By: Butch Harmon
Basketball teams across the state ready to tip off new season
Last year, the Big Reds of Lansing Sexton had the state seeing red in March, as they captured the Class B state title. This year, with a number of last year’s top players returning, including one of the top contenders for the Mr. Basketball award, the Big Reds are looking to paint the state red again.
Led by senior Denzel Valentine, the Big Reds have three seniors who have already committed to Division 1 college basketball programs.
Valentine, a 6'5" swingman, is one of the premier players in the state and a serious contender to take home the Mr. Basketball award in March. He enjoyed a big summer and is poised to build on last year’s success. Valentine, who will be playing across town at Michigan State University next season, is a talented offensive player who can fill up a stat sheet in a variety of ways and is also a solid defender.
In the backcourt, Sexton has another future Big 10 player running the show. Senior point guard Anthony Clemmons (6'1") has been one of the top point guards in the state the last few seasons and should take his game to the next level this winter. Clemmons, who is headed to Iowa, is Sexton’s quarterback on the court, and he has excellent ball-handling skills and good quickness.
Senior Bryn Forbes (6'3") rounds out Sexton’s college-bound trio. Forbes, who is heading to Cleveland State, teams up with Valentine and Clemmons to give opposing defenses fits. Throw in junior big man Jalen Hayes (6'7"), and its easy to see why Sexton is not only the team to beat in Class B but may also be the best team in the state regardless of class.
Across the state, however, a number of teams are ready to step up and take their shot at the Big Reds.
One challenger resides only a few minutes away. Lansing Catholic has a senior-laden lineup that has been playing together on the varsity for the past two years. The Cougars will get one last shot at Sexton in March, as they are in the same district as the Big Reds. Senior Stevie Repichowski (6'4") heads up the talented corps of Cougar seniors who are looking for a big senior season.
Williamston will be another solid team in the Lansing area. Junior Jimmy Kodet (6'7") is an athletic big man with a ton of potential who is already drawing the attention of college recruiters for his solid, all-around game.
As usual, Detroit Country Day will have a say in who hoists the Class B state title trophy. Senior forward Jordan Price (6'7") is Country Day’s latest standout prospect. A multi-dimensional talent, Price is headed to DePaul University next year and heads up a squad that will only get better as the season progresses. Price’s younger brother, junior Austin Price (6'2"), joins him in the starting lineup.
Country Day is not the lone heavyweight located in the Detroit area. Led by junior point guard Derrick Walton (5'11"), Chandler Park Academy is capable of a deep playoff run. Walton has already committed to the University of Michigan and is one of several outstanding points guards across the state.
A quartet of schools from West Michigan will be looking to crack the final four at the Breslin Center in March.
Led by talented junior Juwan Martin (6'5"), Muskegon Heights can trot out as much talent as anyone outside of Sexton.
Grand Rapids Christian has the state’s premier junior in Drake Harris (6'4"). A serious college prospect at wide receiver in football, Harris is being heavily recruited by the Michigan State University coaching staff along with major schools across the country.
Godwin Heights is a small but quick team led by explosive senior guard Kevin Badger (5'10"). The Wolverines are one big man away from crashing the final four.
East Grand Rapids went on a long tournament run last season, and with point guard DeAndre Grady and two-guard Marcus Hall back, the Pioneers have the pieces in place for another standout team.
To the north, keep an eye on Cadillac. Senior John Simons (6'8") is a multi-talented forward who has committed to Central Michigan University, and who leads a talented squad capable of making it to East Lansing in March.
Class A looks to be wide open this season, with several teams from around lower Michigan capable of making a deep playoff run in March.
One team with its sights set on such a run is Bay City Western. Led by senior post Matt Costello, Western is looking to pick up where it left off last winter. The 6'9" Costello, who has committed to Michigan State University, is one of the premier bigs in the state and is primed for a huge senior season.
Down I-75 in Saginaw, perennial power Saginaw Arthur Hill is looking to not only take control of the city of Saginaw but also to make a run at a state title as well. The Lumberjacks have one of the top big men in the state in 6'9" senior Jordan Hare, who is headed to Rhode Island next season. The Lumberjacks also have one of the most exciting freshmen in the state in Eric Davis (6'3").
Saginaw will again be solid. The Trojans have good size up front, with seniors Kevin Marshall (6'7") and Devario Gaines (6'6"), while junior guard Dominique Jackson (6'3") can break down defenses with his driving ability.
A little farther down I-75, Carman-Ainsworth appears to be the top team in the Vehicle City. Junior Anton Wilson (6'5") is a talented front court player, while junior Denzell Watts is a talented point guard.
In the city of Detroit, the Doughboys of Pershing will again be a team with which to deal. Senior Sherron Dorsey-Walker (6'4") is an explosive swing who is headed to Iowa State next season.
One of the most talented teams in the state can be found in the shadow of Metropolitan Airport. Romulus is loaded with young, athletic players, headed up by senior two-guard Ray Lee (6'4"), who is one of the top uncommitted players in the state. Junior point guard E.C. Matthews (6'1") has a skill set comparable to any of the top junior point guards in the state, while Wes Clark (6'0") is another talented guard.
Heading west, Lansing Eastern looks to be the class of the Capital City in Class A. Junior guard Cha Cha Tucker (6'0") continues to evolve as one of the best guards in the state. Senior forward Frederick Edmonds (6'4") and junior guard Eric Moten have good skills for a Quaker team that should improve as the season develops.
Okemos will challenge the Quakers for the top spot in the CAAC Blue this season. The Chieftains return senior point guard Chris Harrison-Docks (5'11"), who has committed to Butler.
After being upset by Schoolcraft in one of last year’s state semifinals, Consortium College Prep comes back with an even more loaded team this season and is the favorite in Class C. Consortium boasts a standout senior point guard in Travon Baker and a talented junior big in 6'7" Vincent Hunter. Hunter is joined on the front line by two other potential Division 1 players in 6'6" senior Tre Tigner and 6'10" senior Matt Wilms.
Beecher also made it to a state semifinal last season and is poised for another long run. Junior guard Monte Morris (6'1") is the latest standout from Flint and is one of the most heavily recruited junior guards in the state.
In mid-Michigan, Pewamo-Westphalia is loaded up for another big season. The Pirates are led by standout junior Ty Simon (6'6") and have enough talent on hand for another long tournament run.
Beal City will be solid this season. The Aggies are led by senior Stone Beckwith (6'2").
Ithaca will also be a force in mid-Michigan once they round into basketball shape after another state championship football run. David Brown and Luke Rayburn are a couple key players returning to a team that went 18-7 last season.
St. Francis, usually a major factor in football, will be solid on the hardwood this winter. Senior Sean Sheldon (6'9") is the premier big man in Class C this season and will be playing his college basketball at The College of William & Mary next season.
Fulton made it to the Class D state final last March, and with plenty of talent back from that squad, the Pirates are poised for another big run this season. Senior guard Tyler Walden turned in a memorable season last winter in leading the Pirates to the title game, where they fell to Tri-Unity Christian. Walden scored 20 points in that game. He has plenty of familiar faces back to help make another title run. Cory Hungerford and Cody Johnson also played key roles in Fulton’s big season last year and are back to help lead the way again this season.
Tri-Unity Christian will be a formidable foe from the west side of the state. Tri-Unity has a number of players back from last year’s team and will be battle-tested by a rugged schedule during the regular season to prepare for March.