Boys Basketball Preseason Top 25 Teams: U-D claims top spot, Detroit Western is second and Beecher is top Class C team
Detroit – Losing consecutive Class A semifinal games is all the motivation U-D Jesuit needs as it enters the season as State Champs’ No. 1-ranked team.
The Cubs lost to Bloomfield Hills, 85-75, in the 2014 semifinals and last season they finished 23-3 after losing to Detroit Western, 55-46.
U-D has four starters back including the state’s No. 1-ranked player, Cassius Winston, plus two transfers who are expected to contribute immediately.
Ike Eke and Greg Eboigbodin are now juniors with a season on varsity experience. The two Nigerians were ruled ineligible by the Michigan High School Athletic Association their freshmen seasons. Both are greatly improved and both have received Division I scholarship offers. Eke is 6-9; Eboigbodin 6-8.
“It’s a big year,” Eke said. “We’re trying to get Cassius a ring. It means a lot for the school. It means a lot to me, too, but it’s more for Cassius and the school.”
Winston is a 6-1 guard who signed with Michigan State. Undeniably the leader of this team, Winston said his goal is the ultimate team goal – a state championship.
“Nothing less will do,” he said. “We definitely know how to get there. We know how it feels to lose.”
Matt Schearer, a 6-3 senior, is the fourth returning starter. He’s also a captain.
Sophomore Elijah Collins is likely the fifth starter. His brother, Gary, is the lone starter who didn’t return. Gary Collins is a freshman at Wayne State.
Coach Pat Donnelly has pieced together a competitive schedule to prepare his team for March. U-D opens with Chicago Morgan Park on Monday, defending Class C champion Flint Beecher at Calihan Hall (Dec. 13), Detroit King (Dec. 14) at home, Orangeville (ON) Prep on Dec. 19 at Lawrence Tech and at home against Romulus (Jan. 5).
“We can shoot better and we’re bigger,” Donnelly said. “We have more ball handlers. We’re carrying 16 guys who get along together. They spent a lot of time together in the offseason. And we’re deeper. Our practices are more competitive.”
The bench players include 6-8 freshman Jalen Thomas, freshman point guard Julian Dozier, junior wing Scott Nelson, a quarterback-safety on the football team, plus two transfers. Kamani Johnson is a 6-5 sophomore who moved to the area from Lexington, Ky., and Justin Tarplin is a 6-4 junior who lived in Mississippi last year and now is living in Oak Park with his father.
2. Detroit Western (26-0), A: Last season was a memorable one for Western and coach Derrick McDowell. It was the school’s first basketball title and the first for McDowell. “It feels good,” he said. “It went fast. And this season we have a collection of guys who can matchup with anyone.” Brailen Neely (5-11) is the leader. The senior point guard signed with Oakland. “He’s got a little of everything,” McDowell said. At the small forward is Karim Murray (6-3) who’s received scholarship offers from Division II schools. Armanti Tinsley (5-11, is a senior who started the first half of the season and then switched to one of McDowell’s top reserves. Tinsley is the team’s best perimeter shooter. The frontcourt is manned by junior Josh Long (6-5), who did not play last season, and senior Jaye Patrick (6-6) who started from time to time. Kyree Boynton (5-10) gained valuable experience as a sophomore.
3. North Farmington (20-4), A: The Raiders have maybe their deepest team ever, as the program gained a number of high-impact transfers to add to a large chunk of returners off last season’s program-record 20-win squad that appeared in the Class A regional finals. Junior transfers Amauri Hardy, a Division I college recruit at the point and a two-year starter at Southfield, and Nate Brooks, an athletic 6-7 forward from Georgia, will slip into the starting lineup immediately. Seniors Billy Thomas (guard), Jacob Joubert (guard) and Alex Darden (center) round out the starters. Thomas started in the backcourt at UD-Jesuit as a sophomore on a final four club. Joubert and Darden, a MLB Draft prospect as a pitcher, are both entering their fourth year starting for North Farmington. The bench will be fueled by Josh Hogans, a spunky, hot-shooting guard who was one of the OAA’s top sixth-men last winter.
4. Detroit East English Village Prep (19-5), A: The Bulldogs were a dangerous team last season, one that gave Detroit Western fits in a regional semifinal. Coach Juan Rickman lot just one senior to graduation and has all five starters back. The offensive punch starts with Kamari Newman (6-4), a left-handed wing who signed with George Mason. Point guard Chris Rollins (6-0) makes good decisions and he can score, too. He signed with IPFW. Jaylin McFadden (6-4) played just the second semester last season. He’ll be more of a factor this time around. Gregory Elliott (6-3) is a junior who continues to improve. He’s been offered a scholarship by Washington State and Southern Miss among others. Cedric Lattimore (6-5) is the fifth starter and he committed to Iowa for football. Nate Bolware (5-6) is a senior who’s full of energy.
5. Clarkston (24-1), A: The nine-time defending OAA Red champion Wolves will contend for a trip to the Breslin Center come March, as first-team all-state point guard Foster Loyer, only a sophomore and already offered a scholarship by Michigan State, and junior transfer Dylan Alderson from Davison, a 6-4 combo guard currently being recruited by Division I mid-major colleges, will arguably make up the best backcourt in Oakland County and one of the best in the state. Senior small forward Tabin Throgmorton is a double-digit scorer on the wing and senior center Mitch Heaton (6-7) could surprise with a breakout campaign on the blocks. On the heels of last year’s trip to the Class A quarterfinals, longtime Clarkston coach Dan Fife will carry five sophomores on his roster – besides Loyer, C.J. Robinson and Tieler Houston have impressed. Lucas Keller, Chase Wasilk and Ben Spiker are all over 6-5.
6. Saginaw Arthur Hill (24-4), A: A state finalist last season, the Lumberjacks will be physical. Will Rogers is a 6-5, 230-pound post player. A nephew of Arthur Hill Mr. Basketball winner Jason Richardson, Rogers is a junior and a Division I football recruit. Jimmy Bell is a 6-9, 330-pound sophomore who will start where he should start, in the post. Bell is a Division I football recruit as a tackle. Billy Burton (6-1) is a hard-nosed wing who averaged 14 points last season. He signed with Ferris State. Senior point guard Nate Moore (5-9) averaged seven assists and five steals, and coach Greg McMath said Moore is the best defensive guard in the Saginaw Valley. “My backcourt is tough,” McMath said. “I love my depth.” Junior Vincent Johnson (6-2) will either start or be the first one off the bench.
7. Kalamazoo Central (23-2), A: This is a team with good size and strength but the player who makes this team go, and who needs to have a big season, is senior Jeremiah Richard (5-8). A point guard, Richard is the team’s shortest player. He’ll take shots but its Richard’s floor game that makes him so important. Isaiah Livers (6-8) is a consummate post player. He blocks shots and is an intimidator. Orlando Little (6-4) averaged 12 points and plays on the perimeter but can sneak inside for some garbage baskets. Junior Rog Stein (6-4) is a 205-pound power forward. A rugged player, Stein cleans up the mess inside. Ontario Burett (6-3) is a combo guard who defends well. A key ingredient is Texas transfer Coby Williams-Jackson (6-1). More than anything Williams-Jackson adds poise and stability.
8. Detroit Renaissance (14-8), A: Senior Justin Turner (6-4) is one of four starters returning and is one of the top two or three players in the Detroit Public School League. Alaric (A.J.) Jackson is a 6-7, 285-pound stalwart in the middle. Division I schools showed interest but Jackson is expected to play football in college. Senior Richard Talley (5-10) is a three-year starter and will play the point. Jalen Tobias (6-5) could be the team’s most athletic player and he’s just a sophomore. The Phoenix will have another football recruit in the post area. Michael Jacobs (6-6) weighs 305 pounds and he’ll come off the bench. Three underclassmen (Chandler Turner, Laronde Lucas and Daniel Little) are vying for the fifth spot in the starting lineup. Turner (no relation to Justin Turner) is a freshman.
9. Ypsilanti (19-5), A: Detroit Mercy signee and four-year starting guard Corey Allen (20 ppg) will lead Ypsilanti as the Grizzlies attempt to get back to the Class A quarterfinals. Senior Jamezell Davis and sophomore Marin Talley give coach Steve Brooks a three-guard attack. Davis was the team’s second-leading scorer last year. Jaylin Maxwell (6-7) and Josh Perkins (6-6) will handle things in the frontcourt. Football players Rayjon Williams-Jackson and Marquis Smith are expected to make significant contributions, too. Williams-Jackson is a jack-of-all-trades type who can score and defend with tenacity. Smith, a Division I college recruit on the gridiron, is equally crafty on the hardwood buzzing around the backcourt.
10. Grand Rapids Christian (12-10), A: Coach Mark Warners is in his fifth season at Christian and this team could be better than the one that went to the state semifinals in 2013. Junior James Beck (6-7) is a transfer from Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills and, in January, he’ll join another transfer, Xavier Tillman (6-8), in the starting lineup. Both are ineligible in the first semester. Sophomore Dwayne Washington (6-0) will play both guard positions and Warners’ son Emmett (6-5) is a junior wing and the team’s top perimeter shooter. Both started last season. Thad Shymanski (6-0) is old school according to Mark Warners. Senior Lucas Fotis (6-1), the starting quarterback, and junior O’Kelly Elliott (5-7), the point guard on the junior varsity last season, both provide depth.
11. Macomb Dakota (21-3), A: Coach Paul Tocco’s Cougars have size, experience, athleticism and plenty of scoring options. Junior Jermaine Jackson, Jr., is a dynamic combo guard who took home MVP honors from the MAC as a freshman in 2015 when he was at Mount Clemens. Sophomore forward Thomas Kinthier (6-7) cuts his teeth at the varsity level last year, showing a nice feel for the game in the paint, and Tocco expects him to shine this season. Steven Marshall returns at the point and Jacob Patton is moving into a starting role after putting in work as Dakota’s sixth-man in 2015. Trevon Webster and Tavin Allison are jumping jacks on the wing. Anthony Caldwell, a 6-5 center, will team with Kinthier down low.
12. Warren De La Salle (15-10), A: Last season the Pilots won their 18th district title in the last 22 seasons before losing to eventual state champion Detroit Western is a regional final. Three starters return including one of the state’s top players, Kevin McKay (6-4). This is a young team but there is experience. Junior Jack Ballantyne (6-9) averaged eight points last season and coach Greg Esler said he expects his post player to be much improved. Sophomore Luke Pfromm is strong 6-4 wing who’s one of the team’s best shooters. Sophomore Justin Fischer (6-2) will play the point. Three are but three seniors on this team so it might take time to develop the proper chemistry.
13. East Lansing (11-10), A: The Trojans finished the season strong winning at one stretch eight straight. Brandon Johns (6-8) will again be the focal point. The state’s top sophomore, Johns can play all five spots. Noah Schoen (6-3) is the second sophomore who will start. The other three starters are expected to be juniors – Westin Miles (6-3), a point guard, DeAndre Robinson (6-3), a shooting guard, and Caleb Hoekstra (6-1). “We’ll ret to run a lot,” coach Steve Finamore said. “We want to get up as many shots as we can. We’ll spread the floor.” The first three players off the bench are expected to be seniors including B.J. Powell (6-1), one of the school’s top football players.
14. Flint Beecher (26-1), C: The Bucs don’t play like a Class C team. Coach Mike Williams schedules a number of games against teams in higher classifications to prepare his team for the tournament. Junior Malik Ellison (5-8) averaged 12 points last season and Williams said he’s one of the best guards in the state. Jordan Roland (5-10) is another junior and he’s expected to stretch the defense with his perimeter shooting. Junior Levane Blake, who had 10 points and eight rebounds in Beecher’s state championship game, suffered an injured ankle in the offseason and hasn’t practiced. Williams said Blake could return in January. Jamari Thomas-Newell is one of seven seniors and he could earn a starting spot. Senior Delon Willis (6-6) is the only player over 6-4 and he’ll play the post. “Size doesn’t matter,” Williams said. “We know we can compete with anyone.”
15. Walled Lake Central (23-2), A: Hungry off a run to the quarterfinals last season, the Vikings are the top team in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association. They return almost their entire lineup. Seniors Walter Kelser, Anton Lukaj and Dylan Hudspeth anchor the backcourt, while senior Malik Abiola and sophomore Houston Tucker are set to pace Central up front. A four year-starter, Kelser (5-10) is an electric playmaker with a deadeye shooting touch and a tough-as-nails move to the basket. He averaged 21 points per game last year. Hudspeth will see more ball handling duties this year and has improved his outside shot. Lukaj (6-3) plays multiple positions all over the court and is being recruited by Division II and III colleges. The 6-4 Abiola is a grinder in the paint and Tucker, long, athletic and 6-5, has been showing major upside as he begins his first year of varsity competition.
16. Saginaw (15-6), A: Three starters return for the Trojans and coach Julian Taylor has a good mix of seniors and juniors. Eddie Thigpen (6-5) is a left-handed junior who averaged eight points and eight rebounds. Junior Ronquavis Southard (6-0) is a long-range shooter who averaged 20 points and eight assists. The others three starters are expected to be seniors. Jalen Davis (6-1) is an off guard who averaged nine points and is the leader on defense. Expect Terrance Crumpton (6-7) to show much improvement. Last season was his first on varsity. Jordan Coffey (6-1) is a pass-first point guard. Barrion Adams is the top reserve in the backcourt and the X-factor could well be junior Henry Stieghts (6-4), a transfer from Carrollton who will be eligible in January.
17. Detroit Edison (18-5), C: Coach Bo Neely brings all of his players back and will add a freshman to the mix. Dreyon O’Neal (6-5) might crack the starting lineup, too. Junior William Weem (6-8) is a strong rebounder and a terrific shot blocker. Two sophomores are outstanding. Deante Johnson (6-7) is a wirery player who will play the wing and, at times, inside. David DeJulius (6-0) is a point guard extraordinaire. Senior Ed Carter III (6-3) will be eligible in January because of the transfer rule and another senior, Marcus Johnson (6-3) might start. Neely said he could start as many as 10 players. Another is junior Jamal Keese, a 6-2 junior.
18. Holt (9-12), A: Like many teams, the Rams will be a different team come mid-January. Jaron Faulds (6-10) is a junior who is looking for a break-out season. Faulds averaged 11 points and eight rebounds, and is a skilled 205-pound post player. Senior Quinton Armstrong (6-5) is also a college prospect. Trent Stone (5-11), a rugged football player, brings toughness. Senior Jalin Cooper (5-11) started 16 games at the point. Add to this group transfers Brandon Suttles (Lansing Sexton) and Robera Nengesha (East Lansing). Both are ineligible the first semester.
19. Detroit Cass Tech (9-11), A: A new head coach (Steve Hall) and renewed optimism await the Technicians this season as they replace just one starter. Cass Tech’s backcourt is formidable. Junior point guard Leonard Silas (5-10) and senior Michael Farmer (6-0) interchangeable and play off each other well. Sophomore Randy Gilbert (6-6) is the team’s top college prospect. He’s strong and physical much like 6-5 junior Michael Green. Junior Cinque Harris (6-3) will play the wing and two football players (Donnell Alexander and Darwin Hubbard) provide toughness and a strong competitive force.
20. River Rouge (18-5), B: Back for the second year of his second stint as coach at his alma mater, Lamonta Stone thinks this season’s Panthers contingent might wind up better than last year’s squad that won a Class B district championship. Sophomore Darien Owens-White, son of Adrian College coach Mark White, assumes the team’s point guard duties from Stone’s namesake and son, currently playing at Eastern Michigan. Delonte Peterson is a junior and Division I college recruit on the wing. Dorian Watson, a tall guard who transferred in last winter from South Lyon East, will fill in another spot in the backcourt and Javon Lawrence is a 6-foot-7 big guy with a soft touch and Julius Lauder, a lineman on the school’s football team that just finished a season that ended in the state finals, highlight River Rouge’s post attack.
21. Detroit King (12-10), A: Just two starters return but the Crusaders have depth. Junior Treveon Orr (6-8) transferred from Detroit East English last season and played a few games. He’ll join returning starters Jesse Scarber (5-9), a point guard, and sophomore Keyon Brown (6-0) in the starting lineup. Senior Masio McCadney (6-1) is a scorer, like Brown. Seniors Anthony Randall (6-4) and Ehn Blackwell transferred from Detroit Southeastern last season and will play extensive minutes. Randall is intent on getting every rebound and Blackwell is an experienced point guard. Armani Posey, the quarterback who led King to the Division 2 football championship, joined the team recently. He will add poise and a winners’ mentality.
22. Wyoming Godwin Heights (26-1), B: Three starters return for the defending state champions. One is Leon Red (6-1), a senior who suffered an ankle injury and won’t be ready until January. Junior Chris Rodriguez (6-0) is a pass-first type of point guard. Richard Mazur (6-3) adds consistency and versatility. Lamar Norman (6-3) should show considerable improvement after a freshman season that was highlighted by his 17-point performance in the final. Godwin Heights will pressure full court and create easy baskets just as it did last season.
23. New Haven (25-1), B: Two starters return and they’re both Division I prospects. Add to this senior Alante Stevens (6-1), who saw key minutes last season, and junior Eric Williams (6-4), a left-handed wing who transferred in from St. Clair. There are just three seniors on the team, two are among Macomb County’s best. Jerry Ben (6-9) averaged 6.8 points and he committed to Cornell. Innocent Nwoko (6-11) averaged 6.3 blocks and he signed with Central Michigan. Watch for freshman Romeo Weems. He’s 6-6 and he’ll likely start.
24. Detroit Henry Ford (21-6), B: A state finalist a season ago, the Trojans return six players led by one of the top point guards in Metro Detroit, James Towns (5-10). Towns can score, too. Austin Hunter (6-4) plays inside and out and coach Ken Flowers calls him “my bruiser”. Kavon Bey is another 6-4 forward and he’ll likely be used as a reserve. Davantaye Webb and Jeremy Crawley are 6-foot guards, and they have the experience to help make Henry Ford a contender in Class B again.
25. Onsted (19-5), B: Three starters return from a team that lost to Milan in the regionals. Austin Davis (6-10) signed with Michigan and is certainly a Mr. Basketball candidate. The backcourt is strong with the return of Dallas Heibreder (6-0) and Dave Richardson (6-0). Heibreder is a floor leader; Richardson a scorer. The addition of Skylar Lipinski (6-6) will take some of the burden off of Davis inside. Lipinski, who originally was at Onsted, transferred in from Jackson Lumen Christi. Sophomore Jamis Dietrich (5-11) is expected to be the fifth starter.
Scott Burnstein contributed to this report.