In Play with Tom Markowski

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The race for the 2018 Mr. Basketball Award will likely feature a 6-player field; here are the front runners and the longshots

By: Tom Markowski, December 17, 2017, 5:13 pm

This season’s candidates for the Hal Scram Mr. Basketball Award appears to be limited to six players with Clarkston’s Foster Loyer and Brandon Johns of East Lansing representing the frontrunners as December nears its end.

The other four – Marcus Bingham, Jr., of Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Gabe Brown of Belleville, David Dejulius, Jr., of Detroit East English Village Prep and Trevion Williams of Detroit Henry Ford Academy School for Creative Studies – are worthy candidates but need help to move past Loyer and/or Johns. First, they must remain healthy. Two, they need to show noticeable improvement from a season ago and, three, their teams must have great, not just good, seasons.

First let’s look at some of the recent to gain a perspective on this group of seniors.

In the 2007-08 season Brad Redford of Frankenmuth edged out Saginaw’s Draymond Green, the preseason favorite, for the award. Green suffered an injury a few months before the start of the season and was not 100 percent the first half of the season. Green’s performance in the second half of the season was significantly better and his team went on to win the Class A title. But by the time the state tournament began many voters (members of the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan) had made up their minds. Also, Frankenmuth reached a Class B quarterfinal, a game played after the votes were tabulated, giving the pro-Redford voters even more of a reason to vote for him.

The 2010-11 winner, Dwaun Anderson of Suttons Bay, was a complete surprise to most. LaDontae Henton of Lansing Eastern and Amir Williams of Detroit Country Day (they finished two-three, respectively) were considered the top candidates but neither signed a letter-of-intent with an instate school as Anderson (Michigan State) had. Looking back, that had to be a contributing factor.

Let’s think back to last season. Xavier Tillman of Grand Rapids Christian was the favorite going into the season and many assumed he would win it especially when you consider Christian was ranked No. 1 in Class A (Christian lost to Clarkston in the Class A final). But Isaiah Livers of Kalamazoo Central won the award in one of the closest races. Both Tillman and Livers had fine seasons, and many still wonder how or why Livers was the choice of the voters. Tillman signed with Michigan State and Livers signed with Michigan so signing with an instate school could not have influenced the voters.

The point of looking at past winners is to learn that just because a player might be the frontrunner and his team might be one of the state’s best does not necessarily mean that player will be named Mr. Basketball.

Clarkston is currently ranked No. 1 and that would seem to be in Loyer’s favor. But East Lansing is also unbeaten and ranked in the top 10 in Class A. Loyer signed with MSU, Johns with U-M.

So where does that leave the other four? Go back to when Anderson won the award in 2011. Anything can happen.

Of the other four it looks like Dejulius would have the best chance to break up this two-player party. He’s a four-year starter and even before he entered high school those in the know knew about Dejulius. East English is one of the top-rated teams and considered one of the top contenders to win the Detroit Public School League title. Dejulius, like Johns, also signed with U-M.

Bingham (MSU), Brown (MSU) and Williams (Purdue) all signed with Big 10 schools but none received much acclaim as freshmen as the other three did. Brown was considered a mid-major recruit before his junior season when he really blossomed as a player. Bingham attended Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills and after his sophomore year he transferred to Catholic Central. He sat out the first semester of his junior year because of the transfer rule and, in reality, has little varsity experience. Williams came to Detroit after finishing one year of high school in Chicago. He didn’t receive the hype most players do when they enter high school. To many he is still a relatively unknown. He attends a charter school and his team plays the weakest schedule of the six listed in this article.

Belleville started the season 1-2 but the Tigers play a difficult nonleague schedule, one that include Detroit Edison, Ann Arbor Skyline, West Bloomfield and Muskegon. These games will help Brown gain more attention. Henry Ford Academy started 2-1 but other than River Rouge, State Champs top-ranked team in Class B, its schedule won’t attract much attention. Catholic Central is 3-0 and will play at Wyoming Godwin Heights on Wednesday. Both teams are considered contenders for the Class B title. Catholic Central’s league (O=K Conference Blue Division) isn’t particularly strong but the Cougars do play a few strong teams in nonconference including Holland West Ottawa in the regular-season finale.

State Champs will take a closer look at players, like Bingham, who are considered longshots for the coveted individual award in the next few days. On Monday we’ll take a closer look at Bingham. On Tuesday Williams will be featured.