In Play with Tom Markowski

Boys Basketball Preseason Top 25 Teams: U-D takes top spot, Dakota is No. 2 with Clarkston next

Basketball   | Tom Markowski

Boys Basketball Preseason Top 25 Teams: U-D takes top spot, Dakota is No. 2 with Clarkston next

Detroit – At long last teams won’t have to face U-D Jesuit and Mr. Basketball winner Cassius Winston.

Winston started all four seasons and led his team to three state semifinals and the school’s first title last season.

If you’re thinking the Cubs will be down this season think again. They actually have more depth than a season ago even if their superstar has graduated.

U-D, 28-0 a season ago, is, for the second consecutive season, State Champs’ No. 1 team in the preseason.

“We’re as deep as ever,” coach Pat Donnelly said. “Julian (Dozier) is ready to be a major contributor and our bigs are stronger and better.”

Dozier is a sophomore point guard who often played side by side with Winston last season and gained valuable experience going one-on-one with him in practice. Dozier will have the pressure of replacing Winston at the point but there’s so much talent here that Dozier won’t be asked to win a game, just set the table.

It’s difficult to imagine any team that can match U-D inside. Ike Eke and Greg Eboigbodin are 6-9 bookends who takes turns clicking on the highlight reel.

Eke is bigger and stronger this season, and he’s improved his offensive game tremendously in the offseason. He signed with Marquette.

Eboigbodin is the more physical player. He has a different skill set than Eke. Eboigbodin is more of a shot blocker who protects the rim. He signed with Illinois-Chicago.

Elijah Collins (6-2) and Scott Nelson (6-3) are standouts in football who contribute so much for Donnelly’s team as well. Collins is athletic and runs the floor well. Nelson is adept at taking a charge and often gets those garbage points near the basket.

Two sophomores will be in the mix. Daniel Friday (6-3) played on an undefeated freshmen team and Jalen Thomas (6-10) split time between the varsity and junior varsity. Thomas got stronger in the weight room and he’s more coordinated this season.

 

 

2. Macomb Dakota (26-1), A: The Cougars reached new heights last season advancing to the state semifinals for the first time. Now they’re looking to take another step. Jermaine Jackson, Jr., is a 5-10 point guard whom many say is one of the top five seniors in the state. Few can create the excitement Jackson can as a floor leader. “It’s all starts with Jermaine,” coach Paul Tocco said. “He has a ton of knowledge.” Junior Thomas Kithier (6-6) is the other returning starter and he committed to Michigan State. Jaylen Hall (6-4) was one of the top receivers in Metro Detroit this past season and he’ll start after his role as a reserve. Senior Chris McGee (6-0) played quality minutes and made the game-winning shot against Clarkston in the regionals. The player that could put Dakota over the top is Jack Ballantyne (6-9), a senior transfer from Warren De La Salle. Ballantyne is highly skilled and rebounds well. Brett Droski (6-3), the quarterback on the football team, will add depth as will fellow senior Deonte Estes (5-11). Tocco’s son, Mark (6-0), a sophomore, and freshman Ryan Rollins (6-0) will spell McGee at the shooting guard.   

3. Clarkston (20-3), A: The Wolves return a bevy of players and many of whom are juniors. The top one is one of the state’s best, Foster Loyer (6-0). Clarkston is 44-4 with him as a starter and Loyer committed to Michigan State. Dylan Alderson (6-4) is a wing who can shoot from the perimeter and drive to the basket. His role as a scorer hasn’t changed but coach Dan Fife wants Alderson, who signed with Wisconsin-Milwaukee, to become more of a leader. Fellow senior John Chrenka (6-0) is part of a deep rotation. Junior C.J. Robinson (5-11), a part time starter last season, will spell Loyer at the point. Stewart Newblatt, a 6-4, 240-pound junior who started on the football team, will be an enforcer inside. Then there are two transfers who are expected to gradually have a positive impact. Tristan Myesen (6-5) is a junior who came in from Oxford and sophomore Taylor Currie (6-8) came to Clarkston from Ohio. Fife said Currie is “like Bambi” and has much to learn but he likes how Currie runs the floor and Fife said Currie is a good passer.

4. Grand Rapids Christian (22-2), A: Christian lost to Muskegon in the regionals and the Eagles return four starters led by the front runner for Mr. Basketball, Xavier Tillman. At 6-8 and 270 pounds, Tillman is a dominating player inside. He signed with Michigan State. Duane Washington (6-3) is a junior point guard and the team’s table-setter. He’s been offered a scholarship by Akron, Central Michigan and Western Michigan. James Beck (6-7) plays the wing and his midrange jump shot is his signature. He signed with Oakland. Coach Mark Warners has his son, Emmett, back at forward. Emmett Warners (6-5) led the team in assists and shot 39 percent from 3-point range. Junior Seth Miller (6-5) missed last season after suffering a broken leg and he could move into the starting lineup. Senior Thad Shymanski (6-0) provides instant offense with his long-range shooting ability. “We’re better than last year,” Mark Warners said. “These kids have put in the time in the offseason.” 

  

5. East Lansing (23-1), A: Versatile junior Brandon Johns (6-8) is one of four starters returning for coach Steve Finamore. Johns and Co. will play with a chip on their shoulders after being upset by Lansing Everett in the regionals. DeAndre Robinson (6-4) averaged 9.5 points and is a college recruit. Caleb Hoekstra (6-1) made 65 3-pointers last season and can stretch a defense. Westin Myles (6-4) is a point forward whose assignment defensively is to guard the opposition’s best player. Xavier Odom (6-2) is athletic and a solid defender. Junior point guard Malik Jones “makes us go” Finamore said. But it’s Johns whom every opponent must key on. 

6. Kalamazoo Central (20-4), A: The Giant Maroons have one of the top players in 6-8 forward Isaiah Livers who signed with Michigan. “He’s the best player in the state,” coach Ramsey Nichols said. A four-year varsity player, Livers shoots well, is a good passer and has become stronger in the post. Rog Stein (6-5) averaged 10 points and 8.6 rebounds, and he makes his home near the basket. Jeremiah Vincent (6-3) is the third returning starter and he plays the wing. Junior Tre Vallar (6-0) could start at the point and senior Grant Kubiak (6-6) is the team’s top 3-point shooter. Senior Steve Johnson (6-9) suffered an ankle injury and did not play last season. Nichols said Johnson will be a huge addition.  

7. Saginaw (19-4), A: The Trojans were upset by Midland in a regional final and they return three starters led by senior Ronquavious Southard (6-0). Southard averaged 19 points and eight assists, and was named MVP of the Saginaw Valley but he’s out until January after suffering a broken finger. Eddie Thigpen (6-6) is a four-year varsity player, is a strong rebounder and is possibly Saginaw’s best all-around player. Henry Speight (6-4) and Chaz Wood (6-2) won’t be eligible until January. Anthony Sanders (6-4) is an athletic guard and a terrific perimeter defender. Two freshmen will contribute. James Baver (6-5), Draymond Green’s cousin, will play the wing and Freddie McIntosh (5-9) could start at the point until Southard returns.     

8. Detroit East English Village Prep (19-4), A: The defending Detroit Public School League champions return just one starter but there’s no shortage of talent. Greg Elliott (6-3) averaged 19 points, eight rebounds and four assists, and has received numerous scholarship offers. Fellow senior Samuel Womack (5-10) saw extensive playing time a season ago and is the top defender. Sophomore Tariq Shepherd will likely start and share the point guard duties with junior David DeJulius (6-0), a transfer from Detroit Edison. Junior Zavon Godwin (6-6) is a transfer from Roseville and won’t be eligible until January. Tukeemo McGee (6-6) is a senior and looks to have a spot as a starter, at least until Godwin becomes eligible. Freshman Jayshawn Moore (6-3) will be one of the top reserves. 

 

9. Muskegon (20-4), A: The Big Reds return one starter, Anthony Bethea (6-5) who signed with Northern Michigan, and they will likely struggle early due to the fact that seven players played football and it’ll take time for them to regain their basketball legs. Senior Jermaine Goliday (6-4) was the sixth man and was the team’s second leading scorer (10 ppg). Coach Keith Guy’s club will benefit with the addition of senior Sam Cornett (6-5), a transfer from Grandville, who is immediately eligible. Cornett is a fine 3-point shooter and he averaged 13.5 points last season. Senior Markeel Jackson (6-6) is a Division I recruit and sophomore DeAndre Carter (5-10) saw playing time last season and will start at the point. Junior Willie Shanks (6-1) is the team’s top defender and junior A.J. Reid (6-8) adds girth to Muskegon’s interior defense.

10. Saginaw Arthur Hill (18-5), A: The Lumberjacks lost to Saginaw in a district final and return three starters notably Jakawi Moore (5-11), a junior point guard who plays like a senior. Vincent Johnson (6-2) led the team in scoring (19 ppg) last season and has received a number of Division II scholarship offers. Jimmy Bell is a 6-11, 327-pound post player who shows remarkable agility. He averaged eight points, seven rebounds and three blocks. He is a major Division I football recruit. Sophomore Brandon Long (6-5) is a physical, Ben Wallace type of player who will team with Bell to present an imposing front court. Santino Torrez (6-2) is a senior wing who can score.

11. Ann Abor Pioneer (19-5), A: The Pioneers have good depth but they won’t be able to use it until later this month and into January. Four starters return but two, seniors Jordan Currie (6-6) and Deric Murray (6-3), are injured. Murray (fractured foot) should return in a couple of weeks. Currie suffered an ankle injury on Dec. 4 and is likely out a month. It’s possible another returning starter (Chris McGaughy) won’t play this season due to a variety of injuries/ailments. Coach Rex Stanczak will rely on seniors Cedric Benton (6-2), a four-year starter, and Noah Osebor (6-4) to keep the ship steady until help arrives. Two outstanding sophomores will help make this team ready come tournament time. Drew Lowder (5-9) saw extensive playing time last season and Austin Young (6-4) is a transfer from Ohio and won’t be eligible until January.

12. Belleville (19-5), A: The Tigers are somewhat of a difficult team to read. They’ve got talent but the top six players are juniors so it’s possible the best is yet to come. Davion Williams (6-2) and Gabe Brown (6-7) are among the top players in their class. Williams, who averaged 19.9 points, has been offered a scholarship by Eastern Michigan, Oakland and Toledo, and Brown, who grew four inches the past 12 months, has been offered a scholarship by Akron, DePaul, Oakland and Toledo. Brown was on the junior varsity last season. Devin Alverson (6-3) is a wing who started seven games last season and Julian Savoury (6-9) is a wirery post player who runs the floor well. Kmare Carey (6-2) returns as the starting point guard and he’s a college prospect as a defensive back in football. Cameron Smiley (5-8) will spell Carey at the point. 

 

13. Detroit Western (20-4), A: Balance is the optimum word in the Detroit Public School League this season and the Cowboys will be in the mix. Coach Derrick McDowell returns just one starter, 6-5 senior Josh Long who prefers playing on the perimeter. This team will be young and will likely stumble a few times early. Freshman Lauren Bowman (6-1) will start at point guard and junior LaTravion Jackson (6-7), who has been offered a scholarship by Eastern Michigan and Detroit, is Western’s top recruit at this point. Junior Anthony Roberts (6-4) was one of the top reserves last season and McDowell said Roberts’ forte is scoring.  Rayvon Simpson is Western’s most versatile guards. 

14. New Haven (22-3), B: The Rockets lost to Detroit Henry Ford in a quarterfinals and return 10 players including three starters. Romeo Weems (6-6) is the face of this team. The sophomore averaged 17.1 points and his versatility creates matchups problems. Eric Williams (6-5) is a left-handed wing who has received scholarship offers from Division II schools. Junior Ashton Sherrell (6-7) is a stretch four and A.J Crawford (5-11), a transfer from Warren Cousino, will start at the point. Tavares Oliver (6-0) or Will Moore (5-9) will be the fifth starter. “We’ve got more talent than the last two years,” coach Tedaro France said.    

15. Flint Carman-Ainsworth (19-4), A: Carman-Ainsworth finished 10-0 in the Saginaw Valley South Division and won a district title. Three starters return plus a transfer from Flint Northwestern. The top two players are juniors. Ja’Kavien Lewis (6-0) is a point guard who can score. Tough-minded, Lewis isn’t one to back down from a challenge. O’mari Duncan (6-3) scores in a variety of ways and his motor never stops. Sophomore Michael Fletcher (6-6) plays the power forward spot but he’ll step out and shoot the perimeter shot as well. Senior Aaron Williams (6-0) started a couple of games and his midrange game sets him apart. Senior Troy Brown (6-2), the transfer, is a better football player and he’ll mix it up inside. Senior Chan Pearson (6-1) is likely the fifth starter and he likes to shoot from long range.

16. Detroit Cass Tech (11-10), A: Coach Steve Hall will use a three-guard offense and his best player is Leonard Silas (5-10), a  four-year varsity player who led the team in scoring (16 ppg) last season. The program’s top college prospect is junior Randy Gilbert (6-6). Hall said Gilbert needs to display more consistency. Senior Teronnie Cook (6-2) has a sweet midrange game and freshman Tyson Acuff (6-2) will likely start at the point. Senior Michael Green (6-5) makes his home in the paint and could well be the fifth starter. Senior Trevion Gordon (6-0) and freshman Colin Golson (6-5) will be in the rotation.

17. West Bloomfield (14-8), A: The Lakers move up from the Oakland Activities Association White Division, where it finished in a three-way tie for first, to the Red. Seven players return led by senior point guard Kevin McAdoo (6-2), an unselfish player who’s received interest from a number of Division I and II schools. Tre Harvey (6-2) is a junior who is considered one of the top perimeter shooters in Metro Detroit. He could have a breakout season. Tyler Davis (6-3) plays the wing and is a high-energy type of player. Daniel Wrack and Garrett Winn are also expected to see valuable playing time.

18. Warren De La Salle (15-7), A: Look for the Pilots to play fast and shoot plenty of 3-pointers. Three starters return from a team that won a district title. The junior class is particularly strong and the top one is point guard Justin Fischer (6-3). Fischer suffered a broken ankle in the fifth game last season and his return is much anticipated. Seniors Josh Vailancourt (6-2) and Luke Pfromm (6-5) are accurate perimeter shooters, and senior Ryan Anderson (6-2) is a high energy player who excels on the defensive end. The fifth starter could be junior Kole Gjonaj (6-5), a strong rebounder. Easton Sikorski (6-1), a fine baseball player, is a leader and the Pilots’ top reserve.    

19. Wayne Memorial (9-12), A: The Zebras return three starts plus two others who played significant minutes. Add to this Travez Nyk (6-4), a senior transfer from Detroit Consortium who is immediately eligible. Junior Rashad Williams (6-3) and Keion Epps (6-6) are the leaders of this team. Williams is a lead guard who has received scholarship offers from Cleveland State and Eastern Michigan. Epps averaged 14 points and eight rebounds, and he signed with Eastern Michigan. Sophomore Isaiah Lewis (5-10) is a shooting guard and Terrance Williams (no relation), a three-year starter, will move from the point to a wing. Wayne has depth and junior Kobe Price (6-4) could be the best of the bunch.        

20. Holland West Ottawa (17-4), A: Not known as a basketball school, West Ottawa set a school record for consecutive (15) and total victories last season. Most of its players were sophomores last season. Of the seniors Jake Van Tubbergen (6-5) is the best. He signed with Grand Valley State. The other four starters are juniors with Nick Wehrmeyer (5-10) back at the point. Tyler Bosma (6-5) is athletic. He’s a left-handed pitcher on the baseball team. Xavier Wade (6-2) plays the wing and is a college prospect as a receiver on the football team. He’s also receiving interest from college basketball coaches. Drew Pederson (6-2) could start or provide instant offense off the bench. Seniors Nolan Eccker (6-3) and Hunter Bedford (6-3) add depth. 

21. Holt (11-9), A: The Rams return two starters and this team, with one big exception, will be guard-oriented. Jaron Faulds (6-10) averaged 13 points and 11 rebounds last season, and his strength lies on the defensive end. He will attend Columbia and one of the school’s top recruits. Myles Baker (6-4) is also a fine defender and fellow senior Robera Mengesha (5-11) is the team’s top perimeter shooter. Ar’tavious King (6-0) missed 15 games due to an injury and he’ll play the point and a wing spot. Josh Denning (6-0) is the fifth starter. “It’s our best group of guards in a long time,” coach Matt Essel said.

22. Detroit Edison (17-5), C: Three starters plus one part time starter are back plus two transfers make this new member of the PSL a top contender for a league and state title. Pierre Mitchell (6-0) is a junior point guard who led Detroit Loyola to a district title last season. He committed to Central Michigan a year ago and won’t be eligible until January. Deante Johnson (6-8) averaged 14 points and nine rebounds as a sophomore and he’s received scholarship offers from Eastern Michigan and Toledo. Gary Solomon (6-3) is a transfer from Cass Tech and he’ll play both guard spots, is immediately eligible. Amari Hudson (6-2) and Jalen Stokes (6-5) represent half of the seniors, and both are tough-minded players who rebound well. Dreyon O’Neal (6-6) averaged 12 points as a freshman.

23. River Rouge (22-4), B: There’s a new, but familiar, coach at River Rouge as Mark White (former coach at Detroit Renaissance at Adrian College) returns to coach at the high school level. The Panthers lost in a quarterfinal last season and two starters return plus another who started elsewhere. Darian Owens-White, the coach’s son, is a versatile point guard. Toledo has offered him a scholarship. Delante Peterson (6-4) is an athletic forward and Drequan Bell (6-3) is a transfer from Detroit Allen, which closed. Bell has been offered a scholarship by Saginaw Valley State and Bethune-Cookman. “We’re young,” White said. “We have a lot of new parts.” Jarius Grissom, the quarterback who committed to Eastern Michigan for football, adds experience and a winning attitude. Four sophomores transferred in and won’t be eligible until January.    

24. Detroit Northwestern Collegiate (20-5), B: The Colts lost to their rival and eventual state champion Detroit Henry Ford in the regionals and they return three starters plus a fourth who started part time. Four seniors will start led by Kylan Shipp (6-0) who plays what coach Matt Blount calls the “killer position”, ala Allen Iverson. “He shoots from the freeway,” Blount said of Shipp. John Ivory (6-6) is the most improved player. Cameron Lamar (6-0) played half a season and was predominantly Blount’s offensive spark plug off the bench. DeShawn Hardnett (6-3), nicknamed ‘Fats’, is a three-year varsity player who does all of the dirty work. Freshman Steve Pearson (6-3) could start at the point. The depth is young and sophomore Dorian Weiss (5-9) will also play the point.    

25. Southfield for the Arts and Technology (new school), A: Four starters return for coach Mike Avery but the Warriors have been hit by injuries. Michael Flowers averaged 25 points and signed with Western Michigan but had knee surgery in September and won’t be ready until January, possibly early February. Junior point guard Gerald Hall suffered a groin injury and he, too, is out until January. Reme Torbert is a 6-foot senior and he’ll run the point at times. Senior Brandon Rucker (6-5) is a returning starter and he can play a variety of positions. Sampson Ekom (6-6) will mix it up inside and sophomore Marcus Fuqua, though just 5-10, rebounds well and causes problems inside for the opposition because of his aggressive style. The guard play should be sound as both Corey Whitte and Cameron McEvans add depth.