Prep insider: Loyer's pedigree a key
Clarkston — Foster Loyer grew up watching the stars come out at night, attending NBA games with his father, John, being an assistant coach for several teams, as well as the interim head coach for the Pistons last season.
Loyer, 15, took advantage of his opportunity by watching closely, then working hard on his own game.
All the knowledge and practice has given Loyer the opportunity to play on Clarkston's varsity team as a freshman ... and he has delivered.
Loyer, a 6-foot, 160-pounder, has averaged a team-high 15.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 3.2 steals to help Clarkston to an 11-0 record. He is shooting 40 percent from 3-point range (19-of-48) and had 27 points, five assists and five rebounds Friday night in a 55-39 win over Southfield.
"He's just a freshman, but he's a good player, a good point guard," said Clarkston coach Dan Fife, the state's fifth-winningest coach. "He's been playing pickup ball forever here so the kids are used to playing with him.
"He's very mature for his age and understands the game well. It's important to have a good relationship with your point guard because he's really an extension of the coach. We really have two point guards since Andrew Myers was our starting point guard last year. They work well together."
So far, Clarkston's comeback, 69-63 win at Oak Park in overtime last Tuesday stands out. He scored 14, making a jumper midway through the fourth quarter, then making four straight free throws down the stretch to give the Wolves a chance to force OT with Myers' dribble drive and pass to Merrick Canada for a 10-foot jumper as time expired.
"The Oak Park game was definitely my highlight," Loyer said. "It was our first real test and it was a great feeling to show we could pass the test. Our ultimate goal is to get Coach his first state championship and I feel we have the players to do it. Our team is deep, 1-15, and we have guys who can shoot, dribble, defend, everything."
So, how did Loyer put himself in the position to be an impact player his freshman year?
"I moved here at the end of sixth grade and went to open gym and got to know the guys," he said. "After my seventh-grade season I had the chance to start playing on the main floor with the top guys and they helped me tremendously.
"Really, they helped prepare me for what it's like at the varsity level. They really helped me in practice, get me ready for the pressure and tempo of the game, going up against fast, athletic guys. And, being a point guard requires leadership and they trust me in that role. I'm prepared for it and pressure doesn't faze me because we all work so well together."
Loyer said he enjoys growing up the son of an NBA coach. His father worked in Portland's organization from 2000-05, then moved on to Philadelphia from 2005-09, then to New Jersey before the move to Detroit in 2011. (John Loyer was named interim coach of the Pistons after Maurice Cheeks was fired, but is no longer with the team.)
"I grew up around basketball, since I was about 2 when my dad was with the Trail Blazers," Foster said. "My favorite memory was when my dad coached the Trail Blazers and I went on a road trip with him to the Staples Center in Los Angeles when they played the Lakers and Shaq (Shaquille O'Neal). It was great. I had a lot of fun. I went to just about every home game, watched a lot.
"My dad coached my travel team up until the sixth grade. He still works me out and puts me through drills. My parents support me a lot. My mother (Katherine McFarland-Loyer) is very competitive, too, playing volleyball in college at Indiana. They researched the area and knew they had a great basketball program at Clarkston and that's a big reason I'm here."
With Loyer teaming up with Myers (9.9 points, 5.4 assists) in the backcourt, along with the perimeter shooting of 6-3 junior Tabin Throgmorton (12.5 points, 15-of-32 on 3-pointers), Canada and the inside duo of 6-5 Jonah Newblatt and 6-8 Cole Chewins, Clarkston does have the chance to make a deep run in the postseason come March.
Dakota's standout freshman
Paul Tocco said he watched Thomas Kithier develop his game for several years and is now thrilled to have Kithier playing on Macomb Dakota's varsity team as a 14-year-old post player.
Kithier, a 6-7 center, is averaging eight points, 12 rebounds and three blocks to help Dakota (7-2, 4-0) win its last seven games since an 0-2 start (losses to West Bloomfield and Clarkston).
"I've been watching him for four years, looking forward to the time he got here," Tocco said. "He's not afraid of the moment. He's growing up in front of our eyes."
Dakota was 17-6 last season, finishing second in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division when it failed to win on its home floor in the season finale against Clinton Township Chippewa Valley. It won a district title before losing to Utica Eisenhower in the regional semifinal.
"We used the end of last season as motivation and the kids put in a lot of work over the summer," said Tocco, who is now in his fourth year as coach at Dakota. "We have size and depth, the most talent we've ever assembled at Dakota.
"Alex Hagel, our 6-5 senior power forward, is having a great season after losing 30 pounds. He could always shoot, but now he's quick enough to get out on the perimeter."
Hagel is averaging 20 points and 12 rebounds. Junior guard Chris Marshall is averaging 12 points and four assists and 6-1 senior Vladi Stojanovski is a 3-point threat.
Tocco said 6-7 senior Charles Penn and 5-8 sophomore point guard Jermaine Jackson — transfers from Mount Clemens — have given Dakota instant production since becoming eligible last week.
And, Tocco is looking forward to the return of 6-4 senior guard John Hall, a defensive stopper who has been sidelined with mononucleosis after playing just two games. When Hall returns to health, Tocco believes Dakota has a chance to win the MAC Red title and make a deep run in the state tournament.
U-D's Collins plays key role
U-D Jesuit has a good freshman of its own in Elijah Collins and, no, he's not a starter, not with one of the Midwest's top point guards ahead of him on the depth chart in Cassius Winston.
Still, Collins plays 12-16 minutes a game and makes the most of his minutes.
Collins, younger brother of U-D defensive stopper Gary Collins, scored eight points on Martin Luther King Day in a 69-56 win over defending Class B state champion Milan.
"I'll tell you who came off the bench and played great was Elijah Collins," U-D coach Pat Donnelly said. "He had a couple of nice drives and dishes to Greg (Eboigbodin) for dunks and did a nice job defensively on Latin (Davis). He's a good on-ball defender, had a couple of layups (in transition)."
Collins helped limit Davis, a Youngstown State-bound guard, to 13 points on 3-of-17 shooting.
Gary Collins scored 18 Friday in a 62-46 Catholic League Central Division win over Birmingham Brother Rice to push U-D's record to 9-1 (3-0 Catholic League).
By the numbers
13: Point deficit facing Detroit Western in the second half before it rallied to earn a 78-71 PSL West Division win over East English Village Friday
14: Consecutive free throws Clarkston made during the final minute of regulation and in overtime to earn a 69-63 overtime win at Oak Park Tuesday
6: Transfer players who were eligible to play for Oak Park Tuesday, with three of them getting starts in the overtime loss to Clarkston
Karmari Newman, Detroit East English
The junior guard, who scored 40 in a game earlier this season, scored 25 Tuesday, including a layup with three seconds left for the difference in a 70-68 PSL victory over Detroit Renaissance.
"It's tough when you go in there and there's two 6-foot-9 guys waiting. We're not great shot blockers, but we're good shot changers."
Pat Donnelly, U-D Jesuit coach, referring to 6-9 sophomores Greg Eboigbodin and Ikechukwu Eke