Michigan Talent on the EYBL

Nike’s EYBL made its first-ever Indianapolis stop, during an NCAA live period no less. It was a terrific chance for some Michigan players to catch the spring zeitgeist.

Greg Eboigbodin  6-9  Jr  The Family (Detroit U-D Jesuit): It’s said rebounding is one trait most likely to translate from one level of basketball to the next, so Screen_Shot_2015-06-30_at_7.44.42_PM_mediumlittle surprise this state champion is becoming a popular prospect. Energy outside his immediate area, effort for second chances and the wingspan to go get it has Eboigbodin making winning plays on the boards. His offense is still raw, and it’s more pronounced with all the big talent in this venue.

Greg Elliott  6-3  Jr  The Family (Detroit East English Village): He’s distinguished himself as the Family’s most consistent guard. He plays smart, alert ball on both ends of the court. Wingspan and instinct get Elliott rebounds and deflections.  Feeds the post and can thread it over 20 feet in the halfcourt.  Then he’s talented enough to go get his shot off himself when needed. Elliott’s unselfish play led a near huge second-half comeback which ultimately came up a point short against the Las Vegas Prospects. Came out of the weekend with an offer from Rice.

Jaron Faulds  6-10  Jr  Chicago Meanstreets (Holt): He was with the Family the first two weekends of the AAU season, but has moved. Meanstreets doesn’t have a center so Faulds will have his chance. He didn’t have an answer for CP3 center Wendell Carter, but few do. Looking to get the rebounding, running, elbow shooting mojo that Faulds showed last July, already on the 17U level.

Isaiah Livers  6-8  Jr  Chicago Meanstreets (Kalamazoo Central): It was Livers’ big AAU moment Friday night, up against CP3’s 6-10, 260 All-American WendellCgLHtIJWsAIHv9K Carter. With the head coaches from MSU, UM, Notre Dame, Purdue, Creighton, Xavier, USC, Georgia Tech, Texas, Illinois, DePaul, UCLA, EMU and WMU watching baseline, Livers delivered. He stepped out and knocked down three-pointers even with Carter contesting. Looked really confident when pulling up on the break to nail a 3. With his 45-pound advantage, Carter returned the favor on the blocks where Livers at least fought and fouled. Meanstreets won after leading the whole way. His athletic overall feel and college frame will allow Livers to fit in myriad college systems from the best leagues.

Xavier Tillman  6-9  Jr  Spiece Indy Heat (Grand Rapids Christian): This team has a bunch of forwards who like the long ball, like East Lansing’s own Brandon Johns, Indy local Jaren Jackson 6-10 with an MSU offer and 6-9 Jalen Butz. From the forest of stretch 4s comes Tillman, who has the base and strength to bang with all the big bodies in the EYBL. He dominated the Rens inside on Sunday morning scoring 32 points on 12-of-14 shooting. Looks like great fit for the likes of Purdue or Notre Dame, or a retro screener/blocker/grinder of the MSU type.

Follow for Now: Storm Classic Standouts

The Grand Rapids Storm Classic looks like it will again go down as one of the top spring events in the Midwest. Here are some in-state standouts who set the baseline high for their performances the rest of the travel season.

Wyatt Baker  6-4  Jr  Manton 17U (Manton): This school team plus a couple friends, including 6-6 Walled Lake Northern soph Ethan Ansick who played as a freshman at Manton, went all the way to the 17U silver final. On a team full of shooters, Baker was the lane presence, a reckless, raw athlete on the glass playing so hard and in a way not everyone wants to mess with it. Not skilled but athletic, energetic and tough. NAIA with possible nice payoff.

Sy Barnett  6-2  Jr  MBA (Charlotte): His team is loaded with guard talent, but Barnett is talented enough to carve out a role. He’s known for his dunking and had a few. Can his offensive ability overcome defensive shortcomings?

Marcus Bingham  6-9  So  MBA 16U (Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills): You already expect to encounter some size from MBA with 6-10 Nate Verbeek. But here’s Bingham as well and suddenly the court is shady all over. That shot-blocking length is his current key to the court. As he defines his game could really rise in rankings.

Shahada Camp  6-1  Sr  Rare Form 17U (Grand River Prep): He was one of the state’s top scorers during the winter at 29 points a game. He showed how he did it here, where Camp connected on a load of left-handed 3s as Rare Form made it all the way to the 17U platinum semifinals thanks to an upset of 1Nation.

Elijah Collins  6-0  So  Family 16U (Detroit U-D Jesuit): A starter from the Cubs’ state championship team, early AAU competition was easy work for Collins. He’s talented enough to improve to all-state status after two years as an underclassman behind and next to Cassius Winston. On a fast Family team, he looks like the best athlete.

Ike Eke  6-9  Jr  Family 17U (Detroit U-D Jesuit): The best of the Family’s four D1 posts. Has to be accounted for on offense now that he can screen and fade to knock down shots. Not that he gets a lot of chances, as the Family’s roster is full of shooting guards. Showed a burgeoning off-dribble game. Who thought Eke would be a good shooter, so why not? Tends to let UD/Family teammate Greg Eboigbodin do the dirty work on the glass. Nevertheless, between his size, improvement, state championship pedigree and EYBL buzz, could have 10 high major offers by the summer.

Ryan Gamm  6-7  Jr  West Michigan Lakers 17U (Rockford): He doesn’t have the flash of Zach Nieuwkoop or skill of Jake VanTubbergen in the Lakers frontcourt. Simplicity be beauty at the 4 position. Gamm is a wide, position rebounder who finishes efficiently and can step out and play the high-low game.

Mason Gardner  6-4  So  Parallel 46 16U (Boyne City): The Class C burg of Boyne City has been no stranger to talent over the past five years, with Gardner projecting as a D2 guy thanks to his frame and legs. Raw dog just sniffing out his potential. Hammered on two defenders in pool play.

Matt Havey  6-1  Jr  Elite Nation 17U: Elite Nation was going through some opening weekend growing pains as some new talent attempted to meld with an already solid nucleus. Havey is part of that latter group, a steadying hand because if you drive and kick or throw it out from the post, his three-pointer is likely going down.

Tylin Humphrey  6-2  So  BALL 16U (Grand Rapids University Prep): He was the top scorer on an undersized but athletic team that made the platinum bracket. A really tough cover off the bounce and got after it defensively as well.

Trayvon Jackson  6-8  So  REACH 16U (Detroit Western): He gave 1Nation’s Thomas Kithier a lot of problems, swallowing up the Dakota center’s post moves with his wingspan. On the other end was rarely involved by REACH’s guards but showed an easy left-handed stroke to 3 over Kithier. Looked slower against King James. Jackson’s rebounding allergy will hopefully be fixed at Western, where he transferred from Ypsilanti Lincoln.

Orlando Little  6-4  Sr  BC Elite 17U (Kalamazoo Central): One of the state’s top available seniors. Strong on the baseline, will shoot the 3 but not really an all-around perimeter player. Good prospect if his expectations are to the right level.

Deondre Lovell  6-2  Jr  Grand Rapids Storm 17U (Vicksburg): The Storm is strong on the wings with Big Rapids’ Demetri Martin, East Lansing’s Deandre Robinson and Okemos’ Vail Hartman. Lovell is the least known but turned some heads dunking from the backcourt.

Matt Malcolm  6-4  So  North Oakland Wolfpack 16U (Plymouth Christian): It’s saying something that on a team full of Clarkston players, Malcom is the best shooter. Now if the Class D kid can learn to guard like a Clarkston player, he’ll play college ball.

Kevin McAdoo  6-1  Jr  Team Michigan 17U (West Bloomfield): McAdoo did nothing to dissuade my favor towards him from the winter. Not the biggest cat but he plays the whole court with purpose. He’s deceptively quick and can get into the lane to drive or score. Smart defender on or off the ball.

Colton Ritsema  6-4  So  Grand Rapids Storm 16U (Jenison): He plays on Ken George’s 16U Storm team and anchors a nice pair of forwards with the lanker, bouncier Ryan Dunn, a 6-4 soph from Forest Hills Central. Ritsema is more broad than tall so he can score with the hook from the blocks and he can now step out and shoot the 3. MIAA will love him, best case scenario Matt Kingshott.

Eddie Thigpen  6-6  Jr  GreenWood Elite 17U (Saginaw): The other Saginaw High standouts like Qua Southward and Henry Speight were with different clubs in GR, while Thigpen held it down for GreenWood. He’s a lefty who can play above the rim and is expanding his shot range. Could do more in the halfcourt, where at times he drifts to the screen-and-stand.

Jake VanTubbergen  6-5  Jr  West Michigan Lakers 17U (West Ottawa): His older brothers were QBs but this one’s a hooper. Long as a Monday, always seems to be in the right spot and can finish over or around the rim. If he can show any propensity to put on strength would be ideal prep to Ivy recruit.

Mario Whitley  6-4  So  1Nation 16U (Frankenmuth): Two-footed leaper who can play much taller, often above the rim. Can bully guys in high school and is still a physical presence in an AAU setting. In an up-and-down game when he’s getting out and dunking is where Whitley is most productive. If he keeps building guard skills and defensive footwork could be the next Marc White, who was a big-time all-stater out of Battle Creek Central.

Israel Williams  6-6  Sr  Oakland County Ballers (Pontiac): OCB almost pulled a major upset jumping out to a 20-point lead on the Family before ultimately succumbing. Williams was key to that run hitting smooth lefty shots from deep on either side of the baseline. Good energy on the boards, too. Juco sleeper in two years.

Trevion Williams  6-8  So  Mustangs 16U (Henry Ford Academy): He blew up the opening weekend at REACH’s Michigan Invitational. This one was more up and down, as Williams struggled getting up and down with 1Nation’s bigs in a hyped Saturday morning matchup which went all 1Nation’s way. Williams has terrific hands and vision to make plays away from the basket and the frame to score underneath it. Sometimes indulges his ball-handling bringing it up when the guards would be a more prudent route.

Richard Zimmerman  6-3  Jr  Team Michigan 17U (Detroit Osborn): Triple-threat wing with a strong build. Three-point shot sets up the drive or is it vice versa. Plays bigger than height on the boards. A rawness to him that makes you think he has a lot of improvement left.

Getting Their Point Across: Standouts 1s from Storm Classic

Early AAU play is always ragged. Lucky are those teams that have a point guard who can get it going. Here are some, known and new, who played well at the Grand Rapids Storm Classic.

Matt Beachler  6-4  Jr  Family 17U (Lowell): What? OK, this elite shooter is never going to be the primary ball-handler. That doesn’t mean all he can do is shoot 3s. On a team with a deep backcourt, Beachler led the Family in assists in their 17U championship victory over the Playmakers.

Justin Bradford  5-8  Jr  West Michigan Lakers 17U (Sparta): Wayland’s Avery Hudson is the Lakers’ starting 1. Bradford gave them valuable reserve minutes in winning the 17U gold title. Fast, shifty and fun to watch in the open floor.

David Dejulius  6-0  So  Family 16U (Detroit Edison): He’s “repeating” the 16U level, and playing against similarly aged players Dejulius’ physical advantages are really apparent. Has some Brent Darby in him with the way he uses his strength to operate when he gets his shoulder into a defender. Oversees a very fast but highly organized transition attack for the Family. He’ll get Big Ten interest this summer.

Michael Littlejohn  5-10  Sr  Rare Form 17U (Muskegon): If you want efficiency, Littlejohn probably isn’t your guy. Looking for a no-fear shot creator who lives for the moment? That’s Mikey, and Rare Form’s upset victory in the platinum quarterfinals was the kind of venue he lives for.

Darian Owens-White  6-0  Jr  REACH 17U (River Rouge): More cerebral than explosive and rambunctious, Owens-White is more likely to really shine in a structured high school setting than AAU. But if you can play you can play, and few are better at finding the pass/shot balance. Needs to get stronger, as his long passes tend to flutter out.

Jayden Perry  5-7  So  Manton 17U (Manton): Little fella who is hard to keep up with, and has a quick trigger and money three-point shot. And he was far from Manton’s only shooter. This school team, plus former classmate Ethan Ancick a 6-6 sophomore now at Walled Lake Northern, made it all the way to the 17U gold championship game. Pencil in Manton as a top 5 Class C team in 2017.

CJ Robinson  5-9  So  North Oakland Wolfpack 16U (Clarkston): He was the “other” sophomore point guard in Clarkston’s starting lineup this winter. Robinson makes the right decisions on the fly, will work on both ends of the court, and though not tall he’s strong and quick to the hole where he finishes at a high rate.

Christian Rodriguez  5-9  Jr  MBA 17U (Godwin Heights): While MBA has guards who are explosive with the ball, they don’t know what to do with it like Rodriguez does. But smart passing is a given with this prospect we’ve been watching since he was 13. What was particularly promising was how smooth the jumpshot looked.

Jaylon Rogers  6-0  So  Parallel 45 16U (Frankfort): He’s improving at a steep incline across the board — physically, skills and decision making — all while playing with the swagger and edge you have to have for this position. Rogers went blow-for-blow with MBA’s Duane Washington, then in the opening round of the platinum playoffs tore through BALL’s full-court press to net a 30 spot.

Jesse Scarber  5-8  Jr  Playmakers 17U (Detroit King): He led the Playmakers to the 17U platinum championship game. Does the subtle, winning stuff that may escape fans but makes coaches feel warm inside. Scarber had one assist where his one-handed bounce pass hit the post player right on the money as the big man flashed across the lane; high-end stuff.

Big Ball on the Westside: Storm Classic tips off

MVP Athletic Club Fieldhouse

The Grand Rapids Storm Classic is the state’s longest-running travel team tournament, and annually no event in the state attracts more of Michigan’s top teams. 2016 is no different. Games tip 6:15 Friday in damn near every gym in GR. Here are some of the top pool play matchups to be taken in by college coaches and fans alike. Bracket play begins Saturday evening and concludes Sunday.

Click here for the full schedule.

Friday, April 8

Storm vs 1Nation 17U, 8:45 pm MVP Ct. 1: The MVP Fieldhouse was unkind to 1Nation’s 17U in 2015, eliminated in an upset loss to TEAM Basketball in the Storm Classic, then by Shoreline in the Brawl for the Ball. They’re hoping for better results this time around. A great wing matchup in this one with Portage Central’s 6-4 Austin McCullough for 1Nation and Big Rapids’ 6-4 Demetri Martin for the Storm.

Saturday, April 9

Mustangs vs 1Nation 16U, 8:15 am MVP Ct. 1: The two top combo guards in the 2018 class, the Belleville’s Davion Williams for the Mustangs and Godwin Heights’ Lamar Norman for 1Nation, and top pure posts, Henry Ford Academy’s 6-8 Trevion Williams for the Mustangs and Dakota’s 6-8 Thomas Kithier for 1Nation, square off.

Family vs King James 15U, 8:15 am Calvin Ct. 21: A pair of EYBL programs who are always deep in talent. The Family’s next can’t-miss prospect looks like 6-5 freshman Romeo Weems of New Haven.

Family vs REACH 17U, 1:15 pm MVP Ct. 1: On paper, the Family looks like the best team in the state. They have a huge front line with 6-10 Jaron Faulds of Holt, 6-10 Ike Eke of Detroit U-D Jesuit and 6-8 Greg Egoboidon also of U-D Jesuit; the state’s top 2017 prospect who is running with an in-state program, 6-6 Jamal Cain of Detroit Cornerstone; and some local flavor with Lowell shooter Matt Beachler. REACH will as always have some tough Detroit kids, but the talent disparity could be too great here.

Here’s a look at Jamal Cain the last time he played at MVP, in the 2015 Brawl for the Ball.

MBA vs West Michigan Lakers 17U, 2:30 pm MVP Ct. 1: When MBA was in ACB/Bank Hoops form, the Lakers often gave them fits despite a talent disparity. And the talent is there again as MBA, with the likes of Holland all-state guard Demetrius Lake and Clarkston wing Dylan Alderson. But there could be two top 5 17Us on the court, as the Lakers fielded two strong 16U teams last season and that was with the Wayland guard/post duo of Avery Hudson and Zack Nieuwkoop already playing up on the 17U.

MBA vs Parallel 45 16U, 2:30 pm Davenport Ct. 8: Both sides have future college guards. But MBA also has one of the fastest-rising 2018 prospects in the Midwest, 6-10 Blake Verbeek of Calvin Christian.