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.

All-State Camp: Underclassman Second Team

DJ Allison  5-9  8th  Kalamazoo: A returnee after attending the Underclassman Camp, and seemed more relaxed and confident the second time through. Good fundamentals and decisions for his age.

“Nice poise for a young floor general,” a coach said. “He showed an improved stroke from the outside. He played on both ends of teh floor and despite being just an eighth-grader, tried to check whomever was bringing up the ball.”

Ethan Dunn  6-7  8th  East Lansing: Despite being the youngest player in his drill group, didn’t play fazed or intimidated. Could’ve said he was a 10th-grader and still would have been impressive. There’s not much size in-state in the class above him, making Dunn that much more valuable as he moves on to high school and becomes a recruitable prospect.

“Rebounded well and chinned it,” a coach said. “Good hands and and showed good touch. Kept ball high away from smaller players.”

Huge eighth-grader,” another coach said. “Has a frame taht should fill out nicely as he gets older. Foot speed and quickness will be essential for his development. Doesn’t seem to hurry when he touches the ball down low and has nice spacial awareness. Uses his body well off the drop-step and shows good balance on the move. Even though he was younger, didn’t seem to mind mixing things up inside. If he works as hard at his school workouts as he did during the drill sessions here, his future in this game will be very bright.”

Trevon Gunter  6-0  So  Kalamazoo Christian: A coach’s dream because he competed from the very first drill through last game, and carries a 4.0 gpa.

“Plays hard all the time,” a coach said. “Slashing guard who runs the floor and finishes well in transition. He has sneaky athleticism and always seemed to find a way to get his hand on the ball. Takes good angles off the bounce and uses his body well. He’s an in-your-face ball-hawk who keeps his hands active.”

“Shot the ball well for most of the day,” another said. “Has great shoulders, would like to see him use his body more on drives.”

Brayden Mallak  5-11  So  Oscoda: “Solid point guard with a knack for getting his shot off despite lack of height and elevation,” a coach said. “He also has no problem knocking down the open jumper. Plays hard on defense and has a sneaky quick first step that give him an agle he rarely gives up. Needs to continue to work on athleticism and range on his jumper. The deeper he can knock it down, the more effective that first step becomes.”

Derek Sackitt  6-6  Fr  Battle Creek Pennfield: Liked him earlier at the Underclassman Camp, and he acquitted himself well again. Got knocked around a bit by bigger, older players in drills but took it in stride and kept competing. Good hands and was able to catch and dunk pretty regularly. Banger, grinder, interior guy now who will have to revamp his shot to become a face-up threat, and time is certainly on his side to do so for this 14-year-old.

All-State Camp: 2019 Second Team

Thomas Henderson  6-2  Jr  Detroit Public Safety: Part of a strong camp contingent from Detroit PSA. He was competitive and aggressive in drills and games. Accepted defensive challenges and locked in on and off the ball. Has the gift to come in fast and hard, but finish softly. Kept head up and pushed the ball on the break.

“Scrappy and tough, I really like this guard!,” a coach said. “Played with a passion and purpose on D. Has a nice floater and seemed to always beat the first man he saw in transition. A streak shooter from behind the arc as I literally saw him go through stretches of making and missing multiple 3s in a row. Needs to improve as a passer, as he projects as more of a point guard-sized player at the next level.”

Jack Luciani  6-6  Jr  Marshall: Uses core and leg strength to his advantage, always finding a body when shots went up, sealing to receive the ball and rooting guys off post position. Consistently ran the floor hard. Knocked down a three trailing the break.Would like to see him had a rip-through move and jab-step series to become a more diverse scoring threat facing the basket from the elbows and wings.

“Tough and rugged 4 man who plays hard and really runs the court well,” a coach said. “Built like a defensive end and knows how to use his body. Can handle it a little and does a nice job of sealing off defenders and squaring his shoulders to the rim on baseline drives and power moves from the short corner. Showed decent range on his jumper as well. Needs to continue to work on quickness and athleticism.”

Jake Schuler  6-4  Jr  Rochester Adams: Even if his game is subtle, Schuler’s frame, wingspan, grades and fundamentals say very loudly, College player. He was on arguably the top team at camp and was the quintessential glue guy, grinding inside, handling outside, piling up hockey assists and setting an unselfish tone. Perfect for a motion offense as a sharp passer, willing screener and high IQ movement away from the ball. Knows how to post seal and finish. Rebounded with toughness, triggering the break either with the pass or pushing the ball himself. Good defender on the ball. Instincts led to a lot of 50/50 balls sticking to him. Coaches will want to see him play lower, looser and get more jump in the jumpshot.

Coleman Street  6-2  Jr  Arbor Prep: Smooth talent who let the game come to him offensively but showed nice flashes when it did. Extended and finished well, and had touch off the glass. Good feel and vision on the break. Confident jumpshot when he looked for it.

“Didn’t see much from him offensively, but could certainly play for me with that type of defensive intensity,” a coach said. “Very long and active. Played with good pressure on the ball and anticipated well off the ball. Maximized his length with good closeouts. Showed he could finish in transition. Type of player any high school coach would love to have, his offensive game will have to grow for the next level.”

Brian Taylor  6-4  Jr  Detroit Edison: Right now a role player deluxe for preseason Class C No. 1 DEPSA with scholarship potential similar to Jaylin McFadden of Ferris State via East English Village. Good team player who made the extra pass, didn’t force penetration and was patient find angles to feed the post. Wingspan and defensive potential. Able to get off a smooth mid-range shot. Will rebound. Body control as a finisher with the potential for more explosion as he gets older and stronger.

“His most effective offense came in transition,” a coach said. “He runs the floor well and finishes on the move with fluidity. Played the passing lanes well on defense and was a very good shot blocker. Sometimes got blown by due to overly aggressive and high closeouts. Will have to work on his perimeter game, right now would be considered a tweener.”

All-State Camp: 2018 Second Team

Keyon Brown  6-2  Sr  East English Village: Could see him as a third guard at the college level, able to come in and create offense in a hurry. Attacks downhill, a tough cover with herky-jerky, change of pace dribble drive game. Valuable addition for East English Village a top 5 team in Class A.

“Tough Detroit-style guard,” said a long-time Detroit coach. “Has some Rip Hamilton in his game with the ability to hit the mid-range off the dribble. Does a nice job of getting to the rim but sometimes should pull up or kick out instead of a more difficult finish. Strong overall handle and uses his body well to protect the ball. Competes on defense on the ball, but sometimes loses his man off it.”

Grant Huebel  6-1  Sr  Oscoda: In the midst of a playoff-bound football season for Oscoda, but looked to still have his hoops legs and touch. With Hillman’s Gunnar Libby matriculating to UM-Dearborn, Huebel succeeds him as the top senior in Northeast Michigan. The first time he hit an acrobatic, athletic, fearless layup through and around defenders, you thought maybe it was a fluke. Then he did it again and again.

“Attacked and finished all day long,” a coach said. “It didn’t matter whom he was playing against.”

Alex King  6-4  Sr  Grand Rapids West Catholic: Looks like a good MIAA wing prospect with wingpsan and fundamentals.

“Attacks the basket and finishes well,” a coach said. “Good size for a wing at a 6-4 and solid jumper.”

“Alex was one of the smartest players at camp,” said another coach. “Has a good feel for the game. Can be more aggressive offensively, sometimes passed up open looks, he did everything else pretty well. Good passer in the half-court and did a good job crashing the offensive and defensive glass.”

Julian Savoury  6-8  Sr  Belleville: Underrated but not for long, recently gaining a pair of NAIA offers and more looks to come as the starting center for a top 5 Class A team. Plays steady with good hands, which made him one of the most productive forwards at camp, consistency over flash. Kept the ball high and finished efficiently. Can turn ends easily.

Very long and active,” a coach said. “Despite having the slenderest frame of all the bigs, Julian stuck his nose in there and got dirty. Active rebounder who finishes well once he squares himself to the hoop. Good timing on blocked shots and plays with a motor. Doesn’t have a perimeter game to speak of and his back-to-the-basket game is limited. Got forced off the block making his jumphook 10 feet instead of five.”

Jordan Winowiecki  6-5  Sr  Warren De La Salle: Much improved, more confident player than the one who was at the previous year’s camp. Does subtle things that make him hard to play against on either end, winning basketball learned both in high school and AAU. Good at finding spots to get off his shot and can do it over people from deep. Size and skill combination make him a recruit-able prospect. Active on the glass.

“Prototypical DLS two-guard,” a coach said. “Scrappy defender, high IQ and moves well off the ball. Definitely took advantage of Coach Esler not calling a set because he didn’t see a shot he didn’t like. Needs to improve his ability to drive and to make good decisions off the drive to keep teams from running him off the three-point line.”

All-State Camp: Underclassman First Team

MVP  Pierre Brooks  6-4  Fr  Detroit Douglass: Has to actually, you know, do something in high school. But for his age, Brooks has maxed out his resume. A winner in AAU, consistent standout at camps and exposure events and workouts with Micah Lancaster, one of the top trainers in the world. Brooks is a coach’s son with a big body for his age, so fit right in going against the camp upperclassman. Shots that may have been questionable at last year’s camp, were good looks this time around as he’s become more consistent. Was competitive, vocal and a leader in drills if not as much in games. While he can hit from three-point range, is at his best pulling up or posting up at the elbows. Good vision on the break, and the strength to deliver the ball. Able to bull his way into the lane, but would behoove Brooks to work the angles and glass instead of going over the top which is a much tougher shot — at least until he’s older and gets the bounce to make those dunks and not finger rolls. Once he learns the intensity needed daily at the varsity level, could claim status at the top freshman in the Mitten.

“Game that reminds you of a young Denzel Valentine,” a coach said. “Tough point guard whose eyes are always up the floor. Defends and plays the passing lanes very well, and seemed to be more aggressive defensively than at past camps. Once he goes from playing hard most of the time to playing hard all the time .. look out!”

William Dunn  6-7  So  Quincy: Had never heard of Dunn when he stepped onto the floor at the 2016 camp. This time around he came in ranked the state’s No. 5 2020 prospect and did nothing to dissuade the assessor that dubbed him such with how he produced against upperclassmen. Got beat up a little in the paint, but then paid ’em back pulling defenders out of the paint and dropping three-pointers over them. And unlike so many “stretch 4s”, Dunn has the footspeed to defend on the perimeter, not just shoot from it.

“Incredibly coordinated for his age and size,” a coach said. “Crashed the glass on both ends of the floor and has nice timing going up to block a shot. Showed the ability to defend bigs off the dribble. Good on the block, can knock down the open jumper and was the second-best passing big in the camp next to (overall MVP Luke) Maranka. He’s bouncier than one would first think and plays with a streak of toughness. Would like to see him be nasty all the time and also be more interactive with teammates. He makes the types of plays that can excite and build momentum, so the more energy he shows the more others will feed off it. Should be a D1 lock.”

Ta’vas Lawler-Showers  6-0  So  Marshall Academy: It wasn’t just seniors like Southfield Christian’s Bryce Washington and Buckley’s Austin Harris who were repping Class D at the camp. This kid was one of the big surprises.

“Extremely quick and drove it all over the floor during drill work,” a coach said.

“May have been the best ball-handler at camp — and with Drew Lowder there, that’s saying a lot,” another coach said. “Was very good in transition and could get in the lane with ease in the half-court. Sometimes over-penetrated and had nowhere to go with it so forced an off-balanced shot. Needs to know what he’s trying to do with the dribble at all times. Can shoot it well both off the catch and the bounce. Solid competitor on the defensive end.”

KJ Rai  6-4  Fr  East Lansing: Was bumped to the upperclassman games based on how he’d performed at past Underclassman Camps. He didn’t just it in, but excelled. Natural moving wing who can really shoot it off the catch. Would expect him to be an understudy to Noah Schon as a freshman at East Lansing, a top 10 Class A team.

“Becomes more and more of a complete player each time i see him,” a coach said. “Knocked down shots consistently in drills and in games. Has added a nice step-back, but doesn’t overuse it. Seems to be more versatile and athletic on the defensive end too.”

Julian Roper  6-2  Fr  Detroit Country Day: He and DCD sophomore Wendell Green are one of the top underclassman backcourts in Michigan. Considered an early top 10 2021 prospect based on his age group AAU career, and certainly did nothing to hurt that rep here.

“The second-best freshman I saw,” a coach said. “Can shoot it and get to the basket. Caught a nice alley in transition during games. Would’ve liked to have seen him play against the older players sometimes it was too easy for him with his age group.”

“Julian is an extremely talented and athletic guard with great size,” said another coach. “He can do just about anything he wants offensively. Very gifted scorer on all three levels. Rebounds well on the offensive end for a guard and is an improved passer from times I’ve seen him in the past. Doesn’t always sell out on the defensive end like he’s capable. Would also like to see a player of his caliber be more vocal.”

RJ Taylor  5-9  8th  Midland: He was the top middle schooler at the Underclassman Camp, and the same at the All-State Camp. He’s at an advantage to most kids his age coming from a family of basketball coach and players. But it’s one thing to know what to do do, and another to go out and execute and that’s where RJ separates himself because he has good physical tools for his age as well. Love the burst from the pack to start the fast break. Makes good decisions at speed. Gets “hockey assists” and encourages unselfish play with how he keeps the ball moving. Shot it consistently in drills. On a D1 trajectory

“Made tough finishes with either hand,” a coach said. “Plays hard and was not intimidated by anyone. Player to watch over the next four years as he’s only an 8th-grader.”


All-State Camp: 2019 First Team

MVP Drew Lowder  5-11  Jr  Ann Arbor Pioneer: He already has three D1 offers, a number that should continue to multiply. Strong enough, and a competitor, he held his own with taller players in drills. Can be a very good scorer off the drive or jumper, and can also be a pass-first point guard. As he continues to mature Lowder will be able to more ably mix the two and be that much more dangerous.

“Quickest player at camp,” a coach said. “He got into the lane whenever he wanted and finished over bigger defenders. He’s my camp MVP.”

“Smart and tough guard who can flat out score it,” another coach said. “He’s one of the best in the entire state at getting his own shot. He can score on all three levels and finishes at whatever angle necessary to get the job done. He also showed he could pass the ball pretty well too. He’s a pest on the ball when he wants to be, but sometimes gets lost on the ball. Improved body language will also help him, as he’ll need to be a leader of his team in the coming years.”

Isaiah Bridges  6-4  Jr  Midland: No one will confuse him with Dathan Ritzenhein, but a fall of cross country has Bridges getting up and down, and off, the floor easier than in AAU. Aggressive and hungry rebounder who high-pointed and two-handed the ball against taller opponents both in drills and in games. Scores in the paint with a well-practiced jump  hook. Despite those assets it’s a mistake to think of Bridges as an undersized floor, because when out on the floor and making decisions with the ball just looks like a basketball player. Passing ability allows you to invert the offense through him. Has worked on the perimeter shot but it’s still not easy and natural, which would bump him up a level as a recruit. 3.8 gpa.

Clayton Dykhouse  5-11  Jr  Zeeland East: It may not just be football success for the Chix.

“Very versatile combo guard,” a coach said. “Knocked down open jumpers and finished around the hoop a variety of ways. Did a nice job using deception to keep defenders guessing. Always seemed to make the right play in transition. Showed the ability to change direction with fluidity and change speeds effortlessly. Offensive game is complete, but needs to take advantage of his athleticism to play harder defensively.”

Jeremy Luciani  6-7  Jr  Marshall: Really liked him in July with the Prospectors, and backed that up here. Strong, tough 4 man similar to a Marshall forward from a generation ago, Patrick McClockey, who played at Oakland. Good feel and balance on the blocks. Not afraid to put a body on someone boxing out or setting a screen. Throw in a nearly 4.0 gpa, and Luciani will certainly have some options in a year.

Very good footwork in the post when he caught with his back to the basket and had a really nice looking hook shot over his left shoulder,” a coach said. “Very efficient at putting it on the deck as well. Needs to be more physical before the catch and create a bigger target. He does a nice job in help defense and rebounds on both ends like a man. He runs well in transition and has no problem catching and finishing on the move. Needs to continue to work on quickness and athleticism as it’s good for the high school level but will need to get better for college.”

Xander Okerlund  6-4  Jr  Maple City Glen Lake: After a breakout AAU July, came in a bit rusty to five-on-five after being cloistered on the Leelanau Peninsula, and didn’t shoot it as well as we’ve become accustomed to seeing. But Okerlund has to much talent and skill not to produce, and made plays with his length and hoops IQ.

“I’ve seen him play a ton and like his game too much not to have him on here,” a coach said. “Seemed like his shot was off and he knew it, so he became more of a facilitator this go around. Uses his length to create angles and made passing look easy. Can pass equally well with his let and right hands. Not looking to score as much may have been a blessing in disguise, because in my mind it allowed him to display his ability to play the point. Played hard defensively and seems like a really good kid.”

Sage Walker  6-9  Jr  Corunna: Making the transition from project to prospect to player. Much more productive than he was at last year’s Underclassman Camp. Walker caught the ball well, kept it high and finished efficiently often with dunks. Good straight-line speed for his size and caught and dunked on the move. 3.9 gpa.

“Lack of ability to finish may have been a knock in the past, but Sage finished with both hands around the hoop,” a coach said. “Also attacked the rim with numerous big dunks and consistently knocked down 15 footers. Active on the glass and does a good job protecting the rim. Played well in the pick-and-roll game. Needs to continue to work on having a lower pass and develop offensively with his back to the hoop. Awesome personality and very coachable.”

All-State Camp: 2018 First Team

MVP  Bryce Washington  6-4  Sr  Southfield Christian: Used to playing with talent both at Southfield Christian and The Family, and Washington brought the same unselfish ethos to camp. Transition menace with double-digit D1 offers and nearly 4.0 gpa. Finishes easily going both ways. Tall and athletic enough to get the rebound, then use explosive first step to clear himself of the crowd and push the ball. In the half-court, makes the extra pass, skip pass and attacks gaps with the dribble drawing fouls. Scrapped on the offensive glass. Needs to get stronger, tougher to finish through contact when defenses contract.

“Bryce is the equivalent of a five-tool player in baseball, as he does everything on the court pretty well” a coach said. “He’s best in the open floor, whether it’s with the ball or filling the wing. Scores it well and makes good decisions when in the lane. Very good overall athlete and seems like the type of kid who would’ve been good at whatever sport he dedicated himself to. Excellent teammate and very coachable. If there is a weakness to his game, it would be his ability to create his own shot in the half-court.”

Tevin Ali  6-6  Sr  Lansing Waverly: In his three years as a camper, has steadily evolved and improved, emerging as an athletic, versatile, legit college prospect. Gets off the floor really easily to dunk or block shots. But not just running and jumping around, a smart position defender too, who can also get out on the floor and check.

“One of the best rebounders I saw,” one coach said. “Ran the floor extremely well, finished in traffic and even threw one down over his defender.”

“Ali is a superb athlete,” another coach said. “A beast in transition that makes you think twice about drawing a charge. He runs the wings like a man on a mission and can lead the break off a rebound if he has real estate to work with. He’s a big guard at the next level in my mind. Can defend a variety of positions, in high school all five spots, and in college at least three. He’s a consistent jumper away from being a very recruitable kid.”

Caleb Cooper  5-10  Sr  Holt: He should thrive under new Holt coach Darren Zwick, who was one of the best in the business in his last stint in the Mitten at Lansing Catholic. Passes the most important point guard criterion — others want to play with him. Why? Cooper puts the ball right where teammates need it, whether bigs rolling to the hoop. shooters spotting up or runners and cutters on the break (even had a touch-past assist), hits ’em in the hands repeatedly. Is patient and will find post-feed angles. Very quick and can break down his man and finish naturally with either hand if there’s not a 6-9 waiting for him. Fast, aggressive, gambler on defense who works hard to get over screens.

“Super quick and crafty point guard who plays with confidence and knows how to create angles to score and pass,” a coach said. “He’s an efficient killer in transition who can score or kick it out on time. Knows how to get his shot off inside despite being smaller. Was good from 3 and in the lane, but didn’t observe much of a mid-range game. He’ll need to have one if he’s going to be effective at the next level with better rim protectors. Competes on defensive end and good communicator.”

Cole Kleiver  5-11  Sr  Williamston: All-state guard from Bank Hoops’ preseason No. 1 Class B team. Plays with a ton of confidence and you would too if you shot it like Kleiver. Also a slick handle and able to get into the lane to score or pass with either hand.

“Crafty guard who can kill you from deep,” a coach said. “Plays with swagger. Makes very good decisions with the ball in transition and does a good job of passing peole open. Plays tough defense but is limited somewhat by size and athleticism. Sometimes gets in trouble when he tries to do too much, so just needs to realize that sometimes simpler is better.”

Luke Toliver  6-2  Sr  Paw Paw: If it’s possible to be overlooked and slept on despite having a 50-point high school game as an underclassman, Toliver may qualify. Played very hard in drills and games. Lots of bounce and energy. Eager and tough defensive rebounder for a guard. More scorer than shooter. Smooth and confident and nice elevation, not always consistent, shot from deep and then can counter with pull-ups or create and go all the way in. Toliver will attack space and if closely guarded not explosive, but uses an assortment of fakes, look-offs to create opportunities. Ideal motion offense guy because he’ll pass, screen away, then is able to score from various spots, even post up. Unselfish on the break and doesn’t sit on the ball in the half-court. Would like to see him play lower on defense.

“Got buckets in drills and games,” a coach said. “Worked extremely hard. Very impressed by his tough shot-making ability.”

Javien Torrence-Jackson  6-2  Sr  River Rouge: The Panthers are becoming Point Guard U, as well as Hyphenated Name State, with Torrence-Jackson succeeding Darian Owens-White and Lamonta Stone, now at Wayne State and EMU respectively. JTJ is different than those guys, in that he’s physically imposing for the position, with strength and length. He was the defender who caused the most problems for Drew Lowder, a junior point guard with multiple D1 offers. Communicated on the defensive end. Offensively surprised smaller guards because he was still able to break them down off the dribble, and as a lefty already had them unbalanced. Looked like a real point guard running pick-and-roll, handling ball on the break and dishing off in the lane. Would like to see more legs, less upper body, on the jumpshot, and more right-handed finishes.