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Top 25 Preseason Boys Basketball teams – Detroit Western grabs top spot

By: Tom Markowski, December 8, 2014, 5:06 pm



Detroit – These Cowboys are riding on some unfamiliar terrain.

Known more for its success on a baseball diamond, not on a basketball court, Detroit Western enters the 2014-2015 boys basketball season as State Champs’ No. 1 team in the state.

Western returns its entire lineup from last season’s 9-12 ball club and adds a pair of high-profile transfers in University of Detroit signees, Josh McFolley and Gerald Blackshear, transfers from Mt. Clemens.

“I like where we’re at right now as a team,” Western coach Derrick McDowell said. “We’ve got a lot of pieces of the puzzle. We have size. We have scoring. We have balance. Hopefully that can translate into a successful season for us.”

McDowell landed at Western three years ago, following a six-year stint as an assistant coach at Eastern Michigan University. He had previously been in the local prep ranks at Detroit Redford, where in his 12-year tenure on the sidelines he took the program to three Class A final fours and two Detroit Public School League titles.

McFolley, a crafty 5-foot-11 combo guard, and Blackshear, an athletic and long 6-8 power forward, helped lead Mt. Clemens to a 22-2 record and a trip into the Class C quarterfinals as juniors in 2014. Averaging 17 points per game and shooting 48 percent from 3-point range, McFolley was an all-state selection last year. Blackshear averaged 13 points and 11 rebounds and shot a tad shy of 65 percent from the field.

“Josh and Gerald bring toughness and experience. We need that,” McDowell said.

McFolley and Blackshear are ineligible until after Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday due to the transfer rule.

Augmenting Blackshear in the Cowboys’ frontcourt are three players standing 6-7 or taller, headlined by 6-9 senior center Julius Palmer. Joining McFolley in the backcourt is point guard Brailen Neely (6-2 junior). Swingman Karim Murray (6-3 junior) will start at small forward.

Both Neely and Murray are returning starters and had productive off-seasons that attracted interest from college coaches.

Shooting guard Armani Tinsley, wing Aaron Austin (6-4) and 6-7 senior forward Antoine Smith will all play major minutes. When McFolley and Blackshear become eligible the playing time of the aforementioned will almost certainly decrease.

“The talent is there, no question,” McDowell said. “We’ll see if we can bring the commitment, the heart, the focus and the mental attitude that it takes to achieve the level of success we think we are capable of.

Tests will come early, notably Saturday’s game against No. 2-ranked Saginaw Arthur Hill and all-state floor general, Eric Davis (Texas).


2. Saginaw Arthur Hill (17-4), A: With four starters returning, coach Greg McMath said “we have a chance to be really good”. Starting with Eric Davis (6-4), who signed with Texas, and sophomore Brian Bowen (6-7), another high major recruit, the Lumberjacks are a team that can score 80 points on any night. Senior Dequavion Johnson (6-4) is “jack of all trades”, according to McMath. Nathan Moore (5-8) is a junior point guard and perhaps the most important player because his play frees up Davis to concentrate on scoring. Sophomore Will Rogers (6-5) will start at center and freshman Jimmy Bell (6-9, 315) will play valuable minutes.

3. Muskegon (28-0), A: Two starters and a total of eight varsity players return from a team that proved it was the best last season. Deyonta Davis (6-10) signed with Michigan State and has been named the top player in the preseason. Few players have the ability and size to compete with Davis. Joeviair Kennedy (6-4) is the other starter back and he’s a scorer, and another Division I prospect. The Big Reds’ success will depend greatly on senior point guard Jason Loera (5-10). The sixth man last season, Loera shared time with Deshawn Thrower (Stony Brook) last season at that spot. Daryl Kirkland (6-2) saw spot duty last season. Underclassmen Anthony Bethea (6-4), Michael Littlejohn (5-9) and Lynwood Lee (5-10) will work their way into the rotation.


4. U-D Jesuit (22-3), A: The Cubs reached their first semifinal last season and they return two starters including the state’s top junior, Cassius Winston (6-1). With a player like Winston, a point guard who can score, just about any team would be a title contender. Jerry Collins (6-2) showed much improvement over the summer and gives coach Pat Donnelly another scoring option. Then there’s the 6-9 Nigerian sophomores, Greg Eboigbodin and Ikechukwu Eke. Both were athletically ineligible last season and will start this season. Freshman Elijah Carter (5-11) could move into the starting lineup soon.  


5. Kalamazoo Central (20-4), A: Ramsey Nichols enters his third season as head coach and this promises to be Central’s best since the 2011 state title team. Five starters return but not all will start this time around. Junior Devon Daniels (6-4) averaged 21 points and six rebounds as he played just the last 12 games after transferring in from Battle Creek Lakeview. Orlando Little (6-4) is more of an inside player as he averaged eight rebounds as a sophomore. Sophomore Isaiah Livers averaged 6.8 points and eight rebounds, and he’s settled at the four spot. Point guard Hunter Hale is the team’s best perimeter shooter and Nichols said Nichols said Hale is even better from long range this season. Sophomore Ontario Burnett (6-3) was the best player on the junior varsity and he’ll step in at the shooting guard. “I like our depth and I like our size,” Nichols said. “These kids want to win.” 


6. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (18-4), A: The Rangers return their top seven players led by sophomore Xavier Tillman (6-8). Tillman is the consummate team player but he can also score when called upon. Alex Dykema (6-2) is a three-year player who averaged 13 points last season. Point guard Johnny Nutter (6-2) excels at getting his teammates involved in the offense. Chad Bouchan (6-7) compliments Tillman’s play inside and Sam Eucker (5-10) is reliable on the defensive end. Ike Kanu (6-6) is an athletic wing who will add scoring off the bench.  


7. Romulus (22-4), A: The Eagles to by one point in the quarterfinals and though they return just one starter coach Jarret Smith will have more depth this season. Jaylin Walker (6-2) signed with Kent State and is the team leader. Junior D’Angelo Hansbro (6-0) has received Division I scholarship offers and senior Rio Washington (6-7, 280) is also receiving interest from Division I schools. Junior Rahsaan Pope (6-3), a transfer from Belleville, will take over at the point and junior Savan Williams (5-8) is an excellent on-ball defender.    


8. Hudsonville (17-8), A: The Eagles gave Muskegon its closest game (56-48) in the tournament last season and they return four starters. Brent Hibbitts (6-8) is a three-year starter and manning the post is Mason Opple (6-2, 210), the quarterback on the football team. Junior Jared Bloom (6-0) is an athletic shooting guard and Kyle Toth (6-1) brings energy from his wing position. The point guard duties will likely be shared by juniors Bryce Elliott and Riley Costen. Both played on the junior varsity last season. Junior Levi Lubbers led the junior varsity in scoring and Cooper Cechini isn’t afraid to mix it up inside from his guard position.


9. Lansing Everett (5-16), A: Coach Desmond Ferguson returns all five starters plus Trevor Manuel (6-9) who played at Oak Hill Academy last season. Point guard Deshae Doll (5-9) is a four-year varity player who averaged eight points last season. Sophomore Diego Robinson (6-5) brings energy in the post and Jamyin Jackson (6-2) has the ability to average double figures in scoring. “We’ll go 10 deep,” Ferguson said. “We’ve got to get it up and down. We could be really good defensively.”  


10. Ann Arbor Huron (16-6), A: Huron was upset by Ann Arbor Skyline in a district final so the River Rats re sure to be more focused this season. Four starters return led by 6-6 wing Xavier Cochran who has been offered a scholarship by a handful of Division I schools. Jalen Thompson (6-0) is excellent off the dribble and point guard David Wren (6-3) possesses an accurate mid-range jump shot. A fourth senior, Brian Walker (6-6), is comfortable on the wing or inside. The depth is outstanding. Three sophomores will be in the rotation including Lawrence Rowley (6-4).


11. Clarkston (20-5), A:  Gunning for its ninth straight Oakland Activities Association Red Division championship, Clarkston is as deep as it’s been in a while. Senior captain and Madonna-signee Drew Myers and highly-touted freshman Foster Loyer form a stellar backcourt, while junior Tabin Throgmorton is a standout on the wing. Football star Cole Chewins (6-8) will start at center and rugged Jonah Newblatt flanks him at power forward. Merrick Canada (another football player) can play either guard position and is a spunky defender. He will be one of the top sixth-men in the area. Seniors Josh Bonzeim (guard), Will Scarlett (forward) and Dayton Wallis (guard/forward) all saw playing time last year and are expected to contribute off the bench.


12. Saginaw (17-7), A: The Trojans lost in the regionals and return three starters. RonQuavious Southward (6-1) averaged 10 points and four assists. He’ll play both guard positions. Devon Pratt (6-0) averaged eight points and is one of the team’s top rebounders. Thomas Stuckey (6-7) is coach Julian Taylor’s top low-post option and 6-8 junior Terrance Crumptun is a threat to score inside and out. Look for sophomore Eddie Thigpen (6-5) to average in double figures after leading an undefeated junior varsity squad in scoring.


13. Milan (25-3), B: The Big Reds won their first state title and return three starters. First-year coach Chris Pope has the luxury of having two Division I players in 6-8 power forward Nick Perkins (Buffalo) and point guard Latin Davis (Youngstown State). Lance Lewis (6-4) is the team’s top wing defender and is the glue of this team. Warren Calloway (6-2) does the dirty work inside and sophomore Garrett Gardett (5-10) will play the point allowing Davis to move to the shooting guard at times. Milan is also aided by three transfers including 6-2 Dan Jablonski (from Saline) who is immediately eligible.  


14. Ypsilanti Lincoln (14-7), A: The Railsplitters fizzled at the end after a torrid start. Five return who started at least a handful of games. Ty Groce (6-6) is one of the top junior frontcourt players. He averaged 10.5 points and could see time at the shooting guard spot. Sherrod Motley-Dismuke (5-10) is a physical guard who has a knack for getting to the free throw line. Devin Haygood (6-6) has a high motor and he signed with Youngstown State. Javin Etchison (5-7) will come off the bench after starting much of last season. Lazon Hicks (6-5), a receiver on the football team, is a physical post defender.     


15. Detroit East English Village Prep (14-9), A: Three starters return plus point guard Chris Rollins, a junior who transferred in from Warren De La Salle. Jalen McFadden (6-4), a transfer from Southfield Bradford Academy, will be eligible in January. Fred Wright-Jones, one of three seniors on the team, will also play the point plus off guard. Kamari Newman (6-3) is the team’s top player. This team is loaded with guards including Nathaniel Bolware and sophomore Gregory Elliott (6-2). Junior Cedric Latimore (6-5, 230) is one of the few post players.


16. Warren De La Salle (18-5), A: The Pilots return two starters plus a third, 6-9 sophomore Jack Ballantine, who played starter minutes. Kevin McKay (6-4) is a junior who can play all five positions. Alex Copacia (6-5) was a role player last season. Look for him to be more effective inside. Matt Grimm (6-5) could take over at the point and Josh Winowicki (6-5) might be the team’s top perimeter shooter.   


17. Ypsilanti (21-3), A: Coach Steve Brooks lost half of his starters but he’ll still have eight or nine players in the rotation. At 6-3, junior Corey Allen is the team’s tallest player. Look for Ypsilanti to create transition. Seniors Avery Williams and Kendrick Williams (no relation) are experienced backcourt players, and Ray’Jon Jackson (6-2), a transfer from Dearborn Heights Robichaud, will add instant offense. Two sophomores, Marlin Talley and Darion Owens-White, have fathers who are head coaches.


18. East Lansing (10-11), A: The Trojans lost their top three scorers but putting the ball in the basket won’t be a problem. Mykhail Myles (6-2), a transfer from Corunna, averaged 19 points. Myles has a vertical jump of 38 inches. Brandon Johns (6-7) is the state’s top freshman and it’s possible he’ll average a double-double. Myles’ brother, Weston, is a 6-3 sophomore and he’ll start in the backcourt. Sophomore Caleb Hoekstra made 60 3-pointers as a junior varsity player. 


19. North Farmington (14-7), A: The Raiders return nine of their top 10 players led by Cleveland State-signee Jeron Rogers (6-7), one of the top small forwards in the state’s senior class. Junior Jacob Joubert improved over the summer and should aid in easing the scoring load. Senior Anthony Qasawa, a wing, was the team’s second-leading scorer (12 ppg). Baseball standout Alex Darden (6-5), junior committed to play baseball at Cincinnati, is set to handle duties in the post. Darden, Joubert and Rogers have all started since they were freshmen.

20. Oak Park (18-7), A:  Coming off a season where it won both league and district titles for the first time in six years under first-year head coach Bryant Tipton, Oak Park is stacked again with college-level talent inside and on the perimeter. The Knights frontcourt consists of junior Kalvon Fuller (6-8), senior Rodney Scales (6-7) and sophomore Jonathan Raines (6-7), all college recruits. Scales averaged a double-double last year and recently returned from Wisconsin. Raines is a transfer from River Rouge and won’t be eligible until January. All-league guard Mario Garrett is an aggressive on-ball defender and is an excellent finisher around the rim. The point guard spot will be handled by Devin Mills who is garnering college-recruiting interest following a strong offseason.

21. Detroit Renaissance (14-7), A: The Phoenix won the PSL Division 1 West Division and return two starters. They have one of the state’s top juniors in Justin Turner (6-3) who averaged 22 points last season. Richard Talley (5-10) is back at the point and look for Darrel Smith (5-8), a transfer from Detroit Community, to add punch to the offense when he becomes eligible in January. This is a young team. And with juniors Alaric Jackson (6-8, 280) and Michael Jacobs (6-6, 300) it’s a big team.

22. Macomb Dakota (17-6), A: The Cougars return two starters plus a third who started 10 games. But when sophomore point guard Jermaine Jackson, Jr., and senior post player Charles Penn (6-7) become eligible in January this team will experience a complete makeover. John Hall (6-4) is a solid interior player and Alex Hagel (6-5, 220) lost 30 pounds and is more mobile. Point guard Chris Marshall (6-1) is a three-year varsity player and, along with Jackson, the Cougars will be strong in the backcourt. Freshman Thomas Kithier (6-7) will start at center.    

23. Detroit Henry Ford (11-12), B: Coach Ken Flowers lost just one senior to graduation and he returns all five starters led by Josh Davis (6-5) who signed with Western Michigan. “These guys have been together for three years and they’re scrappy,” Flowers said. Junior point guard James Towns (6-0) has been offered a scholarship by numerous Division I schools. Antuan Carter (6-1) and Jamal Edwards (6-1) are the other two seniors on the team. Junior Antwan Johnson (6-6) started on the wing last year but he’ll likely come off the bench this season.

24. Detroit Pershing (21-2), A: I know. It’ unusual to have the Doughboys rated so low in the preseason. “We’re not the Keith Appling-Pershing,” coach Wydell Henry said. “By January we’ll be fine.” Marquel Ingram (6-3) has been offered a scholarship by a few Division I schools and he should lead the team in scoring. Junior Dave Sysax (6-6), a transfer from Detroit King, will be eligible in January and 6-7 junior Charles Manson, a transfer from Harper Woods Chandler Park Academy, is immediately eligible. Troy Campbell (5-7) is a returning starter and sophomore Armonee Felder (5-7) is expected to start at the point.

25. Midland Dow (14-8), A: First-year coach Mark Dickerson has one of the area’s top point guards (Alec Marty) returning plus two other players who saw significant minutes. Look for senior Jared Skinner (6-2) to have a breakout season as a scorer. Junior Mike Robb (6-6) is a versatile wing who can finish. This Dow team will look to push it and will play four guards often. Devonte Stine (6-4) was the best player on the junior varsity and will start. Dow’s success is dependent upon Marty and how he handles the spotlight.