U-D Jesuit is loaded with talent and entering the season with motivation after making trips to the Breslin Center the last two years, only to come up short of bringing home the state championship trophy.
The Catholic League champion has the best player in the state in 6-foot-2 senior point guard Cassius Winston, outstanding size in 6-9 juniors Ike Eke and Greg Eboigbodin, a defensive stopper in sophomore guard Elijah Collins and a talented transfer in 6-5 sophomore Kamani Johnson from Kentucky, who is the younger brother of former Kentucky post player Dakari Johnson.
“That’s the only thing on our mind, the only thing that we want to do is win the state championship, win our first state championship and there’s really no other option,” said Winston, who will play next year at Michigan State.
Winston is impressed with the improvement of Eke and Eboigbodin, saying: “They really got better. Last year was their first time playing organized basketball so they had a lot of bumps in the road, but after last year and the AAU season they’ve come back this season a lot better.”
Winston thinks the addition of Johnson and 5-8 freshman Julian Dozier also will help.
“Kamani is a sophomore transfer from Kentucky, 6-5, very versatile, who’s going to be very good, and we have a little guard, Julian Dozier, who is very talented so he’s going to have a good year, too,” said Winston. “And Elijah (Collins) is very athletic, a strong kid who worked on his offensive game so he’s going to have a very big year. He’s probably our best defender so look out for him.”
U-D — which finished 23-3 last season, losing to eventual Class A champion Detroit Western in the state semifinals — will open the season Monday night against Chicago Morgan Park at 8:30 p.m. at Calihan Hall.
2. Macomb Dakota (21-3, Class A): The Cougars earned the MAC Red championship and advanced to the Class A regional final, losing to Clarkston. Dakota returns three starters in talented junior point guard Jermaine Jackson (16 points, 5 assists), 6-8 sophomore power forward Thomas Kithier (9 points, 8 rebounds) and 6-1 senior guard Steven Marshall (12 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists), along with returning sixth man Jacob Patton, a 6-2 senior guard, and 6-2 senior guard Tavin Allison, a talented transfer from L’Anse Creuse. “We have high expectations this season, hoping the experience we gained last year with help us compete at a higher level this season,” said Coach Paul Tocco.
3. Clarkston (24-1, Class A): The Wolves earned their first unbeaten regular season since the early 1990s last year and returns an outstanding point guard in 6-0 sophomore Foster Loyer (16 points, 5.5 assists), 6-4 guard-forward Tabin Throgmorton, 6-6, 230-pound Mitch Heaton and a transfer in 6-4, 210-pound Dylan Allderson, who played point guard at Davison last year. “We have a lot of guys who can handle the ball and create shots for others to put pressure on defenses,” said Coach Dan Fife.
4. Detroit Renaissance (14-8, Class A): Renaissance pushed Detroit Western to the limit in the PSL title game before a one-point loss. Now, the Phoenix expect to take the next step and be the favorite to win the city championship. They return their starting backcourt in 6-4 Justin Turner (17 points) and Richard Talley, and also return physical 6-7 center A.J. Jackson (12 points, 10 rebounds) and 6-5 sophomore Jalen Tobias. Coach Vito Jordan also expects big things from 6-4 freshman guard Chandler Turner.
5. North Farmington (20-4, Class A): North Farmington should battle Clarkston for the OAA Red championship and be one of the elite teams in Class A as well. The Raiders, who lost to Detroit Jesuit in the regional finals, return starters in 6-3 senior Jacob Joubert (9 points, 5 assists) and 6-6 senior Alex Darden (7 points, 7 rebounds), and have sixth man Josh Hogans, a 5-9 guard back as well, along with talented transfers in 6-3 junior guard Amauri Hardy from Southfield and 6-7 junior Nate Brooks from Georgia. Hardy and Brooks already have multiple offers from mid-major schools.
6. Ypsilanti Community (19-5, Class A): Ypsilanti advanced to the Class A state quarterfinals last year, losing to eventual champion Detroit Western. The Grizzlies return four starters, led by outstanding four-year starting guard in 6-3 senior Corey Allen (15.5 points, 5 rebounds), 5-10 junior guard Jamezell Davis (8.9 points), 5-10 junior guard Marlin Talley (8.6 points) and 6-4 senior Jalen Maxwell (6.2 points). “We’re looking to have an excellent season with a lot of experience back,” Coach Steve Brooks said.
7. Detroit Western (26-0, Class A): Western had a magical season last year in winning PSL and state championships. The Cowboys graduated guard Josh McFolley and center Gerald Blackshear -- both now playing at Detroit-Mercy -- but they return a lot of talent in 5-11 senior point guard Brailen Neely (Oakland), 6-5 senior forward Karim Murray, who scored 15 in the state championship game win, senior guard Armanti Tinsley, senior forward Jaye Patrick and Kyree Boynton. “Brailen’s an outstanding player and great leader and I expect Murray to be one of the best all-around players in the state,” Coach Derrick McDowell said.
8. Warren De La Salle (15-10, Class A): Longtime coach Greg Esler is optimistic about De La Salle’s chances for a long postseason run after advancing to the Class A regional championship game last year, losing to Detroit Western. De La Salle returns multiple starters, including Central Michigan-bound Kevin McKay (20 points, 4 assists), a 6-4 senior, and 6-9 junior center Jack Ballantyne (8 points). Other top players include 6-5 sophomore guard Luke Pfromm, 6-4 senior Quinton Glaspie and sophomore point guard Justin Fischer. “I’m excited with this team since we have a player in Kevin McKay who can dominate and we have depth where we have a solid seven or eight players,” Esler said.
9. Detroit East English (19-5, Class A): All five starters return from a team that lost to state champion Detroit Western in the regional semifinals. East English has a talented backcourt in 6-4 senior Kamari Newman (23.2 points, six rebounds), 6-0 senior point guard Chris Rollins (13 points, 6 assists) and 6-3 junior Gregory Elliott (14 points) and senior Nathaniel Boleware. Newman is a George Mason commit and Rollins is headed to IPFW. Cedric Lattimore, who will play football at Iowa, gives size inside at 6-6 and 240 pounds and will be joined by 6-3 senior Jayline McFadden (Ferris State).
10. Rochester Adams (15-8, Class A): The Highlanders return four starters from last year’s 15-8 team, led by 6-4 senior guard Spencer Littleton (Duquesne), 6-1 senior guard Joey Ziniti, 6-8 senior center David Rinke and 6-3 senior forward Adam Slating. “We’ll be very versatile on offense, where there are a number of players with the ability to score in transition or from the outside or inside,” Coach John Hall said. “Our success offensively will be in the hands of Spencer Littleton and his ability to balance being our go-to scorer along with distributing the ball to teammates when opponents try to take him away.”
11. Walled Lake Central (20-6, Class A): Senior guard Walter Kelser (21 points, five rebounds) and 6-4 senior guard-forward Anton Lucaj are returning starters from a regional championship team. Coach Chuck Spolsky is also expecting solid contributions from 6-5 senior Malik Abiola, 6-4 sophomore Houston Tucker and 6-5 junior Nako Ziegler. “This is a great group of kids that just love to play basketball and we have high expectations,” Spolsky said. “We need to develop some of the younger kids to improve our depth as a team.”
12. Flint Beecher (26-1, Class C): Beecher is loaded with talent, returning the majority of its starters from a state championship team, including 6-3 senior guard Aquavius Burks, junior point guard Malik Ellison and 6-7 junior Levane Blake. Burks (15 points, 11 rebounds) had a double-double in the state title game win over Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian.
13. Wyoming Godwin Heights (26-1, Class B): Godwin Heights used its athleticism and defensive pressure to win the state championship last season. The Wolverines lost Dream Team guard Delaney Blaylock and center Mike Williams, but return talented senior guard Leon Redd, along with sophomore guard Lamar Norman, who was one of the stars in the state title game win over Detroit Henry Ford.
14. Holly (22-3, Class A): Holly returns four starters after advancing to the regional finals last year. Coach Lance Baylis expects big things from his talented backcourt of 6-3 senior Kyle Woodruff (16 points), 6-0 senior Ian Hodges (16 points), 5-11 senior Adam Tooley and 6-0 senior Steven Redmond. Paris Partee will bang inside as a 6-3, 230-pound junior.
15. New Haven (25-1, Class B): New Haven has three starters back from a regional championship team that had its unbeaten season come to a close against Detroit Henry Ford in a quarterfinal, 61-55. The Rockets have tremendous size in 6-11 senior center Innocent Nwoko (CMU) and 6-9 senior forward Jerry Ben (Cornell). They also return 6-1 senior guard Alante Stevens. Other key players include 6-4 junior guard Eric Williams, 6-6 freshman wing Romeo Weems, 6-6 sophomore forward Ashton Sherrell, 5-10 sophomore Tavares Oliver, 5-8 junior William Moore and freshman guard Ronald Jeffery. "We have a young, but talented group that I feel can be very special this year," Coach Tedaro France said.
16. Southfield Christian (21-4, Class C): Southfield Christian advanced to the regional final, losing to eventual state champion Flint Beecher after winning the Class D title the previous year. Coach Josh Baker has the majority of his team back, led led by 6-4 senior Marlo Brown (17 points, 12 rebounds), 6-3 junior Brock Washington (13 points) and 6-0 senior Richard Feagin (10 points). Brown has received offers from Buffalo, Kent State, CMU, EMU and Cornell while Washington is getting interest from Cornell, Wright State and Oakland and Feagin, from Saginaw Valley. Bryce Washington, a 6-3 sophomore, has an offer from Buffalo. Senior guard Jalen Bouldes, 6-4 junior Trenton Temple, 5-10 senior Matthew Williams and 5-9 freshman Caleb Hunter will also be big contributors.
17. Detroit Henry Ford (21-6, Class B): Henry Ford had an outstanding postseason run last year, advancing to Breslin to compete in the state championship game, where the Trojans lost to Wyoming Godwin Heights. Coach Ken Flowers returns a pair of starters in 6-0 senior point guard James Towns (16 points, 5.5 assists) and 6-3 forward Alston Hunter (eight points, six rebounds), along with four other players who had valuable minutes last season.
18. River Rouge (18-6, Class B): Lamonta Stone will be looking for big things from 5-10 junior point guard Darian Owen-White and 6-4 senior Dorian Watson. Javon Lawrence will give the Panthers size inside at 6-7 and 6-5 junior forward Delantea is a physical presence. Darian is the son of Adrian College head coach Mark White. "He is like a coach on the floor and a vocal leader," said Stone of Owen-White, who has an offer from Toledo. "Dorian can play every position on the floor.”
19. West Bloomfield (18-3, Class A): Senior guard Trishton Jackson (22.5 points, four assists, four steals), along with 6-0 junior guard Kevin McAdoo (10 points, three assists) and 6-0 senior Gervon Winn (eight points, four rebounds) are returning starters for the Lakers. "I like our depth and athleticism," Coach Jeremy Denha said.
20. Romulus (21-5, Class A): Jarret Smith returns a lot of experience from last year's team, which advanced to the regional final. He will be looking for big things from three-year senior point guard DeAngelo Hansbro (14 points, three assists) and 6-3 senior guard Rahsaan Pope (11 points, six rebounds), who will play at Saginaw Valley. Romulus also has a talented sophomore class, led by 6-3 Ray Mungo, 6-0 Rashad Williams and 6-2 point guard Kaevon Merriwether.