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.

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