Goricki: Fosdick heads Saline basketball turnaround

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Jake Fosdick

Most 25-year-old basketball coaches are just learning their trade at the freshmen or junior varsity levels while dreaming of one day getting the chance to lead the varsity program.

But things have skyrocketed for Jake Fosdick, who has guided Saline to a 8-1 start in his second year while picking up its first hardware — champions of Salem Winter Tournament — since his junior year at the school when it won the district title back in 2008.

Fosdick, who played for Charles Ramsey at Eastern Michigan as a preferred walk-on, wanted to bring excitement and passion back to the program, especially since the school has been known for its football and baseball programs the past several years. The football team advanced to the state title game in 2014 and the baseball team played in the state championship game last spring.

“When I took over we were a 4-16 team and everyone was kind of down about basketball around here,” Fosdick said. “Last year’s whole goal was to build some excitement and gain some respect, show that we could kind of play with the big dogs around here and compete.

“Now, we’re kind of at the stage where we’re kind of tired of it being an upset when Saline wins. We’re trying to just keep climbing the ladder and competing with the top teams in the area and get some more wins.”

Fosdick guided Saline’s freshmen team for a year, then the junior varsity program for three years, including a 16-4 record two years ago before taking over the varsity team following its 4-16 showing.

Fosdick was 12-10 last year while building the ground work for a solid foundation, earning wins over Ann Arbor Pioneer and Ann Arbor Skyline before losing to Ypsilanti in the district semifinal. Saline has defeated Pioneer and Novi already this season.

“Last year we beat Skyline and Pioneer at the end of the year and there was a lot of talk on how that was kind of a fluke and stuff so to actually beat them again was huge for the reputation of our program,” Fosdick said.

Saline is led by 6-foot-7 senior forward Calder Pellerin (14.5 points) and senior combo guards Jacob Finkbiner (12 points) and Ryan Foley, who are both standout baseball players as well. Foley and Pellerin each scored 14 in the Salem Winter Tournament title game win over Woodhaven.

“They were on my JV team so this is the third year I’ve coached them and a lot of the seniors I’ve known since they were in middle school, so we’re pretty comfortable together,” Fosdick said. “I think our strength is our toughness. The Ann Arbor schools are loaded and there is a lot of talent in our area, but we have some of the more tougher kids around. They’re competitive and go after it.”

Finkbiner is a Wayne State commit for baseball as an infielder. Foley is an outfielder.

“He’s our emotional leader, another stud baseball player,” said Fosdick of Foley. “Finkbiner and Foley bring a lot of their baseball experience, playing in big games there and brought it into our program, which is nice.”

Junior forward Emmett Turner scored 15 and senior guard Justin Zylstra had 13 in the semifinal win over Redford Thurston.

Saline hosts to Skyline Friday and will try to win its second district title in the last 38 years in March. Saline will have Skyline, Pioneer, Ann Arbor Huron, Dexter and Pinckney in its district at Huron.

Jesuit’s Thomas mulling decision

A.J. Thomas heard all about the rumors that Western Michigan head football coach P.J. Fleck was taking the job at Minnesota, but he had a basketball game to get ready for on Friday night.

Thomas, a three-star cornerback for U-D Jesuit, is playing basketball for the defending Class A state champs as a defensive stopper.

All day Friday, Thomas was getting calls from Mid-American Conference schools wanting him to flip his commitment from Western Michigan to play for them. Even schools who hadn’t offered him before, like Washington State, came on board to see what he was thinking about.

“I’m still committed to Western Michigan, but we’ll see what happens,” Thomas said Saturday, noting that he wants to find out who the new coach at Western will be and what his friend, fellow Western commit and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s linebacker Dwayne Chapman plans on doing.

“Dwayne was one of the reasons I was going to Western Michigan. This has all happened so fast. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”

Thomas said he talked with Fleck two days before he decided to move on. He got a call from Western Michigan defensive line coach Jimmy Williams — a former Nebraska All-American and Lions linebacker — of the news Fleck took the Minnesota job.

So, how did Thomas play in Jesuit’s 71-58 win over Romulus Friday?

“He played good defense,” noted coach Pat Donnelly. “That’s his role.”

Jesuit (6-2) will play a Catholic League game at Warren De La Salle Friday.

Skyline’s Wade impressing

Brandon Wade is off to a strong junior season for Skyline (6-3), scoring more than 30 points in a pair of games.

Wade, a junior guard who already has nine Division 1 offers, scored 32 last week in a 74-71 win over Belleville with coaches from Michigan State, Central Michigan, Toledo, Akron and Bowling Green looking on.

Wade has emerged as one of the premier point guards in the state for the junior class, joining the likes of Clarkston’s Foster Loyer (Michigan State), Detroit East English Village’s David DeJulius (Michigan) and Grand Rapids Christian’s Duane Washington.

DeJulius scored 46 in a 79-63 win over preseason No. 1 ranked Macomb Dakota in a game the week before Christmas, making 9 of 11 3-pointers.

Wade had a season-high 37 points last month in a 100-90 loss to Clarkston.

Skyline already has victories over Pioneer (61-54) and Huron (95-92, 3OT).

Muskegon one to watch

Muskegon continues to show it will become a factor come March in the state tournament after improving 5-0 with an impressive 68-55 win over Chicago Whitney Young in the title game of the Muskegon Showcase.

Jermayne Golidy, a 6-4 senior, made 10 of 15 shots and had 28 points and 12 rebounds to help Muskegon come back from a first-half deficit with 17 second-half points.