Patrick Hayes | Great Lakes Hoops
Flint’s tradition as a basketball city needs no defense. The city has produced generation after generation of talented players who have succeeded at many different levels.
And although there’s been a perceived dry spell of late, the future holds great promise, particularly bolstered by unprecedented depth at the point guard position.
Ask any Flint area point guard right now which one is superior, and you’ll get a pretty quick and emphatic, “Me!” in response. In hindsight, it’s a pretty dumb question to ask a bunch of competitive and talented kids. So when I ran into a few PGs from the group at a showcase event last month, I framed the question more carefully, simply asking Monte Morris, Denzel Watts and Richie Lewis what was unique about them compared to their counterparts.
Morris is perhaps the biggest name of the bunch after he led a young Beecher team last season all the way to the state semifinals after an 0-5 start to the season. Morris is a lanky guard who scores efficiently all over the court. But scoring aside, two other staples of elite point guard play set him apart last season: he’s extremely unselfish and he doesn’t mind playing defense.
“We’re all boys and we go hard at each other, so I can say it: I work harder than those guys,” Morris said, laughing. “They can say I don’t, but I do.”
The work ethic and drive was apparent in Morris during the offseason. In the state semifinals last season, Beecher was soundly defeated by Melvindale ABT, featuring a huge game from Melvindale guard and Mr. Basketball candidate Michael Talley III, who scored 34 points and single-handedly broke Beecher’s vaunted press.
“I take like two days a week to re-watch that game just to take stuff out of his (Talley’s) game,” Morris said. “Just how he reads the court, scores and how aggressive he is. That’s really what I’m trying to add into my game.”
Watts, a sophomore at Carman-Ainsworth, like Morris won the starting point guard job for the Cavaliers as a freshman. But unlike Morris, who was part of a young Beecher squad that returns its top nine, Watts had the difficult job of assimilating into a very experienced starting lineup that included Glenn Cosey, Demondre Chapman and Jaylen Larry.
Watts was effective at picking his spots to look for his own offense and, at times, stepping back and letting talented teammates lead last season. With talented wing Anton Wilson also returning, Watts is looking forward to an expanded role at Carman-Ainsworth this season.
“We’re gonna have to run the team like our past seniors did,” Watts said. “Me and Anton, we play real good together.”
Watts, who even drew a lofty comparison to Mateen Cleaves last season because of his strength at the point guard position, is very good at finishing in traffic and has range out to the 3-point line.
“Compared to all of the other guys, I feel like I’m stronger than them, but I still have a jumpshot too,” he said. “If I can’t overpower my way to the hole, I can still pull up.”
Lewis didn’t start the season in the starting lineup for Northern a year ago, but he quickly earned a spot, even if the Vikings start another pretty good point guard in Shaquille Smith. Lewis proved he belonged all season, having one of his best performances of the year against Powers’ All-State guard Patrick Lucas-Perry in Northern’s upset of the Chargers last season.
“My passing ability and my court awareness separates my game,” Lewis said.
With the graduation of big men like Don Lewis and Darrell Williams, as well as a full season of the lightning quick Smith and Lewis in the backcourt, Lewis expects the Vikings to make up for being undersized by playing faster.
“I like the fast-paced game, and Shaq does too, so it should work well,” Lewis said.
Here’s a look at some of the area’s top point guards by class:
- Syro McDonald, Northwestern: A bit overshadowed last year by the gaudy numbers put up by teammates Jaylen Magee, Deondre Parks and Travon Mitchell, McDonald is one of the area’s best-kept secrets.
- Patrick Lucas-Perry, Powers: A returning All-Stater, Lucas-Perry has seemingly been around forever. He had some great postseason performances as a sophomore in Powers’ run to a Class B state title.
- Shaquille Smith, Northern: It’s doubtful any guard in the area has a quicker first step than Smith, and his patented floater in the lane is one of the more un-blockable shots in the state, helping him get inside and finish against taller players. Smith would be lethal if he adds a reliable long range shot to his game.
- Jordan Fields, Grand Blanc: He’s compact, strong and quick with decent range. Fields started last year as a sophomore and played a supporting role to senior scorers Marcus Tucker and Patrick Haggin, but if Grand Blanc is going to build on last season’s success, Fields will be a primary reason why.
- Antuan Burks, Beecher: Burks might not technically play the point for Beecher with Morris holding that position down, but Burks is learning to handle the ball and has some playmaking abilities to match his good outside shot. He’s also one of the best defensive guards in the state.
- Monte Morris, Beecher: He averaged nearly 16 a game as a freshman and held his own against a bunch of really good guards, including Talley, Andrew Patrick, Smith, McDonald, George Goodman and many others. Morris is confident, a good leader and someone who can beat a team with his scoring or his passing.
- Richie Lewis, Northern: His outside shooting was a big boost to Northern’s lineup when he became a starter, and he might be the most confident of all of Flint’s point guards. He’s also bigger and stronger and made it through fall season as Northern’s starting quarterback on the football team.
- Denzel Watts, Carman-Ainsworth: Watts plays extremely under control at all times. He can shoot, pass and defend, but what’s most impressive about his game is his ability to get his shot off from a variety of angles and he often creates contact and gets to the line.
- Cullen Turczyn, Lapeer West: After starting as a freshman at Lapeer East last year and finishing among the Metro League leaders in scoring, Turczyn is now playing for his former rivals at West. He’s a deadly 3-point shooter, a great ball-handler and he’ll combine with another of last year’s good freshman performers, Zeshawn Jones-Parker, to give West two really good players to lead a run at a league title.