U-D Jesuit's Eboigbodin, Eke are peaking at the right time for the CubsBasketball  |
Southfield – A season ago, Pat Donnelly watched his team bow out of the Class A boys basketball semifinals when Detroit U-D Jesuit had no answer for Bloomfield Hills forward Yante Maten, who scored 25 points and had 18 rebounds to send the Cubs home.
In this year’s postseason run, Donnelly now has the luxury of having some size in the post.
In fact, U-D Jesuit has a pair of big forwards and now they’re starting to peak at the right time for the Cubs.
Ike Eke and Gregory Eboigbodin, both standing at 6-foot-9, are both in their first year of playing organized basketball after sitting out their freshman year and have improved from day one for the Cubs and have played a role in putting their team just a step away from reaching the Breslin Center for a second straight year.
Donnelly said that having Eke and Eboigbodin in the post has made considerable difference and both have given the Cubs the ability to lock down against opposing post players after struggling to do so in last year’s semifinals.
“It’s unquestionable,” he said. “We haven’t had that size in the past. Last year, we got to the final four and we were very small and we lost to a Bloomfield Hills team that had a 6-foot-8 kid who dominated us inside. This year, we got a little bit of a chance because we have some guys who can defend other teams in the post.”
Donnelly and the Cubs hope that its size advantage will play a role in the Class A quarterfinals on Tuesday against Clarkston at Calihan Hall at 5:30.
In U-D Jesuit’s regional final win over North Farmington last Wednesday, Eke finished with 11 points and seven rebounds, while Eboigbodin registered eight points and 11 rebounds to help lead the Cubs into the Class A quarterfinals.
Eke said that he feels that one of the things he’s improved most on to this point of the eason is his ability to finish at the rim along with his rebounding and added that he’s feeling more and more comfortable by the day.
“I think I can run the floor well,” he said. “But I think I can finish now at the end of the season and I can rebound well now. At the beginning of the season, I think I was shy because I was new to the program, but I’m better now.”
Defensively, it was with the help of the sophomore forwards that allowed U-D Jesuit to shutting down a potent North Farmington team and limiting them to just 34 points in the regional final.
Eboigbodin said that one of the driving forces for himself and Eke was having to watch from the bench as U-D Jesuit made its journey to the Breslin Center for the Class A semifinals and that experience only makes the two of them want to advance back to that point even more.
“Last year was frustrating having to watch,” he said. “This year we’re on a mission. Last year, we got somewhere, this year we have to do better than that. That’s been our goal since the beginning of the season, to get back to the Breslin and win a state championship.”
For U-D Jesuit star point guard Cassius Winston, he said that he’s been impressed with the progress he’s seen from his teammates as they’ve become serious threats at the offensive end of the floor as well as the defensive end as well.
“They’ve definitely gotten better,” he said. “When we first saw them, they couldn’t make a lay-up and now they’re catching alley-oops and they have drop-step finishes and they’re developing really fast.”
Donnelly added that Eke and Eboigbodin are so new to the game that they’re both still learning the ins-and-outs of the game, but is pleased with the progress they’ve both made over the course of the year.
“They’re so new to the game,” he said. “This is their first year of organized basketball and they’ve improved tremendously as the year’s progressed and they’re only going to get better. They’re learning the game, it’s still fresh to them, they make mistakes now and then, but they also make some great plays with their length and their size. I couldn’t be happier with their progress.”
In the regional semifinal against Redford Thurston, Ebooigbodin put together a dominant effort, scoring 22 points and grabbing 13 rebounds and Eke had 10 points and seven rebounds.
Eboigbodin said that he feels his biggest improvements have come in the way of his abilities around the rim along with being able to set screens which help free up Winston and the U-D Jesuit backcourt.
“First of all, my rebounding,” he said. “And secondly, dunking and being able to set good screens has improved too.”
Eke agreed, saying that the beginning of the season left plenty to be improved upon, but his coach continued telling him to use his size to his advantage, advice that he’s put to good use since.
“At the beginning of the season, it wasn’t good, but coach kept telling us we should use our height,” he said. “It’s what God gave to us, so we should use our height in the game.”
It's that size that both players are using to their advantage that U-D Jesuit hopes can help lead the Cubs back to the Breslin with a win on Tuesday