The West Michigan Lakers have consistently fielded some of the strongest teams in the Camp Darryl Classic through the tournament’s decade-and-a-half run. 2016 was no different as the Lakers 17U went undefeated, eventually beat HoopGrind in the title game.
The Lakers’ 6-5 West Ottawa junior Jake VanTubbergen was the 17U MVP. He’s a tough matchup with the ball given his length, feel and bounce. He’ll spin finesse finger roll you, then bang out in transition. Frail physique will frighten some coaches, though VanTubbergen’s two older brothers were college QBs so the frame is in there somewhere. What they do have to like is that JVT is a program builder at WO for what will be a top 10 Class A team in 2017; skill; upside; competitiveness; grades. GLIAC, Patriot League, Ivy need to check him out in July.
The Lakers have another D1/D2 borderline junior in 6-8 Zack Niewkoop from Wayland. He was out injured, but frontline depth prevailed for the Purple & Black; 6-7 Rockford junior Ryan Gamm can move men around the hoop, screen and has good hands; 6-7 Lowell junior Austin Branagan is playing focuses, can knock it down from the short corner or get to the basket; and Western Michigan Christian junior Daniel Ray has a soft shooting touch at 6-8. The team’s catalyst is found a head down the totem pole in 5-8 Wayland junior Avery Hudson. He’s fearless, which makes up for a lot.
HoopGrind didn’t have the size or depth to hang with the Lakers in the final, and they’d already been worn down with a one-point, OT win over the MBA National 16U (playing up) in the semifinals. For HoopGrind, 5-10 McBain junior Logan Eling is a clutch shooter who is quick and tough enough to counter and drive in traffic; 6-3 Grayling junior Spencer White fills the gaps to knock down shots, is efficient and can guard bigger players; and you wouldn’t know 6-1 Harrison Gilstrap from Bath was just a sophomore with the way he shot it.
The Lakers had a comeback win in the semifinals over a talented West Michigan Elite team. 6-3 Vicksburg junior Deondre Lovell is a big-time finisher when the game is wide open and needs to work on his guard game for when it slows down and there’s a man in front of him; not many men want to stay in front of 6-4 Kalamazoo Central junior Roger Stein when he gets going downhill, he can rebound out of his area then score it on the other end; 6-3 Three Rivers sophomore Tirrell Hausmanis was WM Elite’s all-tournament selection, another agile widebody inside who can step out and shoot.
MBA’s 16U has one of the state’s top 2018 point guard and post duos, with 6-1 James Vallar (Kalamazoo Christian) and 6-2 Duane Washington (Grand Rapids Christian); and 6-8 Marcus Bingham (Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills) and 6-10 Blake Verbeek (Grandville Calvin Christian). Vallar is a bulldog going to the rack where he gets his shot off with strength and explosiveness, and carried the team in pool play. Washington came back from a tweaked ankle to for stretches carry MBA on Sunday. His high-arc J is money, hits the forwards on their hands and can play at different paces. Washington is the more consistent decision maker of the two. Verbeek’s favorite shot is the corner 3 but can also flip in shots from the blocks and can catch and finish on the break. Bingham uses his wingspan defensively and has a decent feel offensively, just needs some strength to finish.
A physical triplet to the two slender MBA posts came from the Macomb County Cougars 6-9 Troy junior Christian Lafayette. He’s long and can turn ends, but the lefty shot is really erratic. Still a nice investment for a small college program. One of the top shooters in the event was the Mid-Michigan Lakers Austin Harles, a 6-0 junior poised for a big year at Holly. Shoreline Elite’s 6-7 Grand Haven junior Ross Koella could be getting GLIAC offers like similar forwards Niewkoop and Nick Welch from St. Mary Catholic Central, but those two have a bit more dog in them.