Ten of the state’s best 16U teams will have one more go at it for the 2016 AAU season when they meet in this Bank Hoops event Saturday, July 30 at Olivet College. Games begin at 9:45 am and the championship game is 7:15 pm. To avoid the “Fireman’s Festival” take exit 48 off of 69, which will go right to the Culver Center. Also note that there is construction on 69 South between Lansing and Olivet.
As usual, Michigan teams, and players, hopped the border for the GRBA national finals at Spiece in Ft. Wayne, Ind. Here are some prospects who excelled in the third and concluding session of the July live period.
Alec Anderson 6-2 Sr Common Bond (Ann Arbor Huron): Helped Common Bond go all the way to the 17U semifinals, where they fell to Indiana Elite. Just a natural basketball athlete with how smoothly he covers space and gets off the floor. Really dangerous finishing in transition and will also back door you for dunks in the half court. More wing than guard but can put his head down and manufacture points at the rim. Raised in Huron’s 2-2-1 zone press, needs to become more of a man-to-man grinder instead of often escorting his guy to the hoop and then relying on hops to try and make a play. Easily a D2 scholarship player.
Dra Davis 5-9 So Elite Nation 15U (Lansing Sexton): True drive-and-dish point guard that is pretty heady for his age, other than occasionally getting caught too deep in the lane. Good vision. Showed he has the pull-up jumper you have to at that size, position.
Nate Davis 6-1 Jr TEAM Basketball 16U (Stoney Creek): Arrived late due to a wedding but made up for lost time, helping TEAM Basketball all the way to the 16U final. Fast but also changes speeds, and has the extra burst to get to the hole that coaches are looking for, which affords and-one opportunities. Has skill level to play the point at the next level, as his decision-making matures.
Jason Dietz 6-3 Jr TEAM Basketball 16U (Troy): Simply one of the best shooters in the state. Dietz was face-guarded by a quick, tough athlete from TNBA in the 16U championship game, but still shook free to lead TEAM in scoring. Constant movement with a quick trigger off the catch. What separates Dietz from generic suburban shooter territory is that he can get if off with a defender in his face and already has a sophisticated game where it doesn’t take much, like a look-off, for him to create a window.
Nolan Foster 6-9 So Mustangs 15U (Mattawan): Mattawan has a proud lineage of big men in the modern era, such as Nate Loehrke, Marc Larson and Wilbur Ampey. Foster has all the physical tools to continue that tradition, a legit 6-9 with wide shoulders. But those advantages are for naught when he settles for 3s instead of horsing kids on the blocks for dunks. A little nasty goes a long way!
Austin Harris 6-3 Jr Parallel 45 16U (Buckley): A do-it-all type who had to do even more as the Northern Michigan boys rolled with just six before it caught up to them in the quarterfinals. Good on the catch-and-shoot and just as likely to drive-and-pitch. Can handle the ball against smaller, quicker guards, while using his size to score in the lane often courtesy the Cassius Winston-inspired extended scoop. Has improved his poise and ability to play through officials’ calls.
Chris McGaughey 5-6 Sr Ann Arbor Basketball Academy (Pioneer): Short but stout, taller guards looked to post up McGaughey but it was usually a futile effort as he simply rooted them off the block. Looked really good when getting in the lane and dishing, less so with questionable shot selection in the consolation final. Terrific high school player in what should be a great winter of prep ball in Ann Arbor.
Jack Smith 6-2 Sr Common Bond (Ann Arbor Huron): The workmanlike counterpart to long-time River Rats and CB partners Alec Anderson and Lawrence Rowley. Nice rotation on the three-point shot and uses his strong build to bully in and finish buckets. Squares well on defense but doesn’t always have the footspeed to beat man to the spot. There was a contingent of MIAA coaches loving him at every game.
Xavier Tillman 6-9 Sr Spiece Indy Heat (Grand Rapids Christian): The uniform may have changed a few times, but there was a theme to Tillman’s long AAU career — team success. So it was fitting that his last game came with a trophy, as the Indy Heat ran away with 17U title. With Purdue coach Matt Painter on hand to see that win and others, it was hard not to envision Tillman as a prototypical Gene Keady power forward, no pretense but muscle upon muscle.
Zach Trent 6-1 So Parallel 45 15U (Burton Bentley): Already one of the more polarizing prospects in the class, he answered some critics by knocking down 32-of-58 three-pointers over six games as P45 knocked off two super pool teams before falling to eventual champion Pro-Bound Ohio Elite in the 15U quarterfinals. Where Trent really impressed was how he performed filling in for as game for a short-handed 16U team. Having fewer responsibilities he played more of what his future college role projects, moving off the ball and knocking down shots to the tune of 6-of-9 from deep, scoring 20. Mechanical more than fluid and natural, so there’s a ceiling but has the work ethic to reach it.
Chaz Woods 6-1 Tri-City Heat (Saginaw): So smooth and smart with the ball, he’s able to catch defenders off guard with his deceptive speed. Shoots it well so can swing to the two. A transfer from Heritage to the High, he should be an ideal complement to Qua Southward in the Trojans’ backcourt.
Michigan teams fell short in the Brawl for the Ball 17U final with Spiece Indy Heat beating theWest Michigan Lakers, and 15U where King James topped the Family. In 16U it was an all out-of-state EYBL deal with King James over Indy Heat.
Here are Michigan prospects who improved their chances with college coaches as this NCAA live period event in Grand Rapids.
CJ Baird 6-5 Sr Team Michigan (Novi Catholic Central): Big in-between forward whom one might overlook on the first pass, then the more he’s watched the positives start to add up. Best as a catch-and-shoot deep threat, needs to improve his attack game off the dribble.
Mason Bakker 6-5 So Grand Rapids Storm 15U (Zeeland West): Tough matchup for 15U. Bakker looks cut from the John Shillito football line quarry in Zeeland, and plays with good hands, passing vision, while using his size to finish inside.
Jimmy Bell 6-10 So GreenWood 16U (Saginaw Arthur Hill): Looked really good early in the tournament, showing nice lateral mobility for his size going to get rebounds beyond his immediate area. He also split some time with the 17U and was dragging some as he got into bracket play. Needs to work harder to establish initial post position. When he’s taking multiple dribbles to back his man down he’s susceptible to guards diving down, then makes rushed passes or forced shots from the double team. If in a year from now Bell is instead drop-stepping and hammering it, then he’ll be recruited by top 25 college teams given his rare combination of size, hands and feet.
Tyler Bosma 6-6 Jr Goog’s Gamers 16U (West Ottawa): Composed solely of West Ottawa players, GG showed why the Panthers will be a top 10 overall high school team for 2016-17. Goog’s Gamers was making a cameo appearance, their only tournament of the summer. They made the most of it, reaching the 16U final four, a platinum bracket run that commenced with a manic comeback over Elite Nation. Bosma was taking a break from his baseball schedule to get some hoop in, yet was far from rusty. He’s a major matchup problem at 6-6, a lefty with bounce who can rain three-pointers and mid-range shots or score at the rim. Tyler is better at the same age than his father, Duane Bosma who went on to be an All-American center at Hope.
Amauri Hardy 6-2 Sr Family (North Farmington): Explosive left-hander who will beat you going to either side of the hoop. Two-time physical in that he can get a shoulder into his initial defender then invite the contact and finish through rim protectors. Sometimes gets a bit too much steam going and ends drives over the baseline ratherthan chin to the rim. Not just single minded, Hardy will get in and rebound and will move the ball around and finds points within the offensive flow. Could see him putting up numbers this winter where Hardy will place himself in the Mr. Basketball discussion.
Avery Hudson 5-10 Sr West Michigan Lakers (Wayland): Fearless, hurricane, the sob no one wants to play against. Which made for one of the most entertaining matchups of the tournament against another sub 6-foot gunner the Family’s Jermaine Jackson. Hudson and the Lakers won that one, in a super pool showcase game, then made it all the way to the platinum championship game, falling to Spiece Indy Heat. Give the Family its full lineup with Jamal Cain and the U-D bigs and they likely win that game. That still means the Lakers are the second-best 17U squad in Michigan, and Hudson is at the heart and guts of that success. More two than one depending on the matchup. The conventional wisdom that Avery was destined to Cornerstone where brother Wes Hudson played may have been premature. He received an offer from Ferris State after his Brawl performance.
Brandon Johns 6-8 Jr Spiece Indy Heat (East Lansing): Some around the program think Johns has the most potential on the Indy Heat roster, even when 6-10 senior Jaren Jackson is in the mix. Rare mix of size, skill and feel. Has the potential to be one of the great modern forwards in Michigan history, like LaVell Blanchard or Winfred Walton. That said, didn’t dominate just did his job along the deep Spiece frontcourt.
Matt Loney 6-3 Jr Parallel 45 16U (Frankfort): Michigan’s class of 2018 is deep and talented. Few of its members do more to help his team win than Loney. By knocking off GreenWood in the first round of the platinum tournament before falling to eventual champion King James Shooting Stars, Loney’s 15U/16U P45 teams have now won a combined 70 games. Between his motor and 6-8 wingspan gets a lot done rebounding, making defensive plays out on the floor or in the lane, finishing fast breaks, passing, knocking down corner 3s. All the while getting into opponents’ heads with unrepentant energy and talk.
Austin McCullough 6-4 Sr GreenWood (Portage Central): Coaches who thought he was just another corner shooter were in for an awakening, as McCullough had a number of dunks in additions to 3s and pull-ups. Runs hard both ways, scraps and guards a bunch of positions. Can have trouble staying in front of high-end guards, which sets a ceiling but has the floor of a scholarship player. He’s being recruited by some Southern schools, but is open to play anywhere.
Xander Okerlund 6-3 So Parallel 45 15U (Maple City Glen Lake): He’s already three inches taller than listed on the NCAA roster submitted in April, and doesn’t look like he’ll stop at 6-3. Balances a lineup with some volume shooters as the percentage guy. He played a masterpiece of a 15U game in the platinum opener against the Storm, with poise, skill and a three-point barrage that just seemed to come from another plane. Point guard who can play the 1-4 and is one of the team’s best rebounders. Okerlund has a savant basketball IQ and gets a hand on seemingly every live ball. Has to learn to play faster, more freely, with urgency, a pace he saw firsthand when the Family blew by Parallel 45 in the semifinals.
Dreyon O’Neal 6-6 So Family 15U (DEPSA): A load at the 15U level running the wings, which is impressive enough as the Family’s guards can go. Good hands, finishes with consistency and authority.
Christian Rodriguez 5-10 Sr GreenWood (Godwin Heights): Put together a big game against one of the top young point guards in the state, Indy Heat’s Tyger Campbell. Rodriguez’ game is as utilitarian as Campbell’s mane is obtuse. Put him with talented teammates and he makes them look even better — and both happened with GreenWood’s Matt Beachler, Terry Armstrong and Austin McCullough. Just when you think he’s maxed out, Rodriguez still gets better, as he has with his shooting and defense. Next up should be his right (off) hand finishes.
Chase VanderKlay 6-3 Sr West Michigan Flight (Wyoming): He’s twice won the 3-point contest at the MHSAA state finals. But VK is more than a carnival show. WM Flight is bloated with shooters, and he’s the best at creating the jumper off the dribble. Good backcourt size and athleticism, could make a nice future running high ball screens in the MIAA.
Jake VanTubbergen 6-6 Sr West Michigan Lakers (West Ottawa): Put him at an equally big school in Detroit, and JVT is a household name in Michigan hoops. Don’t confuse thin with soft, he competes on both ends. Funky offensive game vacillates between awkward and creative which makes him an even tougher cover when he gets in the lane and just unfurls like a Dutch Jaquan Hart. Can pull up and extend over bigger defenders, and uses his wingspan to get to offensive boards. Will have to find a position he can guard in college.
Mario Whitley 6-3 Jr Family 16U (Frankenmuth): We’ve compared Whitley’s inside-outside offensive arsenal to one time Muskegon Heights phenom Mike Davis, but Davis never played this hard. It was refreshing to see Whitley go with just as much urgency and instinct after a loose ball as he does hunting for dunks. Needs to keep working on his guard skills, but is already a plus recruit for the mid-major level.
Carson Wonders 6-4 Sr Northern Michigan Drive (Iron Mountain): Plays like a poor man’s Antonio Gates from his Detroit Central days, all-around player with some physicality. Could play a forward in the modern MIAA.
The date has changed. The talent is back. Commence the NCAA certified Brawl for the Ball the next four days in Grand Rapids. Here are some of the most attractive pool play matchups.
APT vs MBA National 15U, 11:45 am Thursday MVP Fieldhouse Ct. 3: This is our pick as the best of the opening round of games thanks to some local intrigue. College coaches will soon know the names of point guards Will Eldred of APT and MBA’s Austin Braun.
Champ Sports Gold vs Parallel 45 15U, 2:15 Thursday MVP 5: Champ Sports has balance, depth, point guard play, size and a competitive edge, they’re a top 5 15U team in Michigan. P45 can play with anyone in the state when the shots are falling and is looking to make up for a loss in their first meeting at the Up North Challenge
King James vs Michigan Titans 16U, 10:30 am Friday MVP 2: King James has a Michigander in its midst Belleville guard Davion Williams. The Titans are scrappy and compete with the confidence of a group that has played together for years.
GreenWood Elite vs Spiece Indy Heat 17U 111:45 pm Friday, MVP 1: The EYBL squad from Hoosier country has some local representation in Grand Rapids Christian forwards Xavier Tillman and James Beck, and another from down the road the state’s top junior East Lansing’s Brandon Johns. GreenWood doesn’t have that kind of star power outside of Terry Armstrong who is just a sophomore, but does have some guys with chips on their shoulders looking for bigger, or first, offers.
Elite Nation vs Family 16U, 3:30 pm Friday MVP 2: The Family is the best 16U team from Michigan with seven of the state’s top 25 juniors, while ENB is the top grassroots squad. The Family has the depth to throw defenders like Elijah Collins, Bryce Washington and Zach Winston at ENB’s scoring guard Jacob Boonyasith. If Elite Nation’s 6-6 Mason Pline can produce against the Family’s pair of 6-8 forwards Thomas Kithier and Deante Johnson he’ll strengthen his case as a MAC level prospect.
Family vs West Michigan Lakers 17U, 10:30 am Saturday MVP 3: Depth was a big part of the Lakers’ spring success. To compete here, the frontcourt depth from guys like Austin Branagan and Daniel Ray will have to hang on the glass against the Family’s bigger, more athletic line.
There was a significant contingent of Michigan teams traversing Interstate 94 in the first live period session of July, playing in the NY2LA event in Milwaukee and the Chicago Summer Challenge and Chicago Summer Jam respectively. Here are some who made it a worthwhile trip tolls and traffic be damned.
Jack Ammerman 5-10 Jr Gators 16U (Ann Arbor Skyline): On a team full of shooters Ammerman is the most prolific. He had a 29 spot in the quarterfinals and the final bucket, a fadeaway 3 from the corner, in the Gators’ 70-67 loss to the Illinois Wolves in the Chicago Summer Challenge semifinals. His alignment and follow through are pure and consistent. Much improved scoring game off the dribble and plays with blue-collar grit and edge that belie the pretty jumpshot and Ann Arbor stereotypes. At times Ammerman and backcourt mate Brandon Wade play near psychic basketball together. A scholarship waiting if coaches feel he can check explosive, bigger point guards.
Jimmy Bell 6-10 Jr GreenWood 16U (Saginaw Arthur Hill): A valuable recruit for more traditional offensive teams, a true big who you can dump it down to for points at the rim or on kickouts. Plays with some edge and intent that most young bigs don’t. His addition has made GreenWood a much better team now than in the spring live period.
Bryce Drews 6-4 Jr Mustangs 16U (Hillsdale): The Mustangs-Hogan team has some smaller, talented guards, so Drews doesn’t have the ball in his hands as much as he does in the winter, but made good things happen when he did. Can board and go end-to-end, and uses his size to get to the hole against smaller defenders. He hits enough shots of his own to be a true triple threat.
Jordan Graham 6-5 Jr Warriors (Farmington): A poor man’s CDR or Jaquan Hart, an extra lanky wing with the feel and passing to play both guard positions. Long-term D1 upside, a late bloomer like a former Warrior, Paris Bass. Nowhere near his potential now because he’s too light, got knocked around on both ends in the Warriors’ semifinal loss to the hometown Illinois Wolves.
Caleb Hodgson 6-9 So Mustangs 15U (Dansville): A healthy Sean Cobb playing tough on the blocks had a trickle down effect for the Mustangs, the All-Airport team that is up and down but had some great moments in Milwaukee. Chief among them it allowed Hodgson to play his all-around game, because he can both shoot it and pass it around or away from the basket. Good hands and feel, inherent traits you look for in big men. When he shows he can turn ends to run-catch-dunk, myriad high-major offers await Hodgson.
Tray Jackson 6-8 Jr REACH 16U (Detroit Western): Similar game — skills and pace — to Tommie McCune. A left-hander who can hit three-pointers and is particularly dangerous when he’s also using that big first step to get to the basket. Can envelop opponents on defense with his wingspan. No one will confuse him for Mr. Mean on the boards.
Traveon Maddox 6-3 Jr Warriors (Novi): One of the wildest games of the early session came Sunday in Chicago, where Maddox helped key a 20-point comeback after a miserable first half against MoKan. While WB junior Tre Harvey was going wild with seven three-pointers, Maddox made the Warriors an impossible cover hitting a pair of 3s of his own from the corners, finishing with authority on the break and creating some in-between buckets as well. Has the tools to be a top-shelf defender, but not yet the focus. Should get lots of MAC, Horizon looks.
Mason Pline 6-6 Jr Elite Nation 16U (Fowler): Plays similar to the power- dunking junior from Illinois that WMU just took a commitment from, TJ Clifford, only Pline is a more consistent three-point shooter. Stands out to see such a big-bodied kid moving so easily and playing hard all over the court.
Delano Swift 6-1 Sr Camp Darryl (Kalamazoo Loy-Norrix): Have watched him for years, and he’s continued to steadily improve. Effective point guard with the high ball screen because he will burn you with the shot if you go under and created easy shots for teammates in the lane when he drove. Newfound defensive intensity makes him a legit small college prospect, and has the grades for it.
Eric Williams 6-4 Jr Playmakers (New Haven): Last July, Green Bay fell in love with a lanky athlete from a Michigan grassroots team, Powerstroke’s Kam Hankerson, and ended up signing him. Now the Phoenix has taken notice of another grassroots wing, Williams. He doesn’t have the wingspan or all-around game of Hankerson, but has a strong build and can bury those high-arcing left-handed 3s. When that’s closed out on, he has a number of counter finishing moves.
CJ Wilson 5-10 Jr REACH (Orchard Lake St. Mary’s): Tough and fast, and contributes well beyond his size would suggest. If the shot’s falling too in addition to the end-to-end show, a small D1 might forgive his stature.
The NCAA live recruiting period for July begins Wednesday evening. Here are some Michigan prospects looking to impress and take a jump in the eyes of the college coaches.
Dylan Alderson 6-5 Sr MBA (Clarkston): If the shot’s dropping along with the usual run/jump highlight show, after the AAU Gold nationals in Orlando, America East offers should turn to Atlantic 10.
Quinn Blair 6-6 Jr REACH 16U (Dearborn Divine Child): Tough inside-outside cover is the state’s best junior without a D1 offer. That will likely have changed by the time Blair’s starting two-a-days in August.
Isaiah Livers 6-8 Sr Mean Streets (Kalamazoo Central): While he shot well in spring EYBL action, if Livers adds some consistent toughness in the lane at the Peach Jam he could solidify interest from upper-half Big Ten programs.
Austin McCullough 6-4 Sr GreenWood (Portage Central): Could have really benefited from a more intensive team camp season because McCullough is a “grower,” the kind of kid a staff will like the more they see him. That’s because he’s good at everything, but won’t blow you away in any one area.
CJ Robinson 5-10 Jr North Oakland Wolfpack (Clarkston): He’s a dog. I’ve watched a lot of Patriot League games over the past seven seasons, and a lot of CJ the past two years, and he could be a starting point guard in that league.
Jason Whitens 6-4 Sr Grand Rapids Storm (Powers North Central): It’s hard to be a D1 recruit from the UP, which hasn’t sent a native son to complete a college career at that level since Todd Lindeman graduated from IU two decades ago. Whitens will be looking to defy history as a tough all-around wing who brings to mind Storm alumnus Brian Snider.
Trevion Williams 6-8 Jr Mustangs 16U (Henry Ford Academy): Great hands and a unique floor game mean Williams is already a high-major recruit. If he produces inside against taller, bouncier bigs on the national level could warrant that MSU dream offer.