ROMULUS – This could be the year the Romulus boys basketball team breaks through at the Breslin Center.
The Eagles have made four appearances in the Class A final four in the last eight seasons, however, they’ve never came home from East Lansing with the hardware. Only once in their four trips to the Breslin Center did they advance past the semifinals – that came in 2005, when they lost 65-62 to Holt in the state championship game.
With a lineup that features a relentless attitude, experience, intelligence, and playmaking, not to mention Division I college recruits galore this season, Romulus has a very good chance at getting the monkey off its back next month and raising the program’s first state-title banner since 1986 and the Terry Mills (University of Michigan-Detroit Pistons) era.
Going into the final week of the regular season, the Eagles are 18-1 and ranked No. 2 in the state. Their only loss came at the hands of No.1 Detroit Pershing.
Highlighting Romulus’ powerful on-court assault is a fearsome foursome of future college players in guards Wes Clark (Missouri) and E.C. Matthews (Rhode Island) and forwards Leo Edwards (Louisiana Tech) and Jalon Plummer (unsigned).
Clark (6-foot-2) is the club’s point guard, engine and coach on the floor. Matthews (6-foot-3) and Plummer (6-foot-5) are a pair of lethal wings that are equally adept at knocking down shots from long-distance and slashing into the lane, while Edwards (6-foot-8) is an athletic talent in the post with a high upside.
The sturdy guard tandem of Juwaan Clark and Christian Pino flank Clark and Matthews in the backcourt and get starter-type minutes. Kenny Henry, Jaylin Walker, Tyrone Hamby, Lowell Wade and Marcell Randolph are a formidable group of reserves coming off the bench.
A healthy chunk of this year’s squad were members of last winter’s team that advanced into the final four, dropping a stomach-churner to Rockford 62-61 in the semis.
Pino transferred in from Birmingham Seaholm, where he was the starting floor general on a Maples league-title team as a sophomore. Plummer missed all of last year with a back injury and his emergence this season in his first year of varsity ball has really been an ‘X-factor’ in the team’s success. He has an innate ability to use his length to his advantage on both offense and defense.
In Saturday’s 66-32 throttling of a James Young-less Rochester squad, Plummer recorded a double-double of 16 points and 14 rebounds.
Romulus head coach Nate Oats, the architect of the Eagles’ resurgence the past decade into a state hoops juggernaut, likes the trajectory of this year’s club.
“We have a good, tough-nosed group of kids that like to put in the work,” he said. “They know what is expected of them in this program and they embrace it. We’re going hard every day in practice and in all 32 minutes of every game we play. From the coaching staff down, that’s always going to be our mindset. If we do that, we’ll put ourselves in a nice position at the end of the season. That’s all you can really ask for.”