I finally got out to Flint Northern to see a Vikings squad that has had its share of ups and down already this season. In truth, I really only went to see how two of the area’s best (and least known) players could handle the matchup zone of Flint Powers.
Junior swingman Amariontez Thomas handled it just fine, I’d say, even without the services of his counterpart junior guard Kaylin Johnson who was benched after missing practice.
Thomas, at about 6-3, fancies himself a guard despite being one of the team’s tallest players. I don’t think too many people would argue that the backcourt is in his future after his performance Friday night, though. Thomas, a transfer from International Academy of Flint, scored 17 points in the first half, 12 in the third quarter and left the game with seven minutes remaining in the fourth with his team leading by 25.
Thomas played in our AAU program last summer, so I’m very familiar with his game; this was the first time I’d seen him on the big stage, however, and I wasn’t disappointed. I think he only missed four or five shots all game and showed just enough of the inside-outside game to convince me he can be an 18-point per game scorer the rest of the way. He swished five triples in the game and scored the bulk of his points without forcing up shots. I’d love to see him use the baseline a little more, but it’s hard to be critical after such a tremendous performance.
The other standout for Northern has a familiar name — junior Ray Ray Lewis. The younger brother of former Northern lead guard Richie Lewis (who transferred to a prep school last year) looks like he’s rounding into form, driving to the basket and finishing with contact. He’s not yet playing at the level of his older brother, but he still has some time. He’s actually more of a natural shooter than Richie.
Another point guard, albeit even smaller than Lewis, caught my attention. Carlos Boone showed serious quicks, shooting range and eyes for the open man. He finished with 10 assists.
So, you might ask, why has Northern (4-3) not yet defeated a quality opponent? The answer is simple: Garner Pleasant doesn’t have a single player on his roster who resembles a frontline player. This is the smallest Northern team I’ve ever seen along with the shortest bench (only eight players dressed). It’s nothing like days gone by, when Pleasant had a stable of talented guards to go with big and gritty frontline players (guys like Matt Trannon and Paris Burt come to mind). Heck, they don’t even have a lanky kid like Darrell Wiliams or a space eater like Don Lewis to throw out there.
Looking ahead, Northern must dictate the tempo of games in order to have a chance to beat quality opponents. The two other city schools don’t have three better players than Thomas, Johnson and Lewis, but what they do have is the ability to play the halfcourt game.
Northern will get its first crack at the presumed best team in the city, Southwestern, on Tuesday night at home. I’d love to see what Lewis can do against Southwestern’s uber-quick scorer Malik Young.