WATCHING THE THRONE: Burney checks in with the defending boys hoops champs
With less than a month to go in the regular season, all four defending boys basketball state champions appear poised to make serious runs at a repeat. Can you say BACK-2-BACK? These champs are ready to go BLING CRAZY one more time.
So, let’s check-in with the title holders aka let’s WATCH THE THRONE:
In Division 1, forget about a repeat, it could be a THREE-peat as a reloaded and retooled Clarkston Wolves squad continues to make waves. The red-hot, youth-infused Wolfpack is on a 13-game win streak, straight thrashing the comp at every turn. The electrifying freshmen backcourt of Fletcher Loyer and Keegan Wasilk has taken the state by storm. These two are a Tsunami of Swagger, one of the most devastating ninth-grade hoopster tandems to emerge around here in quite a while. Junior 7-foot center Matt Nicholson is breaking out in the paint in a major way and role players like Jake Jensen, Desmond Mills-Bradley, Mike DePillo and Cole Donchez are consistently contributing. Timmy Wasilk (Keegan’s uncle) has stepped in on the sidelines for retired legend Dan Fife and made sure the C-Town Cage Crew upholds its tradition of excellence. Clarkston is 13-2 and coasting towards its 13th straight OAA Red banner.
In Division 2, Carlos “Scooby” Johnson has Benton Harbor (15-1) primed to retain the crown. Johnson, a 6-foot-7 smooth and versatile force of nature out of the frontcourt, is only a junior and well on his way to becoming an all-time great on the west side of the state. Fellow forwards Justin Brown and Chris Conway cause additional match-up problems for opponents. Jamon Walker has been a pleasant surprise running the point for the Tigers and Quindarius Davis and Kentrell Pullian have been pesky and proficient from the perimeter on the both ends of the floor out of the backcourt.
In Division 3, Detroit Edison (10-4) lost a lot from its 2018 club, but with 6-foot-7 senior wing Brian Taylor at the helm of the Pioneers’ attack this winter the team remains formidable. Taylor might be the most underrated superstar in Metro Detroit, just pure sugar in the shadows. Raynard Williams (6-foot-4 junior) and Kevin Millender (5-foot-11 freshman) have come out of nowhere to form a fire-and-ice backcourt, as Williams’ hot shooting and ferocious finishing skills provides the fire and Millender’s cool demeanor at the point brings the ice. Juniors Bryce George and Thaddeus Powell are rangy and active in the frontcourt. Edison is the only team to beat Benton Harbor this year.
In Division 4, Southfield Christian (8-6) has finally found its footing after some early-season stumbles. The Eagles lost two starters in the offseason to transfers (Mr. Basketball candidate Harlond Beverly moved to Florida’s Montverde Academy and Caleb Hunter left for U-D Jesuit) and had to rediscover their mojo minus the departing high-wattage talent. They started the year 2-5, but have won eight of their last nine and have enough mojo right now to make Austin Powers and Jim Morrison jealous. Da’Jion "Bubba" Humphrey is a college-recruit and primetime playmaker of a junior guard and senior Jon Sanders is a scorcher in the open court, averaging a team-high 20 points per night. Sanders, who saw limited minutes last season, has blossomed into a star with a highlight-reel arsenal of moves to the rack. Noah Rheker, Rahmon Scruggs and Will Harahan round out the starting five and are rock’em-sock’em complimentary pieces. Rheker and Scruggs average 15 points per game, more than tripling their averages from 2018. Harahan has taken 20 charges so far.