Prep Insider: U-D Jesuit much more than just Cassius Winston
Cassius Winston talked all season how this was the best team he has been on in his outstanding four-year career at University of Detroit Jesuit.
Winston, who earlier in the week was named Mr. Basketball, knew what he was talking about and made the most of the talent around him, scoring 31 points (14-of-16 shooting) and handing out nine assists in the Class A championship game, a 69-49 win over North Farmington on Saturday afternoon at his future home, the Breslin Center.
U-D 6-foot-9 juniors Greg Eboigbodin and Ike Eke have grown up physically and athletically. Both are aggressive at the offensive end while also setting the tempo defensively by blocking or altering shots.
No doubt, Eboigbodin and Eke are intimidating factors, especially since Eboigbodin now plays at 215 pounds, saying he has put on 40 pounds since his arrival at the school.
And, the Cubs’ biggest surprise is probably 6-2 junior guard Scotty Nelson who comes off the bench to give them instant offense from the perimeter.
Nelson knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in the semifinal win over previously unbeaten Macomb Dakota on Friday, then scored 13 points in 19 minutes in the title game win, making two more 3-pointers. His three-point play opened up a 19-15 first-quarter lead.
“When you’re known as a 3-point shooter, people are going to run at you, so Scott’s a really good athlete and we all saw that on the football field, but when he gets on the basketball court and he’s able to knock down 3s and then he starts using his athleticism to attack the basket, it adds another dimension that makes us more dangerous,” U-D coach Pat Donnelly said.
Nelson now will focus on taking some recruiting visits for football where he is a three-star recruit as an athlete. He had 1,955 all-purpose yards and 21 touchdowns while playing quarterback and receiver and was a force from his secondary spot, getting in on 55 tackles while intercepting five passes, returning two for TDs.
Nelson has multiple Big Ten offers, including Michigan and Michigan State. He plans on visiting Notre Dame this week while on spring break.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Nelson said of the state championship. “It’s an honor to have played with Cassius and can’t wait to watch him play at Michigan State next year.”
Nelson had his own chant going from the student section, with the student body yelling “Scotty B-Ball,” after making big plays.
“The support from the crowd and the students is just crazy,” Nelson said. “They’ve helped us so much throughout the season, especially once we got here (Breslin Center). They’re the best student section in the state, you start smiling, makes you feel more confident and everything. It just helps my game completely.”
Donnelly felt confident heading into the postseason, knowing he had a perimeter threat in Nelson, who scored 20 points, making four 3-pointers, to help the Cubs end its two-year slide in the Operation Friendship game, defeating Detroit East English 92-76 last month.
And, on Nelson’s football plans?
“Since we’ve finally got this (state championship) I can start visiting more places,” Nelson said. “Right now, I’ve been offered by Michigan, Michigan State, Boston College, Northwestern, Miami of Ohio, Iowa State, Iowa and Penn State.
“Right during the middle of the season, (Michigan) coach (Jim) Harbaugh came down during one of the practices, then (Michigan State) coach (Mark) Dantonio came down to one of the practices. They got to watch us practice too, so that was cool.”
So, has he narrowed the field with his senior season coming up this fall?
“Not yet, I have to visit more places,” he said. “We’re on spring break this week so maybe Notre Dame’s my next visit. They haven’t offered me yet, but they want me to come over.”
Life is good for Scotty B-Ball. Who knows, he could one day be watching Cassius from the Izzone.
Second time’s the charm
Detroit Henry Ford coach Ken Flowers said he didn’t want to be remembered in the same way the Buffalo Bills are remembered, getting to the ultimate stage only to come up empty multiple times.
Well, Flowers has nothing to worry about anymore. Henry Ford took care of unfinished business in its 61-47 Class B state championship win over Stevensville Lakeshore on Saturday night after falling to Wyoming Godwin Heights in last year’s title game.
Flowers had a well-seasoned point guard in James Towns and a supporting cast which played much taller than its size due to playing with passion and high energy.
It’s the first time Public School League teams have won state championships in consecutive years since Detroit Pershing (1993) and Detroit Murray-Wright (1994). Detroit Western won the Class A title last season.
Going up against Lakeshore’s 6-foot-9 and 6-7 posts with a pair of 6-4 seniors in Kavon Bey and Alston Hunter, Henry Ford held a 30-19 rebounding advantage.
Still, it was Towns who ran the show offensively. He scored 15 points and Henry Ford turned the ball over just 11 times while making free throws down the stretch, 17 of 23 in the fourth quarter, six of eight by Towns.
“We put in so much work, it’s hard to explain,” said Towns who has been offered by Niagara and been recruited by Eastern Michigan and Detroit Mercy. “What we do on and off the court, the chemistry is there too, and you can’t downplay that. We really love each other.
“We’ve been doubted the whole year so it’s nothing new. We’ve just proved them wrong right here with this (state championship trophy) that we’re bringing back.”
Flowers agreed, saying: “We’ve been through so much adversity. We lost (6-5 post player) Antwan (Johnson who moved out of state), another guy transferred, Josh (Davis) graduated so they’ve counted us out all year. I told the guys, you’re seven guys off a state runner-up team, seniors who know how to play, and they played well together and never doubted themselves.
“We’ve had a tough schedule, lost to Western by two in overtime so we’ve been in games all year, just never able to turn that page, but once the state tournament came the guys wanted to come back here and win eight straight. This is great, I’m so proud of them.”
Detroit Jesuit sophomore guard Elijah Collins is earning the reputation as a defensive stopper, a reason the Cubs won their first state championship in school history and became the Catholic League’s first Class A state champs since Detroit Catholic Central 40 years ago.
In last year’s Class A quarterfinal at Calihan Hall, Collins — as a freshman —slowed Clarkston high-scoring guard Foster Loyer, limiting him to 10 points on 2-of-9 shooting after Loyer was coming off a 35-point performance the game before in a regional final win over Dakota.
Collins continued with a strong defensive effort in this year’s title game win over North Farmington, making Billy Thomas earn every one of his 23 points (9-of-21 shooting, 2-of-7 3-pointers).
“Elijah has always been a tremendous athlete, was a defensive stopper last year as a freshman,” U-D coach Pat Donnelly said. “Billy’s a great player and we knew he was going to score and he’s quick, and Elijah gives us an athlete that can sit down and guard and I thought Elijah did a decent job making him catch the ball 35 to 40 feet from the basket and then made him work to get a shot off, and it takes its toll as the game goes on.”
Thomas was limited to 10 second-half points.
“He’s very physical, can slide his feet very well, an intense defensive player who can guard anyone really,” said Thomas of Collins who has grown three inches to 6-2 from his freshman year while getting stronger at 180 pounds.
Thomas’ future is still up in the air. He said he will decide on prep school or college in the weeks and months ahead. He has been offered by at least nine Division I schools, including Oakland and Detroit Mercy.
“Cassius has been a phenomenal leader for four years, he’s not only a great scorer and a great passer, he’s grown in his leadership skills verbally since he’s always been a leader by example in terms of his work ethic.” U-D coach Pat Donnelly on his point guard Cassius Winston.
By the numbers
55: Consecutive wins for two-time unbeaten Class D state champion Powers North Central, capping off a 28-0 season Saturday with a 59-48 title game win over Waterford Lakes
21: Total assists by U-D Jesuit senior point guard Cassius Winston in the semifinal and title game wins
4: Class C state championships Flint Beecher has won in the last five years