Dearborn – Roseville has proven to be the state’s biggest surprise in the opening weeks of the 2018-19 season, pulling off upset wins over state semifinalists New Haven (Class B) and Warren De La Salle (Class A).
Roseville (4-0) could be the premier team in Macomb Country and capable of playing late into March for a run at a Division 1 regional championship – or a trip to the Breslin Center for the Final Four.
Roseville was 9-12 just two years ago, before Hassan Nizam took over prior to last season as a 23-year-old first-time head coach.
Nizam quickly built the foundation with an 17-7 record last season, including the MAC Red-White tournament championship, before a regional semifinal loss to Macomb Dakota.
Roseville actually defeated multiple MAC Red Division teams, including Dakota during the season, then Chippewa Valley, Grosse Pointe South and Sterling Heights Stevenson in the conference tournament before a 44-39 loss to Dakota in the regionals.
Roseville has made the move from the MAC White to the top division, and plays at four-time defending MAC Red champion Dakota Friday night.
“We came out last year and won 17 games, won the conference title, won the district title and then fell short at Dakota in the regional,” said Nizam, who played high school basketball at Dearborn Fordson. “But I felt like last year we were really, really young and last year we set the table for this year.
“We laid the foundation about what we want to be about and what we stand for, and we won 10 straight to cap off the year, so that kind of helped with our momentum building.
“We want to get after it defensively. We want to get in your face. We have the athletes to do it. We want to play the same brand of basketball regardless of who we play, just do what we do, speed the game up and try to make you uncomfortable by playing 32 minutes of chaos.”
Roseville showcases an outstanding backcourt in 5-foot-10 senior Darien Banks and 6-1 junior Martell Turner. They can both drive to the basket and make 3-pointers while also causing havoc defensively with their quickness.
“We practice hard every day, thanks to Coach Niz, so I’m not really surprised with our start, that we beat teams like New Haven and De La Salle,” said Banks, who has one college offer, from Montana State. “We have some people who can shoot, drive, pass, dunk, play great defense, so we’ve just come together as a team and play hard. We like to put pressure on teams defensively.
“We’ve used that fuel from last season and just brought it to this season times 10. Our coach is young but he keeps us focused on and off the court, just keeping our heads right on basketball and books.”
Roseville also showcases strong inside play in 6-7 senior John Ukomadu and 6-5 senior Deshaun Wright, a transfer from De La Salle, and has multiple other 3-point shooters in senior guard Lazell Judge, freshman guard Jason Hunter and junior guard Isiah Collier.
The underrated Banks is averaging 22 points and showed his ability to take over a game when he scored 18 fourth-quarter points to help wipe out a nine-point deficit in the 65-60 win over New Haven.
“I was just feeling it that night and my team helped me, put the confidence in my hand and I ran with it,” said Banks of the fourth-quarter uprising against New Haven.
Nizam has high praise for Banks: “He’s a special talent, and Martel Turner is a three-year starter who is just a freak athlete.
“We’re in the MAC Red this year and it’s going to present some different challenges playing against the bigger schools, but I think this group is special.”
Roseville will be tough to beat if it plays like it did in Tuesday’s 73-57 win at Dearborn Edsel Ford, where Banks (17 points, three 3-pointers) and Turner (12 points) consistently scored in transition, including four straight baskets off drives to turn a 9-8 deficit into a 19-11 lead after one quarter.
Roseville opened a 39-22 halftime lead, making 7-of-11 3-pointers while also having Ukomadu score off a pair of dunks, including one off a baseline move.
In all, Roseville had five players score in double figures and a sixth scoring seven.