forbes played with a local Lansing club and got them to the 17U semifinals. He does a great job mixing up his shots and drives, and he’s not averse to passing. He’s bouncier than you suspect and shoots it somewhere shy of Rodney Monroe. (April 18, 2011)

He’s grown both physically and in terms of maturity in the past six months. Bryn had a 19-point third-quarter as Sexton made its statement against Country Day. He’s always been a high-end shooter, but now up to 6-3, 175 he finished very well. Played with bounce and confidence. Could see him ending up as high as A10. (Nov. 4, 2011)

James Kelly  6-7  Sr  Marshall (Ann Arbor Pioneer ’11)

James Kelly played at Owens, Miami (FL) and Marshall.
James Kelly played at Owens Community College, Miami (FL) and Marshall.

In his first game after becoming eligible for the second semester, Ann Arbor Pioneer’s James Kelly scored 22 points in 15 minutes. A few weeks later the 6-7, 225-pound junior had a game of 11 points, 10 rebounds and 12 blocked shots. This past Friday Kelly scored a season-best 25 points in Pioneer’s upset of Ann Arbor Huron. In his abbreviated season, Kelly is averaging 13 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per game. (March 1, 2010)

We’ve discussed 6-6 Ann Arbor Pioneer junior James Kelly before, but few have seen him play because of eligibility problems. He’s definitely headed the junior college route and, as he showed at Oakland playing with the y Warriors, he could be the next perhaps Marcus Kennedy. The opposite of Gary Cooper, Kelly is all energy on defense. He is both strong and can jump, and doesn’t shy away from the dirty work, blocking shots, going up a second and third time after the ball. His offense is raw, but is an OK shooter. (April 11, 2010)

The Warriors’ older, bouncier frontline of Kelly and Stephn Edwards won this semifinal battle though, one with a lot of athletic, hard-headed plays around the rim. Kelly plays hard and produces around on the glass, but is maybe 6-7 and has nothing resembling an outside shot. With his grades, will be JC bound which will give him a chance to work on his skills. Kelly just hasn’t played a lot of organized ball. (June 1, 2010)

Jalen Reynolds  6-10  RS Jr  Xavier (Livonia Stevenson ’11)

Jalen Reynolds turned pro with a year of eligibility left at Xavier.
Jalen Reynolds turned pro with a year of eligibility left after graduating from Xavier.

Clarenceville’s 6-7 soph Jalen Reynolds can be awkward with flashes of potential. (Feb. 18, 2009)

Reynolds didn’t play as a junior after transferring. He moves smoothly, generally plays hard and is competitive in the paint. He’s pretty aware and at ease with his back to the basket, A good, if not elite, athlete. (April 20, 2010)

Jalen Reynolds, a 6-8 junior from Livonia Stevenson, has been one of the state’s hottest prospects, and lived up to expectations playing with the Crew at the Camp Darryl/Bankhoops.com Classic. While he may be 6-8, plays more like 6-10 because he has really long arms and is active. Defensively, he’s just all over the place. Offensively, plays over the rim and finishes at a very high rate. Needs a go-to move and to keep his release point in front and not behind his head, but with work ethic the points should come (not that they weren’t there in some cases, Jalen had a couple 20-point games). (May 18, 2010)

Made the all-tournament team the weekend prior in Lansing, and was just as good again, including a triple-double effort. Gets a lot done even with an under-developed offensive arsenal because he’s long, athletic and active. With the lack of quality bigs nation-wide, looking like a high-major lock. (May 24, 2010)

Had to be dragged away from a pool party to put the sneakers on, and big-timed it and joked around for much of the U-D camp. Despite all that, there were flashes of why Reynolds was still probably the most talented one in the gym. He has bounce toward the rim, and no one was stopping his flip hook. Also did a good job sealing for lob dunks. His shooting still needs work, specifically leveling the corkscrew rotation. Reynolds has a slew of turnovers, and with those mitts it’s not because he can’t hold onto the ball. He was just doing silly, sloppy junk with it. (June 18, 2010)

Denzel Valentine  6-5  Sr  Michigan State (Lansing Sexton ’12)

Denzel Valentine will be a first-round pick after an All-American career at MSU.
Denzel Valentine will be a first-round pick after an All-American career for Michigan state.

Denzel Valentine is very skilled for his age, and is a 6-5 guard. He is Sexton’s No. 2 point guard, and can break down smaller guards with the dribble. Valentine is a smart, fundamental and active defender, who knows how to use his reach. He does seem quicker on offense than defense. With his awkward build and big butt, Valentine draws fouls; has a soft and easy free throw touch. Plays heads up and looks to pass. Valentine will take defensive rebounds all the way. As easily as he gets to the rim, doesn’t finish with a lot of power; lacks consistent shooting range. If those improve, he’s a high-major lock. (Feb. 14, 2010)

If those Indiana sophomores have Big 10 offers, then clearly should Denzel Valentine. The son of Sexton coach and ’80s Spartan Carlton Valentine, he  scored 28 in the 16-under final of the Motown Showdown including the seeming game-winning pull-up jumper, only to have Dorian’s Pride win at the buzzer on a banked in three-pointer. He’s nearly exited gawky mode into just being a big-bodied, angular athlete with a big hoops IQ and the drive to make all the shots, from breakout dunks to pull-ups in the lane to three-pointers over a fully extended 6-9 Matt Costello. He looked to have more of an all-around game than Pride’s standout sophomore wings, 6-4 Jovontae Hawkins from Powers and 6-5 Anton Wilson from Flint Carman-Ainsworth. (April 12, 2010)

While no match athletically for highly regarded national recruit JP Tokoto, Valentine more than held his own scoring 22 as the Mustangs 16-under was eliminated in overtime of the Run n Slam by Tokoto’s Wisconsin Playground Warriors. Valentine looks like Mark Aguirre out there, using his big build and old-school post moves to score in the lane again and again. He has a great feel and high hoops IQ, just not high-end athletic ability. (May 2, 2010)

The best high schooler in Calihan Hall was Valentine. He doesn’t have the explosive vertical game that the drive-by national scouts adore, but on substance and production he’s a top 100 recruit like Draymond Green or Antonio Gates. Valentine has the hoops IQ and passing ability to play the 1, a rapidly improving shot to play the 2 and the size to rebound and score inside like a 3. Defensive quickness will be coaches’ main worrying point, but he’s a grower. (June 18, 2010)

No surprise his team won the three-on-three crown at U-M’s camp. One, his teammates were both good and two, Valentine’s old school game was made for the driveway. The do-it-all wing is the best actual basketball player in the class of 2012, a versatile, tough, physical winner in the lineage of Antonio Gates and Draymond Green. It’s not just a grinding thing. Denzel is good at creating triangles and two-on-one space advantages in the halfcourt. (June 27, 2010)

MSU commitment was just dynamic in leading Sexton to the Class B state title. They just took it to Detroit Country Day in the semifinals, with Valentine heading a potent fastbreak game. He’d be a good point guard if he were 5-10, but he’s 6-5 so add in that vision plus the bulk to bully into the lane to make plays. Rare combination of flare and substance, fun and toughness. Better athlete than you think, and had the dunks to prove it. Helped defensively against Muskegon Heights star Deontae Hudson, who had put up 31 in the semifinals but struggled in the final (5-of-25 field goals). He’s the kind of winner and leader the Spartans have been lacking. (March 26, 2011)

A dynamic playmaker and the national scouts who don’t have him top 50 need to keep their day jobs … whatever those may be, to paraphrase Homer Simpson. Questions about Valentine’s athleticism are misguided and increasingly moot. (May 29, 2011)

He’s laughably underrated nationally. Big college-ready body, high hoops IQ, amazing passer — though he’ll have to cut out the Harry High School highlight passes. The indulgent ones, not the creative ones. (Feb. 16, 2012)

Prospects Make Their Case at Izzo Shootout

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Macomb Dakota rising junior Thomas Kithier earned an MSU offer at the Izzo Shootout.

Some of the top talent in the Midwest converged on Michigan State for the annual Izzo Shootout. Here are in-state prospects who helped their recruiting standing, if not with the home school, then by showing the talent to attract others as the summer continues.

Dylan Alderson  6-5  Sr  Clarkston: Stepped up with Foster Loyer at the NBAPA Camp. The three-pointers were dropping Friday, when Alderson looked like the best player in the entire field. But when he misses, he misses, and Saturday that was the case. When he does shoot well Alderson looks like a high-major prospect because of his size, athleticism, versatility. Not just a high-flying wing, he has some wiggle off the bounce too.

Jimmy Bell  6-9  Jr  Saginaw Arthur Hill: Ring that Bell, big boy! Most have resigned Jimmy to a football career given his considerable weight, but he’s become a very good basketball player. Defends the paint with physicality, attitude and blocked shots. Doesn’t shy for contact and doesn’t censor his body like so many young big guys. Showed some well-coached post moves on the other end.

Keion Epps  6-5  Sr  Wayne: Under .500 last year, Wayne Memorial looks like it’s turned the corner going into coach Nkwame Young’s third season. With no center Epps has to play big, and he does on the glass with his activity, but he’s most comfortable and effective out on the court using his energy and length to make plays. His defensive gambling had mixed results. A long-time commitment to Eastern Michigan.

Jaron Faulds  6-10  Sr  Holt: When you’re 6-10, not afraid to mix it up, and have good grades, your parents aren’t paying for your college. Faulds recently visited Yale and Columbia, and received an offer from Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His performance at MSU, leading Holt on a deep tournament run, would translate well to either mid-major league. Consistently hit someone when the ball went up. He’s an simple, efficient scorer who doesn’t touch the ball as much as one might like, but makes the most of it, usually keeping the ball high and utilizing his understanding of angles and the backboard.

Jermaine Goliday  6-2  Sr  Muskegon: Love his rare, old school offensive game. Herky jerky, going off the wrong foot, NBA range set shots, using the glass and extreme arc, with the high socks to complete the 1960s retrospective. Tough to stop when he’s in rhythm and gets going downhill.

Luke Hyde  6-6  Jr  DeWitt: When teams zoned DeWitt Hyde did a great job of running the offense through the high post. He had the size to see over defenders and hit cutters and the short corners, and also could dive and finish himself after giving it up. Hyde is such a smooth, easy athlete, can do a lot with him in the future.

Thomas Kithier  6-8  Jr  Macomb Dakota: Carpe diem, kid. Kithier showed an expanded, improved, versatile, confident game to the Michigan State coaches, and earned the coveted in-state offer. When he wasn’t dunking easily and with regularity, TK was playing away from the basket and looked very comfortable passing, shooting, moving. Agile, good hands. Impressive performance, and it came with Dakota’s star point guard, Jermaine Jackson, out of town at the NBAPA Camp.

Josh Perkins  6-6  Jr  Ypsilanti: Ypsi had a solid weekend, with Perkins holding it down inside with old school post play to counterbalance strong guard play. Nice repertoire of fakes and footwork from the blocks. Not overly athletic, but tough and competes.

Brandon Wade  6-1  Jr  Ann Arbor Skyline: Did nothing to dissuade those who consider him a top 10 overall prospect in the 2018 class. His strength is a real advantage because he’s able to get into the lane and force the issue when things break down. Runs the point like an older player, not like one with two more varsity seasons remaining.

Duane Washington  6-2  Jr  Grand Rapids Christian: With big man Xavier Tillman at the NBAPA Camp, Washington filled the star void for the Eagles. His jumpshot is as pretty as it gets in Michigan, and he knows how to run a team efficiently. Calm and made plays in clutch. Struggled against smaller, aggressive defender CJ Robinson of Clarkston and you’d like Washington to show a bit more dog and drive to match the skill level and hoops IQ.

New Staff, Same Talented U-D Camp

The University of Detroit’s elite camp has usually brought in the top prospects from Southeastern Michigan, and that doesn’t look like it will change under new coach Bacari Alexander. Here are some of our favorite performers from the Titans’ first elite camp with the new staff.

Quinn Blair  6-6  Jr  Dearborn Divine Child: One of the more unselfish players in camp, willing to do the dirty work on the glass, fight defensively, push the ball with the pass. Rebounded at a high rate. A three-tier scorer, playing a lot like John Simons. He’d hit a 3 one trip, backcut for an easy bucket the next.  Blair has offers from Ferris State, where his sister plays, and Hillsdale, where they have to have visions of the next Kyle Cooper out of the Catholic League, and is a likely D1 recruit in both basketball and football.

Gabe Brown  6-7  Jr  Belleville: He put in a performance similar to Kent State freshman Daniel Pippen’s two year’s ago at Detroit’s elite camp, a hustling, versatile presence on both ends of the floor. All knees and elbows and no defined position, Brown has a motor, arms for days, passed well on the break and looked great shooting left-handed three-pointers off the catch. A key member of Belleville’s loaded 2018 class.

Deante Johnson  6-7  Jr  Detroit Edison: Can really get up and down for a big kid, a requisite for playing with the Family’s 16U which is one of the fastest AAU teams in the country. Johnson just got a Toledo offer which looks like a prescient move, he could be a big-time rebounder in the MAC as he gets off the floor quickly a second and third time. And he’s not named “Spider” because his arms are short.

Avery Lewis  6-5  Jr  Ann Arbor Huron: Reminds one of Jared Holmquist, who was the best player in the MIAA last season for Trine University, a strong kid who works hard, bangs, rebounds, complements talented guards, while having a blossoming offensive game. One of the state’s most improved 2018 prospects.

Lamar Norman  6-2  Jr  Wyoming Godwin Heights: Simply the most talented offensive guard in Michigan for 2018. Those peers that can drive and finish like Norman can’t shoot like him, and those that can shoot with him aren’t as athletic. The kind of guard who by the time he finishes breakfast has already scored buckets, like Calvin Wooten, Katu Davis or Steven Haney Sr. He’s produced in any venue we’ve seen him and that’s not likely to change.

GLIAC Smack: Checking out Ferris, GVSU and Northwood

We hit up three events at GLIAC schools over a week, prospect camps at Ferris State and Northwood, and a team camp at Grand Valley State.

Muskegon Could Be a Problem: Even with young or otherwise untested players in prominent roles, the Big Reds looked deep and talented in winning the GVSU Shootout. The vets are 6-3 senior Jermaine Goliday who can manufacture buckets like few guards in the 2017 class, and 6-5 senior Anthony Bethea, blue collar on the baseline. 6-4 Markell Jackson is also a senior but didn’t see the floor last year after transferring from Loy-Norrix. He’s intriguing because of his wingspan and finishing ability, hopefully the light comes and stays on. There’s an embarrassment of talent at point guard with 6-0 left-handed junior Willie Shanks and 5-9 sophomore DeAndre Carter — once they figure out the nuances and responsibilities of the position.

DeWitt Duo: DeWitt was more impressive in losing to Muskegon in the semifinals than was Wayland in the final of the GVSU Shootout. DeWitt has two outstanding juniors. 6-4 Tanner Reha is physical and can score in the lane and when making NBA 3s like he did against Muskegon is really hard to guard. Reha is a good athlete, with a bit more wiggle, flexibility and bounce could be a mid-major wing guard. 6-6 Luke Hyde moves like a natural athlete, rebounding like a forward running like a guard, active and often around the ball.

2018s Steal Show: The top overall prospects at both Ferris State’s and Northwood’s camps were both rising juniors. At Ferris State it was 6-9 Marcus Bingham from Grand Rapids who impressed early with a wingspan measuring 7-2 1/2 then a flurry of made shots in drills. He was less of a presence once it got going up and down, limited by lack of weight and strength. Strength is no issue with 6-3 Frankenmuth junior Mario Whitley who piled on the dunks at Northwood. Power wing who can initiate or take a hit and still get it over the rim. Can create his shot but overall handle isn’t yet D1 guard caliber.

Bellaire senior Gabe Meriwether is a rare high school jumpshooter.
Bellaire senior Gabe Meriwether is a rare high school jumpshooter.

2017 MVP: The top senior from the two prospect camps was Gabe Meriwether at Northwood. A 6-3 Bellaire guard, he has a big first step, stayed in attack mode, finished with dunks and knocked down a real jumpshot from behind the arc. Meriwether plays like another Northerner, Boyne City’s Jason Rozycki an important player for Oakland when they transitioned to Division 1 at the turn of the century, and should end up with a choice of D2 offers.

Up North Challenge is West Michigan Lakers’ Third Straight Tournament Win

The West Michigan Lakers celebrate their first U.N.C. title since 2011.
The West Michigan Lakers celebrate their first U.N.C. title since 2011.

The West Michigan Lakers solidified their status at a top 5 17U team in the state, as did the Michigan Titans as a top 5 16U squad, when the Lakers won their third-straight tournament the Up North Challenge holding off the Titans in OT 65-63. It was the Lakers’ third straight tournament win, following the Camp Darryl Classic and their own Tulip Tipoff.

  • 17U All-Tounament Team
  • Caleb Cooper  5-8  So  Michigan Titans 16U (Holt)
  • Ben Feldpausch  6-1  Jr  Championship Sports (St. Johns)
  • Zack Nieuwkoop  6-8  Jr  West Michigan Lakers (Wayland)
  • Jake VanTubbergen  6-5  Jr  West Michigan Lakers (West Ottawa)
  • Chaz Woods  6-1  Jr  Tri-City Heat (Saginaw)

The Lakers are similar to last year’s UNC 17U champion, Detroit Showtime, in that their scholarship talent didn’t switch to other programs, and they just play well together. The Lakers were constructed well for the tired legs and attrition found as the spring season concludes, because of their depth. Nothing came easy Sunday, as the Lakers trailed much of the game against the Titans, and did similarly in a semifinal 46-43 grinder with Championship Sports. In the quarterfinals they got by Northern Michigan Drive and the best forward in the division not a Laker, 6-7 Negaunee junior Trent Bell. But Bell, active as he was, had to face a plethora of bigs with top 5 2017 power forward 6-8 Zack Nieuwkoop from Wayland; a pair of shooters 6-7 Austin Branagan from Lowell and 6-8 Daniel Ray from Western Michigan Christian; and 6-7 rebounder and lane enforcer Ryan Gamm from Rockford. That size allows top 5 2017 forward Jake VanTubbergen from West Ottawa to create from the wing.

The Lakers finish the spring season with a 35-5 record, tying the best mark in program history with the 2011 team. Not coincidentally, that was the last time they won the Up North Challenge. The 2016 group doesn’t have the backcourt size like the 2011 team did, as no one in the three-guard rotation of Wayland junior Avery Hudson, Sparta junior Justin Bradford and Jenison junior Harry Hevelhurst is 6 feet, but each fills a niche.

  • Previous 5 Up North Challenge 17U Champs
  • 2015 Detroit Showtime (MVP Cedric Lattimore)
  • 2014 ACB/Bank Hoops (MVP Corey Redman)
  • 2013 Dorian’s Pride (MVP Kyle Kuzma)
  • 2012 Mid-Michigan Lakers (MVP JD Tisdale)
  • 2011 West Michigan Lakers (MVP Coreontae DeBerry)

The Titans are a fun club to watch because they’ve played together so long they have synergy and were able to compete against and beat older teams. Holt sophomore guard Caleb Cooper is small but fearless and had 20 in the championship game. He’s joined in the backcourt by another Holt sophomore Arquavious King a tough deal on either end at 5-11, 220 and a shooter who always seemed to have an answer 5-11 Williamston sophomore Cole Kleiver. He defended with toughness and made smart choices with the ball. Kleiver played in the Class B state final in March, and Titans teammate Marquez Gordon was the only 10th-grader to play in the Class A semifinals for Lansing Everett. He’s 6-4 and bouncy, gives a good second effort on the glass and dunked easily off of two feet. Another with high-end varsity experience is 6-4 sophomore Noah Schon from East Lansing which went 20-0 in the regular season. He knocked down four three-pointers in the championship game. He didn’t score in the final but still had all-tournament consideration so that tells you how well 6-7 Williamston junior Derek Nicholson did all the dirty work for the Titans. He got up for rebounds and on the floor for 50/50 balls.  Even on a bad ankle Nicholson competed and gave nothing easy to the Lakers’ deep frontcourt.

Making the all-tournament team were the 17U division’s best all-around guard Tri-City Heat’s Chaz Woods a 6-1 junior from Saginaw Heritage who is transferring to Saginaw High. He has an easy handle and plays a heads up game that is creative whether fast or slower paced. His feel for contact and ability to extend allow Woods to finish well despite not being particularly strong. Ben Feldpausch, a 6-1 junior from St. Johns, knocked down six three-pointers for Championship Sports in their semifinal loss to the Lakers.

Up North Challenge 16U Title is Elite Nation’s

Elite Nation captured the 16U crown at the seventh-annual Up North Challenge.
Elite Nation captured the 16U crown at the seventh-annual Up North Challenge.

Injuries and roster attrition are commonplace for AAU in May, and for Elite Nation’s 16U it’s no different as they entered the Up North Challenge sans top prospect Jacob Boonyasith. But even without the Jenison sophomore, sidelined resting a foot injury, Elite Nation had enough firepower to win the UNC title, beating the North Oakland Wolfpack in the semifinals and Grand Rapids Storm in the title game.

  • 16U All-Tournament Team
  • Karl Brooks  6-4  So  Elite Nation (Lansing Sexton)
  • Ryan Dunn  6-4  So  Grand Rapids Storm (Forest Hills Central)
  • Matt Malcolm  6-3  So  North Oakland Wolfpack (Plymouth Christian)
  • Mason Pline  6-6  So  Elite Nation (Fowler)
  • Jaylon Rogers  6-1  So  Parallel 45 (Frankfort)

Mason Pline could be a special player for Elite Nation. The 6-6 and thick sophomore from Fowler gets off two feet easily to finish above the rim, defends and rebounds a wide area and knocks down three-pointers. Pline is joined on the all-tournament team by teammate Karl Brooks, a 6-4 15-year-old football phenom who made plays around the rim all weekend.

Elite Nation’s point guard Malik Jones is a unicorn, a 5-6 sophomore guard who doesn’t have to dominate the ball overdribbling or launching spectacular shots by necessity. Instead, just like he did starting in the winter for East Lansing, Jones kept the ball hot among the myriad scoring threats ENB seemed to have on the floor at all times. Another standout guard was Garvin Crout a 6-2 sophomore from Ypsilanti. His shot lacks arc but tended to go in, and he was active and made some plays defensively.

Runner-up Storm was led by a kid who has intrigued me all spring. He’s the best 2018 prospect in their program, Ryan Dunn a 6-4 sophomore point guard from Forest Hills Central. He shuts things down defensively with his wingspan and gets hands on a lot of balls. Smooth and creative in the lane where he unfurls at the hoop to score and draw fouls. Also for the Storm, 6-4 Jenison soph Colton Ritsema is country strong on the block and can hit from 20; 6-4 Rockford sophomore Nate Carlson is another active player with length; and 5-11 FHC sophomore Tyler George is a dangerous spot-up shooter.

The Up North Challenge’s 16U field was deep with talent. ENB and the Storm had to get past a pair of the state’s top 10 teams in that age group, North Oakland Wolfpack and Parallel 45, in the semifinals. The Wolfpack had won 20 consecutive games before running into the West Michigan Lakers in pool play. Matt Malcolm, a 6-3 sophomore from Plymouth Christian, made the all-tournament team from the Wolfpack. He can shoot or finish above the rim. Like the Wolfpack, Parallel 45 saw a streak end, as in their previous six events they were eliminated by the tournament champion. P45 had a rugged bracket that included a 2OT win over CGR and one of the state’s top sophomores, 6-3 Ottawa Hills sophomore Nelson McCauley, then a last-second three-pointer from 6-1 Frankfort soph Jaylon Rogers to beat TEAM Basketball.

Champs True to Their Name, Claim U.N.C 15U Crown

Superior point guard play and overall team size closing things down defensively powered Championship Sports Gold to the 15U title of the seventh-annual Up North Challenge. They got by APT in the semifinals and then the West Michigan Lakers in the final both with relative ease.

  • 15U All-Tournament
  • Isaiah Bridges  6-4  Fr  Program by GWE (Midland)
  • Will Eldred  5-9  Fr  APT (Otsego)
  • Nate Flannery  5-8  Fr  Champ Sports (DeWitt)
  • Louis Irrer 6-1  Fr  Champ Sports (St. Johns Home School)
  • Ben Leeka  6-2  Fr  West Michigan Lakers (Holland)

It starts at the point for Championship Sports Gold, with Nate Flannery a 5-8 freshman from DeWitt. The time he’s put into his game is apparent in how well he already executes the mundane but crucial, such as the spin and velocity on his passes. Too many guards are just chucking it because all their scoring avenues are blocked, whereas Flannery has a plan and intent and made Champ Sports’ plethora of shooters that much better. Good both pushing it or when the game slowed down. Would like to see him operate the left side of the floor as readily as the right, and get a more consistent shot.

Chief among said shooters was Louis Irrer, a 6-1 freshman from St. Johns Home School. He was money with the corner three-pointer and also cut well to get opportunities inside the arc too. Champ Sports has depth up front with 6-5 Pewamo-Westphalia freshman Andre Smith; 6-1 Gaylord freshman Blake Charboneau was playing on two bad ankles but still had enough athleticism and toughness to produce; and 6-3 McBain freshman Garrett VerBerkmoes came off the bench to block shots and get tough rebounds in traffic.

There were two standout point guards in Championship Sports’ semifinal win, Flannery and APT’s Will Elred, who could be the next Jared Klein out of Otsego. He’s one of the smoothest three-point shooters in the 2019 class and will also defend.

Making the all-tournament teams was one of the top prospects in the 15U field, 6-4 Isaiah Bridges of The Program presented by GreenWood Elite, who is transferring from Kalamazoo Central to Midland. Bridges has a solid post game for his age plus the vision and touch to 15 that suggest a versatile future. He led The Program to wins over Champ Sports in pool play and the Mustangs in the knockout round before falling to the Lakers in the semifinals.

Mustangs Unbeaten at CDBA Classic

The Mustangs' Trevion Williams is the top true post player in the state's 2018 class.
The Mustangs’ Trevion Williams is the top true post player in the state’s 2018 class.

The most dominating high school player at the 15th-annual Camp Darryl Classic was Trevion Williams. The Henry Ford Academy sophomore center double-doubled his way to MVP as his Mustangs 16U team ran the table in Kalamazoo. He proved an impossible cover throughout the weekend all the way to the 16U final, where at 6-8, 250 Williams dwarfed anyone from Parallel 45. When he caught it deep it was all over, because even on misses he was getting the ball back. Terrific hands, not going to lose rebounds. Can play out on the floor and get things going with his passing. Williams is a top 100 player nationally in 2018. To maintain that level or move up, he’ll have to add post footwork against defenders his height and improve fitness level/speed to keep up with athletic stretch 4s.

While Williams is the Mustangs’ only true post, they have good all-around size. 6-4 DeWitt sophomore Tanner Reha uses his strength to get into it on defense and can finish from all three levels; 6-5 Country Day sophomore Ashton Franklin is versatile, a grinder who will be a popular GLIAC recruit; 6-5 Roseville soph Zavon Godwin flashes A-10 talent a few times per game, angular bouncy creates own shot above the rim or mid-range, rebounds and push, can trap or block shots. The Mustangs began the season with a bonafide D1 backcourt of Belleville’s Davion Williams and Jenison’s Jacob Boonyasith. They both ended up part of the Great Spring Club Hop of 16, but the ball is still in good hands with 6-1 Goodrich soph Goliath Mitchell improving given more minutes at the point and tough two-way play from 6-2 sophomore Taylor McCaskill, who apparently is leaving Troy Athens for Detroit Edison.

Parallel 45 regrouped after losing leading scorer Jaylon Rogers late in the previous week’s Tulip Tipoff semifinal, to make it to the 16U championship game after winning the 15U title last season. This became the sixth tournament in which P45 was eliminated by the champion. Their guards can match up with any 16U backcourt in the state sans the Family. 6-2 Buckley sophomore Austin Harris can score at the basket or from deep; 6-1 Cadillac sophomore Kegan Brooks is a top shelf defender who can also play the point; 6-3 Frankfort sophomore Matt Loney is another good defender who contributes at every point on the floor; “center” Mason Gardner is really a 6-4 athletic, rugged sophomore wing from Boyne City; 6-2 Petoskey sophomore Seth Mann and 6-3 Benzie Central sophomore Devin Burkhardt are shooters who defend up. With Rogers out, the three-point shooting of 5-10 Traverse City Central sophomore Zeke Turner, confident drives of 5-10 Traverse City West sophomore Brady Stoerkel and competent decision-making from 5-10 Elk Rapids sophomore Grayson Krakow proved crucial.

The Mustangs were pushed late in one 16U semifinal by the West Michigan Lakers. 6-5 Saugatuck sophomore Teague Tiemeyer isn’t a big post player like his older brothers, but is an active lefty in the lane and on the glass who made the all-tournament team. He hit a shot at the horn to force overtime in an eventual quarterfinal win against CGR. Davion Moore led the Macomb County Cougars to the semifinals, he’s a 6-5 L’anse Creuse sophomore who is strong and athletic around the hoop. The one ‘super pool’ member that then didn’t make the semis was MBA’s Regional team. 6-0 Muskegon sophomore Willie Shanks is an aggressive point guard who puts pressure on the defense and 6-7 East Grand Rapids sophomore Elliott Bergsma is long with a soft touch.

Lakers Win Again at CDBA Classic

The West Michigan Lakers have consistently fielded some of the strongest teams in the Camp Darryl Classic through the tournament’s decade-and-a-half run. 2016 was no different as the Lakers 17U went undefeated, eventually beat HoopGrind in the title game.

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Jake VanTubbergen

The Lakers’ 6-5 West Ottawa junior Jake VanTubbergen was the 17U MVP. He’s a tough matchup with the ball given his length, feel and bounce. He’ll spin finesse finger roll you, then bang out in transition. Frail physique will frighten some coaches, though VanTubbergen’s two older brothers were college QBs so the frame is in there somewhere. What they do have to like is that JVT is a program builder at WO for what will be a top 10 Class A team in 2017; skill; upside; competitiveness; grades. GLIAC, Patriot League, Ivy need to check him out in July.

The Lakers have another D1/D2 borderline junior in 6-8 Zack Niewkoop from Wayland. He was out injured, but frontline depth prevailed for the Purple & Black; 6-7 Rockford junior Ryan Gamm can move men around the hoop, screen and has good hands; 6-7 Lowell junior Austin Branagan is playing focuses, can knock it down from the short corner or get to the basket; and Western Michigan Christian junior Daniel Ray has a soft shooting touch at 6-8. The team’s catalyst is found a head down the totem pole in 5-8 Wayland junior Avery Hudson. He’s fearless, which makes up for a lot.

HoopGrind didn’t have the size or depth to hang with the Lakers in the final, and they’d already been worn down with a one-point, OT win over the MBA National 16U (playing up) in the semifinals. For HoopGrind, 5-10 McBain junior Logan Eling is a clutch shooter who is quick and tough enough to counter and drive in traffic; 6-3 Grayling junior Spencer White fills the gaps to knock down shots, is efficient and can guard bigger players; and you wouldn’t know 6-1 Harrison Gilstrap from Bath was just a sophomore with the way he shot it.

The Lakers had a comeback win in the semifinals over a talented West Michigan Elite team. 6-3 Vicksburg junior Deondre Lovell is a big-time finisher when the game is wide open and needs to work on his guard game for when it slows down and there’s a man in front of him; not many men want to stay in front of 6-4 Kalamazoo Central junior Roger Stein when he gets going downhill, he can rebound out of his area then score it on the other end; 6-3 Three Rivers sophomore Tirrell Hausmanis was WM Elite’s all-tournament selection, another agile widebody inside who can step out and shoot.

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6-10 sophomore Blake Verbeek was at home playing up in the 17U division with MBA National’s 16U team at the Camp Darryl Classic.

MBA’s 16U has one of the state’s top 2018 point guard and post duos, with 6-1 James Vallar (Kalamazoo Christian) and 6-2 Duane Washington (Grand Rapids Christian); and 6-8 Marcus Bingham (Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills) and 6-10 Blake Verbeek (Grandville Calvin Christian). Vallar is a bulldog going to the rack where he gets his shot off with strength and explosiveness, and carried the team in pool play. Washington came back from a tweaked ankle to for stretches carry MBA on Sunday. His high-arc J is money, hits the forwards on their hands and can play at different paces. Washington is the more consistent decision maker of the two. Verbeek’s favorite shot is the corner 3 but can also flip in shots from the blocks and can catch and finish on the break. Bingham uses his wingspan defensively and has a decent feel offensively, just needs some strength to finish.

A physical triplet to the two slender MBA posts came from the Macomb County Cougars 6-9 Troy junior Christian Lafayette. He’s long and can turn ends, but the lefty shot is really erratic. Still a nice investment for a small college program. One of the top shooters in the event was the Mid-Michigan Lakers Austin Harles, a 6-0 junior poised for a big year at Holly. Shoreline Elite’s 6-7 Grand Haven junior Ross Koella could be getting GLIAC offers like similar forwards Niewkoop and Nick Welch from St. Mary Catholic Central, but those two have a bit more dog in them.

2018 Talent Does It at Warriors Jamfest

Clarkston sophomore CJ Robinson has had reason to celebrate with the North Oakland Wolfpack.
Clarkston sophomore CJ Robinson had reason to celebrate with the North Oakland Wolfpack, as he was 16U MVP of the Warriors Jamfest.

Some of the best young Detroit area talent was on hand for the Warriors Jamfest in Livonia. The strongest division was 16U, where the North Oakland Wolfpack held off fellow suburbanites TEAM Basketball in the final after the two beat the Playmakers and Warriors respectively in the semifinals. Here’s a look at 10 impressive 2018 prospects from the 16U division.

Nate Davis  6-2  So  TEAM Basketball (Rochester Stoney Creek): With teammates Justin Fischer and Jason Dietz not fully healthy, Davis has done yeoman’s work in TEAM Basketball’s backcourt. Turned the corner easily and improved physicality allowed him to finish consistently at the rim. Even when looking for his shot showed a point guard’s mentality and kept the ball hot.

Justin Fischer  6-3  So  TEAM Basketball (Warren De La Salle): Working his way back after being out injured for three-and-a-half months, and there are flashes of why we were so excited for what would’ve been his sophomore season at DLS. Point guard with size and terrific placement on his passes.

Austin Harris  6-2  So  Parallel 45 (Buckley): A true combo guard who has taken advantage of his team’s void in the lane to become a consistent threat in the post against smaller guards, in addition to his ability to hit jumpers off the catch or dribble.

Trayvon Jackson  6-8  So  REACH (Detroit Western): Uses length to envelop would-be post scorers. Lefty who can easily knock down the 20 footer. Top 10 player in the class with a more consistent motor and rebounding intent.

Antonio Marshall  6-2  So  Playmakers (Detroit King): Long for days and combined with quick hands make him a potentially big time defender. Offensively played well with the Playmakers’ penetrators to knock down three-pointers.

Tristen Mysen  6-6  So  North Oakland Wolfpack (Clarkston): He was a plus for the Wolfpack all weekend, as one of the bigger players in the division but didn’t coast on that, as he ran the floor and competed on the class. His perimeter continues to expand as Mysen showed he could step out and hit the corner 3.

CJ Robinson  5-10  So  North Oakland Wolfpack (Clarkston): True point guard leader who was named MVP after the Wolfpack claimed the 16U title. Can beat you from the arc or at the rim, and is now an even tougher cover with the floater in the lane going down. Where he really separates himself is that Robinson plays as hard on defense as he does offense. When he raises the intensity on that end the team follows suit.

Huston Tucker  6-3  So  Warriors (Walled Lake Central): Plays bigger than his height. Went hard after the tough, 50/50 rebounds, not just the ones that fell to him. Slasher with some bounce.

Chase Wasilk  6-4  So  North Oakland Wolfpack (Clarkston): He’s really improved. Love his size on the wing, is tight in his cuts and curls and has a long first step when he does get the ball. Not just a scorer, he’ll set strong screens just as readily as use them himself.

Dlano Woods  5-11  So  Michigan United (Chippewa Valley): Do-it-all guard, who often had to for a Michigan United team that was solid but with no other stars. Creative, relentless, old school scorer off the dribble. Needs to mature as a true point guard and counter game changes as they occur.