U-D Jesuit has been the king of the Catholic League the last five years, winning the Class A state championship two years ago and playing during the final week of the season again last year, losing to Romulus in the state quarterfinals.
And, it looks like U-D Jesuit will once again be the team to beat in the Catholic League with Warren De La Salle, Detroit Catholic Central and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s being contenders.
U-D Jesuit is off to a 6-2 start heading into its league opener Friday night at home against OLSM. And, it has yet to play with a full lineup.
Michigan State-bound running back Elijah Collins returned from a broken hand to play in his season opener last Wednesday, the same day guard Zachary Winston was hit by a bout of pneumonia.
Longtime coach Pat Donnelly is hoping he gets 6-foot-10 junior Jalen Thomas eligible for the league opener.
Thomas started the school year at U-D Jesuit, where he played his first two years, but then moved to Las Vegas before moving back.
“Jalen Thomas just re-enrolled yesterday, has to go in front of the MHSAA on Wednesday,” Donnelly said Saturday afternoon, just prior to his team avenging last year’s postseason loss with a dominating 82-58 win at Romulus. “His mother moved him out to Las Vegas, moved a week before practice began, but his mom’s job didn’t pan out so they moved back. It would be nice to have him back with us, but we’ll see what happens.”
Thomas attended the game at Romulus, sitting on the bench. He already owns a half dozen offers, including one from national power Xavier.
Junior Daniel Friday has emerged as the team’s premier player, especially as U-D Jesuit has coped with the graduation of Cassius Winston (Michigan State) two years ago and 6-9 Greg Eboigbodin (Illinois) and Ike Eke (Marquette) last year, along with the transfer of point guard Julian Dozier to Bella Vista College Prep in Scottsdale, Arizona.
“Daniel Friday’s been a stud,” said Donnelly of the 6-4, 220-pound junior, who is averaging 20.5 points and 9.5 rebounds. “He’s big and strong and can play any position for us. He played a decent amount for us last year, but is much more confident this season. He had a real good summer playing AAU for Reach and already has multiple MAC offers and is getting looks now from Big Ten schools as well.
“I have three or four kids who can handle the ball, Jordan Montgomery who has been doing a good job, now Elijah Collins is back and Zach Winston can also handle the ball, along with Friday.”
U-D Jesuit put on a show with its trapping defense against Romulus, leading 40-21 at halftime and 64-38 after three, handing Romulus its first loss of the season.
Donnelly also has a defensive stopper in 6-foot senior James Moss, who shut down Romulus Randy Frison, who entered the game averaging 27 points.
Frison was held scoreless through three quarters and finished with 13 with all three of his field goals coming during the final 2:37 when Moss was on the bench.
Donnelly has attended several Michigan State games and practices and is impressed with the play of Winston, the Spartans’ starting point guard.
“He’s been unbelievable,” said Donnelly of Winston, who headed into Sunday’s game at Ohio State averaging 12.9 points and 7.3 assists for the top-ranked Spartans, shooting 57 percent from the floor and 55 percent from 3-point range. “I’ve been to a lot of games and a lot of practices and he looks much more comfortable and is playing a lot more confident.
“I was talking to him last spring and I said how to you think it’s going to go and he said I just went through my freshman year like I did with my freshman year at U-of-D, felt my way through, what do I need to do, what’s expected of me, and now I’ll be more confident, knowing what’s expected of me, and he sure has been. I think Coach Izzo is much more comfortable with him, too.”
Rochester Adams has made the biggest turnaround of the season so far.
Adams is off to a 5-0 start in Brad Crighton’s second year as head coach after last year’s 0-21 showing.
John Hall stepped down after 17 years of guiding Adams’ program in 2016 following a run to the Class A regional finals.
Adams struggled in Crighton’s first year, but has turned things around with a young team.
“We have a young team, made up of two freshmen, five sophomores, two juniors and three seniors,” Crighton said. “Our sophomore post player Austin Ursuy has been playing really well and freshman guard Ethan Emerzian has stepped in and done a great job of running our offense.
“We don’t even talk about last year because the majority of this team didn’t play on that team. We had a really good summer and fall. This group of boys have worked very hard and are committed to getting better. We know we still have a lot of work to do.
“We have good length and have the ability to score inside and out. Defensively, we are improving.”
Ursuy, a 6-4 sophomore, is averaging 15 points and nine rebounds. Emerzian is averaging 14 points and five assists and junior Jake Schuler, 12 points and eight rebounds.
Adams hosts Oak Park Tuesday.