Goricki: Flashy Loyer has Clarkston team thinking big

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Foster Loyer

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said Cassius Winston was the best passer he had seen since Magic Johnson when recruiting the star guard from U-D Jesuit a couple of years ago.

Winston went on to lead U-D to the Class A state championship last year and is now getting valuable minutes as a freshman with the Spartans, coming up with 15 points and nine assists in an 80-76 win over Oral Roberts earlier this month.

It’s obvious Izzo is impressed, as well, with Foster Loyer of Clarkston, a point guard he’s had his eyes on since his freshman year. Soon Izzo offered him a scholarship that he has accepted.

Loyer is off to an impressive junior year and local fans should make a point of watching Clarkston play in the weeks and months ahead.

Like Winston, Loyer is also a flashy player capable of making passes from different angles and through defenders legs, long tosses for assists and underhand flips to set up the bigs inside.

Get an old tape of “Pistol” Pete Maravich and it’s possible you’ll get a flashback or two when watching Loyer play.

Loyer’s not 6-foot-5 like Maravich. He’s 6-foot and said he has hit the weights to get physically stronger. No doubt he’s going to need to be in a couple of years when he faces Big Ten players.

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“I’ve just continued to work on improving my strength and not getting pushed around or anything like that, keep playing well within our team and just keep working on shooting and every other skill on a daily basis,” said Loyer, the son of former Pistons assistant coach Jon Loyer.

So, how good can this Clarkston team be? It returns C.J. Robinson in the backcourt with Loyer, along with 6-5 senior Dylan Alderson (Wisconsin-Milwaukee) up front.

“We can be as good as we want to be,” Loyer said. “Right now, I feel our ceiling limit is the sky so I think if we keep our heads into it, we can accomplish some great things.”

Dan Fife, now in his 35th year as coach, also thinks Clarkston can accomplish some great things, if they take his advice and play harder in practice.

“We keep trying to convince the kids in practice they have to play that hard in practice every time to make the games not anything new to them,” Fife said after Clarkston’s 57-51 win at Romulus Friday night. “I think you saw it was a little bit new to us at times.

“These kind of games show that we’re capable of getting beat. You know early on it gets frustrating at times with trying to get them to play the way you want, you know the spirit they have to play with and convince them we have a big bull’s-eye on our back and they need to embrace that every day in practice.”

Loyer wants what Winston has in the years ahead, a state championship and the title of Mr. Basketball before he closes out his prep career.

Loyer was tested Friday by a physically intense Romulus team — ranked No. 11 in The News preseason rankings. Clarkston fought back from an early deficit, then a 42-41 deficit midway through the fourth quarter to pull out the win and improve to 3-0.

Loyer was the catalyst in the fourth-quarter comeback, which came after Romulus went on an 8-0 run to take a 42-41 lead with 4:20 left. He scored 13 of his game-high 26 points in the quarter, including 11 during the final 3:16.

With Clarkston holding a slim 45-44 cushion, Loyer made a short jumper, then connected on a 3-pointer, followed by two free throws to open up a 52-44 cushion.

“Coming back and getting back in the lead helped us,” Fife said. “We didn’t let them keep going. We stopped it and that was big. It was a great atmosphere to play in and a good ballgame for our kids. It was a good physical game, hard fought by both teams, and that’s what you need.”

Loyer is looking forward to games at Rochester Adams Tuesday and at home against Ann Arbor Skyline Thursday before the holiday break.

And, Loyer is thrilled to already have his college plans in his hip pocket.

“I love their program, from Coach Izzo being such a great guy and such a great coach, from having a great relationship with the rest of their staff and players, it just felt like home,” Loyer said. “It’s about an hour away. I felt I just put my family and myself in a great position to succeed in the future.”

And, Dane Fife — Dan’s son and a former Mr. Basketball award winner who played at Indiana — is an assistant coach at MSU.

Dave Mann, left, in his fourth decade coaching girls basketball, isn’t letting up, coaching both Chandler Park and Detroit Cornerstone.

Mann back to double-duty

Dave Mann is the fourth-winningest coach in girls basketball state history, with more than 600 wins to his credit as well as multiple state championships.

Now, in his seventh year as head coach at Harper Woods Chandler Park, Mann is doing a lot of teaching with an inexperienced group after getting hit hard by graduation loss following a district championship last season. The team lost to Detroit Mumford by two points in the regional final.

Mann, who turns 56 on New Year’s Eve, is enjoying every second of it.

In fact, he also is coaching the girls basketball varsity team at Detroit Cornerstone — in the same way he coached at Detroit Allen Academy and Chandler Park in 2010-11.

Mann guided Allen Academy to the Class C state quarterfinals in 2010, then took on the Chandler Park job as well the following season.

He is well into his fourth decade of coaching. He led Redford Bishop Borgess to three Class C state championships (1993, 1994, 1997) and Inkster to one in 2002.

So, is Mann enjoying coaching today as much as he did back in the ’90s?

“Yes, I do, but then again having a multitude of all-state players was also a lot of fun,” Mann said after Chandler Park’s 44-39 win at Romulus Friday. “Coaching the kids is still fun. I’m assistant AD at the school and also coach the boys and girls cross country teams and assistant track so I keep busy.

“I have my (basketball) players run cross country, require them to do it and I’m sure they appreciate it right now. We have eight kids, get up and down the court and they need that type of conditioning to be able to play this style. If you could go explain that to them in the locker room and say this is paying off, maybe they stop complaining in the fall (with running). I mean, did you see that trophy (after win over Romulus). It’s better than the state championship trophy. I wasn’t expecting that.”

Chandler Park, playing without a senior on the roster, is 2-1, led by 5-4 junior Diamond Williams and 5-6 junior guard Naja Farrell, the two starters back from last year.

Mann wasn’t expecting to coach Cornerstone either.

“The same gal (Staci Russell) that played for me at Borgess that was a teacher at Chandler Park, that persuaded me to leave Allen to go to Chandler Park was involved,” Mann said.

“She left Chandler Park to become assistant principal at Cornerstone and their coach left like a week before the season. They didn’t have anybody so she asked me if I’d help. We haven’t played a game yet, but we’ve been practicing and our first game is Jan. 4. I’m sure we’ll get 15 or 16 games in.

“We practiced over there (Cornerstone) at six-thirty this morning (Friday) and then had the Chandler Park game tonight. I last coached two teams my first year at Chandler Park and at the time I did it I wanted to take the Chandler Park job, but I had seniors at Allen I wasn’t willing to leave. When I talked to the people at Cornerstone I said it would be unconventional, but I told them I know it’s possible because it’s been done and we won district titles at both places that year.”

Russell, by the way, was a part of Mann’s state championship team at Borgess back in 1997.

Big showdown Tuesday

The Catholic League vs. Macomb Area Conference Calihan Challenge will be the place to be Tuesday.

Macomb Dakota — ranked No. 1 in The News preseason rankings — plays defending state champion and No. 3 U-D Jesuit at 7.

There will be a number of quality matchups to watch in that game, including the point guard battle between Dakota’s Jermaine Jackson and U-D’s Julian Dozier, and don’t forget 6-8 Thomas Kithier, a MSU commit, going up against the 6-9 inside duo of Greg Eboigbodin and Ike Eke.