Up North Challenge 16U Title is Elite Nation’s

Elite Nation captured the 16U crown at the seventh-annual Up North Challenge.
Elite Nation captured the 16U crown at the seventh-annual Up North Challenge.

Injuries and roster attrition are commonplace for AAU in May, and for Elite Nation’s 16U it’s no different as they entered the Up North Challenge sans top prospect Jacob Boonyasith. But even without the Jenison sophomore, sidelined resting a foot injury, Elite Nation had enough firepower to win the UNC title, beating the North Oakland Wolfpack in the semifinals and Grand Rapids Storm in the title game.

  • 16U All-Tournament Team
  • Karl Brooks  6-4  So  Elite Nation (Lansing Sexton)
  • Ryan Dunn  6-4  So  Grand Rapids Storm (Forest Hills Central)
  • Matt Malcolm  6-3  So  North Oakland Wolfpack (Plymouth Christian)
  • Mason Pline  6-6  So  Elite Nation (Fowler)
  • Jaylon Rogers  6-1  So  Parallel 45 (Frankfort)

Mason Pline could be a special player for Elite Nation. The 6-6 and thick sophomore from Fowler gets off two feet easily to finish above the rim, defends and rebounds a wide area and knocks down three-pointers. Pline is joined on the all-tournament team by teammate Karl Brooks, a 6-4 15-year-old football phenom who made plays around the rim all weekend.

Elite Nation’s point guard Malik Jones is a unicorn, a 5-6 sophomore guard who doesn’t have to dominate the ball overdribbling or launching spectacular shots by necessity. Instead, just like he did starting in the winter for East Lansing, Jones kept the ball hot among the myriad scoring threats ENB seemed to have on the floor at all times. Another standout guard was Garvin Crout a 6-2 sophomore from Ypsilanti. His shot lacks arc but tended to go in, and he was active and made some plays defensively.

Runner-up Storm was led by a kid who has intrigued me all spring. He’s the best 2018 prospect in their program, Ryan Dunn a 6-4 sophomore point guard from Forest Hills Central. He shuts things down defensively with his wingspan and gets hands on a lot of balls. Smooth and creative in the lane where he unfurls at the hoop to score and draw fouls. Also for the Storm, 6-4 Jenison soph Colton Ritsema is country strong on the block and can hit from 20; 6-4 Rockford sophomore Nate Carlson is another active player with length; and 5-11 FHC sophomore Tyler George is a dangerous spot-up shooter.

The Up North Challenge’s 16U field was deep with talent. ENB and the Storm had to get past a pair of the state’s top 10 teams in that age group, North Oakland Wolfpack and Parallel 45, in the semifinals. The Wolfpack had won 20 consecutive games before running into the West Michigan Lakers in pool play. Matt Malcolm, a 6-3 sophomore from Plymouth Christian, made the all-tournament team from the Wolfpack. He can shoot or finish above the rim. Like the Wolfpack, Parallel 45 saw a streak end, as in their previous six events they were eliminated by the tournament champion. P45 had a rugged bracket that included a 2OT win over CGR and one of the state’s top sophomores, 6-3 Ottawa Hills sophomore Nelson McCauley, then a last-second three-pointer from 6-1 Frankfort soph Jaylon Rogers to beat TEAM Basketball.

Champs True to Their Name, Claim U.N.C 15U Crown

Superior point guard play and overall team size closing things down defensively powered Championship Sports Gold to the 15U title of the seventh-annual Up North Challenge. They got by APT in the semifinals and then the West Michigan Lakers in the final both with relative ease.

  • 15U All-Tournament
  • Isaiah Bridges  6-4  Fr  Program by GWE (Midland)
  • Will Eldred  5-9  Fr  APT (Otsego)
  • Nate Flannery  5-8  Fr  Champ Sports (DeWitt)
  • Louis Irrer 6-1  Fr  Champ Sports (St. Johns Home School)
  • Ben Leeka  6-2  Fr  West Michigan Lakers (Holland)

It starts at the point for Championship Sports Gold, with Nate Flannery a 5-8 freshman from DeWitt. The time he’s put into his game is apparent in how well he already executes the mundane but crucial, such as the spin and velocity on his passes. Too many guards are just chucking it because all their scoring avenues are blocked, whereas Flannery has a plan and intent and made Champ Sports’ plethora of shooters that much better. Good both pushing it or when the game slowed down. Would like to see him operate the left side of the floor as readily as the right, and get a more consistent shot.

Chief among said shooters was Louis Irrer, a 6-1 freshman from St. Johns Home School. He was money with the corner three-pointer and also cut well to get opportunities inside the arc too. Champ Sports has depth up front with 6-5 Pewamo-Westphalia freshman Andre Smith; 6-1 Gaylord freshman Blake Charboneau was playing on two bad ankles but still had enough athleticism and toughness to produce; and 6-3 McBain freshman Garrett VerBerkmoes came off the bench to block shots and get tough rebounds in traffic.

There were two standout point guards in Championship Sports’ semifinal win, Flannery and APT’s Will Elred, who could be the next Jared Klein out of Otsego. He’s one of the smoothest three-point shooters in the 2019 class and will also defend.

Making the all-tournament teams was one of the top prospects in the 15U field, 6-4 Isaiah Bridges of The Program presented by GreenWood Elite, who is transferring from Kalamazoo Central to Midland. Bridges has a solid post game for his age plus the vision and touch to 15 that suggest a versatile future. He led The Program to wins over Champ Sports in pool play and the Mustangs in the knockout round before falling to the Lakers in the semifinals.

Mustangs Unbeaten at CDBA Classic

The Mustangs' Trevion Williams is the top true post player in the state's 2018 class.
The Mustangs’ Trevion Williams is the top true post player in the state’s 2018 class.

The most dominating high school player at the 15th-annual Camp Darryl Classic was Trevion Williams. The Henry Ford Academy sophomore center double-doubled his way to MVP as his Mustangs 16U team ran the table in Kalamazoo. He proved an impossible cover throughout the weekend all the way to the 16U final, where at 6-8, 250 Williams dwarfed anyone from Parallel 45. When he caught it deep it was all over, because even on misses he was getting the ball back. Terrific hands, not going to lose rebounds. Can play out on the floor and get things going with his passing. Williams is a top 100 player nationally in 2018. To maintain that level or move up, he’ll have to add post footwork against defenders his height and improve fitness level/speed to keep up with athletic stretch 4s.

While Williams is the Mustangs’ only true post, they have good all-around size. 6-4 DeWitt sophomore Tanner Reha uses his strength to get into it on defense and can finish from all three levels; 6-5 Country Day sophomore Ashton Franklin is versatile, a grinder who will be a popular GLIAC recruit; 6-5 Roseville soph Zavon Godwin flashes A-10 talent a few times per game, angular bouncy creates own shot above the rim or mid-range, rebounds and push, can trap or block shots. The Mustangs began the season with a bonafide D1 backcourt of Belleville’s Davion Williams and Jenison’s Jacob Boonyasith. They both ended up part of the Great Spring Club Hop of 16, but the ball is still in good hands with 6-1 Goodrich soph Goliath Mitchell improving given more minutes at the point and tough two-way play from 6-2 sophomore Taylor McCaskill, who apparently is leaving Troy Athens for Detroit Edison.

Parallel 45 regrouped after losing leading scorer Jaylon Rogers late in the previous week’s Tulip Tipoff semifinal, to make it to the 16U championship game after winning the 15U title last season. This became the sixth tournament in which P45 was eliminated by the champion. Their guards can match up with any 16U backcourt in the state sans the Family. 6-2 Buckley sophomore Austin Harris can score at the basket or from deep; 6-1 Cadillac sophomore Kegan Brooks is a top shelf defender who can also play the point; 6-3 Frankfort sophomore Matt Loney is another good defender who contributes at every point on the floor; “center” Mason Gardner is really a 6-4 athletic, rugged sophomore wing from Boyne City; 6-2 Petoskey sophomore Seth Mann and 6-3 Benzie Central sophomore Devin Burkhardt are shooters who defend up. With Rogers out, the three-point shooting of 5-10 Traverse City Central sophomore Zeke Turner, confident drives of 5-10 Traverse City West sophomore Brady Stoerkel and competent decision-making from 5-10 Elk Rapids sophomore Grayson Krakow proved crucial.

The Mustangs were pushed late in one 16U semifinal by the West Michigan Lakers. 6-5 Saugatuck sophomore Teague Tiemeyer isn’t a big post player like his older brothers, but is an active lefty in the lane and on the glass who made the all-tournament team. He hit a shot at the horn to force overtime in an eventual quarterfinal win against CGR. Davion Moore led the Macomb County Cougars to the semifinals, he’s a 6-5 L’anse Creuse sophomore who is strong and athletic around the hoop. The one ‘super pool’ member that then didn’t make the semis was MBA’s Regional team. 6-0 Muskegon sophomore Willie Shanks is an aggressive point guard who puts pressure on the defense and 6-7 East Grand Rapids sophomore Elliott Bergsma is long with a soft touch.

Lakers Win Again at CDBA Classic

The West Michigan Lakers have consistently fielded some of the strongest teams in the Camp Darryl Classic through the tournament’s decade-and-a-half run. 2016 was no different as the Lakers 17U went undefeated, eventually beat HoopGrind in the title game.

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Jake VanTubbergen

The Lakers’ 6-5 West Ottawa junior Jake VanTubbergen was the 17U MVP. He’s a tough matchup with the ball given his length, feel and bounce. He’ll spin finesse finger roll you, then bang out in transition. Frail physique will frighten some coaches, though VanTubbergen’s two older brothers were college QBs so the frame is in there somewhere. What they do have to like is that JVT is a program builder at WO for what will be a top 10 Class A team in 2017; skill; upside; competitiveness; grades. GLIAC, Patriot League, Ivy need to check him out in July.

The Lakers have another D1/D2 borderline junior in 6-8 Zack Niewkoop from Wayland. He was out injured, but frontline depth prevailed for the Purple & Black; 6-7 Rockford junior Ryan Gamm can move men around the hoop, screen and has good hands; 6-7 Lowell junior Austin Branagan is playing focuses, can knock it down from the short corner or get to the basket; and Western Michigan Christian junior Daniel Ray has a soft shooting touch at 6-8. The team’s catalyst is found a head down the totem pole in 5-8 Wayland junior Avery Hudson. He’s fearless, which makes up for a lot.

HoopGrind didn’t have the size or depth to hang with the Lakers in the final, and they’d already been worn down with a one-point, OT win over the MBA National 16U (playing up) in the semifinals. For HoopGrind, 5-10 McBain junior Logan Eling is a clutch shooter who is quick and tough enough to counter and drive in traffic; 6-3 Grayling junior Spencer White fills the gaps to knock down shots, is efficient and can guard bigger players; and you wouldn’t know 6-1 Harrison Gilstrap from Bath was just a sophomore with the way he shot it.

The Lakers had a comeback win in the semifinals over a talented West Michigan Elite team. 6-3 Vicksburg junior Deondre Lovell is a big-time finisher when the game is wide open and needs to work on his guard game for when it slows down and there’s a man in front of him; not many men want to stay in front of 6-4 Kalamazoo Central junior Roger Stein when he gets going downhill, he can rebound out of his area then score it on the other end; 6-3 Three Rivers sophomore Tirrell Hausmanis was WM Elite’s all-tournament selection, another agile widebody inside who can step out and shoot.

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6-10 sophomore Blake Verbeek was at home playing up in the 17U division with MBA National’s 16U team at the Camp Darryl Classic.

MBA’s 16U has one of the state’s top 2018 point guard and post duos, with 6-1 James Vallar (Kalamazoo Christian) and 6-2 Duane Washington (Grand Rapids Christian); and 6-8 Marcus Bingham (Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills) and 6-10 Blake Verbeek (Grandville Calvin Christian). Vallar is a bulldog going to the rack where he gets his shot off with strength and explosiveness, and carried the team in pool play. Washington came back from a tweaked ankle to for stretches carry MBA on Sunday. His high-arc J is money, hits the forwards on their hands and can play at different paces. Washington is the more consistent decision maker of the two. Verbeek’s favorite shot is the corner 3 but can also flip in shots from the blocks and can catch and finish on the break. Bingham uses his wingspan defensively and has a decent feel offensively, just needs some strength to finish.

A physical triplet to the two slender MBA posts came from the Macomb County Cougars 6-9 Troy junior Christian Lafayette. He’s long and can turn ends, but the lefty shot is really erratic. Still a nice investment for a small college program. One of the top shooters in the event was the Mid-Michigan Lakers Austin Harles, a 6-0 junior poised for a big year at Holly. Shoreline Elite’s 6-7 Grand Haven junior Ross Koella could be getting GLIAC offers like similar forwards Niewkoop and Nick Welch from St. Mary Catholic Central, but those two have a bit more dog in them.

2018 Talent Does It at Warriors Jamfest

Clarkston sophomore CJ Robinson has had reason to celebrate with the North Oakland Wolfpack.
Clarkston sophomore CJ Robinson had reason to celebrate with the North Oakland Wolfpack, as he was 16U MVP of the Warriors Jamfest.

Some of the best young Detroit area talent was on hand for the Warriors Jamfest in Livonia. The strongest division was 16U, where the North Oakland Wolfpack held off fellow suburbanites TEAM Basketball in the final after the two beat the Playmakers and Warriors respectively in the semifinals. Here’s a look at 10 impressive 2018 prospects from the 16U division.

Nate Davis  6-2  So  TEAM Basketball (Rochester Stoney Creek): With teammates Justin Fischer and Jason Dietz not fully healthy, Davis has done yeoman’s work in TEAM Basketball’s backcourt. Turned the corner easily and improved physicality allowed him to finish consistently at the rim. Even when looking for his shot showed a point guard’s mentality and kept the ball hot.

Justin Fischer  6-3  So  TEAM Basketball (Warren De La Salle): Working his way back after being out injured for three-and-a-half months, and there are flashes of why we were so excited for what would’ve been his sophomore season at DLS. Point guard with size and terrific placement on his passes.

Austin Harris  6-2  So  Parallel 45 (Buckley): A true combo guard who has taken advantage of his team’s void in the lane to become a consistent threat in the post against smaller guards, in addition to his ability to hit jumpers off the catch or dribble.

Trayvon Jackson  6-8  So  REACH (Detroit Western): Uses length to envelop would-be post scorers. Lefty who can easily knock down the 20 footer. Top 10 player in the class with a more consistent motor and rebounding intent.

Antonio Marshall  6-2  So  Playmakers (Detroit King): Long for days and combined with quick hands make him a potentially big time defender. Offensively played well with the Playmakers’ penetrators to knock down three-pointers.

Tristen Mysen  6-6  So  North Oakland Wolfpack (Clarkston): He was a plus for the Wolfpack all weekend, as one of the bigger players in the division but didn’t coast on that, as he ran the floor and competed on the class. His perimeter continues to expand as Mysen showed he could step out and hit the corner 3.

CJ Robinson  5-10  So  North Oakland Wolfpack (Clarkston): True point guard leader who was named MVP after the Wolfpack claimed the 16U title. Can beat you from the arc or at the rim, and is now an even tougher cover with the floater in the lane going down. Where he really separates himself is that Robinson plays as hard on defense as he does offense. When he raises the intensity on that end the team follows suit.

Huston Tucker  6-3  So  Warriors (Walled Lake Central): Plays bigger than his height. Went hard after the tough, 50/50 rebounds, not just the ones that fell to him. Slasher with some bounce.

Chase Wasilk  6-4  So  North Oakland Wolfpack (Clarkston): He’s really improved. Love his size on the wing, is tight in his cuts and curls and has a long first step when he does get the ball. Not just a scorer, he’ll set strong screens just as readily as use them himself.

Dlano Woods  5-11  So  Michigan United (Chippewa Valley): Do-it-all guard, who often had to for a Michigan United team that was solid but with no other stars. Creative, relentless, old school scorer off the dribble. Needs to mature as a true point guard and counter game changes as they occur.

 

Michigan Talent on the EYBL

Nike’s EYBL made its first-ever Indianapolis stop, during an NCAA live period no less. It was a terrific chance for some Michigan players to catch the spring zeitgeist.

Greg Eboigbodin  6-9  Jr  The Family (Detroit U-D Jesuit): It’s said rebounding is one trait most likely to translate from one level of basketball to the next, so Screen_Shot_2015-06-30_at_7.44.42_PM_mediumlittle surprise this state champion is becoming a popular prospect. Energy outside his immediate area, effort for second chances and the wingspan to go get it has Eboigbodin making winning plays on the boards. His offense is still raw, and it’s more pronounced with all the big talent in this venue.

Greg Elliott  6-3  Jr  The Family (Detroit East English Village): He’s distinguished himself as the Family’s most consistent guard. He plays smart, alert ball on both ends of the court. Wingspan and instincts gets Elliott rebounds and deflections.  Feeds the post and can thread it over 20 feet in the halfcourt.  Then he’s talented enough to go get his shot off himself when needed. Elliott’s unselfish play led a near huge second-half comeback which ultimately came up a point short against the Las Vegas Prospects. Came out of the weekend with an offer from Rice.

Jaron Faulds  6-10  Jr  Chicago Meanstreets (Holt): He was with the Family the first two weekends of the AAU season, but has moved. Meanstreets doesn’t have a center so Faulds will have his chance. He didn’t have an answer for CP3 center Wendell Carter, but few do. Looking to get the rebounding, running, elbow shooting mojo that Faulds showed last July, already on the 17U level.

Isaiah Livers  6-8  Jr  Chicago Meanstreets (Kalamazoo Central): It was Livers’ big AAU moment Friday night, up against CP3’s 6-10, 260 All-American WendellCgLHtIJWsAIHv9K Carter. With the head coaches from MSU, UM, Notre Dame, Purdue, Creighton, Xavier, USC, Georgia Tech, Texas, Illinois, DePaul, UCLA, EMU and WMU watching baseline, Livers delivered. He stepped out and knocked down three-pointers even with Carter contesting. Looked really confident when pulling up on the break to nail a 3. With his 45-pound advantage, Carter returned the favor on the blocks where Livers at least fought and fouled. Meanstreets won after leading the whole way. His athletic overall feel and college frame will allow Livers to fit in myriad college systems from the best leagues.

Xavier Tillman  6-9  Jr  Spiece Indy Heat (Grand Rapids Christian): This team has a bunch of forwards who like the long ball, like East Lansing’s own Brandon Johns, Indy local Jaren Jackson 6-10 with an MSU offer and 6-9 Jalen Butz. From the forest of stretch 4s comes Tillman, who has the base and strength to bang with all the big bodies in the EYBL. He dominated the Rens inside on Sunday morning scoring 32 points on 12-of-14 shooting. Looks like great fit for the likes of Purdue or Notre Dame.

Follow for Now: Storm Classic Standouts

The Grand Rapids Storm Classic looks like it will again go down as one of the top spring events in the Midwest. Here are some in-state standouts who set the baseline high for their performances the rest of the travel season.

Wyatt Baker  6-4  Jr  Manton 17U (Manton): This school team plus a couple friends, including 6-6 Walled Lake Northern soph Ethan Ansick who played as a freshman at Manton, went all the way to the 17U silver final. On a team full of shooters, Baker was the lane presence, a reckless, raw athlete on the glass playing so hard and in a way not everyone wants to mess with it. Not skilled but athletic, energetic and tough. NAIA with possible nice payoff.

Sy Barnett  6-2  Jr  MBA (Charlotte): His team is loaded with guard talent, but Barnett is talented enough to carve out a role. He’s known for his dunking and had a few. Can his offensive ability overcome defensive shortcomings?

Marcus Bingham  6-9  So  MBA 16U (Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills): You already expect to encounter some size from MBA with 6-10 Nate Verbeek. But here’s Bingham as well and suddenly the court is shady all over. That shot-blocking length is his current key to the court. As he defines his game could really rise in rankings.

Shahada Camp  6-1  Sr  Rare Form 17U (Grand River Prep): He was one of the state’s top scorers during the winter at 29 points a game. He showed how he did it here, where Camp connected on a load of left-handed 3s as Rare Form made it all the way to the 17U platinum semifinals thanks to an upset of 1Nation.

Elijah Collins  6-0  So  Family 16U (Detroit U-D Jesuit): A starter from the Cubs’ state championship team, early AAU competition was easy work for Collins. He’s talented enough to improve to all-state status after two years as an underclassman behind and next to Cassius Winston. On a fast Family team, he looks like the best athlete.

Ike Eke  6-9  Jr  Family 17U (Detroit U-D Jesuit): The best of the Family’s four D1 posts. Has to be accounted for on offense now that he can screen and fade to knock down shots. Not that he gets a lot of chances, as the Family’s roster is full of shooting guards. Showed a burgeoning off-dribble game. Who thought Eke would be a good shooter, so why not? Tends to let UD/Family teammate Greg Eboigbodin do the dirty work on the glass. Nevertheless, between his size, improvement, state championship pedigree and EYBL buzz, could have 10 high major offers by the summer.

Ryan Gamm  6-7  Jr  West Michigan Lakers 17U (Rockford): He doesn’t have the flash of Zach Nieuwkoop or skill of Jake VanTubbergen in the Lakers frontcourt. Simplicity be beauty at the 4 position. Gamm is a wide, position rebounder who finishes efficiently and can step out and play the high-low game.

Mason Gardner  6-4  So  Parallel 46 16U (Boyne City): The Class C burg of Boyne City has been no stranger to talent over the past five years, with Gardner projecting as a D2 guy thanks to his frame and legs. Raw dog just sniffing out his potential. Hammered on two defenders in pool play.

Matt Havey  6-1  Jr  Elite Nation 17U: Elite Nation was going through some opening weekend growing pains as some new talent attempted to meld with an already solid nucleus. Havey is part of that latter group, a steadying hand because if you drive and kick or throw it out from the post, his three-pointer is likely going down.

Tylin Humphrey  6-2  So  BALL 16U (Grand Rapids University Prep): He was the top scorer on an undersized but athletic team that made the platinum bracket. A really tough cover off the bounce and got after it defensively as well.

Trayvon Jackson  6-8  So  REACH 16U (Detroit Western): He gave 1Nation’s Thomas Kithier a lot of problems, swallowing up the Dakota center’s post moves with his wingspan. On the other end was rarely involved by REACH’s guards but showed an easy left-handed stroke to 3 over Kithier. Looked slower against King James. Jackson’s rebounding allergy will hopefully be fixed at Western, where he transferred from Ypsilanti Lincoln.

Orlando Little  6-4  Sr  BC Elite 17U (Kalamazoo Central): One of the state’s top available seniors. Strong on the baseline, will shoot the 3 but not really an all-around perimeter player. Good prospect if his expectations are to the right level.

Deondre Lovell  6-2  Jr  Grand Rapids Storm 17U (Vicksburg): The Storm is strong on the wings with Big Rapids’ Demetri Martin, East Lansing’s Deandre Robinson and Okemos’ Vail Hartman. Lovell is the least known but turned some heads dunking from the backcourt.

Matt Malcolm  6-4  So  North Oakland Wolfpack 16U (Plymouth Christian): It’s saying something that on a team full of Clarkston players, Malcom is the best shooter. Now if the Class D kid can learn to guard like a Clarkston player, he’ll play college ball.

Kevin McAdoo  6-1  Jr  Team Michigan 17U (West Bloomfield): McAdoo did nothing to dissuade my favor towards him from the winter. Not the biggest cat but he plays the whole court with purpose. He’s deceptively quick and can get into the lane to drive or score. Smart defender on or off the ball.

Colton Ritsema  6-4  So  Grand Rapids Storm 16U (Jenison): He plays on Ken George’s 16U Storm team and anchors a nice pair of forwards with the lanker, bouncier Ryan Dunn, a 6-4 soph from Forest Hills Central. Ritsema is more broad than tall so he can score with the hook from the blocks and he can now step out and shoot the 3. MIAA will love him, best case scenario Matt Kingshott.

Eddie Thigpen  6-6  Jr  GreenWood Elite 17U (Saginaw): The other Saginaw High standouts like Qua Southward and Henry Speight were with different clubs in GR, while Thigpen held it down for GreenWood. He’s a lefty who can play above the rim and is expanding his shot range. Could do more in the halfcourt, where at times he drifts to the screen-and-stand.

Jake VanTubbergen  6-5  Jr  West Michigan Lakers 17U (West Ottawa): His older brothers were QBs but this one’s a hooper. Long as a Monday, always seems to be in the right spot and can finish over or around the rim. If he can show any propensity to put on strength would be ideal prep to Ivy recruit.

Mario Whitley  6-4  So  1Nation 16U (Frankenmuth): Two-footed leaper who can play much taller, often above the rim. Can bully guys in high school and is still a physical presence in an AAU setting. In an up-and-down game when he’s getting out and dunking is where Whitley is most productive. If he keeps building guard skills and defensive footwork could be the next Marc White, who was a big-time all-stater out of Battle Creek Central.

Israel Williams  6-6  Sr  Oakland County Ballers (Pontiac): OCB almost pulled a major upset jumping out to a 20-point lead on the Family before ultimately succumbing. Williams was key to that run hitting smooth lefty shots from deep on either side of the baseline. Good energy on the boards, too. Juco sleeper in two years.

Trevion Williams  6-8  So  Mustangs 16U (Henry Ford Academy): He blew up the opening weekend at REACH’s Michigan Invitational. This one was more up and down, as Williams struggled getting up and down with 1Nation’s bigs in a hyped Saturday morning matchup which went all 1Nation’s way. Williams has terrific hands and vision to make plays away from the basket and the frame to score underneath it. Sometimes indulges his ball-handling bringing it up when the guards would be a more prudent route.

Richard Zimmerman  6-3  Jr  Team Michigan 17U (Detroit Osborn): Triple-threat wing with a strong build. Three-point shot sets up the drive or is it vice versa. Plays bigger than height on the boards. A rawness to him that makes you think he has a lot of improvement left.

Getting Their Point Across: Standouts 1s from Storm Classic

Early AAU play is always ragged. Lucky are those teams that have a point guard who can get it going. Here are some, known and new, who played well at the Grand Rapids Storm Classic.

Matt Beachler  6-4  Jr  Family 17U (Lowell): What? OK, this elite shooter is never going to be the primary ball-handler. That doesn’t mean all he can do is shoot 3s. On a team with a deep backcourt, Beachler led the Family in assists in their 17U championship victory over the Playmakers.

Justin Bradford  5-8  Jr  West Michigan Lakers 17U (Sparta): Wayland’s Avery Hudson is the Lakers’ starting 1. Bradford gave them valuable reserve minutes in winning the 17U gold title. Fast, shifty and fun to watch in the open floor.

David Dejulius  5-11  So  Family 16U (Detroit Edison): He’s “repeating” the 16U level, and playing against similarly aged players Dejulius’ physical advantages are really apparent. Has some Brent Darby in him with the way he uses his strength to operate when he gets his shoulder into a defender. He’ll get Big Ten interest this summer.

Michael Littlejohn  5-10  Sr  Rare Form 17U (Muskegon): If you want efficiency, Littlejohn probably isn’t your guy. Looking for a no-fear shot creator who lives for the moment? That’s Mikey, and Rare Form’s upset victory in the platinum quarterfinals was the kind of venue he lives for.

Darian Owens-White  6-0  Jr  REACH 17U (River Rouge): More cerebral than explosive and rambunctious, Owens-White is more likely to really shine in a structured high school setting than AAU. But if you can play you can play, and few are better at finding the pass/shot balance. Needs to get stronger, as his long passes tend to flutter out.

Jayden Perry  5-7  So  Manton 17U (Manton): Little fella who is hard to keep up with, and has a quick trigger and money three-point shot. And he was far from Manton’s only shooter. This school team, plus former classmate Ethan Ancick a 6-6 sophomore now at Walled Lake Northern, made it all the way to the 17U gold championship game. Pencil in Manton as a top 5 Class C team in 2017.

CJ Robinson  5-9  So  North Oakland Wolfpack 16U (Clarkston): He was the “other” sophomore point guard in Clarkston’s starting lineup this winter. Robinson makes the right decisions on the fly, will work on both ends of the court, and though not tall he’s strong and quick to the hole where he finishes at a high rate.

Christian Rodriguez  5-9  Jr  MBA 17U (Godwin Heights): While MBA has guards who are explosive with the ball, they don’t know what to do with it like Rodriguez does. But smart passing is a given with this prospect we’ve been watching since he was 13. What was particularly promising was how smooth the jumpshot looked.

Jaylon Rogers  6-0  So  Parallel 45 16U (Frankfort): He’s improving at a steep incline across the board — physically, skills and decision making — all while playing with the swagger and edge you have to have for this position. Rogers went blow-for-blow with MBA’s Duane Washington, then in the opening round of the platinum playoffs tore through BALL’s full-court press to net a 30 spot.

Jesse Scarber  5-8  Jr  Playmakers 17U (Detroit King): He led the Playmakers to the 17U platinum championship game. Does the subtle, winning stuff that may escape fans but makes coaches feel warm inside. Scarber had one assist where his one-handed bounce pass hit the post player right on the money as the big man flashed across the lane; high-end stuff.

Big Ball on the Westside: Storm Classic tips off

MVP Athletic Club Fieldhouse

The Grand Rapids Storm Classic is the state’s longest-running travel team tournament, and annually no event in the state attracts more of Michigan’s top teams. 2016 is no different. Games tip 6:15 Friday in damn near every gym in GR. Here are some of the top pool play matchups to be taken in by college coaches and fans alike. Bracket play begins Saturday evening and concludes Sunday.

Click here for the full schedule.

Friday, April 8

Storm vs 1Nation 17U, 8:45 pm MVP Ct. 1: The MVP Fieldhouse was unkind to 1Nation’s 17U in 2015, eliminated in an upset loss to TEAM Basketball in the Storm Classic, then by Shoreline in the Brawl for the Ball. They’re hoping for better results this time around. A great wing matchup in this one with Portage Central’s 6-4 Austin McCullough for 1Nation and Big Rapids’ 6-4 Demetri Martin for the Storm.

Saturday, April 9

Mustangs vs 1Nation 16U, 8:15 am MVP Ct. 1: The two top combo guards in the 2018 class, the Belleville’s Davion Williams for the Mustangs and Godwin Heights’ Lamar Norman for 1Nation, and top pure posts, Henry Ford Academy’s 6-8 Trevion Williams for the Mustangs and Dakota’s 6-8 Thomas Kithier for 1Nation, square off.

Family vs King James 15U, 8:15 am Calvin Ct. 21: A pair of EYBL programs who are always deep in talent. The Family’s next can’t-miss prospect looks like 6-5 freshman Romeo Weems of New Haven.

Family vs REACH 17U, 1:15 pm MVP Ct. 1: On paper, the Family looks like the best team in the state. They have a huge front line with 6-10 Jaron Faulds of Holt, 6-10 Ike Eke of Detroit U-D Jesuit and 6-8 Greg Egoboidon also of U-D Jesuit; the state’s top 2017 prospect who is running with an in-state program, 6-6 Jamal Cain of Detroit Cornerstone; and some local flavor with Lowell shooter Matt Beachler. REACH will as always have some tough Detroit kids, but the talent disparity could be too great here.

Here’s a look at Jamal Cain the last time he played at MVP, in the 2015 Brawl for the Ball.

MBA vs West Michigan Lakers 17U, 2:30 pm MVP Ct. 1: When MBA was in ACB/Bank Hoops form, the Lakers often gave them fits despite a talent disparity. And the talent is there again as MBA, with the likes of Holland all-state guard Demetrius Lake and Clarkston wing Dylan Alderson. But there could be two top 5 17Us on the court, as the Lakers fielded two strong 16U teams last season and that was with the Wayland guard/post duo of Avery Hudson and Zack Nieuwkoop already playing up on the 17U.

MBA vs Parallel 45 16U, 2:30 pm Davenport Ct. 8: Both sides have future college guards. But MBA also has one of the fastest-rising 2018 prospects in the Midwest, 6-10 Blake Verbeek of Calvin Christian.

Bank Hoops 2016 All-State

Detroit U-D Jesuit state champion Cassius Winston with the Mr. Basketball trophy.
Detroit U-D Jesuit state champion Cassius Winston with the Mr. Basketball trophy.

MVP  Cassius Winston  6-0  Sr  Detroit U-D Jesuit: The Cubs were a bit like their MLB namesake before Winston arrived. Since then, they made their first trip to the state semifinals. Then two more, finally resulting in the school’s first state title this season, in which U-D didn’t lose a game. Not the tallest, fastest, or most gifted athlete, what Winston was whenever he took the court in 2015-16 — the best player. He signed early with Michigan State before averaging 22.6 points, 7.2 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game.

Ypsilanti senior Corey Allen developed into one of the state's most complete two-way guards.
Ypsilanti senior Corey Allen developed into one of the state’s most complete two-way guards.

Corey Allen  6-3  Sr  Ypsilanti: He signed early with Detroit, and is the kind of tough local guard Perry Watson was bringing to Calihan Hall in the 1990s. Allen, a Mr. Basketball finalist, averaged 25 points, 9.3 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals a game while shooting 56 percent from the backcourt.

The state's top big man, Austin Davis led Onsted to an undefeated regular season.
The state’s top big man, Austin Davis led Onsted to an undefeated regular season.

Austin Davis  6-10  Sr  Onsted: A true post player who would thrive in any era, Davis’ senior season was also his most physically fit and no high school competition could handle him. He led Onsted to an undefeated regular season. A Mr. Basketball finalist who signed early with Michigan, Davis averaged 25.3 points, 14.3 rebounds and 4.9 blocked shots per game while shooting, yes you’re reading it right, 79 percent from the field.

Jermaine Jackson had a lot to celebrate during his junior season at Macomb Dakota.
Jermaine Jackson had a lot to celebrate during his junior season at Macomb Dakota.

Jermaine Jackson  5-9  Jr  Macomb Dakota: He led Dakota to the most successful campaign in school history. The Cougars were undefeated in the regular season and reached the state semifinals, losing to eventual champion Detroit U-D Jesuit. Jackson averaged 21 points, 3.9 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 3.6 steals per game.

The only underclassman on the All-State team, East Lansing sophomore Brandon Johns.
The only underclassman on the All-State team, East Lansing sophomore Brandon Johns.

Brandon Johns  6-9  So  East Lansing: Johns is a rare talent whose versatile forward game brings to mind former Mr. Basketballs such as Shane Battier and Winfred Walton. He led East Lansing to an undefeated regular season while averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds per game. Johns made 45 three-pointers.

Detroit Western's Brailen Neely looks like the next small guard who will excel at Oakland.
Detroit Western’s Brailen Neely looks like the next small guard who will excel at Oakland.

Brailen Neely  5-9  Sr  Detroit Western: He looks like he’ll be the next small guard to star at Oakland. A Class A state champion as a junior, as a senior Neely averaged 18.3 points, 4.6 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game.