Before the beer. Before the DeVos subsidization. When it was repressed not trendy. Grand Rapids was as solid as the industry it was known for, making furniture. The athletes retain those roots, more action, less talk, than their Eastside cousins. These were some of the top performers from Grand Rapids natives or West Michigan clubs at the Best of the Midwest tournament.
Marcus Bingham 6-10 Sr Spiece Indy Heat (Grand Rapids Catholic Central): Though he seemed to run out of gas as it went on, Bingham had strong overall tournament, befitting the highest ranked recruit from Grand Rapids since Drew Neitzel in 2004. Every game he hit a couple shots, be they three-pointers or turnaround jumpers, that were rare for a player his size (7-4 wingpsan) and age (just recently turned 17). Was very good on Saturday looking like a true forward with his three-pointers and defensive versatility. Even with his rapid improvement, that first year at MSU will be a tough one for Bingham as he gets stronger and continues to learn the game. Given his track record over the past year, it would be unwise to bet against him.
Jacob Boonyasith 6-3 Sr Grand Rapids Storm (Jenison): Fully recovered from a broken wrist and reclaiming his status as one of the most gifted, easy scoring guards in the 2018 class. Not rushed by defensive pressure, always plays at his own pace as he manufactures points. Feel, skill and pace will allow him to play some stretches of point at next level. David Kool certainly didn’t leave the cupboard barren as with a healthy senior campaign Boonyasith is easily one of the best players in school history. I’d encourage West Coast mid-majors to check him out this week in Vegas, he has the right offensive aesthetic and high grades.
Ryan Corner 6-9 So Impact Elite 15U (Allendale): Nice to see improvement in a young big kid and June appears to have done well by Corner, who moved more confidently than in May AAU. Length looked right at home in IE’s tough semifinal loss to the eventual champion Family. Clarkston’s Matt Nicholson may be the only taller player in the state’s 2020 class. Looking forward to seeing Ryan in a different context at the drill stations of the Underclassman All-State Camp.
Zach Goodline 5-10 Jr West Michigan Lakers (Coloma): He looks like he sneaked over from the 12U court. But once he starts dribbling transforms to a Big3 vet. Paging Special Ed, it was the youngest in charge beginning Thursday when Goodline QB’d a second-half comeback against the Storm keeping the Lakers’ win streak intact against the host team. It ended in a Sunday semifinal when long stretches of this game were controlled by this potential 2,000-point high school scorer. Snap conclusions based on his appearance works to Goodline’s advantage as a defender has to suspend disbelief to deal with the barrage of dimes and free-up moves for shots coming at him in purple. The Brailen Neely playalike claimed status as the top small point guard in Michigan’s 2019 class over Julian Dozier as the Lakers dismantled the Elite (which was loaded at the time with Lamar Norman, Gary Solomon and Terry Armstrong). But it was on another level when he delivered the Goods against the Spiece Indy Heat and Tyger Campbell “DePaul’s top recruit in 20 years.” The Lakers, trying to avenge last summer’s championship game loss to the Indy Heat, led until the final two minutes of the semifinals. The next Laker legend from a program that graduated Kyle Steigenga, Coreantae DeBerry, Korey VanDussen, Jake VanTubbergen and Wes Hudson.
Payton Harley 6-2 Sr Grand Rapids Storm (Godwin Heights): He’s long been teamed with more publicized teammates. Harley has continued to work, improve, contribute to team successes and as things shake out he’s still standing while some more hyped prospects from around the state have risen and fallen. Dials in on defense and isn’t just a gimmick guy getting steals off pressure, will lock in with toughness, see helpside and talk in the halfcourt. He’s really matured as a decision maker when to mix it up and find his own offense, and is money with the pullup.
Markeese Hastings 6-6 Sr 1Nation (Godwin Heights): The 17U final saw 1Nation go super small ball with Hastings at the 5 in a four-guard offense, and they simply ran and shot their way past a Spiece Indy Heat squad starting three players at least 6-8. Hastings, the more renowned prospect for most of their adolescence, took his matchup with Marcus Bingham personally, a couple of times going chest-to-chest to finish over the future Spartan. He was just as good in a pool play loss to Spiece. Hastings can also finesse you and finish going either way, with either hand. It’s rare talent who is a high motor rebounder on defense then can beat you with a euro to finish the break. Combine that ability with a winning background and the maturity to go consistently hard without having plays run for him, thus he’s one of my favorite recruits. For improvement, he’s a good shot blocker but help-side slides need to get sharper; consistency on jumpshots and free throws.
Jamoni Jones 6-0 So Greenwood (East Kentwood): Part of a talented three-headed guard attack with a pair of other Westside sophomores, Mona Shores power guard Jarvis Walker and slight Grand Rapids Christian point guard EJ Victory. Jones isn’t just a system athlete that sometimes excels for EK, he has the basketball acumen to make point guard decisions while maintaining a quick pace. A tough one-one-one cover because he’s quick through the lane to finish and has really improved his shooting, and despite all that doesn’t have to score to beat you.
Conner Kok 6-4 Jr Sporting U (Grand Rapids South Christian): He and another 6-4 Sailor Luke Schrotenboer both averaged 15 points per game as Sporting U reached the 16U gold final. Schrotenboer is more of a strong, athletic slashing wing, while Kok is a lanky point guard. Kok had two older brothers play at Sout Christian with similar physical profiles, but didn’t have the same feel with the ball. One of a number of dangerous shooters who spread the floor for SU, he sets the tone up top playing with an edge and toughness.
Nathan Lauer 6-2 Jr MBA 16U (Caledonia): Nice looking two guard prospect. He beats you from all three levels with an easy release from 20 feet, good elevation on the pullup and some athleticism to finish at the cup. Has the tools to contribute more defensively, strength pending.
Seth Millner 6-5 Sr The Family (Grand Rapids Christian): He scored well in limited minutes on the EYBL and has benefited from a revamped Family lineup, getting more tick and touches. Used to being patient having bid time last year ast GR Christian’s fourth option, Millner has cashed in on the opportunity and offers have come as a result most recently from Toledo. Ideal size on the wing and utilizes it with a versatile, fundamental offensive package. Will beat you off the catch, the cut, the post or attacking with the dribble. Heads up, fundamentally sound on D. Needs to expand range and consistency from deep.
Vernon Nash 5-7 So Grand Rapids Storm 15U (Muskegon): Skill and speed rule the day in 15U ball so it doesn’t matter if the Storm’s backcourt of Nash and Hudsonville’s Max Perez is one of the smallest in the state. It’s also one of the best. Nash is strong with the ball but can just as easily play off of Perez and knock down three-pointers in flurries.
Lamar Norman 6-2 Sr 1Nation (Godwin Heights): A late arrival due to the Under Armour All-American camp, Norman got back home just in time for 1Nation’s track meet win over TEAM Basketball to begin their tournametn run. The following day he proved wrong guy to talk junk to, which apparently happened before the semifinals. Only Foster Loyer has accomplished more than Lamar among the members of the 2018 class, one which includes eight Big Ten commitments. Just look up his name with the Bank Hoops search function. He’s been putting on since he was a freshman winning a state championship. 1Nation beat the Family in that semifinal then won the final putting a running clock on the Spiece Indy Heat. When the jumper is falling to counter the fastbreak blitz, there’s not a high school guard in America who can hold him under 20.
Emcee Williams 5-11 So Impact Elite 15U (Reeths- Puffer): If a tile falls from a gym ceiling, check if Impact Elite is playing it may just be one of Emcee’s jumpshots knocked it loose. Follow the rainbows. That’s the first thing that stands out about his game. Then he counters the three-pointers with a knack for finishing at the basket for a smaller guard, especially beneficial at the 15U level where so much is an adventure and any sort of consistency is treasured. While too many kids try to go over the top and look pretty — an incredible tough angle and shot unless you’re gonna go all the way and dunk it — Williams is able to, even with defensive contact, lay the ball off the glass like your gym teacher taught you. He tortured the Family with both scoring approaches, not backing down athletically or skill-wise against one of the top five 15U squads in America. Impact Elite led at halftime of the semifinal, which was back-and-forth until the closing minute.