Prep notebook: Michigan-bound David DeJulius soaring with East English

David Goricki
The Detroit News

David DeJulius’ impressive play for Detroit East English has put himself ahead of the pack for the Mr. Basketball award.

It had to be hard for Michigan coach John Beilein to wipe the smile off his face after watching the Wolverines defeat bitter rival Michigan State Saturday afternoon, then find out that night that his star recruit DeJulius put on a performance of a lifetime.

Or, for DeJulius, it was just another day at the office.

After scoring 41 and making nine 3-pointers Friday in a 76-63 victory over Detroit Edison, less than 24 hours later DeJulius was on the court at Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills in the Floyd Mayweather Classic competing against defending Illinois state champion Chicago Orr.

And all DeJulius did was score 29, making 7-of-10 3-pointers … and that was in the first half to give East English a 49-28 lead.

DeJulius continued his strong play in the second half and was extremely efficient, finishing with 49 points on 13-of-19, including 9-of-11 from deep range in the 92-82 victory. He also converted 14-of-15 free throws and had seven assists and three turnovers.

“It was awesome fun, playing against great competition and knowing we’re from Detroit and they’re from Chicago, just to get that victory was a lot of fun,” said DeJulius whose team traveled to Grand Rapids Friday night, stayed in a motel and went to a movie for a bonding trip before playing Orr.

DeJulius is having a lot of fun after a tough start to the season.

“I had a tough time, a rough month,” DeJulius said. “First, I had a groin strain that left me out for three weeks and my first day back was November 31, and then I got the viral pink eye and was out from the team for a week, then my Nana passed, my Grandmother passed so I had a rough month, but then I got back in shape mentally and physically.”

When the 6-foot, 185-pound DeJulius is in the right place both physically and mentally, no one is better, as evidenced by his 90 points and 18 3-pointers during the last two games, along with his triple-double (20 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) in Tuesday’s win over Pershing.

DeJulius is averaging 28.5 points for East English (8-2), 37.6 the last five games.

“I just got in sync, my teammates are gaining confidence in me and I’m getting confidence in myself and I’m just staying in sync,” DeJulius said. “The basket just got big, looks real big, looks like the ocean so I’m just staying confident and shooting the ball.”

Michigan fans should be thrilled about the Wolverines’ future with DeJulius coming on board, but he is just focused on the rest of the season and reaching his goals before closing out his prep career.

“I have three goals right now, the city championship, states and Mr. Basketball,” DeJulius said. “It would mean a lot to be Mr. Basketball, to join that list of great guys who won Mr. Basketball before would mean a lot, for my city and myself.”

DeJulius can score by attacking the basket off the dribble, hitting the pull-up jumper or making the long-range shot.

DeJulius has the ability to take over a game the way Isiah Thomas used to with the Pistons. He showed he would be a major factor Saturday, making three 3-pointers in the first three minutes for an 11-4 lead and scoring 17 in the opening quarter to widen the cushion to 29-13.

DeJulius had the fans behind the bench yelling, “Ice Cream! Ice Cream!” When East English coach Juan Rickman yelled out “Ice Cream,” DeJulius would follow with a 25-foot rainbow that often ended up swishing through the net to the delight of the fans.

DeJulius’ performance was a special one for him, but his most satisfying effort came in an 80-71 comeback win over Dream Team guard Foster Loyer — The News preseason No. 1 player — and Class A defending state champion Clarkston over the holidays before a packed house at North Farmington.

Loyer, who is committed to play at Michigan State, was dominant in the first half with 14 points and nine assists to give Clarkston a commanding 49-31 lead with DeJulius scoring 17, but making just 1-of-8 from 3-point range.

DeJulius put on a show during the second half, including a 17-point fourth-quarter to help East English outscore Clarkston by a 27-8 margin to earn the win.

“Desperation kicked in, it was now or never and I didn’t want Michigan State fans to be one on me or one on Michigan, just wanted to give Michigan fans something to talk about and to just have us enjoy things in the locker room,” DeJulius said. “It just shows the sky’s the limit for me and there’s no way for me to have an off night.”

DeJulius said his biggest improvement has been his shooting.

“I improved the most on my jump shot, but the strength of my game is quickness, being able to keep the defense off balance for shots for myself and penetrating so I can kick the ball out for my teammates,” said DeJulius, who has a 3.7 grade-point-average and plans to major in business finance at Michigan.

DeJulius didn’t watch Michigan’s win over the Spartans, taking in a movie at a Grand Rapids theatre with his teammates before East English’s game. He did know the outcome and is looking forward to playing for the Wolverines.

“Michigan has a great environment, great coaching, stellar university and a program that suits my style of play,” DeJulius said.

When told last year’s Mr. Basketball award winner Isaiah Livers had his first start for the Wolverines against MSU, he added: “That’s why I have so much trust in Coach Beilein, to know it’s not about what year are you, just about the best players are going to play.”

PSL up for grabs

It looked like Cass Tech would be the overwhelming favorite to repeat as PSL champions until Friday when it was upset by Henry Ford 63-60 for its first loss of the season.

East English will be a threat to Cass Tech’s title with DeJulius in the lineup, but Henry Ford also showed it would be a threat with a strong nucleus of Antonio Green, Deontae Ulmer and Anthony Roberts.

And, all three were big factors in the win with Green scoring 24, Roberts, 19 and Ulmer converting on all 12 critical free throws to pull the game out.

And don’t forget Detroit King which defeated East English early in the season 62-45 and now has high-scoring former Cass Tech guard Marcus Gibbs available.

Cass Tech coach Steve Hall has tremendous depth, enabling players to stay fresh to pull out victories like Saturday’s 85-78 overtime victory over Muskegon at Ottawa Hills.

Cass Tech trailed by 13 in the first half, then 43-37 at halftime and by three with 11 seconds remaining before Matthew Richmond connected on a 3-pointer to force overtime.

Hall has multiple go-to players, including 6-3 sophomore Tyson Acuff, 6-2 Chris Murry, Richmond and 6-6 Randy Gilbert (Ferris State).

Murry, a senior who transferred from Muskegon a couple of years ago, scored 23 against his former team. Acuff is being recruited by North Carolina State, Purdue and Michigan.

Johnson real deal for Benton Harbor

While DeJulius has to be considered the frontrunner for the Mr. Basketball award, 6-6 Benton Harbor sophomore forward Carlos “Scooby” Johnson is putting himself in the spotlight for possible future honors.

Johnson, who already has offers from Oklahoma and Detroit Mercy, scored 30 in 71-70 comeback win over Chicago Bogan Saturday in the Mayweather Classic, scoring nine during an 11-5 game-ending run to rally Benton Harbor (9-0) from a 65-60 deficit, and getting a steal which led to a basket and 69-67 lead with 30 seconds remaining.

“They were playing us crazy aggressive so we had to answer back and I was the one who stepped up,” said Johnson, who looked like a point forward during the final quarter when Benton Harbor’s guards were taken out of the mix due to Bogan’s pressure. “It seemed like we were all off since we were off for two weeks, just glad we pulled it off.

“They were putting on pressure (full-court press) and I know how to dribble so I decided to help them out and it worked out for us.”

Johnson averages 24 points and 18 rebounds. He’s taken visits to Michigan, Michigan State and DePaul this year.

Benton Harbor has to be considered a contender for the Class B championship with a 3-point shooter in T.J. Jones and a strong offensive rebounder in Shawn Hopkins. It advanced to the state semifinals at Breslin Center last season, losing to eventual champion New Haven.

Reason to get excited

Vinson Sigmon had reason to be excited after leading his Canton team to a dominating 71-44 rout over defending KLAA champion Wayne Memorial Friday night. It improved to 8-0 while taking command of the Kensington South Division (5-0).

Sigmon has put himself on the radar as one of the most athletic players in the area, playing well above his 5-9 height. He scored off a tip-in during the opening quarter when Canton grabbed six offensive rebounds and took a 22-8 lead.

Sigmon, a junior guard, limited Cleveland-bound guard Rashad Williams to 15 points on 5-of-22 shooting and just 2-of-9 from deep range while scoring 26 himself, 20 during the second half when Canton consistently scored on transition baskets.

“We’re going all the way to states, you can put that in quotes,” Sigmon said. “This team is the strongest team I’ve ever played with. We have so much talent on this team from 1-through-12. I know for sure we’re going deep. We’re going deep as possible, All those teams out there better watch out because we’re not playing no games.”

No doubt, Sigmon is excited about the 8-0 start after Canton finished 13-8 last season, losing multiple close games. Obviously, Canton’s experience is paying off and Canton is now pulling out those close games — including a 65-61 win over Belleville — as well as the blowouts.

Coach Jimmy Reddy has a few players who can handle the ball against pressure, including point guard B. Artis White, Sigmon and Eian Barker, as well as a talented big man in 6-7 senior Chase Meredith, who had 18 points and 10 rebounds against Belleville and 19 points and 10 rebounds in the win over Wayne.

Jalen Thomas eligible for U-D Jesuit

U-D Jesuit just got stronger with the addition of 6-10 junior Jalen Thomas who was ruled eligible to play by the MHSAA last Wednesday.

Thomas, who played his first two years at U-D Jesuit, moved to Las Vegas with his mother just weeks prior to preseason practice, but returned this month and re-enrolled.

Thomas, who already has multiple offers, including one from Xavier, scored 10 Friday in a 50-49 win over Orchard Lake St. Mary’s to help U-D Jesuit improve to 6-2.