With a nod to the glory days of the Grand Rapids Press Invitational in the 1980s-90s, when the best teams in Detroit visited West Michigan for the holidays, the inaugural Catholic Invitational debuted before the New Year. Hosted by Grand Rapids Catholic and sponsored by Aquinas College, it brought nine Catholic schools from across the state, and one from Ohio, to burgeoning and bustling downtown GR for a day of hoops. For the day, Kalamazoo Hackett beat Muskegon Catholic Central; Lansing Catholic beat Grand Rapids West Catholic; Pontiac Notre Dame beat Flint Powers; defending Class A state champion Detroit U-D Jesuit beat Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary; and Grand Rapids Catholic Central topped Detroit Loyola.
The Catholic Invitational’s best performers included:
Austin Braun 5-10 So Grand Rapids Catholic Central: Catholic Central will be a legit Class B title contender in 2018, and Braun looks like the kind of guard who as an upperclassman could help get you there. Sees the floor in transition, knocked down threes and showed a knack for hitting touch, clutch shots in the Cougars win over Detroit Loyola.
Nick Bryant 6-0 Sr Detroit Loyola: Egged on from the stands by members of the U-D Jesuit team to put up shots they would probably never dare do the same in their own game, Bryant gunned Loyola to a second-half comeback against Catholic Central scoring 22. Flyweight build and propensity to cherrypick likely hinder any future in college ball.
Cameryn Carpenter 6-0 Jr Flint Powers: Conspicuous in his absence, as Powers didn’t stand a chance against Pontiac Notre Dame with their 20 a game scorer out injured.
Tariq Derrickson 6-0 Jr Pontiac Notre Dame: Turned in a very efficient game in limited minutes against Flint Powers. Derrickson finished with 15 points on 5-of-9 (3-of-7 three-pointers) with five assists, no turnovers, and four steals. Makes defenders unbalanced because he’s herky-jerky and left-handed, with soft mitts delivering quick, one-handed passes. Jumpy, handsy on D can also square his body and keep ball-handlers from turning corner into the lane. Range on his shot while riding the line between daring and irresponsible with the trigger. College point guard at a lower level but coaches will want to see him against better competition.
Julian Dozier 5-8 So Detroit U-D Jesuit: An outstanding age group AAU player facing a steep learning curve in his first season as a starter. When he was able to push the ball and run looked great, but that was rare in a game without much flow. Had five assists but as many turnovers while shooting 1-for-8 from the field. May want to go Scottie Pippen style and bank in the wing shots.
Greg Eboigbodin 6-9 Sr Detroit U-D Jesuit: Like he always seems to, produced on both ends. Fans up from Akron couldn’t tell which of U-D’s starting big men is the one going to the Big East school, Eboigbodin or the actual Marquette signee Ike Eke. What a get for UIC. Exploited the Cubs’ serious height advantage to the tune of 14 points, 12 rebound and two blocked shots. Can still be a sucker for a good pump fake.
Jayvon Graves 6-2 Sr Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary: He was one of the most exciting players in Grand Rapids back in July playing for King James in the Brawl for the Ball, and though SVSM lost to U-D Jesuit Graves showed that summer performance was no fluke. Big, powerful explosive guard who is best attacking downhill, but the Cubs were able to make it tough to get into the lane because, though LeBron James’ alma mater started five guards, none of them shot well. Graves chose Nate Oats’ Buffalo programs out of a dozen mid-major offers and signed early with the Bulls.
Keith Johnson 6-2 Jr Detroit Loyola: His husky football body belies Johnson’s sweet shooting touch and quick release. He scored 19 points on 6-of-10 field goals (including 3-for-5 three-pointers).
Teddy Oosterbaan 6-6 Sr Kalamazoo Hackett: Led the Irish with 16 points in their day-opening win over Muskegon Catholic Central. Doesn’t shy from the glass, finishes in the post and has good footwork thanks to tennis, the sport Oosterbaan will play at Michigan.
Chuck Plaehn 6-3 Sr Lansing Catholic Central: Soccer standout moves with predictable ease in the open court, with or without the ball. Determined wing scorer with body control around the rim. Talks through his free throws and it works. Funky foot positioning but sunk 2-of-3 three-pointers in the Cougars win against West Catholic. Could get tied up and pushed off position by stronger defenders. Weight room away from being an upperclassman MIAA contributor if he chose that route.
Jacob Polakovich 6-8 Jr Grand Rapids Catholic Central: He was named the overall event MVP, but there was no home school favoritism as Polakovich thoroughly dominated defending Class C semifinalist Detroit Loyola in the nightcap. He scored 34 points on 15-of-21 field goals (including 2-for-2 from behind the arc) with 16 rebounds and two blocked shots. Polakovich is one of the strongest bigs in the state and consistently carved out position for easy finishes. Showed good hands and hit a variety of shots. Doesn’t play above the rim and needs to be able to defend the three-point shot as well as shoot it himself, but looks like a mid-major lock at this point. Towards the latter point, Polakovich did a nice job staying in front of Keith Johnson away from the basket, allowing him to stay on the court even when Loyola was playing five guards. When 6-10 junior Marcus Bingham is eligible for the Cougars, there aren’t going to be many answers for a high-low tandem where both can shoot it likes these two.
Jalen Thomas 6-9 So Detroit U-D Jesuit: Did nothing to dissuade those of us who have Thomas ranked as one of the state’s top 10 2019 prospects. On his very first touch hit a jumphook in the lane. Looked well schooled and aware defensively with his ability to hedge and recover. Also looked raw and young when missing a layup and passing an outlet across the opponent’s basket.