In Play with Tom Markowski

New Haven basketball, the most recent northern Macomb County program to become a factor in the state tournament

Basketball   | Tom Markowski

New Haven basketball, the most recent northern Macomb County program to become a factor in the state tournament

New Haven – The success of a number of programs in northern Macomb County recently perhaps has shown a shift in power from programs like Sterling Heights Stevenson and those in the Warren area to those further north.

Romeo won the Division 1 title last fall giving the school its first football state championship and the volleyball again reached the final after capturing the school’s first title in 2014.

 Richmond won wrestling (Division 3) titles in 2010-12, finished second the next two seasons and won the title last season. Its baseball program, for the first time, reach the state final (Division 2) in 2013 and ’14.

Joining this list of champions and title contenders could be the boys basketball program at New Haven.

The Rockets reached the Class B quarterfinals last season and are 11-1 and ranked No. 2 heading into Tuesday’s home game against Madison Heights Madison.

New Haven also reached the quarterfinals in 1990 and 2012 but has never made it to the semifinals.

Jerry Ben (6-9) started every game last season and Innocent Nwoko (6-11) started half the games. That’s it as far as returning starters. For many programs this lack of experience would set it back. But New Haven might be better than it was last season.

Alante Stevens is one of the few seniors and he’s at the point. This is the first season Stevens has seen quality minutes and he’s responded.

The leading scorers are underclassmen. Eric Williams, a 6-4 junior, averages 16.5 points and gets his points in a variety of ways.

Freshman Romeo Weems (6-6) leads the team in scoring (17.4 points) and is second in rebounds (10.2). Weems plays beyond his years. If coach Tedaro France asks Weems to play the point he does. If France needs him to play inside he can do that, too. Weems shows improvement week to week and has already displayed leadership skills.

This is France’s ninth season as head coach and he’s built a solid foundation, one that will continue to be successful year after year.

New Haven will miss Ben (Cornell) and Nwoko (Central Michigan) next season but there’s even depth where next season the Rockets will again contend for the Macomb Area Conference Gold Division title and be relevant in the tournament.

Much of this has to do with Weems, one of the state’s top freshman, but most of the credit goes to France.

France is a New Haven graduate. He cares about the community and the community cares about athletics.

“We were 6-15 my first year,” he said. “I cut three starters from the year before. They didn’t understand how to play the game. They didn’t know how to win.

“If I don’t show them the right way I’m doing them a disservice. They have to understand that’s it’s not about them, it’s about the team. They want to lift weights. They understand this is a program.

“This is a growing area. Families are moving into (northern Macomb County). We had one of our largest freshmen classes ever.”

New Haven has 390 students, the most since 2009.