In Play with Tom Markowski

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Marcus Bingham of GR Catholic Central could be a diamond in the rough for MSU coach Tom Izzo

By: Tom Markowski, December 18, 2017, 3:42 pm

Grand Rapids – The sky is the limit for Marcus Bingham, Jr., of Grand Rapids Catholic Central.

Bingham, who said he’s 6-9½ inches tall but looks like he’s 6-11 and plays like a 7-footer with the ball handling skills of a wing, has started fewer than 20 games at the varsity level and won’t turn 18 until July.

Yet he’s already one of the state’s top players and could well make that short list of Mr. Basketball candidates when those selections are made by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan in February.

He signed with Michigan State and there’s little doubt that Bingham can play for coach Tom Izzo. The question is, where will Izzo play Bingham? Will he play him at the five spot to take advantage of Bingham’s length (his wingspan is 7 feet, 4 inches) and his shot-blocking ability or will Izzo use Bingham as a stretch four where his perimeter shooting will be better utilized.

Bingham and Catholic Central opened this season at Detroit Country Day and he had 33 points and 17 rebounds in a 90-84 victory. Bingham also played well in the Cougars’ 73-49 victory at Grand Rapids Christian but was slowed down a bit in Catholic Central’s third game, a 62-58 victory at Grand Rapids Covenant Christian, last Friday.

Covenant Christian was a Class C finalist last season and are well-coached. The Chargers have a fine player in Carson Meulenberg who’s listed at 6-6 and is the team’s tallest player. But Meulenberg is a perimeter player, one who possesses a fine 3-point shot. Covenant Christian doesn’t have a true post player and coach Tyler Schimmel often had a guard defending Bingham. This strategy worked especially early in the game when Bingham was held to one rebound, one block and no field goal or free throw try in the first quarter as Covenant Christian led, 14-11.

Most teams will use a different defenses against Bingham in an attempt to rattle or confuse him. He knows that and said he just needs to adjust.

“Their guards were on me, just seeing how I would react,” he said.

 Bingham was more active in the second quarter as he had five rebounds, one block and was 2-of-4 from the field and 2of-4 from the free throw line.

For the game Bingham had 15 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks. He also had four turnovers.

The Catholic Central coaching staff is still trying to figure out the best way to use their star player. This is understandable. Bingham transferred to Catholic Central from Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills after his sophomore year and had to sit out the first semester last season. The word chemistry is often used by coaches and players alike when a situation like this occurs. Sure, Bingham is one of the best players but he still must learn how to fit into a new system with new players.

And coach T.J. Meerman has a good team at Catholic Central. The Cougars were 19-5 last season and lost in a regional final. This team could well contend for a Class B title. There’s Jacob Polakovich, a 6-8 senior who’s been offered a scholarship by a handful of Division II schools. Austin Braun is a 5-10 junior who’s a pass-first point guard and the quarterback of the club. Darrell Belcher is a 6-2 junior who is able to take the ball to the basket in a forceful manner. He also has a good midrange jump shot.

Bingham is certainly the focal point. His form on his jump shot is surprisingly good for a player his size and one who really doesn’t have that much experience at the varsity level.

Bingham was 6-8 last season and it’s quite possible he could add a half inch or even a full inch before he’s done growing. He has become a stronger player since last season. He weighs 206 pounds and he must continue to gain weight and add strength to play Big 10 basketball.

“It would be an honor to be a Mr. Basketball candidate,” he said. “To bring the award back to (Grand Rapids) would be a big accomplishment.”

The last time a player from Grand Rapids won the Hal Schram Mr. Basketball Award was in 2006. That player was David Kool of Grand Rapids South Christian.