MVP Xander Okerlund 6-2 So Glen Lake: It’s probably 50/50 that nine months from now Okerlund will be 6-4 and coming off a high school season that saw him average at least 20 a game. If that comes to pass, Northern Michigan will have the closest thing to Chris Hass. Plays with the same kind of feel and smoothness, with points from pull-ups, 3s, fastbreaks and free throws. Scores while still making more smart passes than taking poor shots. When your initials are X and O you’d better be a smart player, which he is residing a couple plays ahead of his young high school peers. Which is why no one in camp go their hands on more balls. And experience helps. Over the past two seasons he’s a veteran of over 100 15U AAU games, likely the most among campers at that level. He embraced his matchup with AAU teammate Cade Coleman, in one stretch Xander extending at the basket to score over the camp’s top wing prospect, setting off a flurry of another layup, then a jumper, then an assist. Needs to sometimes play outside himself, sprint more and harder, as well as he’s playing the potential is so much more.
“My choice for camp MVP would be DeAndre Carter, or Xander,” a coach said. “He’s improved as much as any kid in the state over the past year. Competes all the time. He seems to have a fire in his eyes when he plays and leaves it all on the floor. A lanky, true scorer who can hit the open shot or finish at the hoop. He has a nice mid-range game off the dribble. He rebounds well for a guard and isn’t afraid of a little contact.”
Elijah Bell 5-9 So Detroit Consortium: Attack mode point guard who had a strength advantage on most defenders, so if he got his shoulder in them or all the way past them kept the pressure on all afternoon with how he was able to get into the paint. Even when he was going hard was able to maneuver the momentum, a rare trick for talented but youthful guards.
“One of the top three point guards at camp,” one coach said. “A shorter version of John Bagley. Can handle, defend, and shoot the open shot in a controlled way with great rotation.”
“Strong at the rim with either hand and makes the right pass when things close down,” said another. “Seems to score in bunches. Nice looking shot from 21 feet and in. Good rebounding guard who isn’t afraid to lead the break. Plays tough on ‘D,’ but sometimes got caught gambling off the ball.”
Isaiah Bridges 6-3 So Midland: Outstanding high school player. He was as productive as any kid at camp, with at least 20 and 10 in all three games, with a high of 32 points. If a year from now he’s either finishing above the rim or playing guard full time, it will be easier to project Bridges to the college rank. Could end up like CMU’s Kevin McKay.
“Not many of the campers or coaches would get this, but Bridges played like a Wes Unseld clone,” a coach said. “He went ‘hard as a mofo’ in drill stations, and harder in the games. Offensively Bridges has the skill set to play all five positions, complete with a nice mid-range game as well as a vast array of post moves and good court vision.”
“Undersized big, with a high motor!,” said another coach. “Runs the floor in both offensive and defensive transition. Has enough skill to lead the break if he sees daylight, or finish on the move. If he didn’t get to the rim immediately, did a good job moving without the ball. An improved jumper and this kid could be a matchup nightmare.”
Reece Castor 6-4 So Gladstone: It’s a long trek from the U.P., and Castor was all business making it a worthwhile trip. He was engaged and competitive throughout drills and that carried over to games. Would have loved to see his shot chart, as he was always using footwork and strength to get an even better look. Quick hands and instincts, allowing him to beat smaller guards to 50/50 balls. Similar to former Grand Valley State star Justin Ringler, with a mix of Jordan Bitzer. To project as a guard at the next level, will have to improve defensive quickness.
Said one coach: “Castor scored the ball whenever he wanted. At times it even appeared that guys were a bit scared of him.”
“One of the top three forwards at the camp,” said another. “Plays extremely hard and strong. Takes it to the basket and finishes. Great body for an incoming sophomore. Mature mind and body. Plays beyond his years.”
“Athletic guard who can lead or finish transition with the best of them,” added another. “Sneaky athlete, may have had the best first step at camp. Can score off the wing and even saw him play with his back to the basket and display a nice up-and-under move off the post catch. Finishes with contact and was consistent from 22 feet and in. I feel like his handle hasn’t caught up to his athleticism. But when it does, look out!”
Zach Goodline 5-10 So Coloma: Light on his feet and strong with either hand. As skilled as any player at camp, able to get the ball where he wanted. Small but hit some tough shots when he chose to drive while keeping defenses honest with the jumper. But where Goodline really shines is as a playmaker.
“Smart and tough point guard who got to the rim at will, as no one at the camp could stay in front of him,” said a coach. “Finished in a variety of ways when help didn’t come and found the open shooter when help did. Deadly in an open court, fast paced game, and poised enough to slow things down when numbers weren’t in his favor. Teammates seemed to like playing with him. Defends and plays the passing lanes very well, but could be more aggressive on the ball.”
“Goodline had a lot of fun making sweet highlight type passes during the games,” a second coach said. “He can also score the ball effectively.”
“Great vision,” another said. “Understands the game. Needs to make the easy, open pass when it presents itself.”
Dayton Keller 6-4 So Jackson Lumen Christi: Widebody post player with toughness and skill of the type who should average 20 and 10 as an upperclassman. While he doesn’t project like the 6-9 types in attendance, he produced against them in drills and games.
“He’s grown taller and filled out, to make a very interesting power player with skill,” a coach said. “Could turn out to be the skilled, tough enforcer type who can shoot, that every coach would love to have playing for them. He’s on his way.”
“Strong banger who may have been the surprise of the camp,” said another coach. “Can knock down jumpers from the ‘L’ or the corners, while having the most polished post game in camp. Defensively and offensively rebounds very well. Ceiling is limited due to height, but is a high school post that any coach in the state could build a team around.”