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Big North 2024: The Big Three

Gaylord 6-4 junior Luke Gelow.

The Big North Conference has three scholarship-caliber prospects in the 2024 class — 6-4 Gaylord junior Luke Gelow, 6-6 Cadillac junior Charles Howell and 6-3 Traverse City Central junior Anthony Ribel.

Luke Gelow  6-4  Jr  Gaylord: He had the hot hand in an entertaining second-half comeback in Gaylord’s loss to Traverse City Central, in a shootout with Ribel. He’s good off the ball — slippery, sneaky, aware and quick cutter; and with the ball, as he covers a lot of space with one bounce, the floor just seems to open up for him on the break and he’s left-handed always an advantage against forgetful teenage defenders. A rare high school athlete who can made the decision mid-air, Should I dunk it or finger roll it this time? A good shooter on the catch and in rhythm, with easy range well beyond the college three-point line, who averages 18.6 points per game. He needs to work on shot selection; on mid-range doesn’t need to fadeaway when he has the superior athleticism and wingspan on the court. Guys from Northern Michigan of similar size and styles — Pellston’s Chris Hass who went D1 and Glen Lake’s Xander Okerlund who went D2 — were always straight up and down on the jumpshot. He has feel, vision and unselfishness as a passer, needs to consistently deliver two-third bounce passes. The court got a lot smaller when Gaylord played Cadillac than against TC Central, nothing came easy and it wasn’t Gelow’s preferred pace, but he still was able to cobble together points, flashing to the post and getting fouled.  Against TC Central he upped his game in crunch time, becoming a more active rebounder, and demanding the ball. Not a physical grinder but with Gelow’s athletic tools he can be a plus defender, making plays as a freelancer and ideal in a run-and-jump scenario. His most telling defensive series against the Trojans when he checked Ribel on a blob, his length forcing the TC Central guard to set up deep in the back court, have to call for one and then two screens to try and shake Gelow, by the second one he had his head down and lost the ball among a sea of three defenders.

Charles Howell  6-5  Jr  Cadillac: He’s the cornerstone of what is by far the best team of the three represented here. Cadillac is 12-1, having beaten Gaylord twice and Traverse City Central once. Howell is an old school all-around athlete who is also the Vikings’ starting quarterback and a standout pitcher in the spring. Which makes his basketball acumen all the more impressive, and potential as a hoops-only recruit intriguing because there’s a lot to work with — starting with his big, athletic frame and nearly peerless work ethic. A good defender in a program that demands it, able to play big as needed in the paint or low and wide on the wings. With Cadillac’s pace and his position on offense, the AAU season will help Howell both in terms of showing his up-and-down playmaking and dunking, and volume touches in college scoring spaces rather than high post or short corners. He’s averaging 14 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocked shots.

Anthony Ribel  6-3  Jr  Traverse City Central: He consistently puts up big scoring numbers in a league with good coaches who have him well scouted by now, and in a league where the pace generally isn’t conducive to sexy stats. And even more impressive, is that Ribel does it while being unselfish with the ball. If there aren’t two guys on him there are two more waiting, and he gets open looks for teammates when that happens. He averages 22.5 point, 5.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. Tough to keep out of the lane as he can go right or left, changes speeds and is patient once he gets his shoulder into you. That same patience makes Ribel dangerous using ball screens. He knows his team needs his points and is relentless coming at you and can beat you shooting from 20, 15 or 2 feet out. The biggest punch to Gaylord came with a 3 from Ribel after a timeout, for a 57-52 lead and giving them that smoke with 4:20 left to play. While the volume can produce some bad shots, it’s not too alarming as he won’t have to do so much at the college level and his complementary playmaking and shooting would really shine. Still, to that end, knowing how hard it is to be a ball-handling scholarship guard out of the North, and that the two big Traverse City schools, Central and West, have been a virtual recruiting dead zone ever since split in 1997 with not one player from either signing D1 out of either since (by point of comparison in a decade form 1983-92 TC High sent Dan and Jeff Majerle to CMU, Chad Allen to SMU and Vic Trierweiler to Pacific), there are areas in his game Ribel will have to tighten to give himself the best chance at the next level: Looping stride Euro steps kill any momentum for power percentage finishes, and negates his plus size as a high school guard; against Gaylord a 12-foot charge instead of a 16-foot pull-up aka what John Beilein called “the shot you have to make to play college basketball; better clock and scoreboard awareness, as in the Gaylord game up five with two minutes left he missed a 3 contested by Gelow, then missed two layups with 90 seconds left, and another with 50 seconds left, again with the lead and puzzling as if he held onto the ball easier points would ensue as Ribel made 5-of-6 free throws in the final 3:00.

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