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Detroit News top boys basketball players: Tillman stands out

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Xavier Tillman

Grand Rapids — Xavier Tillman stood a man among boys during a recent practice at Grand Rapids Christian, a physical presence at 6-foot-8 and 270 pounds with the ability to dominate in the post as well as step out and hit the mid-range jumper.

Tillman is The News’ No. 1 player in the state. He will play next year at Michigan State, picking the Spartans over Kentucky, Florida and several other major powers.

“I’ve gotten a lot stronger since last season, got in the weight room every chance I could, almost every day,” Tillman said. “I also eat a lot less fast food. I feel my athleticism is much better. I’ve had different type of workouts, like Vertimax and a lot more squats, a lot more lunge workouts, stretching a lot more, too, with my trainer.”

Christian coach Mark Warners is impressed with how Tillman can move for a big man.

“He runs the floor really well for a guy his size, sees the floor extremely well and those are besides the fact he’s 6-foot-8 and 270 pounds,” said Warners, who is in his seventh season as head coach. “He passes the ball really well out of the post, he passes the ball well on the break, which is very unusual for how big he is, and of course he’s really good in the post.

“He’s got the complete package and we’re working on the mid-range game so he can step out and hit the 15-footer if he needs to.”

Tillman, who has a 3.48 GPA, plans to major in business and communications at Michigan State. He is looking forward to playing at MSU for Tom Izzo, but he wants to show Spartans fans his ability in the Class A final four in March.

Dakota High School's Jermaine Jackson

2. Jermaine Jackson, 5-10, Sr., G, Macomb Dakota

Jackson averaged 21 points, six assists, four rebounds and three steals to lead Dakota to a MAC Red Division title and a Class A state semifinal appearance.

“It all starts with Jermaine, he is a special player and person, our leader and a Mr. Basketball candidate,” Coach Paul Tocco said.

Jackson is being recruited by Iowa State, Colorado, Providence, Tulane, Eastern Michigan, Toledo and Detroit.

3. Foster Loyer, 6-0, Jr., G, Clarkston

Loyer runs the Wolves’ offense, showing the ability to penetrate and score or dish off to a teammate and is also an outstanding perimeter shooter.

Loyer averaged 22.6 points, 6.7 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 2.7 steals to help the Wolves advance to the regional semifinals, falling to Dakota 68-66 in double-overtime. He is a Michigan State commit.

4. Isaiah Livers, 6-6, Sr., G-F, Kalamazoo Central

Livers, a Michigan commit, averaged 16 points and 9.6 rebounds and is expected to be a Mr. Basketball candidate.

“Isaiah can play anywhere from one to five,” coach Ramsey Nichols said. “He impacts the game on both ends of the floor. He has great footwork on the block and he can also go outside and can handle the ball and go to the basket.”

Clarkston's Thomas Kithier is part of the 2018 Michigan State recruiting class.

5. Thomas Kithier, 6-8, Jr., F-C, Macomb Dakota

Kithier is tall and athletic with the ability to make an impact on both ends of the floor. He averaged 13 points, 10 rebounds while shooting 69 percent from the field and set a single-season school record for blocked shots (74).

“Thomas is a very skilled 6-8 forward that does everything on the floor well,” coach Paul Tocco said of the Michigan State commit. “He is one of the top players in the state and he is a great kid.”

6. Brandon Johns, 6-8, Jr., F, St. Johns

Johns is an athletic 6-8 player who can score inside or knock down the 3-pointer. He averaged a double-double (19 points, 10 rebounds) while making 35 three-pointers.

Johns has offers from Michigan, Iowa, Purdue and Alabama.

7. Romeo Weems, 6-6, So., G-F, New Haven

Weems is ranked as a five-star player and the No. 2 player in the region for the 2019 class by He averaged 16.1 points, 10.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists and is a threat for a triple-double every time he takes the floor.

Weems helped New Haven earn a Class B regional title last year before a quarterfinal loss to eventual state champion Detroit Henry Ford.

North Farmington High's Amauri Hardy

8. Amauri Hardy, 6-3, Sr., G, North Farmington

Hardy played a big role in helping North Farmington reach the Class A state championship game last year, falling to U-D Jesuit.

Hardy can score off penetration or by making the perimeter jumper. He averaged 21 points his junior year and has multiple offers, including Oklahoma State, Georgia and Georgia State.

9. Greg Elliott, 6-4, Sr., G, Detroit East English

Elliott has to be considered the preseason favorite to win Mr. PSL while also being a factor in the Mr. Basketball award as well. He averaged 19 points, nine rebounds and four assists to help East English win the PSL championship.

“He does everything well, handles the ball, can penetrate and score, make the jumper and defend,” coach Juan Rickman said.

Elliott has offers from Toledo, Temple and Rice and is getting interest from Michigan and Marquette.

10. Jamal Cain, 6-7, Sr., F, Detroit Cornerstone

Cain is a four-star player who has the size to score inside and the skill to knock down the perimeter jumper while also being a factor on the defensive end with his long wing span.

Cain averaged a double-double last season, then played well during the AAU season and had more than a dozen offers, narrowing his list to Michigan, Marquette, Florida State, Georgia before picking Marquette in September.

11. Matt Beachler, 6-4, Sr., G-F, Lowell

Beachler is coming off a strong junior season when he averaged 18.1 points to surpass the 1,000-point mark for his career. He is a 3-point threat, making 51 last season to help the Red Arrows to a 18-6 record.

Beachler received more than two dozen Division 1 offers, deciding to play next year for Central Michigan.

Detroit News top boys basketball teams: Dakota is No. 1

12. Demetrius Lake, 5-10, Sr., G, Holland

Lake was a scoring machine as a junior, averaging 33.1 points while also displaying talent at the defensive end, coming up with nearly four steals a game.

Lake, who had 44 points in consecutive games against Cedar Springs and Grand Rapids West Catholic, started his senior year in Florida, but returned back to Michigan and is eligible to play.

13. Dylan Alderson, 6-4, Sr., G, Clarkston

Alderson, who will play at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, joins Foster Loyer and C.J. Robinson to give the Wolves a strong backcourt. He averaged 16.2 points and 7.3 rebounds last season, displaying a physical style at both ends of the court.

University of Detroit Jesuit's Ike Eke

14. Ike Eke, 6-9, Sr., C, U-D Jesuit

Eke joined Greg Eboigbodin to form a huge 1-2 punch inside to help the Cubs win the Class A state championship last season. Eke averaged 9.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and two blocks while shooting 65 percent from the floor. He will play next year at Marquette.

15. Michael Flowers, 6-1, Sr., G, Southfield A&T

Flowers has the ability to score 40 on a given night, averaging 25.1 points his junior year at Southfield.

Flowers can score off the dribble or by making the perimeter jumper. He will play next year at Western Michigan.

16. Brandon Wade, 6-2, Jr., G, Ann Arbor Skyline

Wade averaged 17.2 points, five assists and 2.5 steals. He has several Division 1 offers, including Toledo.

17. Jaron Faulds, 6-10, Sr., C, Holt

Faulds is one of the premier big men in the state, averaging a double-double (12.1 points, 11.5 rebounds) last season while also blocking three shots a game. He will play next year at Columbia.

18. Duane Washington, 6-3, Jr., G, Grand Rapids Christian

Washington is a big point guard who gets things done at both ends of the court with his physical play. He averaged 15 points, 5.3 assists and three steals last season. He has more than a half dozen Division I offers, including Western Michigan and Oakland.

19. Davion Williams, 6-2, Jr., G, Belleville

Williams is quick and athletic with the ability to score in multiple ways. He averaged 19 points and 5.5 rebounds last season to help the Tigers (19-5) to their first league and district titles in 10 years.

20. James Beck, 6-7, Sr., F, Grand Rapids Christian

Beck is tall, quick and has outstanding leaping ability to run the floor and score in transition or get back and stop the opponent’s fastbreak opportunity with a block.

Beck averaged 13 points and eight rebounds last season and will play next year at Oakland.