January 13, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tom Markowski

Prep Insider: State hoops takes another hit with Bakari Evelyn out

Bakari Evelyn (22), the best player in Class D, is no longer a member of the Southfield Christian team. (Elizabeth Conley / Detroit News)

Southfield — It’s likely we’ll never know all the facts regarding what’s happened in the past two weeks with Bakari Evelyn and the Southfield Christian basketball program.

The one fact that hits you in the face is Evelyn, the best player in Class D, is not a member of Christian’s basketball team at this time and it’s possible he will never play another game for Christian, which won the last two state titles.

Evelyn, a 6-foot-2 junior, has not been in uniform the last two games and has not practiced during this time, but he remains a student at Christian despite rumors he had, or would, transfer.

First, consider the significance if Evelyn were to not play again this season, for any team, and the impact it would have on the game.

The game needs star power. The talent level in Michigan has fallen off considerably in the last 15 to 20 years. Fans used to flock to watch players such as Shane Battier (Detroit Country Day), Robert Traylor (Detroit Murray-Wright) or Willie Mitchell (Detroit Pershing). Never mind that these players played for some of the best teams in the state at the time. Stars attract big crowds.

In the past nine months, players such as A.J. Turner (Warren DeLaSalle/New Hampton School in New Hampshire) and Trevor Manuel (Lansing Sexton/Oak Hill Academy) have left Michigan for prep schools or high-profile academies, thus reducing the number of top players in Michigan and the amount of interest such star players can create.

Evelyn is not in the class of Battier or Traylor or Mitchell at this stage, but he is a Division I prospect and a proven winner.

No one player is bigger than a program. Christian will survive the turmoil, move on and quite possibly win another title.

If Evelyn decides he would like to rejoin the program, the first step would be for the two parties to work out their differences between them. It’s uncertain that would be enough to allow him to return.

Damage has been done but it can be undone. For a number of reasons it would be a shame if Evelyn doesn’t play another game this season.

McDowell update

Southfield lineman Malik McDowell stayed home this past weekend. It was a dead period for recruiting.

He already has made official visits to Alabama and Florida. He is expected to visit LSU this weekend, with visits to Florida State (Jan. 25) and Ohio State (Feb. 1) to follow.

It’s quite possible, according to Southfield coach Tim Conley, that McDowell will not make his decision until National Signing Day, Feb. 5.

Although McDowell has not made, and will not make, official visits to Michigan and/or Michigan State, Conley said those two schools remain among McDowell’s top choices.

Who's next at Brother Rice?

Replacing Al Fracassa as football coach at Birmingham Brother Rice is akin, at the high school level, to replacing Vince Lombardi at Green Bay.

Unless that new coach wins a state title, people will say that person didn’t do the job.

At the same time, it is a coveted position and many of the best coaches in the area have shown interest.

Brother Rice athletic director Reggie Cavender said the “process is ongoing” in the search for a new coach.

“Hopefully we can do it by the end of the month,” he said. “Preferably by Jan. 24. The timeline is in place.”

The News has learned there are six candidates, and all have had face-to-face interviews with the hiring committee, and its possible that school president John Birney and principal Br. Michael Segvich could conduct their own interviews.

The candidates, in alphabetical order, are: Brother Rice defensive coordinator Adam Korzeniewski, former Brother Rice lineman Mike Lodish, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley coach Scott Merchant, former Brother Rice linebacker Steve Morrison, Rochester Adams coach Tony Patritto and Brother Rice offensive coordinator and Fracassa’s top assistant, Dave Sofran.

Freedom Classic is back

The 4th annual Freedom Classic, sponsored by the Horatio Williams Foundation in celebration for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, will be held Saturday at Warren Fitzgerald.

There are six games beginning at noon and admission is $10, good for the entire day.

Fitzgerald faces Detroit Renaissance in the first game, followed by Southfield against Detroit Southeastern. Detroit Western will play Detroit Country Day at 3:30, with Detroit Cass Tech and Flint Beecher slated to play the fourth game. At approximately 6:30 p.m., Detroit Douglass will play Warren DeLaSalle and the nightcap features Detroit Pershing against Ann Arbor Huron.

U-D pair ruled ineligible

The Michigan High School Athletic Association denied U-D Jesuit’s appeal to have freshmen Gregory Eboigbodin and Eke Donatus Ikechukwu, who are from Nigeria, reinstated to the basketball program. Last month, the association ruled the two players ineligible until the 2014-15 school year.

U-D varsity coach Pat Donnelly released this statement via email.

“I am extremely disappointed. Greg and Eke are both fine young men who have accepted the challenge of a different culture, a rigorous academic environment and their first experience in organized basketball with vigor. They have worked extremely hard to achieve success in each of those areas. I believe that athletics is an extension of their educational experience, and unfortunately, they are being deprived of a big part of that experience.”

Top performance

D.J. Lazarus, Macomb Dakota

The senior’s 3-pointer with three seconds left gave Dakota, which trailed by 17 points at halftime, a 65-62 victory over Romeo in a key MAC Red Division game. Lazarus scored 13 points.

By the numbers

4: Class D teams that have won three consecutive state titles

5: Players who have left for a prep school in the last nine months

10: Years since all four state titles were claimed by teams from a public school

tom.markowski@detroitnews.com

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