January 20, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tom Markowski

Prep Insider: Pershing's Justin Tillman zooms to top of Mr. Basketball race

Justin Tillman has soared above the other candidates for the Mr. Basketball Award, averaging 23 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks for top-ranked Detroit Pershing (9-1). (Jose Juarez / Special to Detroit News)

Detroit — This season’s race for the Hal Schram Mr. Basketball Award appeared to be between three players in early December.

That’s not the case anymore.

Justin Tillman of Detroit Pershing has created separation and as long as he continues playing at the level he has through the first 10 games, and if top-ranked Pershing (9-1) continues to play well, Tillman will be the one to collect the hardware.

The other top two candidates, at least at the beginning of the season, were Jaylen Johnson of Ypsilanti and Edmond Sumner of Detroit Country Day.

Tillman is a 6-foot-8 forward who signed with Virginia Commonwealth. He’s averaging 23 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks.

In Pershing’s 84-75 victory over Ann Arbor Huron on Saturday Tillman had a career-high 41 points, plus 18 rebounds and 10 blocks.

Tillman missed much of the first half of last season after suffering a lower leg injury and didn’t start to play well until the Detroit Public School League playoffs.

He began this season with a 30-point, 20-rebound effort in an 82-69 loss to Chicago Morgan Park and has not let up.

“I knew he was going to be dominant,” Pershing coach Wydell Henry said. “He has a great perimeter game. That’s why he chose VCU. It’s their style of play. They get up and down.

“No disrespect to the other candidates but this award goes to the player who has had the best senior season and that’s Justin. He’s a great kid. He doesn’t complain when he’s not getting the ball. If I get on him, he’ll say, ‘Sorry, Coach.’ Against Huron, that was a Mr. Basketball type of performance.”

Sumner, a 6-4 guard who signed with Xavier, appears to be second at this point. He’s averaging nearly 25 points and is a player who’s not afraid to take the big shot.

Johnson (6-9) is off to a slow start through eight games, but there’s still time for him to make a run at the award.

Other possible candidates include Aaron Foster-Smith (6-7) of Taylor Truman, Yante Maten (6-8) of Bloomfield Hills and Deshaun Thrower (6-1) of Muskegon.

All in the family

It’s the right place and the right time for both Detroit Allen Academy and first-year coach Craig Covington Jr. Covington, a Pontiac Northern graduate, coached in high school and college outside of Michigan after graduating from Knoxville (Tenn.) College in 1996.

Covington returned to Michigan last summer and, thanks to his father, the men’s basketball coach at Marygrove College in Detroit, connected with Tony Hitchcock, the athletic director at Allen. Hitchcock had coached the women’s team at Marygrove.

Hitchcock hired Covington and Allen is off to a 9-0 start and ranked No. 4 in Class C.

Allen is led by two seniors, Pakiya Ellis and Terrence Love. Ellis is averaging 28 points with a high of 46 against Fraser, a Class A school.

On Tuesday, Allen hosts Melvindale Academy for Business and Technology (6-3) at 7 p.m. ABT is coach by Covington’s brother, Mychal, who’s also a Northern graduate who played at Oakland University.

A Big Mac for BCAM

The Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan needs to expend its responsibilities and, from all indications, it’s ready to do so.

The candidates for the McDonald’s All-America team recently were released, for boys and girls, and Michigan had 17 representatives, 10 boys and seven girls. The state of Iowa has a total of 62.

The disparity is too large. One could argue Iowa’s total is too high and there’s no question Michigan’s total is too low. One problem is many of the coaches in Michigan don’t receive the proper forms to nominate their players. BCAM must act as a conduit between McDonald’s and its members.

Dan Young, the head coach at Westland John Glenn and the assistant director for BCAM, said his organization will work with McDonald’s and be more proactive in informing its members of the nomination process.

List is shrinking

The list of candidates for the Birmingham Brother Rice head football coaching position is down to five. Tony Patritto of Rochester Adams is not a candidate and never officially was. Although he didn’t attend Brother Rice, as four of the five candidates did, and has never been an assistant there, Patritto has been considered by many a good choice as the one to follow Al Fracassa. Patritto was a head coach in the Catholic League (Madison Heights Bishop Foley) and has been a successful coach at Adams, having won a state title (Division 2 in 2003) there.

In case you’re scoring at home here are the five remaining candidates, in alphabetical order: 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 and Brother Rice offensive coordinator and Fracassa’s top assistant, Dave Sofran.

It’s quite possible the new coach will be announced on Friday.

Coach/official remembered

For 42 years Pat Coffey worked for the Detroit News as a printer, but most people involved with high school sports remember him as a coach and an official, for football and basketball.

In 1990, the Michigan High School Athletic Association honored Coffey for 30 years of service. He also was named to the Catholic League Officials Hall of Fame.

Coffey died on Friday. He was 78.

Coffey attended St. Cecilia High School on the city’s west side and coached football and basketball in the CYO.

Visitation is from 2-9 p.m. on Friday at Verheyden Funeral Home, 16300 Mack Ave., Grosse Pointe Park. Mass will be celebrated at noon Saturday at St. Paul on the Lake Catholic Church, 157 Lake Shore Road, Grosse Pointe Farms.

By the numbers

8 -- No. 1 Blue Chip players to play at Michigan State

16 -- No. 1 Blue Chip players to play at Michigan

34-2 -- Pershing’s record over the last season and a half

Top quote

“I don’t care about our record (2-7). I’m not going to get fired. I love where we’re headed.”

Derrick McDowell, Detroit Western coach, on his team’s 66-64 victory over Detroit Country Day on Saturday

Top performance

Top performance

Kenny Goins, Warren Mott

The senior had 29 points, 17 rebounds and five blocks in Mott’s 74-67 victory over Clinton Township Chippewa Valley on Thursday. Goins (6-7) took an unofficial visit to Central Michigan on Saturday. He averages 24 points, 15 rebounds and 4.5 blocks.

tom.markowski@detroitnews.com

Kenny Goins had 29 points, 17 rebounds and five blocks in Warren Mott’s 74- ... (Special to Detroit News)
Detroit Western coach Derrick McDowell. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)
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