Burney's Bytes with Scott Burnstein


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Ferndale cagers are coming into their own, peaking at the right time

By: Scott Burnstein, March 5, 2019, 3:40 pm

From frontrunners to forgotten about, to now hot as a pistol.

Ferndale’s boys basketball club is firing on all cylinders, torching nets en route to an unexpected state tournament run. The suddenly surging Eagles put up 90 points per outing in their thunderous three-night jaunt through the D2 districts in which they won their games by an average of 34 points.

Complete devastation from a squad most had written off the page months ago. Poetic justice in the form of a deluge of offensive prowess and character-building resolve displayed by a group of determined young men.

The 2019 campaign has been a roller coaster for first-year head coach Juan Rickman and his troops. Rickman arrived at Ferndale back in the summer from Detroit East English Village along with four high-profile transfers who were all college recruits that had played for him at EEV last season. Ferndale’s revamped lineup arguably made the Eagles a top-10 team and brought with it preseason expectations of contending for a D2 state title.

But three of the new players (point guard Simon Wheeler, center Colin Golson and wing Jayshawn Moore) were ruled ineligible for the entire season due to the transfer being deemed athletically-motivated and many considered that the end of the story for the 2019 Ferndale hoop crew. Back to also-ran status they presumed.

Instead, the Eagles flipped the script. After an up-and-down first half of the schedule where they reassembled their rotation to account for the missing pieces, they’ve reeled off 10 wins in their last 12 games, playing Rickman’s trademark fast and furious style on both ends of the floor.

“I really think that whole situation was a blessing in disguise,” Rickman said. “We had to take responsibility for ourselves. We had to look in the mirror and ask ourselves if we can respond, if we want to own this? Guys wouldn’t go quietly into the night. They wanted to step up and fight to fill the void. That’s how you build a culture.”

Once senior Sudi McElroy, the lone EEV transplant to get cleared, became eligible in late December, Ferndale (15-8) became a force. McElroy, a smooth 6-foot-7 wing, is averaging 25 points and 8 rebounds per night. Fellow senior Teonta McKeithen (6-foot-4 G/F) has had a breakout season, pouring in 21 points and 7 boards per game and acting as a stopper on defense. Keelen Lucas, another senior, is an always ready to rock’n roll type running the point while freshman Treyvon Lewis has come along quickly at the two-guard spot.

Lewis led the Eagles with 22 points in their 81-56 drubbing of Warren Lincoln in the district finals Friday. Ferndale faces Detroit Douglas and flashy sophomore scoring machine Pierre Brooks, Jr. in a regional semifinal Tuesday that should be brimming with fireworks.