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BOYS BASKETBALL PREVIEW: State crowns up for grabs & it’s anyones for the taking as ’14 hoops campaign gets underway

By: Scott Burnstein, December 11, 2013, 8:00 am

The Top 20 boys basketball teams in the state (alphabetical):

Birmingham Detroit Country Day – Mr. Basketball candidate Edmond Sumner (Xavier) will make first-year head coach Mark Bray’s job a lot easier as the Yellowjackets try to claim a repeat a Class B state title. Senior Maceo Baston, Jr and junior Deshawn Lewis gives Bray a pair of gunners on the wing that know how to score the basketball and have wide wing spans for stellar defense. Taylor Graffa is a sniper in the backcourt and judging by his bloodlines Nazir Wallace (Rasheed’s son) will be a force to be reckoned with in the paint.

Bloomfield Hills – Senior standouts Yante Maten  (center), Armand Cartwright (guard) and Khalil Gracey (forward) form a “Big 3” that is one of the best in the state. Maten is probably the most fundamentally-sound big guy in Metro Detroit. The enticing trio took BH Lahser to back-to-back league and district titles the past two seasons and are hoping for a doozy of a capper to close their respective careers on the prep hardwood in 2014. Add in new teammates from BH Andover like Dylan Deitch, Eric Weiss and Josh Bender and the newly-formed Blackhawks program should be off and running.

Clarkston – Longtime Wolves’ head coach Dan Fife has one of his deepest, most diverse squads ever this winter, sporting size, length and excellent shooting as always. Nick Owens is a rare breed of shooter and a serious danger to go for 20-plus every night. Drew Myers and Press Kampe are a steady tandem of point guards that compliment each other’s styles nicely. Sophomore transfer Tabin Throgmorton (Walled Lake Northern) is a star-in-the-making and will play on the wing, but can also be used in the backcourt at either spot. The Wolves post assault will be fearsome with a pair of "Twin Towers" in 6-foot-7 1/2 Mike Nicholson and 6-foot-8 Cole Chewins opening things up on the perimeter for their high-quality crop of guards.

Detroit Cass Tech – The Technicians are very talented at several different positions and could easily be playing at the Breslin Center in March. Mike Laster (off guard) and Kenny Carpenter (point guard) are a great backcourt and Charles Key and Isaac Bowles will be tough to deal with in the post.

Detroit Consortium – Superstar Josh Jackson is the best player in the state in tenth grade and will make the Cougars a must-see in 2014. Lito Booth is a smart point guard that knows how to use his body to his advantage and can be crafty on both ends of the court.

Detroit Douglas – “Wing guards” and Division I college-signees Darrell Davis (Dayton) and Terrell Hales (Cleveland State) are an extremely dangerous pair whether in transition or in the half-court set. Losing Andre Frederick (Robert Morris) hurts, however expect to see Davi Bradley and Keyonte Evans, among others, to team-up to pick up the slack.

Detroit East English Village – The frontcourt of Mar’Quell Jackson and Deitrich Cole is agile, athletic and quite imposing and will make The ‘Ville automatic contenders for the crown in the PSL this season

Detroit Pershing – Probably the No. 1 team in the whole state, the Doughboys are stacked again, led by Mr. Basketball candidate and crafty forward Justin Tillman (VCU).  Fast-improving center Dwayne Embry will team with Tillman to give head coach Wydell Henry a powerful attack up front. Flanking Tillman and Embry in the backcourt is the tantalizing trifecta of point guard Darsean Woodson and shooting guards Mory Diane and Marquel Ingram. Diane is signed with Buffalo and is a high-profile transfer from Detroit Country Day, where he helped take the Yellowjackets to three straight appearances in the final four and a state title in 2013.

Detroit Southeastern – Daryl Bigham, Leonard Harper-Baker and Keylon Oliver might compose the top frontcourt in the PSL this year, which should result in another long tourney run for head coach George Ward and his troops.

Grand Rapids Christian – DaRohn Scott is one of the best big fellas in the state and DeLeon Brown was “Robin” to Drake Harris’ “Batman” last year in the team’s trek to the Class A final four. With Harris gone to focus on football, Brown and Scott will carry the load for head coach Steve Majerle

Mount Clemens – Sensational junior Josh McFolley, gutty floor general Tarayle Cates and fab frosh Jermaine Jackson, Jr. gives the Bathers a fantastic three-headed monster in the backcourt, while Charles Penn and Jordan Armstrong anchors a long and athletic frontcourt

Muskegon – Elite senior two-sport standout Deshawn Thrower (basketball and football) is a genuine playmaker in the backcourt and is going to be playing on the hardwood in college at Stoney Brook out East. Thrower will be aided heavily by up-and-coming juniors, Jovair Kennedy (small forward) and Devonta Davis (center).

North Farmington – Star junior Jeron “Buddha” Rogers is one of the most lethal forwards in the state and sophomore Jacob Joubert is as up-and-coming as they come. Combine Rogers and Joubert with a bevy of gritty role players and the Raiders will be a premiere team out of the OAA this winter

Oak Park – First-year head coach Bryant Tipton (Detroit Cody) has a skilled and hungry club of transfers ready to bring life back to the Knights program. Youngstown State-commit and explosive combo guard Ja’Christian Biles (Southfield-Lathrup) could be the most underrated primetime player in the state and sophomore forward Kelvon Fuller (Detroit Cody) is one of the top tenth-graders around. Orlando Fikes (Detroit Cody) will be the floor general and Rodney Scales (Inkster) is a lefty that is hard-to-handle on the block.

Romulus – The defending Class A state champs will have a new look on the bench and on the floor, with a fresh set of leaders ready, willing and more than able to take the baton from departing all-staters E.C. Matthews, Wes Clark and Jalon Plummer. Look for Juwan Clark, Kris Clyburn and Jaylin Walker to be the Eagles go-to guys on offense. Tyron Hamby and DeAngelo Hansboro could be in for a breakout year too.  Rio Washington is ready to be a powerful presence in the post.

Saginaw – Seasoned vets like Keyon Addison and Jay Smith will link up with sizzling sophomore Alvon Eichelberger and deliver fans of the “Sagnasty” something exciting to watch

Saginaw Arthur Hill – The Lumberjacks have tons of experience and one of the best freshman in the state in Brian Bowens. Senior floor general Eric Davis is a Mr. Basketball candidate and southpaw Montell Handley is an under-the-radar assassin on the wing.

Southfield Christian – The state’s two-time defending Class D champ is as stacked as any squad in the state and can hold its own with all of the bigger school’s on this list. All-state junior point guard Bakari Evelyn is a killer. His backcourt partner, Lindsey Hunter IV is as improved as any player in the Mitten. Senior Damarco White, a high-flyer in the paint and sophomore Marlow Brown, a quickly emerging inside-outside threat, make the Eagles a diverse bunch.

U-D Jesuit – Sophomore floor general Cassius Winston is one of the top point guards in the nation and will lead the defending Catholic League champions into battle this year. Expect big years from fellow sophomore stud guard Billy Thomas, one of the fastest-rising talents in the state’s backcourt ranks and small forward Noah King, who averaged double-figures last season.

Ypsilanti – Senior center Jaylin Johnson is the top-rated post player in the state and is headed to play his college hoops for defending National Champion Louisville. Last winter, Johnson sparked Ypsi to the “Elite 8.” His scary-good skill-set on the blocks will be augmented by a smooth and savvy backcourt of floor general Janeau Joubert and shooting guard Corey Allen. Jacob Simmons and Jalen Harmon will be patrolling the post alongside Johnson, making the Railsplitters hard to stop