Detroit News top boys basketball teams: U-D Jesuit leads the way

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Jalen Thomas

David Goricki of The Detroit News provides scouting reports on the top 20 boys basketball teams in the state.

U-D Jesuit has been one of the elite basketball programs in the state this past decade, winning six straight Catholic League titles and a Class A state championship with Cassius Winston leading the way in 2016.

Pat Donnelly is one of the top coaches in the state, guiding U-D Jesuit to a 93-11 record during the last four years, including that 28-0 unbeaten season in 2016. U-D Jesuit was 22-4 last season, earning Catholic League, district and regional titles before a Class A state quarterfinal loss to Warren De La Salle.

“We always have high expectations and I’m excited about this team,” said Donnelly.

U-D Jesuit is The Detroit News’ preseason No. 1 team in the state.

More: Detroit News top boys basketball players: New Haven's Romeo Weems is No. 1

Expect U-D Jesuit to make another long postseason run, led by 6-foot-10 senior Jalen Thomas, 6-4, 225-pound guard/forward Daniel Friday, and Jordan Montgomery, who started several games last season. Julian Dozier, who played on the state championship team, returns after playing last year in Phoenix.

“It’s a real benefit to have a big man,” said Donnelly of Thomas, who averaged 10.4 points, 11.4 rebounds and 4.2 blocks and will play next year at UMass. “He’s a great shot blocker and a good rebounder. He scores well in the post, right-hand, left-hand, and has really developed his perimeter game, so he’s stepping out and shooting jump shots now, extended it to the 3-point line. He’s going to develop into a great player as he continues to get bigger and stronger.”

Friday averaged 15 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists last season, shooting 64 percent from the field.

“Daniel is Mr. Everything for us,” said Donnelly. “He can put it on the floor, run the point, plays on the perimeter, post up. I think he’s a real matchup problem because of how big and strong he is with his perimeter skills. He can be dominant in high school this year, and I’ll tell you Brown has a great one because the Ivy League doesn’t get players like him very often.”

Dozier will be joined in the backcourt by transfer Caleb Hunter, who scored 13 in last year’s Class D state championship game win for Southfield Christian, making 4-of-9 3-pointers, after a 17-point, five-steal effort in the semifinals.

Hunter, who averaged more than 13 points, making 62 3-pointers, will be eligible to play in mid-January.

“Adding somebody with the skill that Caleb has is going to be really helpful for us, and he’s going to take that time from now until January to learn our system,” Donnelly said. “He can beat people off the dribble, create shots for others, knock down 3s; he adds one more perimeter scorer to our lineup and that just makes the post play more effective.”

2. River Rouge (23-2, Class B)

Lamonta Stone has replaced Mark White as head coach at River Rouge – which is coming off of consecutive Final Four runs – and inherits a talented team that includes seniors in 6-4 small forward Donovan Freeman, 5-11 point guard Bralin Toney, 6-1 shooting guard Nigel Colvin, 6-6 power forward Dan Few and 6-6 Micah Parrish. Other key players include 6-7 sophomore Legend Geeter, who is a post player with perimeter skills, and 7-0 freshman Marquise Davenport.

3. Detroit Renaissance (15-7, Class A)

Renaissance has the talent, but will it have the right chemistry under new coach John White, a former Southfield Christian assistant? Vito Jordan, who guided Renaissance to PSL title game appearances in 2015 and 2016, was fired and replaced first by former River Rouge coach Mark White, then White. Renaissance returns 6-7 senior forward Carrington McCaskill (Florida Atlantic), who should be a Mr. Basketball finalist, 6-5 senior guard Chandler Turner, and 6-6 forward Kylin Grant, who returns from Texas and owns an offer from Buffalo. Keon Henderson, who started at point guard last year as a freshman, is also a key contributor. McCaskill averaged 17 points, eight rebounds and three blocks last season, and Turner 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists.

Tyson Acuff

4. Detroit Cass Tech (17-5, Class A)

Tyson Acuff, a 6-3 junior point guard, is among three starters back for Cass Tech. Kalil Whitehead, a 6-5 senior forward, and 6-2 senior guard Michael Washington-Hill are other returning starters. Acuff averaged 14 points and 6.5 assists and has multiple mid-major offers. Whitehead averaged 10.5 points and seven rebounds, and Washington-Hill seven points. Daniel Autrey, a 6-3 senior guard, will be a big perimeter threat, and 6-5 Isaiah Sanders and 6-6 Josh Harris provide size inside.

5. New Haven (26-1, Class B)

Coach Tedaro France has guided New Haven to a 100-6 record the last four years. Expect DePaul-bound Romeo Weems, a 6-7 senior guard/forward, to be the frontrunner for Mr. Basketball. He will be motivated to have his best season after failing to repeat as state champion last season. Weems is joined by 6-1 senior shooting guard Ronald Jeffery (12 points, three assists) and point guard Jamir Farrior. Darrius Brooks and Eddie Dandridge will provide depth in the backcourt, with 6-4 Malen Lewis helping Weems on the boards.

6. Williamston (22-3, Class B)

Williamston reached the state quarterfinals for the third straight year last season. Coach Tom Lewis has a lot of size back in four-year starter Sean Cobb (14 points, nine rebounds), a 6-7 senior who will play at Grand Valley, along with 6-7 senior forwards Joseph Hahnenberg (10 points, eight rebounds) and 6-6 Case Conley, both two-year starters. Three-year starter 6-2 junior guard Mitchell Cook also returns. Lewis also expects big contributions from freshman Mason Docks, who will start at point guard, and 6-3 freshman Jacob Wallace. “We’ve won three straight regional titles, have won 20 or more games in each of those seasons,” said Lewis. “We have a huge target on our back.”

7. Flint Beecher (17-8, Class C)

Beecher returns three starters from a team that advanced to the regional final, led by the backcourt of 6-2 junior Jalen Terry (18 points, six assists), 6-3 junior Earnest Sanders (19 points) and 5-8 senior Tyrese Harvin, who is the team’s best on-ball defender. “We’re going to lack size, but we’re going to be quick and talented,” coach Mike Williams said. “Jalen can run, he can jump. He’s good at taking care of the ball, can shoot NBA range, does a lot of good things off the dribble, is dangerous off of ball screens and he’s very good in dribble-drive situations. Earnest jumps out of the gym, is mainly a shooting guard, but can play multiple positions.”

8. Muskegon (20-4, Class A)

Muskegon has three starters back from a team that lost to Holland West Ottawa in overtime in a regional final. “We’re deep, have a lot of guys back and a lot of talent,” coach Keith Guy said. Eonte Tornes, a 5-9 senior guard who averaged 16 points, is joined by 5-10 senior point guard Deandre Carter (seven points, four assists) in the backcourt. They will be joined by 6-2 junior Jarvis Walker, who averaged 22 points last season for Muskegon Mona Shores. Junior Billy Roberts, a 6-5, 260-pound junior, will provide size inside. Roberts averaged six points and eight rebounds. Senior guard Vern Nash (eight points) and transfer De’airrus Ware are expected to be other key contributors, as is junior Cameron Martinez, the standout quarterback on the football team.

9. Benton Harbor (27-1, Class B)

Defending state champion Benton Harbor lost four of five starters, but it does return 6-6 junior forward Carlos “Scooby” Johnson (19 points, 13.9 rebounds), who was the star of the state title game win over Grand Rapids Catholic Central, with 24 points and 11 rebounds. While four starters have graduated and moved on, 6-6 Justin Brown returns, along with 6-7 Chris Conway and 5-10 Jamon Walker, who was a backup point guard last season. Guards Quindarius Davis and Kentrell Pullian are both expected to give Benton Harbor some firepower as well. “We will be great in transition,” coach Corey Sterling said.

Ryan Rollins

10. Macomb Dakota (17-8, Class A)

Dakota, which has won four straight MAC Red championships, returns 80 percent of its scoring from last year’s team that was eliminated by Warren De La Salle in the regional final, including its backcourt in 6-3 junior Ryan Rollins (22.5 points, eight rebounds, six assists), senior Mark Tocco (12.5 points, nine assists, eight rebounds) and sophomore Josh Hines (14.5 points). Xavier Glenn, a 6-6 junior, will give Dakota size, along with 6-5 Jeremy Flattery. Glenn averaged seven points and eight rebounds.

11. Detroit King (18-7, Class A)

Coach George Ward’s teams always get things done at the defensive end and this season should be no different. King returns three starters from a team that lost in the regional final to U-D Jesuit. Ward considers three-year starter Jordan Whitford (12.5 points, five assists), a 6-0 senior point guard, to be a Mr. PSL candidate. He will be joined by 6-5 senior forward John Massey and 6-4 sophomore guard/forward Omar Zeigler. “We will undoubtedly be one of the best defensive teams in the state,” predicted Ward.

12. Oak Park (18-3, Class A)

Oak Park returns the bulk of its starters from a team that won the OAA White title before losing to Detroit Renaissance in overtime in the district final. Maliq Carr (17 points, 13 rebounds), a 6-6 junior small forward, returns, along with 5-11 junior guards Devonte Edwards and Frederick Garland. Christopher Gary, a 6-2, junior guard, and 6-6 junior Marcel Carter are other key performers. Oak Park is expected to contend for the OAA Red championship title, competing against West Bloomfield and defending champion Clarkston.

13. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (16-8, Class A)

Look for St. Mary’s to have a strong backcourt this season, led by 6-2 junior Lorne Bowman (22.5 points, 4.9 assists), a Wisconsin commit, and freshman phenom Kareem Rozier, who played with Emoni Bates in AAU ball this past year. Matt Nowicki, a 6-8 senior center, will provide an inside threat.

Isaiah Lewis

14. Wayne Memorial (18-7, Class A)

Senior guard Isaiah Lewis (18.7 points, 4.3 assists) and 6-5 forward Cartier Muse-Suber (10 points, eight rebounds) are returning starters from last year’s team, which reached the regional final, losing to Belleville. Dante Forman, a talented 6-5 sophomore transfer from Romulus Summit, is expected to play a big role, as is 6-7 Dreyon O’Neal, a transfer from Detroit Old Redford, and 6-8 Rico Covin.

15. Flint Carman-Ainsworth (23-3, Class A)

Carman-Ainsworth returns four starters from a state quarterfinal team of a year ago, led by 6-6, 240-pound forward/center Mike Fletcher (14 points, eight rebounds), who will play football at Michigan State. Sophomore Jayden Nunn will take over the point guard duties. Donnaal Conway, a 6-2 senior guard who averaged nine points, and 6-4 junior Dustin Fletcher (seven rebounds), Mike’s younger brother, are expected to be key contributors.

16. Okemos (20-5, Class A)

Evan Thomas and junior point guard Noah Pruitt team up to give Okemos a strong backcourt, gaining valuable experience last season when Okemos earned the CAAC Blue league championship while advancing to the regional final. Thomas, a 6-4 senior, averaged 10.9 points and eight rebounds, and Pruitt 9.8 points and three assists. They will be joined by perimeter threat Fabian Leone while 6-5 Mason Kaczmarek provides an inside presence.

17. Clarkston (26-1, Class A)

Tim Wasilk takes over for legendary coach Dan Fife after working as his assistant coach the past few years, including consecutive state championships the last two seasons. While Clarkston lost all of its starters, including Mr. Basketball Foster Loyer (Michigan State) and center Taylor Currie (Wisconsin), things could be interesting this season with freshman Fletcher Loyer – Foster’s younger brother – and 7-0 junior Matt Nicholson leading the way.

18. Ypsilanti Lincoln (11-10, Class A)

The spotlight should be on Lincoln with the addition of 6-8 freshman phenom Emoni Bates, the No. 1 player in nation for the 2022 class. Lincoln returns four starters from last year’s team, including 6-1 point guard Tahj Chatman (13 points, four assists), 6-2 guard Omari Frye (14 points, seven rebounds, three steals), 5-9 guard Jalen Fisher (11 points, three steals) and 6-3 forward Jordan Roberson.

19. Detroit Edison (17-10, Class C)

Edison enters the season as the defending Class C state champion. However, Coach Bo Neely lost the bulk of his team, returning just one starter in 6-6 Brian Taylor who had 10 points, three rebounds and three steals in the 53-38 title game win over Maple City Glen Lake. Neely plans to go eight deep with 6-4 junior shooting guard Raynard Williams, 6-0 freshman point guard Kyle Millender, 6-6 sophomore center David Hughes, 6-2 junior forward Vincent Cooley, 6-6 freshman forward Jahda Shepard, 6-3 sophomore guard Jaylen Flaniken, 6-6 junior forward Thaddeus Powell and 6-7 junior forward Bryce George playing key roles. “We are very athletic and long,” Neely said.

T20. Ann Arbor Skyline (23-1, Class A)

Ryan Wade and 6-7 senior power forward DeSean Munson are returning starters from a team that won the SEC Red championship and district title before losing to Novi in a regional final. Wade, a 6-3 senior guard who will play for Holy Cross, averaged 13.6 points last season. Kabir Bergin, a 6-5 junior forward, 5-11 sophomore point guard Chris Cayton, 6-1 senior Jaylin Cooper, 6-4 senior Robert Malcolm and 6-4 senior Spencer Morgan are other key players.

T20. Saline (13-8, Class A)

Junior guards Griffin Yaklich and Trevor Arico are among three starters returning. Yaklich is the son of Michigan assistant coach Luke Yaklich and Arico is the son of Michigan women’s basketball head coach Kim Barnes Arico. Yaklich and Arico each averaged 15 points last season with Arico making 40 percent of his 3-pointers. Saline also returns defensive stopper Pete Jacobson.

Other teams to watch: Ann Arbor Pioneer, Canton, Grand Blanc, Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Kalamazoo Central, Mt. Pleasant, Rochester Adams, Saginaw, Warren De La Salle, West Bloomfield.

Top players who left Michigan

Rocket Watts, Detroit Old Redford – left for SPIRE Academy, Jermaine Jackson’s team, in Geneva, Ohio

Harlond Beverly, Southfield Christian – left for Montverde Academy in Lake County, Florida

Myron Gardner, Detroit Loyola – left for SPIRE Academy

Isaiah Jackson, Detroit Old Redford – left for SPIRE Academy

Wendell Green, Detroit Country Day – La Lumiere Academy in LaPorte, Indiana

New coaches

Lamonte Stone, River Rouge

Brandon Sinawi, Detroit Catholic Central – led Novi to Final Four in Class A last season

Juan Rickman, Ferndale – former head coach at Detroit East English

Benny White, Birmingham Groves

Waleed Samaha, Ann Arbor Huron

Tim Wasilk, Clarkston – replacing Dan Fife, who retired

John White, Detroit Renaissance – the former Southfield Christian assistant takes over for Vito Jordan

Mark White, Romulus Summit Academy – former head coach at River Rouge

Wydell Henry, Warren Lincoln – former head coach at Detroit Pershing

Top early-season tournaments

Ypsilanti Tip-Off Classic – Monday at Convocation Center, EMU

Grosse Pointe South vs. University Prep, 4

Ypsilanti Arbor Prep vs. Ann Arbor Pioneer, 5:30

Detroit Edison vs. Canton, 7

Ann Arbor Huron vs. Ypsilanti Lincoln, 8:30

Horatio Williams Foundation Tip-Off Classic – Saturday at Detroit Edison

Detroit Western vs. Ann Arbor Pioneer, noon

Detroit Osborn vs. Harper Woods Chandler Park, 1:45

Detroit King vs. River Rouge, 3:30

Detroit Edison vs. Oak Park, 5

Ferndale vs. Flint Beecher, 6:30

Detroit Cass Tech vs. Flint Carman-Ainsworth, 8:30

MAC vs. Catholic League Challenge – Saturday at Calihan Hall

Macomb Dakota vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 1

New Haven vs. U-D Jesuit, 4:30