Resounding Impact: IE goes back-to-back at CDBA Classic

Impact Elite went back-to-back at the Camp Darryl Classic, winning 16U in 2014, 17U this year.
Impact Elite went back-to-back at the Camp Darryl Classic, winning 16U in 2014, 17U this year.

Few want to face Impact Elite on the state’s grassroots circuit, as their team runs counter to the star-reliant AAU model and for years has been taking apart bigger-named programs and their sexier recruits. Add the Mustangs (Woodruff) to the list of victims, as Grand Rapids-based Impact Elite beat the Flintcentric squad going away in the 17U final of the Camp Darryl/ Classic Sunday in Kalamazoo. It was consecutive crowns for this group, as they won the 16U title in 2014.

What makes Impact Elite’s success particularly enjoyable is that it comes amidst a 2016 class full of players who left success at smaller programs only to find that the grass isn’t necessarily greener with the “name” teams. But there’s certainly some dirt on the lawn. IE’s core group has stayed together for years. They don’t have much height, there are no D1 prospects, but don’t confuse that with hard-to-watch basketball. They’re well-coached by Ryan Stevens (the coach at Grandville Calvin Christian the past 18 seasons) and Steve Harvey (the former coach at Forest Hills Northern for 14 seasons); share the basketball; and can all shoot. Given Impact Elite’s egalitarian ethos, there was no tournament MVP selected from the winning team. Here’s who did made the 17U all-tournament team:

  • CDBA/ Classic 17U MVP: NA
  • Aquavius Burks  6-3  Jr  Mustangs (Flint Beecher)
  • Zack Niewkoop  6-7  So  West Michigan Lakers (Wayland)
  • Martell Phillips  6-2  Jr  JDIA (Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills)
  • Kyle Woodruff  6-2  Jr  Mustangs (Holly)

Impact Elite’s most intriguing prospect 6-5 junior Spencer Peterson, an athletic while big-bodied inside-outside matchup dilemma who didn’t play last season for NorthPointe Christian after transferring from Forest Hills Northern. He forms what amounts to IE’s post pair along with Keegan George. The physical, high-motor 6-3 junior from Spring Lake shared the court with a similarly sized and skilled prospect from the Mustangs in the final, Flint Beecher’s Aquavius Burks. Impact Elite surrounds those playmaking forwards with small college combo guards Forest Hills Northern junior Steve Harvey, Grandville Calvin Christian junior Braden Stevens, Hudsonville junior Riley Costen; all-around Rockford guard Andy Heider; and athletic junior guards who will likely be more heavily recruited in football, Muskegon Reeths-Puffer’s DeAndre Oakes-Owens and Calvin Christian’s Tony Dewitte.

Joining Burks from the Mustangs on the all-tournament team was 6-2 Holly junior Kyle Woodruff. Even when on Friday night ACB/Bank Hoops held him without a 3 for the first time of his AAU career, Woodruff showed his expanded offensive game able to get things going from the line and offensive rebounds. Martell Phillips didn’t play last season at Ottawa Hills. The Harden Beard Jr. Class played so hard it was like he was trying to fit those 20 missed opportunities into one weekend tournament. Phillips led at upstart Just Do It Again squad that opened bracket play with a resounding upset of ACB/Bank Hoops en route to the semifinals. Another JDIA standout was 6-4 Hudsonville junior Adam VanLaar. He’s evolved from an athlete who played hard, to a true wing who can shoot or drive.

The final all-tournament team pick was West Michigan Lakers 6-7 sophomore Zack Niewkoop from Wayland. While he doesn’t have the bulk we’ve come to expect of Lakers big men, Niewkoop instead brings energy, bounce, up-and-unders, put-backs and a hard cover for bigger posts. Despite playing up, doesn’t play young. The Lakers’ top 2016 prospect is Ben Ritsema a 6-4 junior from Zeeland East. In Ritsema, Coach Mickey Cochran’s successor with the Chix will inherit a bouncy 2/3 with the wingspan to impact on D, dunk finishes and a three-point stroke. Looks like the kind of athlete who is just getting started.

2015 Available Starting Five

Two of the state’s top five unsigned seniors, Muskegon wing Joeviar Kennedy and Hudsonville forward Brent Hibbitts, are recently off the market, Hip Hop to Western Michigan while Hibbitts will forgo mid-major opportunities to walk on at Michigan. But there’s still some talent left in the 2015 class, so here’s the first of two senior available “starting 5s.”


C Lacey James  6-9  Sr  Wayland: He originally committed to Detroit last summer but didn’t sign. Some teams have passed because of health concerns but is qualified and still has offers from Buffalo, Cleveland State and Wagner. True 4 who has gotten tougher and more explosive.

PF Tariq Jones  6-6  Sr  Macomb Dakota: He had an abbreviated second semester run with Dakota after a brief stint out East. Jones played on Mt. Clemens’ loaded 2014 team as a junior. Tough, athletic and versatile defender who is a tweener forward offensively but has pop above the rim. Brings to mind a young Dom Pointer when Jones gets rolling.

WF Xavier Cochran  6-5  Sr  Ann Arbor Huron: Other than strength and weight, looks the part of a mid-major wing. After getting by on athleticism when young, lefty can now score at all three levels in the halfcourt and is also dangerous on the break. Has grades and could help someone late.

2G Michael Williams  6-4  Sr  Otsego: Every time it seemed like Williams was taking a next step as a prospect, knee injuries slowed him, including last July and the beginning of his senior season. Very good shooter with swagger and college size, it just comes down to health on talent certainly he’s a D2 or higher scholarship player.

PG Curtis Davidson  6-1  Sr  Grand Rapids Union: Aggressor on both ends whose defense will give him a chance at the next level. Offensively Davidson is competent all-around, but without one thing he really excels.

Michigan Standouts from Spiece Run-n-Slam

Though lacking some of the national teams and prospects of past years, the Hensley Memorial Run-n-Slam at Ft. Wayne’s Spiece Fieldhouse continues to be the elite travel event in the Midwest. It’s long been a proving ground for Michigan prospects, and this year’s was no different. There was one gold division champion from the Mitten, as the Mustangs defeated the King James Shooting Stars for the 16U crown. REACH won the 17U title in silver.

Macomb Dakota point guard Jermaine Jackson Jr. led the Mustangs to their third 16U tournament title of the spring at the Spiece Run-n-Slam.
Macomb Dakota point guard Jermaine Jackson Jr. led the Mustangs to their third 16U tournament title of the spring at the Spiece Run-n-Slam.

Here are 10 Michigan standout prospects from Spiece.

Austin Davis  6-10  Jr  Mustangs (Onsted): You’re not going to win the Spiece marathon with just seven players, so the Mustangs acquitted themselves well given that circumstance by at least making it to Sunday.  A recent U-M commitment, Davis struggled Friday night but got stronger as the weekend progressed. When he’s able to establish deep position and catch the ball cleanly, he scores consistently. He has a nice touch from the line, always a bonus for a big man. The Mustangs had two guys up front up aren’t afraid to hit you or take a hit, Davis and former Saginaw star Algevon Eichelberger. Plays hard and has a Big Ten body, so he has a chance as his skill and fitness levels continue to improve.

Marlon Dorsey  6-1  Jr  ACB/Bank Hoops (East Kentwood): He was a standout on Kentwood’s O-K Red championship football and basketball squads, a ballhawk defender on both the turf and wood. Dorsey can defend all three perimeter positions, knock down 3s, make the smart extra pass and rebound like a forward. He looked right at home matching the Illinois Wolves shot-for-shot Saturday night as ACB/Bank Hoops took the Under Armour flagship program to OT before the Wolves ended up reaching the 17U championship game.

Julian Dozier  5-8  8th  Family 15U (Ypsilanti): The Family 15s may not have a superstar, but they have a number of smart, mature players, and it starts with point guards like Detroit Loyola’s PJ Mitchell and Dozier, despite the latter being just a middle schooler. Dozier isn’t one of those puberty cases who dominates when young because he’s just bigger and stronger, he does it by knowing how to play. Their Family team was knocked out of the gold bracket by eventual champion Iowa Barnstormers.

Jermaine Jackson  5-8  So  Mustangs 16U (Macomb Dakota): Plays with the upbeat confidence you want from your main ball-handler, and has matured to meld his own scoring ability with creating opportunities for all his talented teammates. The Mustangs just run smoothly when Jackson is out there, he refuses to get flustered. His height becomes irrelevant offensively because he’s a quick triple-threat on the move. Picks and chooses his spots and shows some guts when he decides to take it and and finish through the trees. Clearly one of the top 2017 point guards in the Midwest.

Trishton Jackson  6-2  Jr  REACH (West Bloomfield): After losing their first game Friday night, REACH ran the table to win the consolation bracket. The team if rich with hard-working role players. It’s Jackson who can be the difference-maker when he’s dialed in, because of his natural talent level. He’s a handful to defend when he gets rolling, because he’s a slasher, scorer, passer and shooter. A plus athlete, as anyone could gather from his football recruitment as a wide receiver.

Demetrius Lake  5-9  So  Mustangs 16U (Holland): It’s impressive how Lake has been able to transform from a volume shooter in the winter to a defensive stopper and instant offense off the bench in AAU. Strong, aggressive and athletic, he plays similarly to another one-time West Michigan guard, J.R. Wallace. He competes.

Michael Peterson  6-6  Jr  Grand Rapids Storm (Rockford): One of Peterson’s most appealing traits is how he’s able to get his shot off even against high-end competition thanks to his extension and high release point. Can pass it too and makes smart decisions on the move. If he were beefier and knocked it down from 20 consistently, a MAC player.

Zack Nieuwkoop  6-7  So  West Michigan Lakers (Wayland): He had his moment of truth against Indy Elite’s taller, older frontline, but continued to produce just as he has all spring playing up on the Lakers’ 17U. Nieuwkoop has a body built to bang yet gets it off the floor quickly to rebound. He has a nice shooting touch, from mid-range and the foul line, but as a post scorer is still a work in progress.

Tony Poljan  6-7  Jr  One Nation (Lansing Catholic): While One Nation’s rotating forward position has become a running source of amusement on the circuit, Poljan’s game is pretty serious. The state champion QB is huge and doesn’t mind using that body to leverage, grind and go get rebounds. Despite his increased bulk he’s retained his soft shooting touch. A Big Ten grid recruit, Poljan could pursue both both basketball and football in college, possibly at CMU.

Henry Speight  6-2  So  GreenWood 16U (Carrollton): No sophomore in the state averaged more points/rebounds than Speight this past winter, and he continues to produce in age-group competition. It’s easy to see why, as he looks closer to 26 than 16. Gets off the floor reasonably well for his size which makes him just a load to deal with in the lane. Will have to re-do his body to be a college guard.


Michigan AAU: All-April Team

Michigan represented well both regionally and nationally during the first month of the AAU season. Here’s the starting 5 of those prospects who did it best. All teams are 17U unless otherwise noted.

Jamal Cain  6-7  So  Detroit Stars (Detroit Cornerstone): One of a plethora of underclassmen playing up on 17U, standard operating procedure for the Stars, and the program’s top prospect since Vincent Hunter. He’s a smooth, full-court athlete who has grown comfortably into his body. Easily coordinated to finish above the rim. With some shooting touch, Cain is ably a top 100 national prospect.

Karmari Newman  6-3  Jr  Detroit Showtime (East English Village): Streak Shooter thy name is Mari. When it’s dropping like it did for the second April live period in Akron, Newman gets offers and Showtime wins tournaments. And when it’s not, the lithe lefty is still able to cobble together 20 via the line and much-improved game as an athlete and finisher. Kent State and Detroit are the most recent to offer, after Cleveland State got in on it last year.

Terrence Sewell  6-3  Jr  REACH (Detroit Northwestern): He plays in semi-obscurity in the winter, but Sewell is hard to miss in the spring as he’s an aggressive, physical impact guy. Workhorse guard who helped REACH win the spring’s first two in-state tournaments. He can rebound and make it happen all by himself.

Xavier Tillman  6-8  So  Mustangs 16U (Forest Hills Central):  The bulwark forward and foundation for one of the nation’s elite 16U squads. The Mustangs go nine-deep in D1 players and have already won a top regional event, the Grand Rapids Storm Classic, and top national event, the Indianapolis leg of the Adidas tour. Tillman just has his way in age-group competition, as his combination of girth and guile is in short supply amongst 10th-graders. Good-not-great athlete, but has an elite physical tool in that X catches everything. MSU is considered the early leader for Tillman, an at minimum top 50 national prospect who will be recruited by everyone before we’re through.

Cassius Winston  6-1  Jr  Family (Detroit U-D Jesuit): As good as he’s long been, who two years ago would have bet Winston, now through two EYBL events, is the leading scorer on the Nike tour? Crafty, physical and skilled, and clearly able to get buckets, aesthetics be damned. He and Miles Bridges form one of the top guard-forward combinations in all of travel ball. Top 50 national prospect trending towards all-American status.