Clarkston High School has 2,500 students. One of them, Matthew Nicholson, is 7-feet tall. His senior class hasn’t lost a league game. They’ll close the OAA-Red slate clean tonight at home against Lake Orion. The last real threat was earlier this week at West Bloomfield. Nicholson had 20 points, 20 rebounds and six blocked shots and sophomore guard Fletcher Loyer put a Scottie Pippen on the Lakers, 33 points in Clarkston’s 79-68 win.
The Wolves are 18-1, their only loss coming in December to Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, those two with Waterford Mott giving Oakland County three Division 1 state contenders.
Nicholson’s defensive impact is immense, well beyond just six blocks. He’s not a stiff lane clogger planted under the rim. He slides up and down defending the whole paint; can step out on the wings and get low; and has learned to play without fouling. His first whistle against WB didn’t come until late in the second quarter. The highlight defensive sequence came with Nicholson hunting a guard in the full-court, stripping him and going the other way for a dunk. That was one of three steals for the future Northwestern Wildcat.
Offensively Nicholson does what you hope so many young big guys do — just act like the little high school defenders aren’t even there. West Bloomfield didn’t have anyone within a half-foot of Nicholson. He knew just the tops of their heads as he dunked regularly, conducted solo tip drills unmolested and took his time to pick apart the Lakes’ D for inside-out three-pointers. Nicholson does some next-level things that make him invaluable as the hub of Clarkston’s offense, with how he positions himself at very spots in the paint, already thinking of the passing angle … when it’s not a lob dunk play to him. He was credited with three assists.
Fletcher Loyer may have an older brother playing at MSU, but the game of this 6-4 top five 2022 prospect is more like Foster Loyer’s freshman teammate with the Spartans, Rocket Watts. Loyer’s deep ball has been cash all winter. He came in with already over 100 three-pointers made in his young career, and had three more on the Lakers. More impressive in this contest was his creativity, athleticism and skill level with the in-between game and on the break. He rarely stops running which is wise as Nicholson doesn’t need any help on the glass so there are leakout opportunities galore. Loyer can just as easily advance the ball himself, or spot up and shoot the jumper off the break from point guard Keagan Wasilk, a fellow sophomore, while also having the vision, IQ and hands to slip through passes to the baseline in the half-court offense. It was a transition 3 via that connection that pretty much gave Clarkston the buffer it needed, up 12 with 90 seconds left in the third quarter.
Loyer’s most impressive bucket came again on the break, but this time WB had done a good job getting back and had cut off the right block. Fletcher adjusted at near full speed with a kind of inverted Euro step, hitting a fading, soft left-handed shot from the right side. The very next trip has nearly as impressive, as Loyer sunk an and-1 floater straight on at the hoop, after getting to the lane with his left from the right wing. He’s equipped for those kind of shots, lanky and kind of unfurls to finish scores around the hoop, or to get tips defensively. A talented kid who keeps getting better, a huge majority of D1 college teams would kill to have a guard like this.