Detroit Renaissance’s girls basketball team has made some noise in Shane Lawal’s first season as head coach.
Lawal — a 6-foot-10 post player at Oakland before going on to play professionally overseas for 10 years — is enjoying the journey.
Renaissance — 16-2 and ranked No. 4 in The News Super 20 poll — dominated the PSL this season, sweeping the series with two-time defending champion Detroit Mumford (90-52, 67-36 PSL semifinal), then defeating Detroit Cass Tech 81-55 Friday in the PSL title game at Calihan Hall. The 26-point win over Cass Tech was its closest result in its 12 league games.
Lawal, who was an assistant coach for Westland John Glenn’s boys team last year, knew he was inheriting a talented team at Renaissance, but made sure the group was in shape as well heading into the season.
Renaissance has taken advantage of the intense conditioning which helped in the PSL championship win, putting pressure on Cass Tech and forcing multiple turnovers in the opening three minutes of the third quarter for a 12-2 run and a 52-29 cushion.
Renaissance has a star in 5-4 junior point guard Kailee Davis, who had a 40-plus point game her freshman year against perennial power Detroit King, and a strong supporting cast.
Davis is averaging 16.8 points, including 34 in the PSL title game, including seven 3-pointers. She scored 15 during the pivotal third quarter.
“I ran Kailee into the ground, but not just running, weights and we did a lot of core and because of all the fitness she (Davis) joked, ‘Coach it’s the third quarter and I’m not tired,’ ” Lawal said. “We also put (Nika) Dorsey on the ball, put Shannon (Wheeler) on the ball more and once she started sharing the playmaking responsibilities with some of the other kids it gives her less work to do so she can be more efficient shooting the ball. She has a lot of talent.”
The supporting cast of 6-2 junior Wheeler (8.8 points, 7.6 rebounds), 5-11 junior guard Dorsey (10.5 points, 3.9 assists), 5-10 junior guard Mikyah Finley (11.4 points) and 5-9 sophomore guard Taylor Anderson (11.1 points, 6.8 rebounds) is loaded with talent, too, with all having one or more college offers.
“I think they’ve all bought in and getting them to understand you all have different roles and if you master your role it just makes the whole team unstoppable,” Lawal said. “I think they realized during the summer when we played Wayne Memorial and we played a couple of other teams and we were having success they realized it’s a whole lot more fun beating people than scoring 30, add to that the disappointment of the last two years (falling short of winning the PSL title) they bought in and bought in real early.”
Renaissance is without a senior on its roster and has the most talented starting five in the state — apart from three-time defending state champion Detroit Edison which is also one of the top teams in the country.
Edison, which competes in Division 2, defeated Renaissance 54-52 on Feb. 1. Renaissance’s other loss came to Chicago Simeon during the holidays.
So, what is Renaissance’s strength?
“I feel we run the floor well offensively and defensively,” Lawal said. “I think we’re in better shape than everybody. We worked hard in the summer and we play faster than everybody is comfortable to play, that’s my whole goal since especially in high school level a lot of teams like to slow the game down to make less mistakes, but we enjoy the chaos.
“We want to create chaos on defense and offensively we like to take quick shots, not necessarily bad shots but quick shots, shoot early and if we have nothing early, run a play and get something good at the back end of it.”
Lawal knows Renaissance, which competes in Division 1, will more than likely have to get past teams like Birmingham Marian, Farmington Hills Mercy, Macomb Dakota, Grosse Pointe South, East Grand Rapids, East Kentwood or East Lansing to win a state championship. He feels Renaissance is capable of winning two state titles … but first must finish the job in the weeks ahead.
Wayne bounces back with winning
Jarvis Mitchell is doing the best job of his six-year coaching career at Wayne.
First, Mitchell had to replace the bulk of his Wayne team, including Miss Basketball finalist Jeanae Terry, which reached the Div. 1 semifinals last season, finishing 24-3.
And, then Wayne lost three players due to knee injuries at the start of the season, including Makailah Griggs-Zeigler (Michigan).
Starting a pair of freshmen, along with talented 6-2 junior Alanna Micheaux, who is averaging 27 points and 13 rebounds, 5-7 sophomore point guard Jordan Wright (11 points, 8.3 assists) and junior guard Lechelle Austin (13 points, six assists) Wayne has reeled off 13 straight wins after an 0-3 start.
“The injury bug killed us this year, lost three starters due to knee injuries so we start two freshmen and they are trying to figure their way out and learn, and my other key players are having to do a little more than they’re used to, but we’re just going to keep moving,” Mitchell said.
“I’ve just been coaching harder than I ever have before. We lost six seniors from last year’s team, so it takes a lot of psychology. It’s not even coaching right now, I’m just trying to harness their emotions, and once you get a control of their emotions the coaching part is easy.”
So, what makes Micheaux so special?
“She’s just tougher than everybody,” Mitchell said of Micheaux, who has 40 offers, including Minnesota, Purdue and Penn State. “She’s built like a college sophomore right now. She’s strong and she plays harder than everybody else. She’s just a workhorse.
“Jordan Wright, a sophomore, is our point guard and she’s playing well, averaging 11 points and 8.3 assists and is probably the fastest guard I’ve ever had with the basketball, absolutely can’t be guarded one-on-one, and she has about five offers, including Seton Hall and Texas Tech.”
Ward expects Willis back for King
Detroit King boys basketball coach George Ward knew he was in trouble when his star sophomore point guard Chansey Willis went down with a knee injury during a PSL quarterfinal win over Detroit Mumford last Saturday
King (13-4) went on to defeat Mumford but didn’t have Willis in the lineup for Tuesday’s semifinal against Detroit Douglass. The loss proved to be costly with Douglass earning a 76-36 win.
So, how costly was Willis' loss? Well, it was Willis who was the catalyst in King’s 17-0 third quarter run to open a 37-19 lead over Douglass in a 55-46 win on Jan. 17.
When asked Willis’ status, Ward replied: “He’ll be back before the (state) tournament starts. We play (No. 13 Detroit Edison) this coming Saturday, but the following Saturday we play Ferndale and he’ll definitely be ready for Ferndale.
“It was a torn MCL, but it was a No. 1 so it heels itself. They (doctors) took a look at it last week and he’s already started therapy. It looks good, so we’ll proceed with caution.”
Ward was enjoying the weekend, taking a trip south with his wife to watch the player he coached at Detroit Southeastern, Leonard Baker (8.5 points, 7.7 rebounds) play on Senior Night for Southern Mississippi, then a short detour to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.
Still, Willis was on his mind.
“Not having my point guard really, really hurt,” Ward said of not having Willis play against Douglass.