Aaron McClendon, right, and his Westland John Glenn team prepared for the rigors of league play by taking part in the Muskegon Hall of Fame Classic Dec. 27-28. (Ricardo Thomas/Detroit News)
Westland -- Dan Young is in his seventh season as head coach at Westland John Glenn and last month was the first time he took his team out of the Metro area to play in a holiday tournament. The experience was so rewarding Young wished he had done it before.
Glenn competed in the Muskegon Hall of Fame Classic on Dec. 27 and 28 and defeated two good teams, Muskegon and Grand Haven. Glenn (6-1) has won six straight and Young said those two games helped his team prepare for the Kensington Lakes Activities Association season.
"Muskegon has a great tradition and is very athletic," Young said. "Grand Haven plays a more deliberate style, much like the teams in our league. These games were great for us."
Holiday tournaments have become a tradition. Many teams take advantage of playing in a tournament-like atmosphere against teams they're unfamiliar with and that offer a different challenge.
For teams like Glenn and others, such as Detroit Loyola and Warren DeLaSalle, that traveled to the state's west side, it gave them a chance to spend a couple of days together, sharing meals and bus rides that help create bonds and further relationships. Coaches often talk of team chemistry. This is one way to enhance it.
A major reason why teams don't participate in holiday tournaments is the 20-game limitation for regular-season games imposed on teams by the Michigan High School Athletic Association. Adding two games would offer more teams this opportunity.
Take the KLAA, for example. The 24 teams are locked into a 16-game schedule (which includes the KLAA postseason tournament), leaving just four for coaches to schedule outside of the league.
Teams in the Detroit Public School League have similar restrictions. Both leagues sponsor postseason tournaments, limiting the nonleague schedule. Detroit Pershing coach Wydell Henry said his team was offered to play in four holiday tournaments. His schedule allowed for just two games.
Associations in many other states allow for more regular-season games to be played. In Oregon, teams can play 24 during the regular season. Wyoming has a 20-game limit but allows two additional for in-season tournaments. Missouri limits teams to 20 games plus one tournament.
In September 2011 Paris Bass was a 6-foot-3 junior. Less than three months later, Birmingham Seaholm coach Jose Andrades didn't recognize Bass.
"He grew three inches almost overnight," Andrades said. "I asked him, 'What happened?' He immediately became a matchup problem."
Bass is now 6-7 but remains a perimeter player. He's averaging 20 points and 13.7 rebounds and has led Seaholm to a 6-0 start. Bass is shooting 50 percent from the field but uncharacteristically is shooting just 40 percent from the free-throw line.
Andrades said Bass likely will sign with a junior college in April.
What Detroit Osborn lacks in experience it makes up for in height. Topping the list is 6-8 senior Rashawn Walker . Walker is averaging 21 points and 13 rebounds.
"He plays like a big man," coach Lonell Williams said. "He weighs 245 pounds. He powers up and comes at you with his dunks."
Also in the starting lineup is 6-9 sophomore Alex Burney . Williams said Burney is still growing and Burney's father is 7 feet.
Joining these two are three 6-5 players: seniors Ronald Brewster and Rashawn Ware , and sophomore Christian Little .
Osborn is 4-2 and in two years could be one of the top teams in the PSL East Division. Sophomore point guard Nikeem Merchant was named team MVP last season.
Gibraltar Carlson was 18-7 last season and won its first regional game, and just the fourth district title in the school's 50-year history.
This is coach Rob Raymond 's ninth season coaching in the program, second as the varsity head coach. Carlson is 6-1 this season and is again one of the top programs in the Downriver area.
On Tuesday Carlson hosts Taylor Truman, one of the powers in the Downriver League and the favorite to win the title this season.
Three starters return from last season, led by 5-5 senior Daton Aaron . Aaron is averaging 13 points and five assists and all of Carlson's sets go through Aaron.
"His numbers are down a bit from last year," Raymond said. "But he's controlling the game better now. We have a kid averaging 16 points ( Larnell Tidwell ) and he's getting his points because of what Aaron is creating."
Top five games this week
Taylor Truman (3-1) at Gibraltar Carlson (6-1), Tuesday, 7: Truman, the favorite to win the Downriver League, will be tested on the road against a team that’s playing with confidence. A Carlson victory would throw the league race up for grabs.
Zeeland East (7-0) at East Kentwood (6-0), Tuesday, 7: Wins over Grand Rapids Christian and Muskegon has East Kentwood in the hunt for the O-K Red Division title. East has quality wins, too, but this would top the list.
Southfield (8-0) at Troy (4-1), Thursday, 7: Troy already has upset Clarkston in the OAA Red Division. Now it has a chance to pull off another upset over a team most thought, before the season, would not be a factor in the division race.
Detroit Douglass (3-3) at Detroit Pershing (6-0), Friday, 4: This PSL East Division showdown pits a junior-laden Douglass team against the state’s top-ranked team. Douglass’ starters are good enough to play with any team. Depth has been a problem.
Holt (6-1) at Lansing Sexton (4-1), Friday, 7: At 3-0, Holt is alone in first place in the CAC Blue Division, but its hold on first is in jeopardy here. Sexton is the two-time defending Class B champion and its only loss this season was to Romulus.
Top five games last two weeks
Detroit Pershing 57, Detroit Community 55: Pershing trailed by seven with two minutes to play before coming back in the PSL Holiday Hoops Classic at Detroit Renaissance. Martez Walker led top-ranked Pershing (6-0) with 21 points and Kahlil Felder added 16 points.
Detroit Consortium 63, Chicago Hyde Park 60: Vincent Hunter had 26 points and 10 rebounds for Detroit Consortium (3-2) in the Motor City Roundball Classic at Detroit Country Day.
Detroit Renaissance 57, Inkster 55: Clark Bishop scored 35 for Renaissance (2-6) in the PSL Hoops Classic. Donnell Jarmon led Inkster (5-1) with 18 points.
Birmingham Seaholm 61, Warren Mott 60: Brandon Yousif’s layup in the half court with 8.7 seconds left gave Seaholm a 61-60 lead. Paris Bass had 26 points and 16 rebounds for Seaholm (6-0). Blake Jackson had 19 points for Mott (4-1). Bass’ 3-pointer gave Seaholm a 30-29 lead at halftime.
Saginaw Arthur Hill 75, Saginaw 54: With Michigan State coach Tom Izzo in the crowd Arthur Hill (7-0) hosted rival Saginaw (7-1) and Jalen Adams led Arthur Hill with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Saginaw, the defending Class A champion, had won 17 straight. Arthur Hill led 45-39 after three quarters.