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BOYS BASKETBALL: Quality cagers coming out of the woodwork in Southfield

By: Scott Burnstein, December 20, 2012, 11:00 am

The city of Southfield is hoopster heaven this winter.

The boys basketball teams at Southfield, Southfield-Lathrup and Southfield Christian all sport formidable lineups and should contend for both league and district titles, at the very least.

Southfield is the most experienced squad of the group and the only one that is still undefeated. Taking down Auburn Hills Avondale 76-64 in a conference crossover battle on Tuesday, the Bluejays ran their record to a perfect 5-0.

Featuring a deep, seasoned and balanced rotation of 10 players, Southfield wasn’t afforded much respect by the pundits entering the campaign because it doesn’t have a superstar player.

Make no mistake, however, the Bluejays are quite dangerous.

Why shouldn’t they be – Southfield has won three straight Class A district championships, making back-to-back appearances in the final four in 2010 and 2011.

Three-year varsity letter-winners Earl Swift, Quinton Arnold, Darnell Butler and Brandon Bean are each consummate leaders and playmakers. Senior guard Jeff Greer is a feisty floor general and sophomores Isaiah Green and Marquel Ingram are considered Division I talents, blossoming more on the court each game.

Swift (the team’s leading scorer), Arnold and Ingram are smooth and steady perimeter threats, while Butler, Bean and Green are aggressive rebounders on the block, forming an intimidating post arsenal.

Ingram landed at Southfield two weeks ago when him and his mother moved into the school district. Last year, he played varsity ball in the Catholic League at UofD-Jesuit. His transition into the Bluejays attack has been virtually seamless – He pumped in 17 points in the win over Avondale.

“We’ve got a versatile group of ball players in the mix this year and we’re trying to take advantage of each of their individual talents in the way that is best for the team,” longtime Southfield head coach Gary Teasley said. “What I like most about these young men is that they have the right attitude and the correct approach to the game. They are hard-working and unselfish and those characteristics can take you a long way.”

An all-league wide receiver on the gridiron, Bean will be playing football in college at Ferris State. Him, Swift, Arnold and Butler were reserves on the Bluejays 2011 state semifinal cage squad and are in their second year as starters.

Unlike its crosstown rival that was underrated coming into the season, Southfield-Lathrup entered its 2012-2013 schedule picked by many as one of the top teams in Metro Detroit, mainly due to the fact that the Chargers are headed by Jonathan (Jon-Jon) Williams, a 6-4 stat-monger of a senior combo guard. Inked with the University of Toledo for his college hoops, Williams averaged 31 points per game last year as a junior and is back at it again this season, averaging 30-plus, five assists and close to 10 rebounds an outing.

Despite Williams dominance in the stat sheet, Lathrup has struggled out of the gate, breaking in virtually an entire new set of supporting players surrounding the Chargers all-state scoring machine. In the midst of a brutally-rigorous earl-season slate of games, first-year Lathrup head coach Desmond Denham and his team stand 2-5.

Denham is confident the future is bright for his Chargers.

“We’re still figuring out our identity on the court and once we do, which I think will be soon, we will be a very strong ball club and a team that knows how to overcome adversity,” he said.

Unafraid to experiment with different lineup rotations, Denham is giving minutes to over a dozen players. Forwards Marlon Tate and Sam Moore and center Freddie Johns appear to be emerging as Lathrup’s top weapons outside of Williams.

Defending Class D state champion Southfield Christian is once again going to be the area’s best small-school team. The Eagles are 2-1 and pulled a massive upset on opening night, going to Class A power Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and knocking off the host Eaglets in overtime, thanks to a marvelous performance from sophomore point guard Bakari Evelyn, who went off for 37 points, drilling a 35-footer at the fourth-quarter buzzer to force overtime and then hitting the game-winning lay-up in the extra session.

Evelyn is one of the best sophomores in the state regardless of school size. He scored 34 points in Southfield Christian’s second game of the year, a back-and-fourth affair against Lathrup, which the Eagles eventually lost.

Juniors Lindsey Hunter IV and DeMarco White and freshman Eugene (Marlow) Brown are stars in their own right. Hunter IV started on last year’s state title team and after missing the first two games of the year as a result of a concussion, he scored 17 points in his season debut on Friday, guiding the Eagles to a 51-46 win against league rival Auburn Hills Oakland Christian.

White is a 6-foot-7 transfer from Southgate Anderson and will have a chance to control the post in most games at the Class D level. In the Oakland Christian game Friday, he posted a double-double of 14 points and 13 rebounds. Brown is a 6-foot-4 lefty with inside and outside capabilities that has a basketball IQ significantly older than is actual age.

Sophomore swingman Kameron Garner is a defensive-stopper and finisher on the wing that could easily develop into a college-level player in the next few years and along with Evelyn is hoping to snare a foursome of state title rings before it’s all said and done on their prep careers.