Sophomore Bakari Evelyn, center, is coming on strong for defending Class D champion Southfield Christian. (Robin Buckson/Detroit News)
Last season, Southfield Christian was one of the biggest surprises.
It defeated a good Muskegon Catholic Central team in the Class D semifinals, then blew past Climax-Scotts, 76-44, to win its first state basketball title.
Christian lost four starters to graduation and for most small schools that would mean the next year would be one of rebuilding. Don't count on it.
Christian (2-1) is ranked No. 1 even after losing last week at Southfield-Lathrup, a Class A school, 68-63.
Josh Baker is in his second season as coach.
He said, "We'll be a good team by the end of the year. We could be a great team next year. We could, by that time, compete with anyone in the state."
That's a strong statement, but there is reason to believe Christian could reach that level.
Baker has only one senior. His top two players are junior Lindsey Hunter IV and sophomore Bakari Evelyn. Hunter started last season but missed the first two games this season after suffering a concussion in a preseason scrimmage. He scored 19 in Friday's 51-46 victory over Auburn Hills Oakland Christian. Evelyn is one of the state's top sophomores. He's a 6-foot-1 point guard and Oakland and Detroit Mercy are among the schools actively recruiting him.
Christian also has good size in the middle with 6-5 junior DeMarco White and 6-4 freshman Marlo Brown. Brown had 17 points and 10 rebounds in his high school debut against Orchard Lake St. Mary's.
Before the season Baker was hired as the middle school principal and he said that being in the building, and much more part of the school, has greatly enhanced his outlook for the future of the program.
"We've lost kids, good athletes, to Detroit Country Day and Birmingham Brother Rice in the past," he said. "I don't want to lose those kids. We want them here, to develop a Christian character.
"… There are three main sayings here: Love God; love others and be diligent."
Yet another top freshman
The News printed an article last month on 6-6 freshman Josh Jackson of Detroit Consortium, who's touted as one of the top freshmen in the country.
There's more. U-D Jesuit might have one of the top freshman point guards in the Midwest in Cassius Winston .
Winston, 14, is 6-foot. U-D coach Pat Donnelly said Winston is projected to be 6-4 or 6-5 by his senior year, but will remain a point guard.
"He has great court vision," Donnelly said. "I tell people he has old-man game. He understands angles.
"He has a point-guard mentality and he doesn't take bad shots."
Winston is the top reserve for U-D (1-1). Donnelly said Winston doesn't gripe and plays starter's minutes.
Colorado has offered a scholarship. Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa are on the case.
Young no more
Troy is 1-1 in the post- James Young season and coach Gary Fralick said "it's different" coaching a team without Young.
Young transferred to Rochester in August after playing three seasons on varsity at Troy.
"It was a good three years," Fralick said. "It's strange. He was obviously a tremendous talent."
Three starters return for Troy, including point guard Zak Noor . Troy has been boosted by the addition of 6-2 sophomore Devon Alexander , who didn't play in Troy's opener, then had six points and four rebounds in a 57-47 victory over Southfield-Lathrup on Thursday.
Downriver dark horse
Taylor Truman and Lincoln Park are expected to vie for the Downriver League title, but Wyandotte Roosevelt might be the team that spoils that race.
Wyandotte (3-0) defeated Ypsilanti, ranked No. 8 in Class A, 56-55, on Thursday.
Last season, Wyandotte was 9-12 and coach Dave Cramton knew then his team would take its lumps.
"It was a bridge year," Cramton said. "We started three sophomores … nine of our 12 players played football. It was a matter of getting more mature. We have four starters back and our most improved player is probably our fifth starter, Divon Robinson ."
Devon Stewart , an all-state defensive back/receiver, is off to a quick start. He had 30 points against Ypsilanti and 32 in Monday's 69-51 win over Grosse Ile.
Mr. Basketball race(s)
Before anyone is ready to hand Young the award this season, or Drake Harris of Grand Rapids Christian the award next season, let the games be played.
Young had 29 points and 12 rebounds in Rochester's opener, a 52-46 victory over North Farmington on Dec. 11. He was held to 15 in Rochester's 51-22 victory over Farmington on Friday and had 23 in Rochester's 58-52 loss to Harper Woods Chandler Park Academy on Saturday.
Seniors like Wes Clark of Romulus, Monte Morris of Flint Beecher and Derrick Walton Jr. of Chandler Park should be given their allotment of consideration.
Harris had 19 points in Christian's 77-76 double-overtime loss to Warren DeLaSalle Friday but was not outstanding. But then, he has practiced just 10 days after the long football season.
Top performance: Emmett Fraley, Union City senior
The 6-foot-7 Fraley had 27 points, 13 blocks and 10 rebounds to lead Union City (2-1) to a 61-54 overtime victory over Concord. Fraley was 8-of-8 from the free throw line, 4-of-4 in overtime.