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MIDWEST RECRUITING: Burney tracks the offseason hoops news in his Hardwood Chronicles

By: Scott Burnstein, September 12, 2018, 10:40 pm


Michigan Moving Day … again

The MHSAA’s rocket ship left for Ohio last week.

Mark (Rocket) Watts, one of the early frontrunners for the 2019 Mr. Basketball award, has transferred from Old Redford Academy to Spire Institute near Cleveland. The fearless point guard joins one-time 2019 Mr. Basketball candidate Harlond Beverly (Southfield Christian) in taking the transfer route. Beverly, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, is at Montverde Academy in Florida. These developments place the upcoming Mr. Basketball race pretty much alone at the doorstep of New Haven’s Romeo Weems.

Watts and Beverly, both four-star recruits, are currently uncommitted. Weems (6-foot-7 small forward) committed to DePaul in May. Weems and Watts suited up for Team USA in the offseason.

ESPN considers Watts the No. 27 player in the nation’s senior class. His “elite eight” of college choices are: Michigan, Michigan State, Florida State, Missouri, Oregon, Louisville, UConn and Xavier

Spire Institute has been raiding the state’s boys hoops ranks since the summer when Jermaine Jackson was named coach. The Detroit Finney grad played in the NBA, coached at Mount Clemens earlier in the decade and was most recently an assistant at the University of Detroit-Mercy. Watts’ Old Redford frontcourt of Isaiah Jackson and Aundre Polk enrolled at Spire Institute in August, along with three-star forward Myron Gardner, formerly at Detroit Loyola. Jackson is a five-star prospect and had been the state’s No. 1 recruit for the Class of 2020.


Crossing Over

Ann Arbor Pioneer senior point guard Drew Lowder committed to Holy Cross over the weekend. Lowder averaged 20 points and five assists per game last year as a junior and quarterbacks an offense as well as any floor general in the state. Scouting reports highlight his drive-and-dish and finishing capabilities.

Holy Cross, located in Massachusetts, is a Division I program out of the Patriot League. Grand Rapids Calvin Christian grad Blake Verbeek (6-foot-10 center) signed with Holy Cross in the spring and is a freshman on the Crusaders roster.



Bowling for Lady Hoopsters

Bowling Green came into the state and snagged two junior juggernauts over the weekend with Class of 2020 prospects Kenzie Lewis (Williamston) and Sophie Dziekan (Brighton) both committing to new Falcons head coach Robyn Fralick. Lewis is the consummate floor general. Dziekan plays with tenacity in the post.


The Mad Bombers

Two of the best outside shooters in the state, Birmingham Detroit Country Day senior sniper Maddie Novak and Coopersville senior gunner Cara VanKempen found their respective homes at the next level last week, as Novak committed to Stetson and VanKempen committed to Valparaiso. Novak helped lead DCD to a Class B state championship last winter. VanKempen recorded 15 points per night last year.


Winners gonna win

Shine Strickland-Gills is coming off a Class A championship season with Saginaw Heritage, and ended up landing at a college program with a bunch of recent success, too.

The 6-foot-1 forward announced her commitment to Central Michigan University this week, and will join a Chippewa program that went 30-5, and won two NCAA tournament games before losing to Oregon in the Sweet 16. She’ll join a recruiting class that includes Midland Dow’s Molly Davis and Warren Cousino’s Kate McArthur.