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BOYS BASKETBALL: Initial top 25 teams for the 2021-22 MHSAA boys hoops season

By: TJ KELLEY, December 15, 2021, 7:07 pm

We’re back and a great appreciation has to go out to the thousands of Michigan student-athletes who endured shortened seasons over the past two years and we’re happy to have you all back in December and hope to see you on the Breslin Court on March 26th. 

Detroit’s Catholic League Central is one of the best in the country with four teams in the top 10 of State Champs’ Top 25 Teams and there should be little shock if half of the Division 1 semifinalists are from the CHSL-Central. Grand Blanc was the No. 1 preseason team up until the transfer of impact senior forwards. Grand Rapids Catholic Central is expected to repeat in Division 2 as the bulk of its team returns. Division 3’s defending state champion, Flint Beecher, graduated the very talented Keyon Mennifield Jr. and six-time state champion head coach Mike Williams is now the head coach at Davison. We’ll see if the Bucs can continue their great run as Detroit Loyola and Schoolcraft are favorites to win this season’s Division 3 championship. Division 4 will more than likely have a new state champion, as Detroit Douglass graduated Mr. Basketball Pierre Brooks III (Michigan State) and Javantae Randle (EMU). Wyoming Tri-Unity Christian will look for its first state championship since 2011 and future Hall of Fame coach Mark Keeler has one of the best in senior point guard Brady Titus. 

This is State Champs Top 25 preseason teams for Michigan’s 2021-’22 season with last season’s record and final game in parentheses:

1 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (14-1, Division 1 quarterfinalist) — Head coach Todd Covert will look to lead the Eaglets to their first state championship in 20 years with 5-foot-9 senior point guard Kareem Rozier (Duquesne) running the show and there are few better in the country when it comes to leadership qualities. He runs the pick and roll like few others, thinks the game moves ahead, gets in the lane, controls the pace on either end of the court, and very vocal. Six-foot-4 senior wing Javaughn Hannah (Western Michigan) joins OLSM after a year at the now-defunct Ypsi Prep. He will provide a big scoring punch, toughness, and athleticism. Six-foot-6 senior power forward Decorion “DC” Temple (Central Michigan football) will provide paint production when he joins the basketball team in January, after he recovers from a football injury. Six-foot-5 senior wing Jack Crighton is one of the state’s top shooters and a tough athlete who would be a scholarship basketball player if he wasn’t committed to Michigan for baseball. Six-foot-4 wing Trey McKenney is the state’s top freshman, and will get a lot of playing time, if not start. Six-foot-8 senior power forward Bartosz Kaputska moved to the Great Lakes State from Poland and will fit in very well — especially on the pick-and-roll with Rozier, where Kaputska can slip to the basket or pop for the mid-range and perimeter jumpers. Six-foot-2 freshman shooting guard Sharrod Barnes was productive this fall and will add scoring off the bench in meaningful minutes. Rozier and Hannah will compete for the 2022 Mr. Basketball award.

2 Grand Rapids Catholic Central (20-0, Division 2 state champion) — Head coach TJ Meerman returns the bulk of his state championship team and the cupboard is far from bare for years to come. Leading the way is 6-foot-6 senior small forward Jack Karasinski, whose hard play and versatile scoring ability anchors the Cougars. The WIlliam & Mary commit is tough as nails and will compete for the 2022 Mr. Basketball Award. Six-foot-2 senior wing Jorden Brooks is a strong shooter with size, a 4.0 GPA, and coveted by small schools in Michigan. Jorden’s brother, 6-foot sophomore point guard Durrel “Phat-Phat” Brooks, is also a return starter and the state’s top 2024 prospect. Phat-Phat is one of the best when he’s in the lane and his perimeter shooting has improved since last season.

3 Ferndale (13-5, D2 semifinal) — Head coach Juan Rickman led the Eagles to the Division 2 state semifinals last April losing to the eventual champions, Grand Rapids Catholic Central. Six-foot-1 senior guard Jason “Deuce” Drake II has been the most consistent player for both Ferndale and The Family, as he can get numbers in a hurry pulling up from the mid-range and perimeter or driving to the basket. He holds MAC and Horizon offers. Six-foot-5 senior small forward Trey Lewis is headed to Loyola in Chicago next season and he shoots and scores with the best of them. Remember Lewis’ 50-point game last season? Six-foot-4 junior wing Chris Williams is a 4.0-plus student, very athletic, and a stud in transition who hits the boards and defends. Six-foot junior point guard Cam Reed provides quickness, scoring, and defense. Six-foot-2 sophomore point guard Trenton Ruth is another quick guard and has a year of varsity experience on this resume. Six-foot-9 sophomore center Darion Johnson transferred over from River Rouge and is a space eater in the post.

3 Warren De La Salle (12-4, D1 semifinal) — The surprise of Michigan’s 2021 season, which found the Pilots in the state semifinals under new head coach, Gjon Djokaj. De La Salle has scholarship talent in the senior class, led by 6-foot point guard Caleb “CJ” Reese who carries a 4.3 GPA, locks down on defense, shoots it well, and takes care of the ball. Six-foot-2 senior wing Tamario Adley is strong, very athletic, and developing his jumper and guard skills. Adley transferred over from Harper Woods Chandler Park Academy over the summer. Six-foot-8 junior Mike Sulaka is a skilled and mobile ambidextrous center who gets up and down the floor well, hits the boards, and moves well laterally and vertically. 6-foot-3 junior wing Triston Nichols is also a wide receiver for the football team, but on the court he is tough, hits the boards, defends, scores efficiently, and is a do-it-all player for DeLaSalle. Six-foot junior Nino Smith is a pass-first point guard who does a great as the first line of defense while finding teammates for great scoring opportunities. Six-foot-5 junior wing Jack Yanachik is another football player who is a solid shooter, athlete, and provides good minutes for the basketball team. Five-foot-11 freshman point guard Phoenix Glassnor is one of the state’s top multi-sport athletes and he will see playing time in De La Salle’s deep rotation.

4 Detroit U-D Jesuit (11-1, D1 regional final) — The Cubs have had a lot of success in the last dozen years, after spending a lot of time in the basement of Detroit’s CHSL in prior years, but with Pat Donnelly’s coaching and development, the Cubs have become a household name. Six-foot-5 senior forward Chris Mutebi impresses in many ways as hitting 3-pointers off the catch, blocking shots, defending, and rebounding are all strengths. Six-foot-4 senior wing Charles Turner had a good junior season and a strong scoring threat from the perimeter. Six-foot senior guard Phillip Ragan is a very good defender and a good shooter from the perimeter and mid-range. Five-foot-11 junior point guard Sonny Wilson is quick with the ball, defends on and off the ball, strong in transition, hits the boards, becoming a more consistent jump shooter, and arguably the state’s top player. Six-foot-6 junior forward Zavier Banks will be needed to hold down the paint as a defender and on the boards. Six-foot-2 freshman lefty wing Xavier Johnson showed flashes this summer and fall of what he can be in a couple years.

5 Hamtramck (14-3, D1 district final) — Right off I-75 and an easy stop for the fast-rising Cosmos, who ended River Rouge’s run atop the Michigan Metro Athletic Conference. Head coach Dennis “DJ” Foster’s team plays hard and is one of the best teams to watch, as defense as well as moving the ball are key ingredients to their success. Six-foot-6 senior small forward Robert Davis Jr. transferred over from Farmington. A good athlete, Davis holds mid-major offers and is a strong shooter in the mid-range and perimeter off the catch or one-dribble pull ups. Five-foot-11 senior guard Hershel Marion plays with a high level of confidence, keeps the ball on a string, and shoots it at a high clip with a quick release. Lefty six-foot senior shooting guard Aaron Allen is a lock down defender who takes on the tough defensive assignments and he’s a threat to hit perimeter jumpers as well as finish through contact in the paint. Six-foot-5  senior center Deontae Owens hits the boards like few others, and uses his strength and athleticism to finish with authority. Six-foot-4 junior point guard Amari Allen is a pass-first point guard who had a breakout sophomore season and has played very well in fall leagues. Allen is a stat filler who checks and makes those around him better. Six-foot-3 junior wing Jalen Miller adds outside scoring.

6 Detroit Martin Luther King (16-3, PSL champion, D1 regional final) — Head coach George Ward is headed into his ninth season as King’s head coach and looking to win back-to-back Detroit Public School League titles. The Crusaders return key players and arguably have the state’s top guard in 6-foot-2 four-year starting guard Chansey Willis Jr. As with others on the team, Willis just returned to the hardwood after standing out with King’s state championship football team. He sees the floor very well and is a strong guard who gets to his spots and uses his size to get by defenders. He can pick it up on the defensive end but he will hit the boards.  6-foot-8 senior center Matthew Coffey and his brother 6-foot-6 junior center Jonathan Coffey transferred in from Mt. Clemens. Matthew has great natural size and will anchor in the post hitting the boards hard and finishing efficiently around the rim. Six-foot-7 junior power forward Traves Turner also won a football title and the Crusaders will look for him to become more consistent as a scorer.

7 Birmingham Brother Rice (8-5, D1 regional semifinal) — Head coach Rick Palmer’s Warriors are on the rise as they are led by a strong group of juniors. Six-foot-4 junior wing Jonathan Blackwell is starting to take his game to the next level as lay-ups are now dunks, his shooting range has improved, and he can be a lockdown defender. Six-foot-5 junior forward Curtis Williams is working himself into becoming one of the state’s top shooters and his versatility is a tough test for high school defenders. Six-foot-5 junior forward Xavier Thomas is most productive in the paint hitting the boards and getting putbacks or spotting up from the perimeter making him a double-double machine. Six-foot-5 junior forward Henry Garrity is also a standout on the gridiron, but during the winter he is one of the state’s top shooters. Six-foot-1 sophomore guards Xavier Bowman and 6-foot-3 sophomore guard Warren Marshall IV, as well as 6-foot-4 sophomore forward Keithan Gilmore will contribute meaningful minutes, while the juniors take on the bulk of the Warriors’ scoring.

8 Williamston (12-3, D2 regional final) — Three senior Hornets are headed to the NCAA Division I level and this may very well be the year Williamston gets over to the hump and advances to nearby East Lansing in late March. Western Michigan is getting one of the country’s most skilled big men in 6-foot-9 senior power forward Max Burton, who knocks down 3s, will put the ball on the floor, rock the rims, and defends the rim providing an inside presence on either end of the floor. UMBC is getting a great floor leader in senior point guard Mason Docks, who returns from Texas after first getting his chops at Williamston as a starter. Six-foot-5 senior forward Jacob Wallace earned a preferred walk-on position at Toledo. Over the past three years, Wallace has had some big games and is a versatile scorer who can light it up for 3 or get to the basket for a bucket. Tom Lewis is Williamston’s head coach.

9 Detroit Cass Tech (13-1, D1 COVID-19 withdrawal) — The Technicians are once again one of the state’s deepest teams. Six-foot-5 senior center Rylan Bowens signed with Bluefield St. and is a monster on the boards, a formidable scorer from the mid-range and in, and an athletic rim protector. Five-foot-11 senior guard Terrance Broughton signed with Malone University in November and is a transfer from Romulus where he averaged 18 points per game as a sophomore. Six-foot senior guard Duane Wright and 6-1 junior guard Mekhi Walker are three-year varsity players who are standout defenders and add a scoring boost. Six-foot-1 junior guard Christian Hairston also provides a scoring punch, and provides go-to scoring while big-time football players Deone Walker and Jackson Pruitt will help man in the middle. Five-foot-10 point guard Darius “Cheeks” Acuff is one of the state’s top incoming freshmen, as he is poised, skilled and will start. The Technicians won’t have huge individual stats but they will have production from 10 players.

11 Muskegon (13-7, D1 district final) — Head coach Keith Guy has eyes on winning his second state championship in eight years and the Big Reds have a lot of pieces that can compete with team in the state. Six-foot-8 senior power forward Ethan Hill singed with Saginaw Valley St. last month and he brings skill, a shooters touch, athleticism, and will look to build on a break out junior year. Six-foot juniors Anthony Sydnor Jr. and Jordan Briggs are impactful players who can both be on or off the ball. They are very different, as Sydnor gets his buckets going to the basket and pulling up in the mid-range, where Briggs is a model of consistency as a shooter from the perimeter or getting to his spots for pull-ups in the mid-range. Six-foot-5  senior power forward Marcus Sain Jr. battled some injuries but, prior to this spring, he was a workhorse in the paint and on the boards his junior season.

12 Grand Blanc (15-2, D1 state champion) — The Bobcats’ head coach, Mike Thomas, led Grand Blanc to its first boys basketball state championship in April and the Bobcats are still a top-10 team, despite the departure of Illinois commit Ty Rodgers and 6-7 senior Shamus Thompson to out-of-state schools. That leaves a strong guard core led by 6-foot junior point guard RJ Taylor who is the floor general, as he controls the pace, a scorer when he’s not getting other’s involved, defends 94 feet, and leaves it all on the court. Six-foot-1 junior guard Amonte Allen-Johnson plays hard, defends, plays above the rim, provides added toughness, and he’s an efficient scorer who is productive from the perimeter and in. Six-foot-3 junior wing Timonte Boyd has a great football season and is equally as tough on the court as he brings size, athleticism, and efficient scoring. Six-foot-6 sophomore center/power forward Bryce O’Mara had quite a freshman year winning state championships for the Bobcats’ basketball and baseball teams. He will be expected to anchor the frontcourt in the wake of the departures of Rodgers and Thompson.

13 Grand Rapids Northview (8-6, D1 district final) — Head coach David Channa has the senior horses to make a run in Division 1. The Wildcats are led by 6-foot-5 all-state senior wing Kyler Vanderjagt, who signed with Belmont in November. Vanderjagt averaged 23 points per game as a junior and will more than likely be a 2022 Mr. Basketball candidate. Six-foot-5 senior wing Jalen Charity averaged 14 points a season ago and his game has gone to another level over the past eight months. Six-foot-9 senior center Calvin Hyde mans the post and averaged five points last season. Charity and Hyde have Division III and NAIA opportunities with Division II coaches keeping an eye on their progression. Six-foot-3 sophomore guard EJ Ryan started his freshman year, averaging eight points per game.

14 Detroit Loyola (11-5, Division 3 quarterfinal) — The Bulldogs’ head coach, Dennis Morey, and his crew of now-juniors were a point away from defeating eventual Division 3 state champs Beecher in last season’s quarterfinal. The Bulldogs are led by a trio of junior guards with two years of starting varsity experience. Six-foot-3 wing Ryan Martin, 6-foot point guard Amare Stevens, and 6-foot point guard Dashawn Martin will provide much of the offense and are ball hawks on the defensive end, bring a lot of energy. Six-foot-5 junior forward Jothan Nweke is one of the state’s up and coming players, as he is athletic, hits the 3-ball, and his length aids his defense.

15 Detroit Renaissance (6-8, D1 district semifinal) — Third-year coach John White has his top team thus far led by 5-foot-11 senior point guard Juwan Maxey. A four-year varsity starter, Maxey is also a strong student who takes care of the ball, produces in the mid-range, defends, and makes plays for others. Six-foot-6 senior forwards Sam Hoskins Jr. anchors the paint as he his is tough on the boards and an efficient scorer in the post. Six-foot-6 senior forward Anthony Massey is an athletic lefty who will step out to hit jumpers. He also has an 85 mph fastball. The Phoenix also have one of the state’s top freshman duos in 6-6 forward Jayden Savoury and 5-5 point guard Lance Stone; both will start.

16 North Farmington (7-2, Division 1, COVID-19 withdrawal) — Head coach Todd Negoshian graduated a strong core in 2021 but has now  6-foot-3 sophomore guards Landon Williams and Tyler Spratt, who are productive scorers, improving defenders and play beyond their years. Six-foot-7 junior center Lee Hardy has good size, a good athlete, good hands, and is becoming a more productive rebounder. The addition of  6-foot-3 junior forward Ryan Hurst gives the Raiders one of the area’s top scorers who is mismatch nightmare in high school. Six-foot-5  senior center Aaron Rice will take the football route in college and is a strong rebounder and defender for the Raiders.

17 Novi Detroit Catholic Central (4-8, D1 District semifinal) — Six-foot-8 senior center Cooper Craggs signed with Oakland in November and is a powerful rebounder who carves out space in the paint. He is also comfortable hitting the short corners, mid-range jumpers, and playing above the rim. Six-foot-4 senior forward Kam Mayes had a strong junior season and a mismatch in most situations as he’s too strong for most small forwards and too quick for most bigs. Six-foot-10 junior center Joey Naasko has good size, and is a north and south big man who backs up Craggs. Six-foot-4 junior wing Josh Ross will find more playing time this season and is a do-it-all player who provides another scoring option. Six-foot-1 sophomore point guard Chas Lewless started from Day One, showing his playmaking and scoring abilities. An improved shooter who has grown a couple of inches since the beginning of 2021, he will continue to be a Catholic League standout for years to come. Six-foot-5 sophomore forward TJ Nadeau, a second year varsity starter, is proving himself as one of the state’s top shooters. Brandon Sinawi coaches the Shamrocks. Do not be fooled by CC’s record, as the CHSL is the top league in the state.

18 Detroit Pershing (7-5, Division 3 COVID-19 withdrawal) — Pershing alum and head coach Twigg Hill has one of the top backcourts in the state and the Doughboys will need their experience and scoring as they move up to Division 2 after spending the past few years in Division 3. Five-foot-11 senior guard Tharren “Squally” Hill is one of the state’s top scorers who can pull up for a score from the perimeter just as easily as he will punish the rim going to the basket. Hill will more than likely be a Mr. PSL Finalist. The Doughboys got a pair of three-year starters as transfers: six-foot-1 senior guard Jeremiah Henderson comes over from Detroit CMA and can fill it up, while 6-foot-2 senior shooting guard Kahlen Naope is a transfer from Henry Ford. Henry Ford’s leader in scoring the past two seasons, Naope is a versatile scorer who can light it up off the jumper or finish above the rim on the drive.

19 East Lansing (11-2, D1 COVID 19 withdrawal) — Six-foot-9 senior center Ethan Dunn was expected to man the paint for the Trojans, however he elected to go the prep route in Ft. Wayne, Ind. Five-foot-10 senior point guard Mason Woods runs the show with quickness and defense, while DIII and NAIA schools keep tabs. Six-foot-4 junior wing Evan Boyd has good size, made jumpers, hits the boards, good athlete, good student as are the rest of his Trojans teammates. Six-foot-5 sophomore forward Chris Dunn has a year of varsity experience under his belt and showed a lot of promise this summer. Six-foot-4 freshman wing Cameron Hutson, the son of Michigan State 2000 national champ Andre Hutson, has a very good skill set for his youth and size. Hudson is a top-10 prospect in Michigan’s 2025 class. 

20 Detroit Edison Preparatory School Academy (11-3, D2 district final COVID-19 withdrawal) — DEPSA has had a lot of success in recent years with Brandon “Bo” Neely coaching. Loaded with college prospects for all levels, the Pioneers have a girthy front line with 6-foot-7 senior centers Jahda Shepherd and Brayden George. Six-foot-2 senior guard Kyle Millender is being recruited by local schools while carrying a 3.9 GPA. He locks down defensively, takes care of the ball running point at times, and a slasher who extends well for finishes. Five-foot-10 junior point guard Bryce Eaton is one of the state’s top shooters and his quickness on either end of the court helps control the pace for the Pioneers. Keep an eye on one of the state’s top emerging sophomores, Quron Williams, who provides length on the perimeter and a shooter’s touch.

21 Bloomfield Hills (8-5, D1 district semifinal) — Phil Kurajian took the Knights’ helm five years ago. More high academic prospects can be found from this affluent school led by 6-foot-8 senior center Carson Brodsky who had a breakout junior year finishing and hitting the boards with more confidence. He’s a solid athlete, has good natural size and is a decent north and south big man who will pop for a mid-range jumper. Six-foot-5 senior small forward Ben Canty (3.4 GPA) is solid all-around small school prospect who transferred to Bloomfield Hills from Dearborn Advanced Tech Academy after his sophomore year. A lefty who is solid off the bounce, Canty is a good student with length, athleticism, and improving perimeter jumper and mid-range jumper. Six-foot junior point guard Noah Adamczyk (Michigan Playmakers 16u) flat out produces, competes, and makes shots. He’s a tough guard who needs to get stronger but doesn’t shy away from taking it to the basket. Adamczyk caught some eyes of D-I coaches while already on the radar of D-IIs at the NCAA certified BCAM Reaching Higher event at GVSU. Six-foot-5 junior DJ Lee lost some baby fat from early February and his mobility, athleticism, and strength cause problems for opponents on either end of the court. Looking more and more like a scholarship player his ability to hit mid-range and perimeter shots will more than likely determine his level.

22 Benton Harbor (17-3, D2 quarterfinals) — Head coach Corey Sterling would like to get the Tigers back to the pinnacle and holding a state championship trophy as they did in 2018. Six-foot senior point guard Trucel Singleton and 6-foot-1 junior point guard Grant Gondrezick form one of the state’s top backcourts and they can make waves with a productive front court in 6-foot-6 seniors Marlon Williams, Maliq West, Johnathan Horton, and 6-foot-6 junior Montell Hobbs.

23 Kalamazoo Central (10-3, D1 district semifinal) — The Maroon Giants will celebrate the 10th-year anniversary of their back-to-back state titles in a few months and, while head coach Ramsey Nichols doesn’t have that great group, he has some really good players in 6-foot-4 senior forward Thomas Dillard IV who is a four-year varsity starter and very productive from the mid-range and in with an improving perimeter jumper. Six-foot-7 junior power forward Hutch Davis had a solid sophomore year and productive summer into December as he is depended on to shore up the paint and the boards.

24 Schoolcraft (19-2, D3 semifinal) — The Eagles’ head coach Randy Small has a state championship from 2011, and this team has a chance to get one for itself, led by 6-foot-6 senior forward Tyler DeGroote who is one of D3’s top players and can take over a game from the perimeter or above the rim.

25 (tie) Saginaw Arthur Hill (8-3, D1 COVID-19 withdrawal) — The Lumberjacks will be near the top of the SVL North and 6-foot senior guard Elvis Machul Jr. led Arthur Hill in scoring a season ago. He signed with Saginaw Valley State and is a scoring threat as a shooter or playing downhill. Six-foot-5 senior forward Chris Smtih is a four-year starter who is a monster on the boards and very explosive when he’s throwing it down. Tony Davis is Arthur Hill’s head coach.

25 (tie) Rochester Adams (11-5, D1 district final) — The Highlanders’ head coach, Jaret Thomas, will look to ride the success of their state runner-up football team. Adams has a strong backcourt in seniors Gunner Walters, who returns to Adams after a two-year hiatus in North Carolina, and  6-foot-2 Justice Mims, who can both shoot and create for others. Six-foot-6 senior forward Jon Ursay is a go-to scorer from the perimeter and in. Six-foot-7 sophomore forward Brady Preiskorn was a key to the football team and adds a lot of production to Adams’ frontcourt.