Opening week fun matchups

Here are some of the best bets for some exciting early season action in the opening week of Michigan’s high school season.

Tuesday, Dec. 5

Ann Arbor Skyline @ Novi: Shots will be flying between these two top 10 Class A teams. Novi’s Traveon Maddox is going to Oakland and Skyline’s Brandon Wade to Duquesne, but the guard talent goes well beyond that with Novi senior Trendon Hankerson and for Pioneer senior Jack Ammerman and juniors Ryan Wade and Christian Knox.

West Ottawa @ Godwin Heights: After Class A runner-up Grand Rapids Christian, these were the two best squads in West Michigan last winter. WO graduated all-state forward Jake VanTubbergen to Grand Valley State, where he recently sunk 7-of-8 shots against Davenport, but has three high-end starters back: Versatile 6-5 forward Tyler Bosma who is headed to Miami-OH for baseball, 6-2 all-state receiver Xavier Wade at point guard and 6-2 shooter Drew Pedersen on the wing. Godwin may not have the depth of recent teams, early on at least, but with Lamar Norman at guard and Markeese Hastings up front, firepower won’t be an issue.

Clarkston @ Wayne Memorial: All-state transfer Thomas Kithier won’t be suited up for this one. The Zebras aren’t shedding any tears though for the defending Class A champs who will suit up only two Big Ten recruits. Senior guards Foster Loyer and Rashad Williams could net 75 points between them.

DeWitt @ East Lansing: East Lansing has posted back-to-back 20-0 regular seasons. So Brandon Johns will have to wait until March to put an exclamation mark on his prep career with a trip to the Breslin Center to complement the regular season success. DeWitt underachieved last year but regroups with a pair of GLIAC seniors, Tanner Reha (Northwood) on the wing and Luke Hyde (GVSU) up front.

Wednesday, Dec. 6

Detroit U-D Jesuit @ Detroit Edison: Both these teams were hurt losing transfers to out-of-state schools. But the cupboards are fare from barren. U-D Jesuit guard Daniel Friday is among the most improved prospects in the state’s 2019 class, while Edison has three D1 seniors and is our pick to win the Class C state title.

Thursday, Dec. 7

Flint Carman-Ainsworth @ Clarkston: More Clarkston? Well yeah, as this one features two top 10 teams in Class A. While Carman’s junior center Mike Fletcher is a big-time football recruit, he’s really good on the hardwood too. D2 coaches would be wise to check out two of the top remaining point guards in Michigan’s senior class, Clarkston’s CJ Robinson and C-A’s Jakavien Lewis. There very similar, leaders and lockdown defenders, with Robinson getting the edge as a shooter.

Friday, Dec. 8

Davison @ Grand Rapids Christian: This one looked better on paper six months ago, before Terry Armstrong left for Arizona without ever playing a game for Davison and Duane Washington moved to California but with at least a very accomplished high school career in GR to look back upon. Some consolation at least as two of the state’s top available wing prospects suit up, Eagles 6-5 senior Seth Millner and Davison’s 6-5 junior Cade Coleman.

Holland Christian @ Grand Rapids South Christian: Homecoming for first-year Holland Christian coach David Kool, who won two state championships and Mr. Basketball when he played for the Sailors over a decade ago. It won’t be a friendly welcome, on the court at least, as South Christian has a junior class full of length, skill and shooters and could contend in Class B in 2019.

Manton vs. Traverse City West @ Petoskey: These are two of the best teams in the North. Manton has the explosive backcourt of Jayden Perry and Hunter Ruel from last year’s state Class C semifinalist and bring in 6-7 senior Ethan Ancick. West has won three straight Class A district crowns and has two talented guards of its own, junior Miigwaanhs Barrientoz and senior Brady Stoerkel, and Michigan football commitment 6-7 senior Ryan Hayes.

Saturday, Dec. 9

Flint Beecher @ Detroit Cass Tech: This is the nightcap of what could be the nightcap of six hopefully entertaining games with approximately 20 future D1 players at Cass, starting at noon with Detroit Western vs. River Rouge; Renaissance vs. Carman-Ainsworth; East English Village vs. Hazel Park; Pershing vs. Southfield Christian; and Belleville vs. Detroit Edison.

Benton Harbor vs. Goodrich @ Lakeland: 2020 talent abounds in this one, the second of four games at Lakeland starting at 2 p.m. with Detroit Loyola vs. Grand Rapids Union; Detroit Osborn vs. Dansville; and Lakeland vs. Henry Ford Academy.

Picking Four State Champions

Clarkston returns leading scorer Foster Loyer (left) and starting center Taylor Currie from the 2017 Class A state championship team. They’re two of four returning starters for the Wolves.

The state finals are three-and-a-half months from now. Here are the teams most likely to be holding the MHSAA hardware in all four classes.

Class A
Clarkston (27-1): The rich get richer. The 2017 state champion graduated Dylan Alderson to Toledo, but now inherit Michigan State signee 6-8 Thomas Kithier a transfer from Macomb Dakota and Hank Schemmel a 6-6 senior from Maryland. The returning senior backcourt is elite. Foster Loyer was the 2017 Bank Hoops player of the year and is headed to Michigan State. CJ Robinson is another future college point guard who checks the opponent’s top guard. Up front is more Big Ten talent. 6-8 Taylor Currie who is headed for Wisconsin, a tough defensive presence in the paint who has improved his shot. Size isn’t lacking as 6-7 senior Tristen Mysen is a future college 4 and 6-11 sophomore Matt Nicholson is already getting high-major attention. Nick Wells is the fourth returning starter a wing guard who fills in the blanks with shooting and smart decisions. 6-5 Chase Wasilk is another member of the state’s stronger senior class, a lanky wing with upside.
Defending champion: See above.
Challengers: Belleville, East Lansing, Ann Arbor Skyline, Flint Carman-Ainsworth, Detroit Cass Tech, Detroit East English Village.
Class A All-State
MVP  Foster Loyer  5-11  Sr  Clarkston  Michigan State
Jacob Boonyasith  6-3  Sr  Jenison
Gabe Brown  6-7  Sr  Belleville  Michigan State
Taylor Currie  6-8  Sr  Clarkston  Wisconsin
David DeJulius  6-1  Sr  East English Village  Michigan
Brandon Johns  6-9  Sr  East Lansing  Michigan
Drew Lowder  5-11  Jr  Ann Arbor Pioneer
Traveon Maddox  6-4  Sr  Novi  Oakland
Joe Moon  6-1  Jr  Westland John Glenn
Brandon Wade  6-2  Sr  Ann Arbor Skyline  Duquesne
Rashad Williams  6-2  Sr  Wayne Memorial Cleveland State
Class B
Williamston (21-5): The Hornets have knocked out loaded Godwin Heights teams from the past two state tournaments. Last season they ended up losing to River Rouge by three in the quarterfinals and in 2016 fell in the semifinals to state champion Detroit Henry Ford. They have a talented guard trio led by senior Cole Kleiver, who can go shot-for-shot with anyone in the division, senior Frankie Thomey and sophomore Mitchell Cook. There are various frontcourt options with 6-7 junior Sean Cobb a walking double-double, 6-6 Case Conley long, versatile and dangerous from the corners and 6-6 Joseph Hahnenberg the glue guy winning teams need as he works the class, runs the floor and makes smart decisions with the ball.
Defending champion: New Haven.
Challengers: Benton Harbor, Godwin Heights, Grand Rapids Catholic Central, New Haven, River Rouge.
Class B All-State
MVP Romeo Weems  6-6  Jr  New Haven
Marcus Bingham  6-10  Sr  GR Catholic Central  Michigan State
Quinn Blair  6-7  Sr  Divine Child  William & Mary
Zach Goodline  6-0  Jr  Coloma
Markeese Hastings  6-6  Sr  Godwin Heights  Butler
Carlos Johnson  6-6  So  Benton Harbor
Lamar Norman  6-2  Sr  Godwin Heights  UTEP
Jacob Polakovich  6-8  Sr  GR Catholic Central
Mark Watts  6-2  Jr  Old Redford Academy
Mario Whitley  6-4  Sr  Frankenmuth
Trevion Williams  6-8  Sr  Detroit Henry Ford Academy Purdue
Class C
Detroit Edison (14-12): Don’t look too far into Edison’s record. It was a much different team in the second semester once Cass Tech transfer Gary Solomon became eligible. DEPSA made it all the way to the state semifinals, losing by 10 to now three-time defending champion Flint Beecher. A blue-collar throwback who doesn’t play to make friends, Solomon is one of three Division I signees. He’s headed East to LIU, while senior point guard Pierre Mitchell committed years ago to CMU and 6-8 Deante Johnson, Bank Hoops Class C Defender of the Year in 2017 for his ability to check all five positions, signed with Cleveland State. Mitchell especially has a score to settle with Buctown, as he’s now lost twice in the semifinals to Beecher, last season and on a last-second shot when he was a sophomore at Detroit Loyola. After seeing some times as a sophomore, 6-5 junior Brian Taylor brings a versatile skill set and will fit in well in Edison’s starting line.
Defending champion: Flint Beecher.
Contenders: Beecher, Covenant Christian, Calvin Christian, Pershing, Manton, Glen Lake, Monroe St. Mary.
Class C All-State
MVP Blake Verbeek  6-10  Sr  Grandville Calvin Christian
Myron Gardner  6-5  Jr  Detroit Loyola
CJ Haut  6-8  Sr  Monroe St. Mary  Air Force
Deante Johnson  6-8  Sr  Detroit Edison  Cleveland State
Caleb Hodgson  6-9  Jr  Danville
Pierre Mitchell  5-10  Sr  Detroit Edison  Central Michigan
Xander Okerlund  6-4  Jr  Maple City Glen Lake
Jayden Perry  5-7  Sr  Manton
D’juan Seal  6-4  Sr  Detroit Pershing
Gary Solomon  6-5  Sr  Detroit Edison  Long Island
Jalen Terry  5-11  So  Flint Beecher
Class D
Southfield Christian (21-6): Southfield Christian’s return to Class D ended dramatically, dropping an 84-83 double-overtime state semifinal on a last-second shot to Powers North Central. All-stater Brock Washington has matriculated from that team to MSU but there’s ample talent returning on Lahser road. Junior guard Harlond Beverly has emerged as a high-major recruit and fellow wing Bryce Washington, a senior, has double-digit mid-major offers. Junior point guard Caleb Hunter is a confident gunner at the point and yet another 6-3 athlete, sophomore DaJion Humphrey, saw solid minutes as a freshman. 6-5 senior Jacob Fergan could emerge as a tough role player in the frontcourt.
Defending champion: Powers North Central.
Contenders: Buckley, Muskegon Heights, Fowler, Benton Harbor Dream Academy, Dollar Bay, Tri-Unity Christian.
Class D All-State
MVP Harlond Beverly  6-4  Jr  Southfield Christian
Denver Cade  6-2  Sr  Buckley
Blake Dockery  6-2  Sr  Baldwin
Daniel Everhart  6-0  Sr  Marine City Cardinal Mooney
Austin Harris  6-5  Sr  Buckley
Dylan Jergens  5-11  Jr  Howardsville Christian
Matt Loney  6-3  Sr  Frankfort
Matt Malcolm  6-4  Sr  Plymouth Christian
Mason Pline  6-7  Sr  Fowler  Ferris State
Bryce Washington  6-4  Sr  Southfield Christian
Jacob Witt  6-7  Sr  Ewen Trout Creek  Michigan Tech

State finals staying at Breslin

To accommodate the future availability of arenas used to host the Michigan High School Athletic Association girls and boys basketball championship weekends, the Representative Council approved during its Fall Meeting  last Friday in East Lansing a switch in schedules for girls and boys basketball for the 2018-19 season.

Currently, and since girls basketball season moved to the winter from fall in 2007-08, the Girls Basketball Semifinals and Finals have been played first followed by the Boys Basketball Semifinals and Finals a week later, usually during the final two weekends in March. Both utilize a format of Semifinals on Thursday and Friday and all four Finals on Saturday.

However, in March 2019, Michigan State University’s Breslin Center will not be available for the traditional MHSAA boys championship weekend because of the possibility of the MSU women’s basketball program hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Breslin Center is the only available arena in Michigan large enough to host the boys Semifinals and Finals; for that reason, the Council voted to switch the schedule for that season only so the boys tournament can finish at Breslin during the weekend of March 14-16, 2019.

The girls Semifinals and Finals, played most recently at Breslin as well, are moving to Calvin College’s Van Noord Arena for this 2017-18 season and with this switch will be played at Calvin College during the weekend of March 21-23, 2019.

This switch in calendars for 2018-19 also includes a switch of starting dates for when practices may begin and first games played. Typically, practices for both begin girls and then boys during the first two weeks of November, with girls basketball teams allowed to play their first games the Monday after Thanksgiving followed by the first boys basketball games a week later. In 2018-19, the boys will begin practice first and the first boys basketball games will be able to be played that Monday after Thanksgiving, followed by the first girls games a week later. The boys District and Regional tournaments also will start a week earlier than those for the girls.

“Although it is not our preference to change schedules of events that continue to run smoothly, switching girls and boys schedules in this way allows us to keep the current tournament format and traditions that help make these two of our most popular Finals every school year,” MHSAA Executive Director John E. “Jack” Roberts said. “This will keep the boys at the venue most capable of hosting them and the girls at a venue we’re excited to move to this season.”

Roberts also noted that this switch, at this time, will be for only the 2018-19 season. The current NCAA calendar for 2019-20 would allow for the MHSAA girls and boys tournaments to move back to their traditional weekends with Semifinals and Finals played at a Division I college venue, although that is not decided. Other options will be examined during 2018.

Earlier this fall, MHSAA staff surveyed school administrators on their preferences for regular season and MHSAA tournament schedules, discussed possible changes during UPDATE meetings across the state and solicited Requests for Proposals from sites to host both the girls and boys Semifinals and Finals.


Okemos scrimmage standouts

It counts for real starting this week. Here are standouts from the last weekend it doesn’t, in the win-loss column at least, at a scrimmage hosted by Okemos.

Isaiah Bridges  6-4  Jr  Midland: Terrific basketball IQ understanding offensive spacing and directing teammates thusly. Gets assists from high-low action or driving and dishing. First step looks quicker and was able to split defenders. Three-point shot was falling more readily than from mid-range. A tweener, but a ballplayer.

Drew Lowder  5-11  Jr  Ann Arbor Pioneer: If you don’t have a rim protector, you’re in big trouble against Lowder. He can get into the lane at will against high school competition with strength, hesitations, changes of pace, and then has a plethora of finishing moves. Shot was on and off in the stretches I saw. Liked the leadership getting dirty on the floor for 50/50 balls.

Max Perez  5-10  So  Hudsonville: He ran wild against Ann Arbor Richard, forcing turnovers on and off the ball, hitting three-pointers off the dribble and creating for teammates off of screens. Perez had to go a lot harder against Okemos with fellow 10th-grader worker him full court. Would like to see him add some eye deceptoin, subtle stuff to free himself up for shots, as a wise defender can tell when he’s shooting and when he’s not. And while there aren’t many of those in high school, that becomes an automatic scouting point at the next level.

Noah Pruitt  5-10  So  Okemos: He’s clearly spent quality time in the weight room, and has helped him defensively and with the ball when operating in the lane. Worked hard against another top 10 sophomore point guard, Hudsonville’s Max Perez, forcing him into some quick shots. Pruitt gets the ball up the court very swiftly, via the pass or dribble. Keeps the ball hot in the halfcourt and while he may be pass-first, he’s still a capable shooter out to behind the arc. When driving to score would like to see him get an angle and use the glass instead of trying to go over the top with finger rolls which are very difficult, lower percentage shots. Backboard and dunks only in there!

Kasean Pryor  6-8  Jr  Ann Arbor Pioneer: One of the most intriguing prospects in the state’s junior class, because he’s long for days and moves so easily. Able to catch, shoot and finish on the move. Does a great job closing out high, and can then get back in the paint and defend the rim. Good passer. Shot selection must improve and needs to get a lot stronger, tougher on the glass — become a hitter who finishes out defensive possessions, not a tipper. When Pryor starts to consistently string together good play, watch out.