Douglass, with new coach, new players, is formidable once again
Detroit – Much has changed since Detroit Douglass lost in the Class B semifinals last season to Milan, the eventual champion.
Gone is coach Nkwane Young and the seniors that represented the core of the team.
Young took over the boys program at Wayne Memorial and taking his place at Douglass is Pierre Brooks, the former head coach at Detroit King.
Few expected Douglass to be a factor this season in the Detroit Public School League. League officials took the same view and moved the Hurricanes down from the top division in the PSL away from Class A powers like Detroit Pershing and King to the Division 2 East with teams like Detroit Communication & Media Arts, a Class C school.
Led by junior “Sweet” James Smith III, Douglass is one of the surprise teams in the PSL so far this season. The Hurricanes are 5-4 overall, 2-0 in the division heading into Tuesday’s game at CMA (5-2, 2-0). Game time is 4 p.m.
Brooks said the major reason for the team’s good start is simple. The players and the coaches are having fun.
“It’s been a good experience,” Brooks said. “Nobody has varsity experience. Smith played on the JV last season. Nkwane thought it best, with all the seniors he had, to keep Smith on the JV to allow him to gain experience.
“The guys are focused. Basketball and academics are their priorities. Douglass is a hidden gem. This is the first time I’ve been in a situation where the administration is totally supportive. I’m teaching gym and the classroom sizes are small.”
Douglass is the only all-male school that competes in the PSL. The school has a dress code. Student conduct and academics are constantly stressed.
In Brooks’ corner is Shaheed Saleem, the school’s athletic director and junior varsity coach. Saleem coached Detroit City High to the Class D finals three times and winning the title once (2000). Saleem is a basketball guy for sure but his main priority is developing boys into men. Saleem won’t tolerate a lack of discipline and that suits Brooks just fine.
Smith is one of the best-kept secrets in the PSL. He’s a 6-1 point guard who’s averaging 20 points and six assists. In a victory over Detroit Southeastern Smith made a 3-pointer to send the game to overtime and it was his layup that won it.
“He’s real savvy,” Brooks said. “He knows how to create space. He’s a traditional point guard, which you don’t find too much anymore.”
Metro Detroit suburb’s top division
The Oakland Activities Association expanded from three to four divisions this season. Each division has six teams and the top division is the Red. Topping the list is Clarkston (6-0), ranked No. 9 in Class A. But North Farmington (7-0) and Rochester Adams (4-2) are also considered top contenders for the title along with Southfield (4-2).
Southfield returned all of its starters but one, sophomore Amauri Hardy, suffered a knee injury and its uncertain when or if he will return this season.
Another sophomore, Mike Flowers, is one of coach Gary Teasley’s best players and it was Flowers who made the winning 3-pointer with seven seconds left against Troy Athens (66-63) last Friday.
Two seniors, Isaiah Green and Khary Fanning, are Teasley’s top inside players. Green is the better rebounder and Fanning is more athletic. Green had 23 points and 21 rebounds in a 61-48 victory over Gary (IN) Bowman (Ind.) Academy on Dec. 29.
“I like this team,” Teasley said. “Right now, this is a fun time in my coaching career.”
Teasley started coaching at Southfield in 1994 before he took some time off from the game. He returned in ’05 and has been on the bench ever since.