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New Year’s Top 25 Teams

Who dat? Who dat? Who dat think they gonna beat them Tigers? No one has, so far, as Benton Harbor is 7-0.

1. Benton Harbor 7-0 (Class B): The Tigers haven’t been tested yet, winning by an average of 37.5 points per game, and may not be until they face No. 3 Hazel Park February 3 at Grand Rapids Union. What distinguishes Benton Harbor is the unselfishness and passing ability up and down the lineup; and the superstar, 6-6 sophomore Carlos Johnson, is a dog with no prima donna leanings.

2. Detroit Cass Tech 7-0 (A): The defending PSL champion has no superstars or true big man (though 6-6 senior Randy Gilbert, a Ferris State signee has elevated his game closer to realizing his underclassman potential), but has a plethora of future college players and size throughout the roster. With its loaded 2019 class and possible high-major point guard in sophomore Tyson Acuff, the Technicians won’t be going anywhere soon but up.

3. Hazel Park 6-0 (A): The Vikings continue the theme here of playing great team basketball, as you can’t shut down just one player and beat them. The senior backcourt of Carl Bow and David Hearns has seemingly been around since the latter’s dad was fighting Hagler and the third senior guard, Devin Pettus, can play as well. Up front HP has two big-time athletes in 6-3 senior Kyle Washington and 6-5 senior Khari Adams. This group has wins over East English Village, U-D Jesuit, Pershing, Detroit Edison and Detroit Henry Ford. It may get tougher in the non-exhibition season as familiarity and scouting tend to make it, against the likes of Clarkston and Troy in the OAA-Red.

4. Ann Arbor Skyline 6-0 (A): Already on Skyline’s resume’ are double-digit wins against quality teams like AA Huron and Belleville, and a one-point victory eeked out against Pershing behind 23 points from Duquesne-bound point guard Brandon Wade. There’s all kinds of perimeter firepower here with Brandon Wade, Ryan Wade, Jack Ammerman and Christian Knox.

5. Clarkston 5-1 (A): There was so much attention being paid to Thomas Kithier not playing that few were looking at the product on the court — which wasn’t up to the standard of last year’s state championship team and was exposed with a dominant performance from East English’s David DeJulius. Prior to the loss the Wolves had beaten two strong teams, Wayne Memorial and Carman-Ainsworth, by a less than comfortable 15 points combined. That said, this is still as talented as any team in the state, even without its depth fully utilized.

6. East Lansing 6-0 (A): Michigan signee Brandon Johns made his Mr. Basketball bid with a 51-point performance and is the type of talent that can carry a team. A third-straight 20-0 regular season is certainly a possibility for the Trojans. But it’s also the third-straight regular season in which they don’t play any school East of Okemos, while Detroit-area contenders are getting battle-hardened beating up on each other. Eight-to-ten years ago that would have been less of a concern as Lansing area talent was stronger then.

7. Detroit East English Village 5-2 (A): After rough early-season outings against Hazel Park and and MLK, East English proved capable of beating anyone knocking off Clarkston last week at North Farmington.

8. Romulus 3-0 (A): Romulus hasn’t played often, but has two quality wins in that sample, over Ann Arbor Pioneer and Saginaw.

9. Detroit King 5-2 (A): The Crusaders started out 4-0 including victories over East English Village and DEPSA before dropping two of their last three. They’ll get a talent injection in the second semester when senior guard Marcus Gibbs, a transfer from rival Cass Tech, becomes eligible.

10. Canton 7-0 (A): Canton cracks the top 10 thanks to coming out of the 2017 portion of its schedule clean including some quality competition from Country Day, Belleville, Westland John Glenn, Troy and Divine Child. Junior point guard B. Artis White has long had the skill and hoops IQ, now he’s closing in on 6-feet and no longer has the physical limitations of his youth.

11. Detroit Edison 3-3 (C): At first blush it may seem odd to have a .500 Class C team ranked this high. Two of those losses were to top 10 teams, Hazel Park and King, and this is no ordinary Class C squad with three seniors already signed D1 — point guard PJ Mitchell to CMU, wing Gary Soloman to LIU-Brooklyn and center Deante Johnson to Cleveland state. Edison’s three wins weren’t against chumps either — Southfield Christian, Arthur Hill and Belleville.

12. Southfield Christian 4-2 (D): Similar to DEPSA, a small school with D1 talent and a serious schedule. In Southfield Christian’s case there are a pair of guards with high-major offers, junior Harlond Beverly (MSU, Ohio State, Xavier, Mizzou) and senior Bryce Washington (Pitt plus over a dozen mid-major offers). The best win to date was over No. 9 MLK, with losses to Pershing and DEPSA.

13. Wayne Memorial 5-1 (A): The Zebras have won five in a row since dropping their season opener to Clarkston by 10. Everyone knows about their big-time scorer, Cleveland State-bound Rashad Williams, but there’s more here, with talented junior point guard Isaiah Lewis and two-way, blue-collar senior guard Terrence Williams. Wayne can move up in the rankings as there are home games coming up against top 10 teams Canton and Skyline.

14. New Haven 6-0 (B): Even after graduating an impact D1 player in Eric Williams, the defending Class B state champion Rockets have yet to come down. 6-6 junior Romeo Weems is a dominant high school player with a high-major future. Their best win to date came in the season opener, beating De La Salle by 20 on a neutral court.

15. Ann Arbor Pioneer 3-1 (A): The Pioneers have beaten No. 9 MLK and their only loss is to No. 8 Romulus. When junior guard Drew Lowder is on he’s as good as anyone in Michigan and 6-8 junior Kasean Pryor has serious talent himself. We’ll find out just how real Pioneer is shortly, as the next three games are on the road against Belleville, Skyline and Huron.

16. River Rouge 5-0 (B): One of the state’s top coaches, Mark White, has the Panthers getting it done on the defensive end, where they’ve held opponents to 38 points per game.

17. Flint Carman-Ainsworth 4-1 (A): Lone loss is to Clarkston on the road by five. Very solid “up the middle” with senior point guard Ja’kavien Lewis and junior Mike Fletcher in the post.

18. DeWitt  5-1 (A): Underachievers last season, DeWitt is making up for it this time around behind a pair of GLIAC seniors, Luke Hyde and Tanner Reha, and a heady junior point guard, Nate Flannery. Other than their season-opening loss to top 10 East Lansing, the Panthers have held every opponent to fewer than 50 points.

19. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 5-1 (A): Detroit Western transfer Lorne Bowman, a sophomore guard, has been terrific for the Eaglets, whose only loss is to Clarkston.

20. Novi Catholic Central 5-0 (A): Many had the other team in town, Novi High School, ranked preseason, but it’s been CC getting it done, averaging 79 points a game over a 5-0 start. The Shamrocks should only get better thanks to a strong junior class with their top college prospect, 6-6 Davis Lumkowski, 6-5 leaper Brendan Downs and guard Keegan Koehler. The Catholic League schedule comes fast, opening at No. 19 OLSM on January 9.

21. Wyoming Godwin Heights 4-1 (B): After a 4-0 start with quality wins over West Ottawa and Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Godwin took its first loss last Friday, on a neutral court to Forest Hills Central. Seniors Lamar Norman and Markeese Hastings are the top duo on in the state, though they were below their averages with a combined 47 against the Rangers.

22. Detroit Pershing 2-3 (C): Another school that is small in enrollment only, as one of the state’s most storied programs still runs some talent out there with seniors like point guard Ronald Hill, prime GLIAC target D’juan Seal and 6-5 Charles Brown. All of Pershing’s losses are to teams ranked higher — Skyline, Hazel Park and OLSM — and there’s also a win against a higher-ranked team, Southfield Christian.

23. West Ottawa 3-1 (A): Last season’s team was the best in Panthers’ history, but this one isn’t too shabby either thanks to elite two-sport athletes like 6-5 Tyler Bosma and point guard Xavier Wade. WO’s lone loss was the season opener to Godwin Heights. The primary challenge in the O-K Red should come from 5-1 Grand Haven.

24. Troy 4-1 (A): Led by a strong senior class, Troy’s only loss came to top 10 Canton by five points.

25. Warren De La Salle 3-2 (A): The only loss to an in-state team was the season opener to New Haven, by 20 which can be partially attributed to football hangover and also to New Haven being a damn good team. This looks like a classic Greg Esler team, won’t wow you with talent but have solid parts all around starting with slick passing point guard Justin Fischer, who is headed to Lake Superior State.

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