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Up North Challenge: Saginaw Top Knights do it clean

Ninth-grade champion: Saginaw Top Knights

9th-grade All-Tournament Team:

  • MVP  Deon Hardy  5-10  8th  Saginaw Top Knights (Arthur Hill)
  • Jake Champagne  6-0  Fr  North Oakland Wolfpack (Oxford)
  • Nick Dise  5-11  Fr  REAL Gold (Mt. Pleasant)
  • Tyler Dorsey  6-3  Fr  Saginaw Top Knights (Arthur Hill)
  • Landon Kulawiak  6-2  Fr  Parallel 45-Koepke (Buckley)
  • Tucker Walther  6-2  Fr  Strictly Skills (Schoolcraft)

Up North Challenge ninth-grade MVP Deon Hardy, an eighth-grader headed to Arthur Hill.

While he was the youngest on the court, no one was more dangerous or effective in the ninth-grade division of the Up North Challenge than Deon Hardy from the champion Saginaw Top Knights. A 5-10 2026 prospect headed to Saginaw Arthur Hill, he played with the fearlessness and chutzpah you expect from his hometown. Deon scored 25 points in the championship game with the North Oakland Wolfpack — with no three-pointers, and including the game-winning Elam Ending free throw. He attacks and attacks daring you to keep him out of the lane, or not foul him; good luck. As he becomes a high school player and adds change of speeds watch out, as he already comes with the explosiveness, chutzpah and guts you need for the position, and before the last game showed a 3 ball as well

Hardy set the tone for a Top Knights team that went undefeated on the weekend in Mt. Pleasant. Scrappy, tough and athletic, everyone scored for them in the final. The most talented of the lot looks to be Arthur Hill freshman Tyler Dorsey, a smooth 6-3 2025 prospect with a mature offensive game. He can pull up mid-range to score or drive-and-pitch to the guard shooters. The Top Knights have a promising post project in 6-7 freshman Bryce Lewis. He has the feel for being in the right place, now needs hoop reps and jump rope to start getting there quicker. Helping up front with his physicality off the glass or drive was Jayden Murrell, a 6-2 Arthur Hill freshman. Coop Wagner is a promising eighth-grader for STK. 6-1 Arthur Hill freshman Jeremiah Gipson hit some timely 3s in the final.

In an already strong Michigan 2025 guard class, the Wolfpacks’ Jake Champagne, a 6-0 freshman from Oxford, has to be mentioned among its best backcourt prospects. He put up big numbers all spring .and didn’t disappoint here, with 19 points in the championship game after 26 in the semifinals with Parallel 45. He’s a slasher with a big first step then balance, explosion and creativity off of two feet in the paint. A number of things separate him offensively at his age, with how he can go hard but finish softly; use of the glass via myriad angles; and how his momentum is to the basket and rarely ends up over the baseline after layups.

A 6-3 sniper with a Clarkston basketball bloodline, North Oakland Wolfpack 2025 John Kaul scored 17 against Saginaw in the final, and 25 against them earlier in the tournament. Has a big-shot knack and plays with passion; hustled back hard in transition defense. Zach Parks a 6-2 2025 from Brandon, has a good wingspan, motor, is sticky around the ball and one of the better defenders in the 15U field. The Wolfpack have a good eighth-grader playing up themselves on 15U in Breckin Cicalo from Flint Powers. He’s small but brings good energy to the ball and isn’t intimidated when he gets after it on D, either.

Landon Kulawiak, a 6-2 freshman from Buckley, is a lefty with a very consistent three-point shot. He has the same release whether coming off screens or creating off the bounce. Knows his spots and has a diverse arsenal to reach them. His feel for the game isn’t that of a rote smalltown shooter, as he’s becoming more creative, wise and generous with the ball, with a number of flashy but fundamental dimes off the drive. Kulawiak scored 25 against the North Oakland Wolfpack and 22 including five 3s against the champion Saginaw Top Knights.

How is this for a modern player? Strictly Skills’ Tucker Walther, a 6-2 2025 and the only freshman on Schoolcraft’s state championship team, scored 27 points against REAL Gold — all on three-pointers. He had another 27-point game, this one with six from behind the arc.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Lorane

    June 2, 2022 at 1:16 am

    I love the write up and the highlights you gave to each of the boys

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