Boys Basketball Preseason Top 25 Players: U-D’s Winston has firm grip on his future; top contender for Mr. Basketball award
Detroit – Gradually Cassius Winston has developed into a complete player. Now a senior at U-D Jesuit, Winston has been a starter since the first game of his freshman year. Even then Winston was a tremendous passer with great court vision.
Winston became more of a scoring threat by his sophomore season, to where now players can’t simply play off him and allow him to take the perimeter shot.
A 6-1 guard, Winston is State Champs! No. 1 player in its preseason top 25 and the favorite to win the 2016 Mr. Basketball award.
Winston averaged 22.3 points, 7.1 assists and 5.4 rebounds last season and he signed with Michigan State last month.
What the statistics don’t show is that Winston is a winner. The Cubs have won the Catholic League title each of the past three seasons. U-D reached a Class A regional final in Winston’s freshman year losing to Detroit Pershing, 62-60. His sophomore year the Cubs lost to Bloomfield Hills in a state semifinal and again last season the Cubs made it to the semifinals only to lose to Detroit Western.
“(This) is definitely a big year for us,” Winston said. “For me personally, it’s Mr. Basketball, a state championship and (being named a) McDonald’s All American.
“During the summer I concentrated on improving my shooting – all my shots. I’m my vocal this year, more of a leader.”
Then there’s Winston the person. It would be so easy for a player of Winston’s caliber and notoriety to be selfish, to be conceded. Even before he played his first high school game there was talk about how good he was and how good he could be. But through it all he’s remained humble, respecting the game and the footprints he’ll leave behind.
Oscar Olejniczak is the head football coach at U-D. He said as great a player than Winston is, he’s an even better person.
“He’s like that in school, too,” Olejniczak said. “He’s always willing to help. Even with the freshmen he’s willing to answer their questions and assist them.”
All the players listed below are seniors unless noted.
2. Austin Davis, Onsted, 6-10, center: Davis averaged 26 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks. He signed with Michigan. Firmly trenched just below Winston, Davis weighs 232 pounds, down from 265 at the end of last season. Davis has a 4.0 grade-point average and he scored a 30 on his ACT. “He’s worked as hard as any kid I’ve been around,” coach Brad Maska said.
3. Xavier Tillman, Grand Rapids Christian, 6-8, jr., forward: Tillman weighs 260 pounds and uses that strength to muscle his way to the basket. He averaged 15.5 points and 9.7 rebounds as a sophomore. He is rated the No. 1 prospect in Michigan for 2017 class according to a number of recruiting services. “He’s worked with our strength and conditioning coach,” coach Mark Warners said. “Xavier is constantly trying to get better.” He has received scholarship offers from Kentucky, Michigan State, Purdue, Xavier and DePaul.
4. Brandon Johns, East Lansing, 6-8, so., forward: Twice Johns was invited to Colorado Springs this past summer by USA Basketball. He handles the ball like a guard and has the strength to score in the post. “He’s gotten so much better,” coach Steve Finamore said. “We have him at the two or the three and we’ll have him at the point for some plays.”
5. Kamari Newman, Detroit East English Village Prep, 6-4, guard-forward: Newman is perhaps the best shooter in the state. A left-hander, Newman averaged 22 points last season. “He plays everywhere for us,” coach Juan Rickman said. “He can score and the intangibles are better.” Newman said with George Mason.
6. Kevin McKay, Warren De La Salle, 6-4, guard-forward: McKay averaged 20 points and five rebounds. He could play the point at times this season. He added 15 pounds of muscle and hasn’t lost any of his lateral movement. McKay signed with Central Michigan.
7. Foster Loyer, Clarkston, 5-10, so., G: Last year he led Clarkston to an undefeated regular season and a spot in the Class A quarterfinals. He averaged 16 points, six assists, four rebounds and three steals. Loyer, the son of former Detroit Pistons interim coach John Loyer, is spunky and plays bigger than his size, displaying a rare grasp of running an offense, drawing comparisons to early 1990s Duke All-American floor general Bobby Hurley. Michigan State, DePaul and Cincinnati have all offered him a scholarship.
8. David DeJulius, Detroit Edison, 6-0, so., guard: DeJulius started every game last season at the point. At 185 pounds, DeJulius is strong on the ball. Last season he averaged 18.7 points and 7.7 assists. “He applies pressure on defense, he pushes the ball and keys our offense,” coach Bo Neely said.
9. Brailen Neely, Detroit Western, 5-11, guard: Neely was a combo guard last season and coach Derrick McDowell will move Neely exclusively to the point this season. He signed with Oakland. Neely averaged 16.5 points last season. “He’s excellent at running the team,” coach Derrick McDowell said. “As a junior, he sacrificed much of his game for the team.”
10. Jermaine Jackson, Jr., Macomb Dakota, 5-9, jr., guard: Jackson is a quick and intelligent combo guard with scholarship offers from a number of Division I schools including Georgia Tech and Auburn. The top backcourt prospect in Macomb County, Jackson tallied 16 points and six assists per game on a Dakota club that captured league and district titles before falling to Clarkston in a Class A regional final.
11. Ike Eke, U-D Jesuit, 6-9, jr., forward-center: Eke has added 14 pounds of muscle and he’s up to 216 pounds. “He’s gotten a lot stronger,” coach Pat Donnelly said. “He’ll even step out on shoot the three now.” Pitt and Xavier and among the schools that have offered him a scholarship.
12. Innocent Nwoko, New Haven, 6-11, center: Born in Nigeria, Nwoko played well at times last season for coach Tedaro France. Mostly a defensive force and a rebounder, Nwoko showed improvement this past summer with his offensive post moves. He averaged 5.4 points and 6.3 blocks, and he signed with Central Michigan.
13. Justin Turner, Detroit Renaissance, 6-4, guard-forward: Turner is a four-year starter. Last season he averaged 17 points and six rebounds. “He can do everything,” coach Vito Jordan said. “He rebounds and checks the best player.” Turner has been offered a scholarship by a number of Division I schools.
14. Corey Allen, Ypsilanti 6-3, guard: This smooth, multiple dimensional four-year starter will see more time at the point this winter. Averaging 15 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds per game over the past three seasons, helping lead Ypsilanti to a pair of appearances in the Class A quarterfinals (2013, 2015), Allen is signed with University of Detroit-Mercy. He’s an excellent long-range shooter and finisher near the rim.
15. Jaron Faulds, Holt, 6-10, jr., center: Falls continues to improve and recently received a scholarship offer from DePaul. Falls averaged 11 points and eight rebounds. Coach Matt Essell compares Faulds to Davis of Onsted.
16. Ty Groce, Ypsilanti Lincoln, 6-6, guard-forward: Long and athletic, Groce averaged 12 points and six rebounds, and shot over 40 percent from 3-point range as a junior. He attracted a number of mid-major Division I scholarship offers in the offseason. He signed with Northeastern. After initially announcing his intention of transferring to Romulus over the summer, he returned to Lincoln.
17. Danny Pippen, Detroit Allen Academy, 6-7, guard-forward: A definitive swingman who isn’t afraid to get after it on the defensive end of the court, Pippen is still growing into his body and realizing his potential. Last year, he charted 16 points and eight rebounds per night and showed flashes of dominance running the floor. He’s signed with Kent State.
18. Spencer Littleson, Rochester Adams, 6-4, guard-forward: An elite outside shooter and an intelligent player, Littleson played AAU alongside Josh Jackson (formerly of Detroit Consortium), where he earned his scholarship to Duquesne. Entering his third year starting at Adams, Littleson will play the point, after averaging 21 points and seven rebounds the past two seasons at small forward.
19. Gregory Elliott, Detroit East English Village Prep, 6-3, Jr., guard-forward: Elliott grew two inches in the past eight months and has increased his versatility. “He’s more athletic now,” coach Juan Rickman said. “He’s constantly getting better.” Elliott has been offered a scholarship by Washington State, Kent State, Northern Kentucky and Southern Mississippi.
20. Trishton Jackson, West Bloomfield, 6-3, guard: Jackson committed to Michigan State to play football. Before that he was being recruited by Division I schools for basketball. A four-year starter at point guard, Jackson averaged 23 points, eight assists and six rebounds. He shot 50 percent from the field.
21. Jamal Cain, Detroit Cornerstone, 6-7 jr., forward: A big-time player from a lesser-known program, Cain averaged 28 points and 14 rebounds last year and is rated No. 70 in the country by Rivals.com in the class of 2017. Considered a four-star college recruit by most scouting services, he’s a natural on the wing, with shooting touch and a very quick first step to the bucket. Oregon and Stanford are already recruiting him.
22. Braden Burke, Stevensville Lakeshore, 6-10, center: Burke is active, aggressive and a fundamentally-sound post player. He averaged 17 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks per last season and he signed with Robert Morris.
23. Kam Hankerson, Novi, 6-5, guard-forward: Hankerson is a wiry swingman with hops and an efficient, unselfish style on the court that endears him to coaches and teammates alike. Hankerson registered a tremendous summer and signed with Wisconsin Green Bay. Playing a point forward, he averaged eight points, eight rebounds and seven assists last season.
24. Jason Williams, Detroit Allen Academy, 6-1, guard: A tenacious and thrifty point guard with a gym-rat mentality, Williams might be the most underrated point guard in the state. He’s gifted at quarterbacking an offense and setting his teammates up, but he can get heated in a hurry on offense as well. He’s signed with East Tennessee State.
25. Isaiah Livers, Kalamazoo Central, 6-8, jr., forward: A three-year starter, Livers is a versatile post player. He blocks shots, is a good passer and makes good decisions. He’s received scholarship offers from Mid-American Conference schools and Creighton according to coach Ramsey Nichols.
Scott Burnstein contributed to this report.