If they can keep their young talent intact, the Family 17U shouldn’t be missing the Peach Jam in the near future. The Family concluded the NCAA’s July live period by winning the titles at the 14- 15- and 16-under levels of the GRBA Nationals at Spiece Fieldhouse.
The Family annihilated the host team and fellow EYBL club Spiece Indy Heat in the 16U final 74-41. Mark Watts, the state’s top 2019 guard out of Old Redford with an MSU offer, is up on the Family’s 17U. That brought the 16U’s backcourt depth to the fore. 5-11 Ann Arbor Pioneer junior Drew Lowder started with an illness and cold shooting game. That all changed the second day of the tournament when he single-handedly out-scored the Illinois Wolves with a 29-point first half. This gym has seen a lot of great shooting performances over the years, we’re in Indiana after all, and Lowder’s nine three-pointers may rank with any of them. When not going all Jay Edwards from deep, Lowder has a polished pull up game and though not tall is strong and can finish too. A shifty ball-handler who puts pressure on the defense then will compete when the ball is coming back at him. He’s proven he can thrive as both a primary option, and complementary as in the spring when Lowder teamed with Watts in the Family’s backcourt. He received a Toledo offer, and later one from Northern Illinois.
Watts’ vacated minutes have been eaten up by the small but explosive tandem of East English Village’s Tariq Shepherd and Canton’s 5-10 B. Artis White. White has always been able to shoot it. As he’s matured, now he’s able to take the ball more places with authority, quick into the lane to make things happen. Despite his size, is more likely than not the attacker defensively too. Basketball pedigree, as the son of longtime high school and college coach, and former MSU point guard, Benny White, and he earned an offer from Ferris State. Shepherd is just solid all-around offensively with quickness, three-point range and point guard skills. East English Village just keeps the D1 guards coming and Shepherd is trending towards that list.
Even without Watts, the 16U had national-caliber star power in Romeo Weems, the 6-6 state champion from New Haven with an MSU offer. What separates Weems is how hard he plays, which isn’t easy particularly in the last AAU tournament of the year. He’s also put in work via Team USA obligations. A play that sums up Weems from Spiece, he put up a badly missed three-pointer. Instead of moping, he sprinted back on D and blocked the shot. Weems gave the Family an edge in attitude and toughness, as they also did from Taylor Currie. The U-M commitment who has reclassified to 2018 for Clarkston, Currie played in the spring for All Ohio Red. He provided the Family a skill level, experience and confidence that their project bigs don’t. Love how he embraced the role as enforcer and set the tone with powerful finishes. Seems well-suited for what Michigan wants from its posts.
The Family’s 15U won the big one in the first July period, the Peach Jam. They bounced back from a pool loss to win the bracket at the Best of the Midwest in Grand Rapids. They did nothing to diminish their rep as one of the elite young units in America at Spiece, topping Indiana Elite in the final 61-53. 6-7 Rochester Lutheran Northwest soph Isaiah Jackson is an elite national talent. He’ll high-point a rebound, break out with the ball then either attack for a dunk if space opens or make a pass to the wings. His special value is defensively where Jackson can read and extend to block shots, or play out on top to run, jump and get deflections. The Family was without its third national top 50 recruit Carlos Johnson for this tournament, but still found frontcourt production beyond the Benton Harbor all-stater. Oak Park’s Maliq Carr is agile for a healthy 6-5, is a fastbreak trigger man off the glass, makes good decisions with the ball and can score facing or with his back to the basket. His greatest value may be found in his toughness and leadership. That was particularly valuable because Benton Harbor forward Scooby Johnson, who helps set the tone with his energy, wasn’t at this tournament. He has a Power 5 football frame and conceivably Carr could go high major in hoops if he comes in a legit 6-6 and can defend both post and wing. Bryce George is strong at 6-6, able to root out taller centers from the post, and conversely the Family guards look for him in post ups when he’s matched up with a smaller defender. Traditional rebounder/finisher 4 man who can struggle to convert against high-end 6-8 types at the rim, but will be the dominant player in the Thumb the next three years for Marlette.
The Family 15s have three top 50 national prospects for 2020 and rolled out two of them in Ft. Wayne, Jackson and Jalen Terry. Terry is an explosive 5-11 point guard from Beecher who already has an Iowa offer. He’s the amalgamation of the two D1 Beecher point guards before him, combining the swagger and fearlessness of Malik Ellison and the hands and passing of Monte Morris, all with above the rim explosion that’s all his own. There are lots of fast guards, very few that make consistent good choices on the fly, and Terry is one. He made an incredible play in the championship game when he came flying down the lane for what looked to be a dunk, only to duck right to avoid the defender and kiss it off the glass. There are two more Flint area standout starting for the Family. Kevin David-Rice from Goodrich is a lanky 6-3 wing guard and the 15U’s best shooter. He’s active off the ball and utilizes fakes well when he does have it, and doesn’t make it stick will find the next man if a better shot. While he can counter a closeout or use his wingspan on the offensive glass, KDR isn’t an explosive finisher. A Beecher teammate of Terry’s, Earnest Sanders is a powerhouse athlete, a compact and explosive 6-2 wing who is a constant alley-oop threat on the break or backdoor. It’s as a guard and shooter that there are question marks, so it was nice to see the left-handed jumpshot dropping the championship game. 15U is a guards’ game and there are plenty here. North Farmington soph Justus Salaam steady minutes without much dropoff for Terry, he’s particularly good with decision making when teams drop back in a zone to try to slowdown the transition onslaught. Simon Wheeler is an incoming ninth-grader reportedly to East English Village, and checks in at under 5-and-a-half feet. Size and age were irrelevant in the final as he got into the defense to create for teammates, hit shots himself and didn’t get bullied on defense.
It was another incoming freshman guard, East Lansing’s Marcus Wourman, who made the difference for the Family’s 14U title run. He just joined the team for this tournament but changed its dynamic with his playmaking and maturity at the point. Marcus’ father of the same name played for two tremendous coaches Perry Watson at Detroit Southwestern then Mike Turner at Albion College, and Junior is the beneficiary of all that background. The previous weekend in Grand Rapids the 14U lost to Spiece Indy Heat by six points. But Wourman’s unselfishness became contagious and this time around the Family took the rematch, in the championship game, by 15. Their best frontcourt prospect is 6-3 Pierre Brooks, the Family’s leading scorer who has the size to have his way inside at this age, but the skills to transition in high school. 6-2 Julian Roeper from Detroit Country Day was tough on the glass while 6-0 Jaden Akins from North Farmington and Mikkos Stewart also from Country Day had strong runs.