Five for the 5: Remaining 2018 scholarship posts players

Grandville Calvin Christian’s 6-10 senior Blake Verbeek.

All good things must come to an end. But not quite yet with Michigan’s 2018 class, which isn’t just rich in Big Ten talent but has an abundance of scholarship players for various levels many still uncommitted. Size included. Here are the top five remaining college post prospects in the state’s senior class.

Daniel Cluster  6-10  Sr  Watervliet: The remaining of the West Michigan Lakers’ big three from the AAU season, as Spring Lake’s 6-9 Sam Johnson is going to Claremont McKenna while Wayland’s 6-8 Carter Nyp signed with Cornerstone. In the winter Cluster is the 5 on one of the tallest teams in Class C. Has a go-to half-hook and he’s good at finding mismatches to fire it over. Needs to get taller, wider, stronger with rebounds to keep the Lilliputians away.

Cassius Phillips  6-9  Sr  Lakeland: Double-double machine, including against Purdue-bound Trevion Williams in December. Phillips is the best athlete on the list, also a standout baseball pitcher who on the hardwood can defend the rim and also get out on the floor and makes plays. Rare motor for a high school big. Can still be raw but when it’s clicking is a versatile offensive threat. Compares favorably to Lake Superior State’s four-year starter at center Michael Nicholson.

Jacob Polakovich  6-8  Sr  Grand Rapids Catholic Central: One half of a rare, old school twin towers with 6-10 MSU bound Marcus Bingham. He has a noteworthy improvement arc over his high school career and was able to be a productive role player in the EYBL with Spiece Indy Heat. He has a preferred walk-on invitation to Michigan and there are some similarities to Graham Brown with his production on the glass and physicality. Polakovich has a back-to-basket game and can step out to knock it down from 20. Plays below the rim or would be an obvious D1 guy.

Blake Verbeek  6-10  Sr  Grandville Calvin Christian: The most natural stretch 4 on the list, but with the wingspan to defend the paint — if not the base and strength for it. Which is the rub for Verbeek, as college coaches worry about him not packing on weight. Because the offensive package is largely there, possessing a modern skillset with footwork, handle and shot all high-end for a 6-10 kid. Differentiates from the other three-point shooters on the list because he’s not just a screen/fade threat, but will come off screens himself or catch and shoot from more open sets. Moves well defensively.

Tariq Woody  6-8  Sr  Novi: A transfer from Plymouth. With Woody now eligible and senior point guard Trendon Hankerson back from a broken foot, Novi looks a lot more like the top 10 Class A team many had anointed the Wildcasts in the preseason than the one that went 1-5 in December. Like Polakovich, Woody is strong and playing at closer to a college weight than the other three. Anchors a team like a Brad Stevens center, excelling at “boring” things like rebounding horizontally, hedging on ball screens, playing position defense, piling up garbage points. Has a very easy-looking shot from 3 on the pick-and-pop.

Nothing given, everything earned: Conference showdowns

Tuesday, Jan. 9
Chelsea at Ypsilanti: The favorites in the SEC-White, where both schools are 2-0 and 5-0 overall. This has been a breakout campaign for Ypsi’s Josh Perkins, a 6-6 senior post player. Like most of Steve Brooks’ teams, Ypsilanti earns its rep on the defensive end where it has held four of five opponents to fewer than 30 points.
Detroit Pershing at East English Village: The PSL-East is as rugged a division as there is in Michigan, case in point here were EEV has proven capable of beating anyone in the state — Clarkston — but is in danger of going 1-2 in the conference if don’t show up against a Pershing squad that is Class C in name only.
Grand Rapids South Christian at Grand Rapids Christian: These O-K Gold rivals are a year removed from state title contention — Christian in Class A in 2017 and South in Class B in 2019. South has the wing size to match up with the Eagles’ 6-5 senior Setrick Millner.
Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart at Ashley: Ashley is 3-0 in the Mid-State Athletic Conference and SHA is 2-1. The Bears’ lone loss was in the season opener by three to Portland St. Patrick and they’ve been rolling since. Ashley has a tough high-low combo in 6-7 senior Nick Sperling and 6-2 senior Colin Dolloff who is averaging a double-double. SHA has a talented 20-a-game junior guard in Colton Nelson.
Manton at McBain: Manton finally got the McBain Monkey off its back in last year’s state tournament. Now the Rangers will see if they can do it in the regular season. Which is no easy task, as personnel comes and goes but with Bruce Koopman on the sideline it’s been nearly impossible to win at McBain.
Maple City Glen Lake at Buckley: This is Buckley’s third game against a top 10 Class C team — the Bears lost the two previous on the road to Kalamazoo Hackett and McBain. The Northwest Conference is top-heavy with future college talent, and it’s apparent in this one with Glen Lake junior Xander Okerlund and sophomore Reece Hazelton, and Buckley seniors Denver Cade and Austin Harris.
River Rouge at Ecorse: The MMAC-Blue is “low key” a pretty tough league. These are two of the three members currently undefeated, along with Harper Woods, plus there’s a Big Ten big man in Trevion Williams at Detroit Henry Ford Academy for Creative Studies. Rouge is tough and not going anywhere under coach Mark White, as two-way guard Javion Torrance-Jackson is the only senior starter. River Rouge has played a much tougher schedule, so this is Ecorse’s chance to gain some believers.
Watervliet at Coloma: The home team is 5-0 and the lone unbeaten in the SWAC Lakeshore, where Watervliet is a game out. Coloma has one of the top three point guards in Michigan in the 2019 class, Zach Goodline, while the ‘Vliet has his AAU teammate 6-10 Dan Cluster is a top five available post in the senior class.

Wayne Memorial at Westland John Glenn: They sit on opposite ends of the KLAA-Black, Wayne on top and the Rockets grounded. But this is an intra-district rivalry and on John Glenn’s home floor, so it could be quite competitive. To the Moon, baby!

Thursday, Jan. 11
Frankfort at Buckley: No rest for the wicked as Buckley goes from a top 10 Class C team to another NWC contest this time against a top 10 Class D team Frankfort. How good is Frankfort’s 6-3 senior Matt Loney? He held Hazel Park star Carl Bow to a goose egg in an AAU contest last April.

Fulton at Fowler: Fowler is a top 10 team in Class D, undefeated both overall and in perennially the state’s toughest small-school league the CMAC. Seemingly forever undersized, Fulton will look to out-gun its rival.

Friday, Jan. 12
Ann Arbor Pioneer at Ann Arbor Skyline: Even early these are the lone undefeateds remaining in the SEC-Red. It’s a brutal stretch for Pioneer, which is at Belleville on Tuesday, then at Pioneer and on the road against Ann Arbor Huron the following Friday.
Detroit King at Detroit Pershing: It’s a twice-a-week grind in the arduous PSL-East. The Doughboys could conceivably be coming off three straight losses. MLK has one of our favorite unsigned seniors, 6-4 Antonio Marshall, who could be a less beefy, less shooting Eric Williams, the A-10’s top freshman for Duquesne via New Haven.
East English Village at Detroit Edison: These teams have lost five games between them but not for lack of talent, just reflective of highly competitive schedules. DEPSA can afford for one of its D1 seniors to have an off afternoon, because there are two others. East English doesn’t have that luxury with David DeJulius.
East Lansing at Holt: The Trojans are aiming for a third straight undefeated regular season. This week could be a challenging stretch in the CAAC-Blue against would-be contenders Grand Ledge and Holt. Everyone knows about Michigan-bound forward Brandon Johns for East Lansing. But how about this quick-on-quick senior point guard matchup with EL’s Malik Jones, who is headed to Aquinas, and Holt’s Caleb Cooper.
Orchard Lake St. Mary’s at Detroit U-D Jesuit: This is the Catholic League opener for U-D, which has weathered early personnel losses via transfers out West and the Cubs two losses are to top 10 Class A teams, East English and Hazel Park. And it’s not like they’re lacking for talent with senior guard Zach Winston having a strong season and Daniel Friday emerging as one of the top guard prospects in the 2019 class. It’s back-to-back tough league contests for OLSM, which is at home against undefeated Catholic Central on Tuesday.