Dave Goricki previews the high school boys basketball season with U-D Jesuit coach Pat Donnelly and River Rouge coach LaMonta Stone. The Detroit News
Detroit — By now area high school basketball fans know about 6-foot-8 Emoni Bates of Ypsilanti Lincoln, who had a spectacular high school debut last Monday night, scoring 32 and grabbing 15 rebounds in an 80-69 win over Ann Arbor Huron.
But, how about Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 5-7 freshman point guard Kareem Rozier?
Rozier, who turned 14 Thursday, was equally impressive in his debut with OLSM — ranked No. 13 by The Detroit News — on Saturday at Calihan Hall, contributing 20 points and eight assists to lead his team to a 73-30 rout of No. 10 Macomb Dakota, with Bates, his AAU teammate looking on.
Rozier set the tempo in the opening quarter when he made a pair of 3-pointers and dished out three assists to help OLSM take a 20-10 lead.
OLSM led 39-18 at halftime, then Rozier was at his best to open up the second half, scoring 13, including three 3-pointers, along with three assists during a 23-1 third quarter to open up a 62-20 cushion.
Then Rozier took a seat on the bench for the rest of the game.
Rozier brings back memories of former Eastern Michigan star Earl Boykins, who led the Eagles to their last NCAA Tournament appearance 20 years ago, but said he models his game after Houston Rockets point guard Chris Paul.
“I’m a pass-first point guard, like CP3 (Paul), dishing out dimes to my players. But when my shot is there I’ll take it, especially if they are playing off of me,” Rozier said. “We have a lot of great shooters on this team. Everybody can shoot and get to the basket. They know if they get open I’ll get them the ball.
“It’s great that I came here (OLSM) so I could have the opportunity to play with my older brother (Khalil) for one more year before he goes to college. He’s a great knock-down shooter, reminds me of Rip Hamilton.”
Rozier has the youthful enthusiasm of a freshman thrilled to be playing varsity ball and making an impact. After the game, the fun-loving Rozier gave countless hugs, and when fans stopped by to give compliments, he smiled, looked them in the eye and thanked them.
Rozier admits it’s a great comfort to have a player like 6-2 junior shooting guard Lorne Bowman, a Wisconsin commit, in the same lineup.
“Loren is a great leader, gets everyone involved,” Rozier said. “He can do it all, get to the basket, knock down shots, defend. We’re going to be good this year.”
While Bates said he wasn’t nervous before stepping on the court for his debut last Monday, the same could not be said for Rozier.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole life,” said Rozier, taking a seat on the first row of the bleachers after the game. “I was focused, but nervous too, loosened up after a few shots and then I was ready to go.”
OLSM could give six-time Catholic League champion U-D Jesuit problems this season.
“He’s a great leader, unbelievable,” said OLSM coach Todd Covert of Rozier. “He was 13 two days ago, should be in eighth grade right now. He really gets after them in practice, reminds me of Mateen Cleaves.”
Tip-Off Classic a success
Horatio Williams moved his Tip-Off Classic to Detroit Edison Saturday and the move paid off with the showdown between No. 2 River Rouge and No. 11 Detroit King having the feel of a playoff game with more than a thousand fans jammed in the small gym.
It showcased two excellent defensive teams and the officials let them play, which resulted in an intense, physical battle.
It was King freshman guard Chansey Willis Jr. who proved to be the difference in a 54-51 comeback win.
Willis rallied King back from a 46-42 deficit with three minutes left when he connected on a 3-pointer, then scored off a driving layup and knocked down another 3-pointer from the right corner with 1:05 left for a 50-48 cushion, a lead King held the rest of the game.
Willis joins an experienced team, led by Mr. PSL candidate in 6-0 senior point guard Jordan Whitford and 6-4 sophomore guard Omar Zeigler.
Zeigler finished with 17 points, Whitford 12 and Willis 11.
Donovan Freeman scored 15 and 6-7 sophomore Legend Geeter had 12 for River Rouge, which missed 3-of-6 free throws, including the front end of a 1-and-1 in the final two minutes.
Neely guides Edison
Bo Neely guided Detroit Edison to the Class C state championship last season, then lost his Big Three – guard Pierre Mitchell (CMU), 6-8 Deante Johnson (Cleveland State) and Gary Solomon (LIU-Brooklyn) – to the college ranks.
But there’s no worry for Neely, who is now working his magic with a young team, led by its lone returning starter in 6-7 senior Brian Taylor.
After a season-opening win over a talented Canton team last Monday, Taylor had 31 points and 10 rebounds — with 6-3 junior Raynard Williams also producing a double-double (14 points, 13 rebounds) — to lead No. 19 Edison to a 74-59 win over 6-6 junior sensation Maliq Carr and No. 12 Oak Park in the Horatio Williams Tip-Off Classic.
Edison freshman point guard Kyle Millender had another solid performance with seven points, six assists and just one turnover.
Friday night showdowns
Bates and Lincoln will travel to Saline Friday night to play a team led by 6-4 junior guard Griffin Yaklich, son of Michigan assistant coach Luke Yaklich, and junior guard Trevor Arico, who is the son of UM women’s head coach Kim Barnes Arico.
Rozier and OLSM will be at two-time defending Class A state champion Clarkston, led by freshman Fletcher Loyer, younger brother of Mr. Basketball award winner Foster Loyer, and 7-footer Matt Nicholson.