Dynamic duo Epps, Williams spark Wayne’s hot start
Wayne Memorial has gone from a sub-.500 team to one capable of winning 20 games and making a long run in the state tournament come March.
Wayne is led by the inside-outside combination of 6-foot-6 senior Keion Epps and 6-3 combo guard Rashad Williams. Epps is an Eastern Michigan commit and Williams has already received multiple Division I offers, including Eastern, Cleveland State and Detroit Mercy.
Epps played on Nkwane Young’s Detroit Douglass team that advanced to the Class B state semifinals in 2014, falling 51-50 to eventual state champion Milan.
Young moved on to take over the program at Wayne and Epps followed him, developing into a strong all-around player and showing the ability to play multiple positions. He is averaging 18 points and 14 rebounds.
Epps had 21 points and 13 rebounds in a 65-46 win at Livonia Churchill Tuesday. He also had 18 points and 14 rebounds in a 53-52 win over Canton to help Wayne improve to 7-1. Wayne was 9-12 last season and 6-14 two years ago.
“We’ve had big improvements from last year and the experience level is the major plus for us,”said Young, who has had several players on varsity for the past three years at Wayne. “They understand what it takes to win and from the experience level they’ve played a lot of games where they came up short and now it’s paying off for us.
“Epps was with me (at Douglass), then had to sit out his sophomore year when he transferred here. He started as a freshman in 2014 with me at Douglass when we went to Breslin. He plays from the one through the five. We play him where we need him, make sure he stays focused. He can go inside or outside for us.”
Big things were expected of Williams at Romulus which was coming off a state championship (2013), but he played for the junior varsity team as a freshman, then sat out last year after transferring to Wayne.
“Rashad Williams is a big difference maker for us,” Young said. “He’s probably one of the better shooters in the state. He is a big reason we’re at where we’re at. He can flat out score.”
Williams scored 20 and had seven assists in the win over Churchill and is averaging 21.4 points. He made 19 3-pointers during a three-game stretch, including six in a 32-point outing in a loss to Detroit East English and seven in a 28-point showing in a win over Plymouth. He also had 26 points and 10 assists in an 84-65 win over Detroit Old Redford.
“Our season so far is pretty good, pretty exciting,” said Williams, who plays his AAU ball for Reach Legends based out of Detroit. “A lot of the guys are still getting the chance to mesh with each other, still getting to know each other and find our identity and Coach Young is just doing a good job of pushing us each and every day to get better.
“I want to thank my teammates for putting me in positions to score and my coach as well for pushing me. I just like to take what the defense gives me. I like to shoot a lot of threes, but I think people don’t really pay attention to how much I drive the ball if that’s what the game calls for. Pretty much, it’s all about feeling the game.”
Wayne also has talented players in 5-8 sophomore point guard Isaiah Lewis, 6-4 senior Travez Nyx, 6-1 junior Terence Williams and 6-3 senior Napier Bryant.
St. Mary’s soars
Todd Covert is feeling right at home in his second year as head coach at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, leading it to a 7-1 start after a 10-22 showing a year ago.
St. Mary’s is getting strong play from 5-11 senior point guard C.J. Wilson, and a huge boost from 6-5 junior Caden Prieskorn, a transfer from Lake Orion who started at quarterback for the Division 3 state title team..
“C.J. Wilson is playing fantastic for us, averaging 33 a game the last four or five games,” Covert said of Wilson. “He’s a four-year varsity player and he really hit the weight room in the summer and fall.”
On Prieskorn, Covert says: “It’s his first year playing varsity basketball and he’s about 6-5 or 6-6 and he just sees the floor and plays like a guard. He’s really able to give us some space on the court that we haven’t had in the past. He’s an awfully talented kid, really fundamentally sound.”
Covert feels Wilson, who is averaging 28.5 points, is under the radar after playing AAU ball for the Family in the past behind Michigan State point guard Cassius Winston (U-D Jesuit) and Jermaine Jackson, now a senior at Macomb Dakota.
Wilson suffered an ankle injury this summer, but showed he is fully healthy, scoring 34 in a 65-51 Catholic League Central Division win over Detroit Catholic Central Tuesday.
Prieskorn is averaging 10 points and 10 rebounds. Junior Tyler Markray shares the point guard duties with Wilson and at times Prieskorn.
Covert felt he could see progress at the end of last season.
“We started to come on at the end of last season, lost to North Farmington by four in the district final,” Covert said. “Then with the addition of Caden, it’s opened up the floor for a lot of kids.”
Prieskorn had a triple double (17 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) Friday in a 63-44 win over Dearborn Divine Child.
St. Mary’s lone loss came in the season opener to Clarkston.
“We had just four days of practice after the state football championship,” Covert said. “We’re finally going to get Josh Ross back, too. He’s probably going to play starting next week. He was busted up from football, played with a torn hamstring in the state championship game, bad knee, too.”
Ross is a Dream Team linebacker and Michigan commit.
Mark your calendar
Fans will get to see just how good Wayne is when it plays at Clarkston Jan. 24 against a pair of Division I players in junior point guard Foster Loyer and Wisconsin-Milwaukee-bound Dylan Alderson, a 6-5 senior who can play multiple positions.
St. Mary’s will play at Class A defending state champion U-D Jesuit Tuesday night. Earlier that day, Detroit East English (6-1) hosts Detroit King (7-1) at 4 p.m.
If fans want to watch a MLK matchup Monday, Romulus will play host to Saginaw Arthur Hill at 5 p.m.