Josh Jackson had 22 points and 13 rebounds in Detroit Consortium's 61-44 victory over Pewamo-Westphalia's in the Class C boys final Saturday. (Daniel Mears /Detroit News)
East Lansing — The 2013-14 boys basketball season will be remembered as one of the strangest and, yes, entertaining in the last three decades, maybe longer.
It’s not often the No. 1 player in the preseason doesn’t give interviews until after he leads his team to the school’s first state title.
Josh Jackson of Detroit Consortium is a phenomenal player, and he’s just a sophomore. The media learned Saturday at the Breslin Center that Jackson is an engaging student-athlete as he answered questions intelligently, often at length. Many times athletes will provide little more than one- or two-word answers.
Jackson did agree to interviews, on a limited basis, his freshman season but Consortium coach Tobias Tuomi said Jackson’s family asked that Jackson be off limits. But Jackson surprised everyone with his appearance Saturday for postgame interviews.
“It was real hard getting here,” Jackson said. “Ever since I was in the eighth grade, when Consortium was in the state tournament and got beat, I told people I’d get it done.”
When asked when he began to believe Consortium could win a state title, Jackson said, “from the beginning of the year. I always had trust in (my teammates).
“Not many people picked us to win. We proved a lot of people wrong, that we could win the big game.”
In Saturday’s Class C final Jackson was 9-of-13 from the field and had 22 points and 13 rebounds in Consortium’s 61-44 victory over Pewamo-Westphalia.
Then there’s Bakari Evelyn of Southfield Christian. Evelyn, a first team all-state selection last season as a sophomore, and the best player in Class D entering this season, suddenly left the team in late December amid speculation he might transfer only to return in mid-February with no explanation, from him or the coaching staff, on what prompted his hiatus or his return.
It’s quite possible Southfield Christian would have won its third consecutive title without Evelyn. That point could be argued after what took place in Southfield Christian’s 63-61 victory over Adrian Lenawee Christian in the state final. Three of Southfield Christian’s starters had four fouls in the third quarter. Evelyn took over the game in the second half scoring 16 of his 28 points in the final 16 minutes, including his team’s last five.
Asked if he would return to Southfield Christian next season Evelyn was evasive.
“I can’t see past this year,” he said. “I don’t know about the future. I want to win another state title. Where else can I win another title than at Southfield Christian.”
Much was made this season of the ruling the Michigan High School Athletic Association made with regards to U-D Jesuit freshmen Gregory Eboigbodin and Eke Donatus Ikechukwu II. The MHSAA ruled that both were ineligible this season because a parent of one of the players at the school applied undue influence, which is illegal, according to MHSAA rules.
Eboigbodin and Ikechukwu are from Nigeria, came to the United States last summer and are believed to be the first freshmen to be ruled athletically ineligible for a full school year. Both will be eligible to compete in athletics in the fall.
Then there’s the three Nigerian students who played on Lenawee Christian’s basketball team. All three (Kingsley, Maxwell and Collins) were ineligible the first semester and the MHSAA ruled they were eligible to compete the second semester. Some question the MHSAA on the different rulings. Jack Roberts, the Executive Director for the MHSAA, said the two circumstances were different from the start.
With regards to the freshmen at U-D Jesuit, Roberts said that “was an easy call” for his association. He added the three at Lenawee Christian, all of whom go by a single surname, were not recruited by Lenawee Christian and all three are living with a family who have students attending Lenawee Christian schools. Roberts would not elaborate explaining there are legal issues surrounding these students adding only that they arrived in the U.S. sometime in 2012 and then came to Michigan in 2013.
The Class B final between Milan and Benton Harbor showcased two programs that have been noticeably absent from the state finals recently. In Milan’s case the school hadn’t won a state title since 1948 and its 78-59 victory over Benton Harbor will serve notice that coach Josh Tropea’s program is on solid ground.
Milan (25-3) lost to three Class A schools this season, one to Bloomfield Hills, which made its first state final. Also, Milan’s top two players are juniors. Point guard Latin Davis tied a state finals record with seven 3-pointers and he scored a career-high 34 points. Nick Perkins is a 6-7 forward, who, being left-handed, is reminiscent to a former North Carolina left-handed forward with the same last name, Sam Perkins. Milan’s Perkins had 24 points and 10 rebounds in the final.
Despite the loss, Benton Harbor and its knowledgeable basketball community experienced a resurgence of sorts. Once a Class A power having reached the state final in 1992 and 1993, Benton Harbor also boasts two Mr. Basketball award winners in Anthony “Pig” Miller (1990) and Wilson Chandler (2005).
Its economic troubles are well documented. Enrollment continues to dip even after the school dropped to Class B beginning in 2010. Its football program has won four games since 2006. Basketball is what helps keep this community together.
Much of the credit for the success this season is second-year coach Corey Sterling, a member of the early 1990s teams.
“It’s been love all over the city because of this,” Sterling said. “Basketball is everything in the city of Benton Harbor. We have the support of the city now. We woke some people up.”
Mr. Basketball leaders
It’s possible Muskegon could have back-to-back Mr. Basketball winners. Deshaun Thrower won it this year becoming the first Muskegon area player to do so. His teammate, Deyonta Davis, a 6-9 blocking machine, is one of the top contenders for next year’s award along with Eric Davis of Saginaw Arthur Hill.
Davis committed to Michigan State and that fact, plus his play this past weekend, will attract many in his corner. Officially Davis had 36 points, 19 rebounds and nine blocks in the two games. Some coaches thought Davis had three or four more blocks not accounted for. He was dominant in Muskegon’s 91-67 rout of Bloomfield Hills in the Class A final.
“Deyonta’s our superman,” Thrower said. “He gives it to us every game.”
Arthur Hill’s Davis is uncommitted.
The top senior who has yet to make his college decision is 6-7 Yante Maten of Bloomfield Hills.
Maten said Saturday that he will decide in the next week or so where to take his official visits. At this time he plans on visiting Georgia and Texas Christian.
It’s quite possible Indiana will offer him a scholarship since Coach Tom Crean has been seen at some of his games recently. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Indiana does offer him a scholarship if Maten takes a visit to Bloomington soon.