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.

New Year’s Top 10 Teams by Class

Class A
1. Detroit Cass Tech 7-0
2. Hazel Park 6-0
3. Ann Arbor Skyline 6-0
4. Clarkston 5-1
5. East Lansing 6-0
6. Detroit East English Village 5-2
7. Romulus 3-0
8. Detroit King 5-2
9. Canton 7-0
10. Wayne Memorial 5-1
Class B
1. Benton Harbor 7-0
2. New Haven 6-0
3. River Rouge 5-0
4. Wyoming Godwin Heights  4-1
5. Williamston  5-2
6. Old Redford 2-0
7. Detroit Henry Ford 4-2
8. Grand Rapids Catholic Central  3-1
9. Grand Rapids South Christian  2-1
10. Frankenmuth 4-0
Class C
1. Detroit Edison 3-3
2. Detroit Pershing 2-3
3. Flint Beecher 2-2
4. Monroe St. Mary Catholic  3-0
5. Maple City Glen Lake  3-0
6. Manton  3-1
7. Grandville Calvin Christian  4-0
8. McBain  4-0
9. Dansville  4-1
10. Kalamazoo Hackett  5-0
Class D
1. Southfield Christian 4-2
2. Fowler 5-0
3. Frankfort 4-0
4. Buckley 1-2
5. Marine City Cardinal Mooney 5-1
6. Tri-Unity Christian  5-0
7. Benton Harbor Dream Academy  3-0
8. Flint International Academy  4-0
9. Ewen-Trout Creek  7-0
10. Dollar Bay  4-0

New Year’s Top 25 Teams

Who dat? Who dat? Who dat think they gonna beat them Tigers? No one has, so far, as Benton Harbor is 7-0.

1. Benton Harbor 7-0 (Class B): The Tigers haven’t been tested yet, winning by an average of 37.5 points per game, and may not be until they face No. 3 Hazel Park February 3 at Grand Rapids Union. What distinguishes Benton Harbor is the unselfishness and passing ability up and down the lineup; and the superstar, 6-6 sophomore Carlos Johnson, is a dog with no prima donna leanings.

2. Detroit Cass Tech 7-0 (A): The defending PSL champion has no superstars or true big man (though 6-6 senior Randy Gilbert, a Ferris State signee has elevated his game closer to realizing his underclassman potential), but has a plethora of future college players and size throughout the roster. With its loaded 2019 class and possible high-major point guard in sophomore Tyson Acuff, the Technicians won’t be going anywhere soon but up.

3. Hazel Park 6-0 (A): The Vikings continue the theme here of playing great team basketball, as you can’t shut down just one player and beat them. The senior backcourt of Carl Bow and David Hearns has seemingly been around since the latter’s dad was fighting Hagler and the third senior guard, Devin Pettus, can play as well. Up front HP has two big-time athletes in 6-3 senior Kyle Washington and 6-5 senior Khari Adams. This group has wins over East English Village, U-D Jesuit, Pershing, Detroit Edison and Detroit Henry Ford. It may get tougher in the non-exhibition season as familiarity and scouting tend to make it, against the likes of Clarkston and Troy in the OAA-Red.

4. Ann Arbor Skyline 6-0 (A): Already on Skyline’s resume’ are double-digit wins against quality teams like AA Huron and Belleville, and a one-point victory eeked out against Pershing behind 23 points from Duquesne-bound point guard Brandon Wade. There’s all kinds of perimeter firepower here with Brandon Wade, Ryan Wade, Jack Ammerman and Christian Knox.

5. Clarkston 5-1 (A): There was so much attention being paid to Thomas Kithier not playing that few were looking at the product on the court — which wasn’t up to the standard of last year’s state championship team and was exposed with a dominant performance from East English’s David DeJulius. Prior to the loss the Wolves had beaten two strong teams, Wayne Memorial and Carman-Ainsworth, by a less than comfortable 15 points combined. That said, this is still as talented as any team in the state, even without its depth fully utilized.

6. East Lansing 6-0 (A): Michigan signee Brandon Johns made his Mr. Basketball bid with a 51-point performance and is the type of talent that can carry a team. A third-straight 20-0 regular season is certainly a possibility for the Trojans. But it’s also the third-straight regular season in which they don’t play any school East of Okemos, while Detroit-area contenders are getting battle-hardened beating up on each other. Eight-to-ten years ago that would have been less of a concern as Lansing area talent was stronger then.

7. Detroit East English Village 5-2 (A): After rough early-season outings against Hazel Park and and MLK, East English proved capable of beating anyone knocking off Clarkston last week at North Farmington.

8. Romulus 3-0 (A): Romulus hasn’t played often, but has two quality wins in that sample, over Ann Arbor Pioneer and Saginaw.

9. Detroit King 5-2 (A): The Crusaders started out 4-0 including victories over East English Village and DEPSA before dropping two of their last three. They’ll get a talent injection in the second semester when senior guard Marcus Gibbs, a transfer from rival Cass Tech, becomes eligible.

10. Canton 7-0 (A): Canton cracks the top 10 thanks to coming out of the 2017 portion of its schedule clean including some quality competition from Country Day, Belleville, Westland John Glenn, Troy and Divine Child. Junior point guard B. Artis White has long had the skill and hoops IQ, now he’s closing in on 6-feet and no longer has the physical limitations of his youth.

11. Detroit Edison 3-3 (C): At first blush it may seem odd to have a .500 Class C team ranked this high. Two of those losses were to top 10 teams, Hazel Park and King, and this is no ordinary Class C squad with three seniors already signed D1 — point guard PJ Mitchell to CMU, wing Gary Soloman to LIU-Brooklyn and center Deante Johnson to Cleveland state. Edison’s three wins weren’t against chumps either — Southfield Christian, Arthur Hill and Belleville.

12. Southfield Christian 4-2 (D): Similar to DEPSA, a small school with D1 talent and a serious schedule. In Southfield Christian’s case there are a pair of guards with high-major offers, junior Harlond Beverly (MSU, Ohio State, Xavier, Mizzou) and senior Bryce Washington (Pitt plus over a dozen mid-major offers). The best win to date was over No. 9 MLK, with losses to Pershing and DEPSA.

13. Wayne Memorial 5-1 (A): The Zebras have won five in a row since dropping their season opener to Clarkston by 10. Everyone knows about their big-time scorer, Cleveland State-bound Rashad Williams, but there’s more here, with talented junior point guard Isaiah Lewis and two-way, blue-collar senior guard Terrence Williams. Wayne can move up in the rankings as there are home games coming up against top 10 teams Canton and Skyline.

14. New Haven 6-0 (B): Even after graduating an impact D1 player in Eric Williams, the defending Class B state champion Rockets have yet to come down. 6-6 junior Romeo Weems is a dominant high school player with a high-major future. Their best win to date came in the season opener, beating De La Salle by 20 on a neutral court.

15. Ann Arbor Pioneer 3-1 (A): The Pioneers have beaten No. 9 MLK and their only loss is to No. 8 Romulus. When junior guard Drew Lowder is on he’s as good as anyone in Michigan and 6-8 junior Kasean Pryor has serious talent himself. We’ll find out just how real Pioneer is shortly, as the next three games are on the road against Belleville, Skyline and Huron.

16. River Rouge 5-0 (B): One of the state’s top coaches, Mark White, has the Panthers getting it done on the defensive end, where they’ve held opponents to 38 points per game.

17. Flint Carman-Ainsworth 4-1 (A): Lone loss is to Clarkston on the road by five. Very solid “up the middle” with senior point guard Ja’kavien Lewis and junior Mike Fletcher in the post.

18. DeWitt  5-1 (A): Underachievers last season, DeWitt is making up for it this time around behind a pair of GLIAC seniors, Luke Hyde and Tanner Reha, and a heady junior point guard, Nate Flannery. Other than their season-opening loss to top 10 East Lansing, the Panthers have held every opponent to fewer than 50 points.

19. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 5-1 (A): Detroit Western transfer Lorne Bowman, a sophomore guard, has been terrific for the Eaglets, whose only loss is to Clarkston.

20. Novi Catholic Central 5-0 (A): Many had the other team in town, Novi High School, ranked preseason, but it’s been CC getting it done, averaging 79 points a game over a 5-0 start. The Shamrocks should only get better thanks to a strong junior class with their top college prospect, 6-6 Davis Lumkowski, 6-5 leaper Brendan Downs and guard Keegan Koehler. The Catholic League schedule comes fast, opening at No. 19 OLSM on January 9.

21. Wyoming Godwin Heights 4-1 (B): After a 4-0 start with quality wins over West Ottawa and Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Godwin took its first loss last Friday, on a neutral court to Forest Hills Central. Seniors Lamar Norman and Markeese Hastings are the top duo on in the state, though they were below their averages with a combined 47 against the Rangers.

22. Detroit Pershing 2-3 (C): Another school that is small in enrollment only, as one of the state’s most storied programs still runs some talent out there with seniors like point guard Ronald Hill, prime GLIAC target D’juan Seal and 6-5 Charles Brown. All of Pershing’s losses are to teams ranked higher — Skyline, Hazel Park and OLSM — and there’s also a win against a higher-ranked team, Southfield Christian.

23. West Ottawa 3-1 (A): Last season’s team was the best in Panthers’ history, but this one isn’t too shabby either thanks to elite two-sport athletes like 6-5 Tyler Bosma and point guard Xavier Wade. WO’s lone loss was the season opener to Godwin Heights. The primary challenge in the O-K Red should come from 5-1 Grand Haven.

24. Troy 4-1 (A): Led by a strong senior class, Troy’s only loss came to top 10 Canton by five points.

25. Warren De La Salle 3-2 (A): The only loss to an in-state team was the season opener to New Haven, by 20 which can be partially attributed to football hangover and also to New Haven being a damn good team. This looks like a classic Greg Esler team, won’t wow you with talent but have solid parts all around starting with slick passing point guard Justin Fischer, who is headed to Lake Superior State.

Battle of the Midway: All-tournament team

Detroit Loyola junior Myron Gardner scored more than 60 points over two games at Corunna’s Battle of the Midway before Christmas.

MVP Myron Gardner  6-6  Jr  Detroit Loyola: A top 10 player in Michigan’s 2019 class and the most highly regarded prospect in the field for Corunna’s Battle of the Midway, Gardner had 29 points and 16 rebounds in a loss to Hazel Park and 32 points and seven rebounds in a defeat of Rochester Stoney Creek. Gardner is a big kid, and is at his best finding daylight on the baseline and attacking the hoop with one dribble. He’s a horse on the offensive glass and that pays off because of his soft foul touch — he made all eight attempts from the stripe against Stoney Creek. Knocks down corner three-pointers. There’s still a lot of work to do to become a high-major recruit, most noticeably with ball-handling and footwork on the perimeter to help Gardner either get to the basket or create space for his shot. As of now it’s too often going to be a turnover when pushed away from the basket, either losing the ball, traveling, five seconds or getting a charge trying to bull his way into a defender. He also needs to play lower and quicker defensively, because though listed on the roster as a “guard/forward,” he’s not able to check guards right now.

Jaden Akins  6-3  Fr  Farmington: While Farmington lost by a bucket to Parkway Christian, it wouldn’t have been that close without the efforts of Akins. Ninth-grade status be damned, he took his game up a notch in the fourth quarter and finished with 21 points, four assists and four steals. Akins is a smooth left-hander who made good decisions on the break, knocked down clutch three-pointers, had focus and hang-time to finish through contact and had stretches of strong defense. With maturation could be recruited at a very high level by the time all is said and done.

Ben Davidson  6-3  Sr  St. Clair: This Ferris State signee was the picture of efficiency in St. Clair’s win over Detroit Public Safety, scoring 24 points while shooting 10-of-14 from the floor and making both his foul shots. Plays at his own pace, not getting rushed into bad decisions. Scores from various spots on the floor. Patient and strong with the ball, active and smart off the ball, hard to cover because he doesn’t stop moving. Won’t be the primary ball-handler or go-to scorer at the next level, but fills in the gaps and will help you win.

Logan LePage  6-4  Jr  Corunna: He looks like Sam Cornett, a Lake Superior State freshman guard via Muskegon and Grandville, and for stretches played like him. LePage will get college looks on physique alone, but he skills are catching up and he plays very hard.  Filled up the stat book in a win over Parkway Christian with 20 points, eight rebounds and nine assists. Did a great job finding Corunna big man Sage Walker in his sweet spots for easy finishes. Range on his jumpshot has improved. Can get to the rim, but needs to work on his left hand in there.

Kyle Hensley  6-6  Sr  Sterling Hts. Parkway Christian: Showed his versatility going against a bigger player, Corunna’s 6-9 junior Sage Walker, and then being able to stay on the court and dominate the glass against Farmington’s five-guard lineup the following day. Hensley had 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting and six rebounds in the loss to Corunna and 21 points and 16 boards in the win against Farmington. He’s a strong, below-the-rim post who can step out to not just his the three-pointer, but pass from the top of the key, wing or out of post double-teams. He’s a good rebounder because while he may not jump particularly high, Hensley jumps quickly. Good balance and base as a post scorer. Can help at the small college level.

Kyle Washington  6-3  Sr  Hazel Park: This could have been any number of players from Hazel Park, which has been as impressive as any team in the state with wins over East English Village and DEPSA. The Vikings beat Loyola at Corunna, running them out of the gym for many stretches. Which makes Washington all that more impressive — standing out for his athleticism, on a team of athletes. Has a college frame and physique and can really get out on the wings and finish. Does a good job getting into the passing lanes and turning ends. Washington is joined on an undersized but productive frontline with 6-5 senior shot-blocker Khari Adams.

Benton Harbor a beast in Class B

Benton Harbor sophomore Carlos Johnson and the Tigers look like they could return to the Breslin Center come March.

Though one of the state’s most storied programs, a state title has eluded Benton Harbor for over a half-century. After losing to eventual state champion New Haven in last year’s Class B semifinals, Benton Harbor looks like it could go all the way in 2018. They’re 3-0 on the young season winning by an average margin of over 40 points a game, most recently an 89-44 annihilation of Lansing Everett Saturday in Grand Rapids.

Long-time friend of Bank Hoops Yazeed Moore breaks down a pair of talented Tigers:

Benton Harbor is one of the best passing and sharing high school teams I’ve seen. I don’t think I saw one bad or forced shot. 6-6 sophomore Carlos Johnson is a stud. Looks and walks like a ballplayer. He’s smooth and fluid athlete with an out-of-this-world basketball IQ. He was a terror when he got the ball at the high post with seasoned ball/head fakes to go right around or up-and-under. He worked the baseline well and was active around the basket. He has kind of an LBJ setup on his jumpshot (tight windup) but still had a nice tough on the shot. The ones he missed were all front rim so it looks like Carlos is trying to get comfortable launching from the outside. Has a competent and purposeful handle too.

Berrien Springs transfer TJ Jones is a 6-3 senior and deadeye shooter. Whenever the ball was reversed it was cashed, and he showed the ability to create and make a shot off the dribble as well as get to the bucket. They’re deadly in a two-man game.  6-3 senior Shawn Hopkins and point guard Elijah Baxter look like future college players in their own right.

Petoskey Tip-off Classic: All-Tournament Team

6-5 Petoskey senior Seth Mann was the MVP of the Northmen’s annual Tip-Off Classic and one of the top shooters in Michigan.

MVP Seth Mann  6-5  Sr  Petoskey: He scored 21 points against Manton and 13 against Marquette as the Northmen went 2-0. Mann is a motion offense savant with a quick release, one of the best catch-and-shoot prospects in Michigan’s senior class. Seems to add something to his game by the week, and can also counter close-outs by putting it on the floor and attacking the rim. Competes on the glass. Needs to player lower, wider on defense and off the ball. Add in Mann’s high-end grades and pedigree learning from one of the winningest coaches in state history, Dennis Starkey, and you have one of the most recruit-able available players in the 2018 class. One college coach has compared him to Brad Buddenborg, who was a key player for Oakland out of Garden City at the turn of the century as the Pioneers/Grizzlies transitioned to the D1 ranks.

Ethan Ancick  6-7  Sr  Manton: Traverse City West’s Ryan Hayes, headed to Michigan for football, wasn’t the only power forward in the tournament coming off an outstanding fall spent playing tight end. Ancick, a transfer from Walled Lake Northern who is originally from Manton, had a strong football campaign catching the ball for the Rangers. He’s a college prospect on the hardwood too, with a strong base and soft mid-range touch. The key is to think less and just let himself go, free the animal within!

Danny Kolp  6-9  Sr  Petoskey: He had 19 points, six rebounds and two blocks against Manton and 13 points, six rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots against Marquette. Healthy and playing with confidence make Kolp a different level player than most have seen the last couple years. There aren’t many 6-9 kids who move with such ease. A natural athlete with a versatile offensive skill set. With the surplus of in-state talent in the 2018 class GLIAC schools filled up early on guys with D1 physical profiles, and should he stay healthy Kolp certainly fits that bill for Northwood.

Marius Grazulis  6-10  Jr  Marquette: He’s one of the biggest players in the 2019 class, every bit of 6-10. Hoops are in his blood, as a third-generation Lithuanian — one of just three countries where basketball is the No. 1 sport — whose dad played at Kalamazoo College, sister at Davenport and brother AJ plays for Michigan Tech. Grazulis is still figuring out his body, but is one to remember when he does.

Jayden Perry  5-7  Sr  Manton: He was without his longtime backcourt partner and fellow diminutive gunner Hunter Ruel, but has the toughness to handle the extra burden. Perry scored 20 against Petoskey. Combines both speed and quickness. Perry will pull from deep but can also stop his penetration abruptly to nail pull-up shots, a crucial skill at his height. Size will scare off some, but speed and skill package will put him on a college roster next year.

Brady Stoerkel  5-10  Sr  Traverse City West: One of three capable ball-handling guards for West, it was Stoerkel’s turn to shine in P-town. One has to respect and embrace his fearlessness, penetrating and attacking. Sometimes that can get him in over his head, put a plus player overall and you don’t want to limit the aggression.

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.