Rickea Jackson put Detroit Edison’s girls basketball team on the map last season by leading it to the Class C state championship at the Breslin Center.
Jackson, a 6-foot-3 junior, averaged 17.3 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.1 blocks and played big in the 46-44 title game win over Pewamo-Westphalia, scoring 21 with nine rebounds and three blocks.
Jackson will have a lot of help, just like last season, since the entire team returns, with 5-5 sophomore Daija Tyson, who suffered a season-ending injury in the second game last season, and 5-7 freshman point guard Damiya Hagemann, who already has offers from Ohio State, Michigan, Iowa, DePaul, UMass and Detroit.
Ohio State associate head coach Patrick Klein was at Edison’s season-opener against Ann Arbor Huron in the Ice Breaker Classic at Ypsilanti Arbor Prep on Dec. 2 and it’s easy to believe he’ll be attending other games to keep an eye on Hagemann and Jackson.
While Jackson was dominant inside and has a strong mid-range game, 5-10 sophomore Gabrielle Elliott (17.5 points) is a perimeter threat who can also get to the basket, as is Hagemann.
And don’t forget 5-7 sophomore guard and defensive stopper Shaulana Wagner, who had 12 points and blocked multiple shots in the state championship game, including one in the final seconds.
Edison won the title last year with Jackson as a sophomore and nine freshmen among the 12-player roster.
“They know they’re No. 1 and that the target is on their back,” seventh-year Edison coach Monique Brown said. “We’ve put together a tough schedule, just to prepare them for the state tournament.”
No doubt, Edison’s schedule is loaded. It will face Detroit King in a holiday tournament at 1 p.m. Dec. 27 at Detroit Cass Tech, play at Class B state runner-up Ypsilanti Prep on Jan. 11, faced Wayne Memorial in the Freedom Classic Jan 13. at Warren Fitzgerald, host Class B state champion Detroit Country Day on Jan. 23 and play at Saginaw Heritage on Feb. 20.
BEST OF THE REST
2. Wayne Memorial (17-5, Class A)
Wayne returns all five starters from last year’s team that lost to Hartland in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association championship game and to Belleville in a Class A regional semifinal.
“I expect us to compete very hard," coach Jarvis Mitchell said. "I just want us to be consistent and compete hard every game because it takes a strong mind to compete every play and that’s what I want them to do."
Wayne is led by Clemson-bound senior guard Camree Clegg and 5-11 junior point guard Jeanae Terry, who has more than two dozen offers, including Florida, Temple, Nebraska, Illinois and Indiana.
Clegg averaged 25.8 points and 4.8 assists last season, and Terry averaged 17 points.
No doubt, Wayne arguably has the top backcourt in the state. Wayne competed very hard in a 73-70 victory over Class B state champion Detroit Country Day in the Ice Breaker Classic with Clegg scoring 41 and shooting 10-for-15 from 3-point range, including a 3-pointer as time expired, while Terry added 21 points.
Mitchell also has a lot of size to work with in 6-2 freshman Alana Michaeux, 6-2 sophomore Kayla Gray and sophomore Makailah Griggs-Zeigler, who scored 21 in the regional semifinal loss and holds seven Division I offers.
3. Detroit Country Day (26-1, Class B)
Country Day no longer has Dream Team sensation Destiny Pitts, who earned the MVP award of the Las Vegas tournament over Thanksgiving weekend to push Minnesota’s record to 7-0.
But, coach Frank Orlando still has a lot to work with in senior point guard Kaela Webb (Providence), physical 6-0 senior Maxine Moore (Western Michigan), 5-10 Adrian Folks and perimeter threat Maddie Novak.
Webb has been in the spotlight since she helped Country Day win the state championship her freshman year when she knocked down some critical free throws and scored 20 in the title game.
Webb averaged 15 points last season and connected on 40 three-pointers, including 3 of 4 from long range en route to 13 points and nine assists in the 59-48 state title game win over Ypsilanti Arbor Prep. Moore averaged 14 points and five rebounds.
Orlando, 74, has won 12 state championships in his 36 years at Country Day and owns 762 career wins, most in state history.
4. Williamston (24-2, Class B)
Don’t be surprised if Williamston wins the Class B state championship this season after suffering a heartbreaking two-point loss to Arbor Prep in last season's state quarterfinal.
Williamston returns eight of 10 players, including a strong nucleus in senior guard Maddie Watters, 6-2 senior Allison Peplowski and 5-10 sophomore point guard Kenzie Lewis.
Watters (18.5 points) will play next year at Western Michigan, Peplowski (nine points, nine rebounds) at South Dakota and Lewis could well be playing in the Big Ten by the time her high school career is over.
“Maddie Watters is our perimeter threat and a much better slasher,” coach Pete Cool said. “Allison is a great rebounder who had double figure rebounds in our wins over Marshall and Lansing Catholic. Kenzie’s the John Stockton-type of point guard who is pass first and she’s also a great defender who can average double digits in steals and rebounds.”
Lewis already owns an offer from Detroit Mercy.
5. Flint Carman-Ainsworth (18-4, Class A)
Carman-Ainsworth was arguably the youngest team in the state last year aside from Edison, starting three freshmen and a sophomore. It dropped two games to Saginaw Heritage and two to Class A state champion Flushing, with one of losses coming in a district championship game.
Carman-Ainsworth is led by 5-9 junior Destiny Strother (17.9 points, 4.6 rebounds), who will bring back memories to fans of former Inkster star Crystal Bradford, who led Central Michigan to a Mid-American Conference championship a few years ago.
Strother, a left-hander who can take the ball to the basket, has already committed to Marquette.
Chenille King, Jessiana Aaron and Xeryia Tartt are also key contributors and Aaliyah McQueen, a physical 5-9 sophomore who can play multiple positions, is expected to make an impact when she becomes available to play in mid-January after transferring from Goodrich.
6. East Kentwood (26-2, Class A)
East Kentwood returns a lot of talent from last year’s state runner-up team, led by 6-3 Corinne Jemison, who made sure her team would play for the state title at the Breslin Center with a strong effort (14 points, 13 rebounds) in a state semifinal win over Southfield A&T.
Jemison will be joined by 6-0 Lazurea Saunders, 5-11 Taia Smith, 5-10 Alona Blackwell and Mauriya Barnes, an outstanding 3-point shooter who can get things done as well on the defensive end.
7. Saginaw Heritage (20-2, Class A)
Heritage was ranked No. 1 in the state for most of last season before getting beat twice by Midland Dow, once in the regular season and then again at Heritage in a district semifinal.
Heritage is loaded with talent, led by 5-9 junior Moira Joiner (14.5 points), Jessi Bicknell (Detroit-Mercy), 6-1 junior post player Shine Strickland-Gills and junior Mallory McCartney.
Sophomore Lauren Reed will take over at point guard.
8. Macomb Dakota (19-6, Class A)
Dakota returns multiple starters from a team that advanced to the state quarterfinals for the first time in school history before falling to eventual state champion Flushing.
Veteran coach Phil McCune returns starters in 6-0 senior guard Tara Bieniewicz (13 points), 6-1 sophomore forward Cameron Grant (10.5 points, eight rebounds) and 6-2 junior forward Taylor Williams.
9. Hartland (22-2, Class A)
Hartland defeated top rival Howell four times last season on its way to the KLAA championship and Class A district title.
Coach Don Palmer returns the bulk of his team, including 6-4 sophomore Whitney Sollom (11 points, seven rebounds), who already owns multiple offers, including Marquette, and four-year starter Graysen Cockerham.
Junior Abby Ratkowiak and sophomore Nikki Dompierre are also key contributors.
10. Ypsilanti Arbor Prep (27-1, Class C)
Arbor Prep will be competing in Class C this season after advancing to the Class B state championship last season and falling to Country Day. Scott Stine takes over as head coach and will inherit multiple experienced players, led by 6-0 senior Lasha Petree (Bradley), who averaged 10.8 points and five rebounds.
Petree will be joined by 5-11 junior guard Mahri Petree, Sasha Thomas, 6-0 junior Kashyra Jackson, Kelly Davis and Jala Petree.
11. Detroit King (23-2, Class A): Jordan Lewis (18.5 points) returns and will be joined by 5-11 Erica Whitley-Jackson and junior Del’Janae Williams from last year’s regional final team.
12. Howell (18-4, Class A): Alexis Miller (Wayne State) and 6-0 Leah Weslock give Howell a strong 1-2 punch. Look for Paige Johnson to have a big season.
13. Clarkston (17-6, Class A): Clarkston is tall and talented with the trio of 6-1 Kayla Luchenbach (Oakland), 6-0 Maddie Beck and 6-2 Molly Nicholson.
14. Okemos (15-8, Class A): Look for junior guard Laya Hartman to be one of the top performers in the state with 5-11 sophomore and double-double machine Jasmine Clerkley.
15. Southfield A&T (22-5, Class A): A&T returns physical junior Alexis Johnson (15 points), sophomore Cheyenne McEvans and D’Layna Holliman from a state semifinal team.
16. DeWitt (21-2, Class A): Grace George (Wayne State) and junior center Sydney Mills provide a solid 1-2 punch for DeWitt.
17. East Lansing (21-3, Class A): Wichita State-bound Jaida Hampton returns from a regional finalist team.
18. Birmingham Marian (18-6, Class A): Olivia Moore (12.6 points) has been an impact player since her freshman year and will try to lead her team to another deep postseason run.
19. Novi (17-7, Class A): Standout guard Ellie Mackay (Michigan Tech) returns, along with forward Julia Lalain from a district championship team.
20. Grosse Pointe North (12-11, Class A): This isn’t a state championship caliber team, but MSU-bound Julia Ayrault & Co. will be a tough battle every time they take the court.