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Breakout Performers from Eighth-Annual Up North Challenge

From the D to Escanaba, some of the top talent in the state converged for the eighth-annual Up North Challenge. Including …

Harlond Beverly  6-4  So  REACH 16U (Southfield Christian): He looked like a future high-major recruit during the winter and did nothing to dissuade that notion here as REACH won the 16U title. Tends to play upright so deceptively athletic; gets off the floor easily. Feathery jumper that he finds through a set of subtle but effective free-up moves. Comes from a winning program and it shows in AAU, not a jacker despite his talent and did a nice job feeding center Jalen Thomas in the post or finding a cutting Carrington McCaskill for dunks.

Quinn Blair  6-6  Jr  REACH (Dearborn Divine Child): Made the all-tournament team from the 17U runners-up. Versatility and efficiency define Blair’s offense. He’s thick and strong so finishes in the lane or from the baseline, can pick-and-pop from 20 feet and gets to the rim with minimal use of the dribble. Great at attacking closeouts. Physical rebounder and defender. The level of athlete he can check away from the basket will determine upper level of college potential, but the kind of ready-made all-around forward who could help most Midwestern mid-majors.

Isaiah Bridges  6-5  So  HoopGrind 16U (Midland): Did his best to lead an upset of Parallel 45 in the 16U semifinals but fell just short. Plays a lot of point because of his hoops IQ and passing, hit three-pointers in bunches, while still flourishing as the big-bodied rebounder and post defender we first saw a year ago at this very tournament. Bridges is one of the intriguing prospects in Michigan’s 2019 class.

Denver Cade  6-3  Jr  Parallel 45-White (Buckley): No matter which guard REACH threw at Cade in their Saturday morning matchup, the Class D all-stater had an answer. Clever, versatile, determined scorer. 3.9 gpa sweetens the deal for schools recruiting him.

Dan Cluster  6-10  Jr  West Michigan Lakers (Watervliet): There are seemingly endless 6-8 forwards in Michigan’s rising senior class. True posts are more rare, which makes Cluster intriguing. Spring Lake’s Sam Johnson has been out injured, and he’s taken advantage of increased opportunity. Did a good job of recognizing mismatches and going right to the blocks to take advantage of his go-to hook. Needs to do a better job chinning and securing the ball.

Zach Goodline  5-10  So  West Michigan Lakers (Coloma): Parallel 45 had the blueprint to slow down Goodline the week before at the Camp Darryl Classic — beat up the underclassman with 190-pound guards then let him try to finish over a true-sized post. But neither of the Lakers’ 17U final four opponents, TEAM Basketball or REACH, have that kind of personnel, and the 1,000-point prep scorer was back in the Goodie Mob form we saw against “The Elite” back at Spiece. With Goodline having his way off the dribble, finishing at ridiculous angles and spacing the floor with his shooting, it opened things up for West Ottawa wing Drew Pedersen to go off against REACH and center Dan Cluster to have his best tournament to date. He is the most offensively gifted point guard in the 2019 class, with D2s praying he doesn’t grow.

Mason Gardner  6-4  Jr  Parallel 45-Green (Boyne City): Showed his athletic bonafides with a pair of blocks against REACH’s Dujuan Seal, whom some were calling the most productive player on the NY2LA tour this spring. Something of a tweener, so Gardner needs to come with that kind of fire and motor all the time. Some above-the-rim finishes in July and the buzz will grow — don’t settle, attack relentelessly. 3.9 gpa.

Reece Hazelton  6-5  Fr  Northern Exposure 15U (Maple City Glen Lake): A mismatch problem at the 15U level because he shoots it and moves like a guard, but for his age is built like a rangy forward. As much as he didn’t enjoy the travel calls in his late Sunday game, it will benefit Hazelton in the long run as Glen Lake has a good chance to make it downstate next March and this was some exposure to real officiating, a rarity in the hinterlands of Northern Michigan.

Devin Holmes  6-4  Jr  REACH (Detroit Renaissance): This was his first tournament with REACH and he fit right in because Holmes doesn’t need plays run for him to make an impact. Hustling, well-built blue-collar type who always seemed to be around the ball. Made smart passes on the break.

Seth Mann  6-4  Jr  Parallel 45-Green (Petoskey): Made the all-tournament team for a P45 squad that went back-and-forth with REACH until the last horn in the 17U semifinals. Did yeoman’s work handling the ball against the pressure of REACH’s quicker, smaller guards. The in the halfcourt Mann made them pay in the halfcourt with his perpetual motion and three-point shooting. And like Cade above, makes life easy for his coaches off the court with a 3.9 gpa.

Jiovanni Miles  6-3  So  REACH 16U (Novi): Strong, compact, athletic guard in the Terry Rozier mode. What I loved about Miles was that even when playing with a big lead, he competed defensively with active, high hands. Gets good elevation on his jumper, needs to get the same release point/timing for it to become a more consistent weapon.

Goliath Mitchell  6-1  Jr  REACH (Goodrich): Can sometimes be forgotten with all the guard depth in Michigan’s rising senior class but he can get baskets in bunches, as Mitchell did in a couple games of the UNC. Changes speeds and directions well to get space to drive or shoot. Looks to score first but delivered some dimes in the lane.  Needs to work in his left hand finishing.

Tristen Mysen  6-7  Jr  North Oakland Wolfpack (Clarkston): Given the talent level of Clarkston’s roster last and next season, Mysen could be one of those rare kids who posts higher stats in college than high school. Well-school defender who goes about it with physicality. Has grown into a nasty finisher, when able to catch the ball cleanly. Very good free throw shooter.

Matt Nicholson  6-9  So  North Oakland Wolfpack 15U (Clarkston): With the way Taylor Currie has been playing with All-Ohio Red’s 16U and Nicholson’s continued improvement with the Wolfpack, Clarkston may have the state’s top centers in both the 2019 and 2020 classes. Nicholson is long for days and embraces his height — doesn’t disappear and let his shorter, stronger teammates takes his rebounds, or hide out in the corner like a “stretch 4.” The Wolfpack made a concerted effort to get him the ball in good position, and he proved to be able to catch it, keep it high, and finish, with consistency. Another young big to remember is the one who faced off with Nicholson in the 15U championship game, Impact Elite’s Ryan Corner a 6-8 freshman from Allendale.

Xander Okerlund  6-4  So  Parallel 45 16U (Maple City Glen Lake): Dominated the 16U semfinals, leading a comeback, overtime win over HoopGrind with 28 points, then looked right at home against the studs from REACH in the championship game. Many of those were clutch, as Okerlund carried P45 in the second half with three-pointers, drives and pullups. So smart, plays angles and sees the game two plays ahead, so he was able to get space for those shots even when the whole gym knew the ball was coming to him. D1 recruit if he starts playing both higher (on his jumpshot) and lower (explosive drives; defending) with the ball.

Luke Pfromm  6-5  Jr  TEAM Basketball (Warren De La Salle): With fellow forward Danny Sully injured, TEAM needed the increased production courtesy Pfromm. He proved a tough cover because he’s just awkward enough to keep a defender unsure, while at the same time having good footwork and orientation once he catches the ball, and knows how to use uses his rear end to clear space. Shot it easily and consistently from three-point range. The question will be what spot(s) Pfromm can check in college.

Cameron Ramos  6-0  Jr  Camp Darryl (Charlotte): Keyed Camp Darryl’s win over the North Oakland Wolfpack. Handled both guard spots because he can shoot it, or find shooters off his own drives. Another one with a nearly 4.0 gpa.

Ryan Robinette  6-2  Jr  Great Northern Elite (Escanaba): Started out the tournament on fire, dropping three-point bombs off the catch or dribble. Has range beyond the arc, which helps because the lefty is shooting more of a set shot than jumper. Uses the shot to make way for an effective Euro finish. Not a breakdown point guard or anything, but sees the floor well and has nice placement with his passing.

Brock Stevens  5-11  Fr  Impact Elite (Calvin Christian): He’s steadily improved every time we’ve seen him … from the Underclassman All-State Camp, to the College Guard Workshop, to the regular season, and now in AAU where Stevens helped lead IE to championships at the Camp Darryl Classic then Up North Challenge. He and Reeths-Puffer freshman Emcee Williams are interchangeable, scoring point guards who give Impact Elite one of the top 15U backcourts in Michigan. Brock has a nice mix of knowing how to run a team as the son of a coach, a confident shot, and will mix it up and get dirty defensively and for 50/50 balls. Impact Elite won both the 15U and 14U titles, so be prepared to hear a lot more of that name in the future.

RJ Taylor  5-9  6th  Northern Michigan Drive 15U (Midland Dow): For a kid who turned 13 a month before the tournament, really held his own playing 15U with his court sense and skill level. It’s less surprising knowing he has an older sister playing D1 ball, another who will, and his dad, Bob Taylor, was a 30-year college coach.

Jalen Thomas  6-9  So  REACH 16U (Detroit U-D Jesuit): A rare young AAU big men that is actually utilized by his team. REACH’s guards looked for Thomas regularly, and to his credit he would pay them back not forcing shots into double teams but finding shooters in the corner or cutters over his shoulder. Surprisingly good foul shooter. No nonsense, plays like a true post, finishing on one end and defending the rim on the other. In an early Saturday game REACH’s coach, Marcus Webster, called a timeout just to make sure Thomas could dunk, after his young center finessed in a layup.

Isaiah Williams  6-4  Jr  Tri-City Heat (Unionville-Sebewaing): Strong kid who can finish inside or step out and shoot. Good high school player, especially at the Class C level; explosiveness will determine if there’s a next-level future.

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