Goricki: Junior players are soaring above their class

David Goricki
The Detroit News

There’s no doubt the senior class in boys basketball across the state is loaded with talent, but the junior class is an impressive one as well. The class is led by Brandon Johns of East Lansing, Foster Loyer of Clarkston, David DeJulius of Detroit East English and Thomas Kithier of Macomb Dakota.

And don’t forget Brandon Wade of Ann Arbor Skyline, Duane Washington of Grand Rapids Christian and Davion Williams of Belleville.

Johns showed his talent and toughness in a game last month against Holt, rallying his team back from a 16-point second-half deficit for a 70-66 victory after having his eye scratched in the first half.

Johns, a four-star 6-foot-8 power forward, had 33 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks, scoring 26 second-half points, including 17 during the fourth quarter.

“This was a big win for us, just because it builds our confidence and shows a lot of effort and it’s a team win,” Johns said. “We showed grit, effort and my teammates were great.”

Yes, and Johns does have a strong supporting cast, including senior guard Westin Myles, who scored 33 in a 81-62 rout of Lansing Sexton on Friday.

Johns averages 20.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, four blocks and three assists.

“He’s done a tremendous job for us and is an excellent two-way player, which we’re very, very proud of and he’s an incredible passer,” praised East Lansing coach Steve Finamore.

That win over Holt (11-3) was the closest East Lansing has been challenged on its way to a 14-0 record. The rematch is Friday at Holt.

Johns said his recruiting situation is wide open.

“I live five minutes away from Michigan State and people feel I’m locked in there, but that’s not it at all,” pointed out Johns. “My options are still open and I'm still free to contact. I still have Michigan, Michigan State, Texas, Kansas, Florida State, Purdue, Indiana, Wisconsin, Alabama, Iowa and LSU on my list.”

While other stars like Josh Jackson and Brian Bowen left the state for prep schools, Johns wanted to try to bring East Lansing a state championship. East Lansing was 23-0 before a regional final loss to Lansing Everett last March.

Clarkston feels like it can go deep into the state tournament as well with junior point guard Foster Loyer leading the way.

Simply put, Loyer wouldn’t let Clarkston lose last Monday against Wayne Memorial, scoring 17 of his game-high 33 points during the fourth quarter.

Loyer, a Michigan State commitment, makes free throws by the bushel, converting on all 19 attempts in the 73-68 win over Wayne.

Loyer is averaging 25.8 points for 15-0 Clarkston and also has a solid supporting cast, including 6-5 Dylan Alderson who scored 12 in the opening quarter against Wayne and 24 for the game, making 4-of-8 three-pointers.

“Everything we’ve been working on is for March,” Loyer said. “You know free throw shooting is important. When they’re going to be fouling late in the game those makes are just as important as a lay-up in the first quarter.”

DeJulius is a rising star at Detroit East English.

DeJulius put himself on everyone’s radar when he scored 46 in an early season 79-63 victory over Macomb Dakota, resulting in an offer from Michigan coach John Beilein that he accepted.

DeJulius has averaged 26.3 points, including 33 in an 82-80 PSL quarterfinal win over Pershing Friday where he made 5-of-12 three-pointers.

“I have a great coaching staff, it’s a great school and a great environment and it’s easy for me to play here,” said DeJulius, who joins teammate Greg Elliott (28.2 points) to form the top 1-2 punch in the state. “I improved my jump shot, my mental approach and physical strength from a year ago.”

East English (14-3) will play Cass Tech in a 5 p.m. semifinal at Renaissance Tuesday with the winner advancing to Saturday’s title game at Calihan Hall.

Kithier, a 6-8, 230-pound power forward, showed MSU coach Tom Izzo what he wanted to see when Dakota was at MSU team camp in June. Izzo gave him an offer that Kithier proudly accepted.

Kithier, who missed a few games earlier in the season due to a sprained meniscus, has returned to full strength and has averaged 20 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and 2.5 blocks for 14-3 Dakota which advanced to the Class A state semifinal last year and has a strong shot at returning with senior point guard Jermaine Jackson back as well.

“I said all along since he was a freshman that he’ll be one of the best, if not the best post player to ever come out of this area,” said Dakota coach Paul Tocco of Kithier.

Dakota will carry an 11-game winning streak into the MAC tournament quarterfinal Thursday against Romeo.

Wade scored 24 in a 74-72 overtime win over Ann Arbor Pioneer Friday to help Skyline sweep their rival Ann Arbor schools for the first time in the school’s nine-year history. Skyline can clinch its first ever SEC Red Division title with a win at home Friday against Saline.

“It’s been a very exciting season, trying to earn our first SEC Red title in school history,” said the 6-2, 190-pound Wade. “My biggest improvement has definitely been driving.”

Wade has received nine offers, mostly from MAC schools and Horizon League schools, including Toledo where his father Keith Wade played.