Archive for the ‘GAC’ Category

Lake Fenton High School has hired 21-year-old Jacob Erway, former assistant coach at Swartz Creek High School, as its new head varsity basketball coach.

Former Lake Fenton (now Flint Powers) coach Jeremy Trent brought him over to Lake Fenton this summer to coach the junior varsity squad for the Blue Devils.

The hire actually says a lot about the Lake Fenton program. It sends the message that the school is willing to think creatively about the basketball program. Every great coach was once a young, inexperienced, upstart. When the status quo is mediocre, there comes a time to shake things up. It’s that time at Lake Fenton.

Erway played for Eric Senter, now an assistant at Fenton, at Swartz Creek, where he graduated in 2009. At 21, he is among the youngest varsity coaches in Michigan. He spent two years as a JV assistant and another year as a varsity assistant.

 

Beecher celebrates its first basketball state title since 1987. (Photo via Ryan Slocum)

By Patrick Hayes

Beecher coach Mike Williams has always talked about the importance of ‘the journey.’

After heart-breaking losses in the state semifinals in back-to-back seasons, it was Williams’ focus on the journey rather than individual outcome of playoff games that kept his Bucs resilient. This year, they completed that journey, dominating Traverse City St. Francis to capture the school’s first basketball state championship since 1987.

Two seasons ago, Williams led a young Beecher team that lost two of its best returning players (Javontae Hawkins and T’aron Boose) to transfers, started the season 0-5 and many didn’t expect much out of the allegedly rebuilding squad. Beecher improved over the season, made up for their size and experience deficiencies by playing exceedingly hard and overachieved their way all the way to the state semis. In those semis, reality set in as Beecher was blown out by a talented and playoff-tested Melvindale team that featured a Mr. Basketball candidate (Michael Talley III) and went on to win the state title. Just part of the journey — Beecher’s young guards could certainly learn from what Talley was able to do to them and the intensity level the entire team would need to play at to compete that deep in the playoffs.

Last year, Beecher returned nearly its entire roster from the previous season and spent most of the season ranked No. 2 in Class C. Monte Morris was the Class C Player of the Year and Beecher established itself as one of the best teams in the state regardless of class. Once again, they returned to the semifinals and they held a late lead in their game against McBain, a team that didn’t have as much speed or talent as the Bucs. This time, the Bucs were the experienced team featuring the highly rated player, but unfortunately, the result didn’t change from the previous season. Late mistakes allowed McBain to pull off the improbable upset and send Beecher home despite being the clear favorite of the remaining four teams in Class C that season. As Brendan Loy of The Mid Majority says, ‘This Game Will Hurt You.’ The journey strikes again.

But this year? The journey paid off. Beecher learned how heart-breaking losing can be, so they just didn’t lose, finishing the season 28-0. Simple enough. On the court, Beecher did everything it was supposed to do this season. In the final game, Monte Morris was the do-everything force. Antuan Burks was the ball-hawking defensive terror he’s been known for being and helped shoulder the scoring load. Cortez Robinson got his long arms in passing lanes, defended much bigger players well and moved without the ball on offense, catching passes from Beecher’s pass-happy guards. Jequarius French bullied his way for rebounds and layups under the basket. Beecher’s press created the turnovers and easy scoring opportunities it always does, and Beecher’s depth kept a ready supply of fresh, fast, skilled athletes on the floor at all times.

Everything went according to plan today, but what wasn’t visible was just how long that plan — that journey — has been worked on and perfected. Beecher has had a singular goal the last three seasons, and went to work every single day pursuing this state championship. The goal consumed the team, but what I’ve always admired about Williams is he wasn’t obsessed with the outcome. One of my favorite quotes he ever game me when I was on the Flint basketball beat came after a tough loss. Williams said, “To hell with winning or losing, I just love my kids.”

Now, compare that with his quote from AP reporter Dave Hogg after winning a state title today: “This is a tough time for Flint, and these kids have gone through things in their lives that you just can’t imagine. This team has shown their generation of kids in Flint that they can be successful off the streets.”

On today’s Fox Sports Detroit pregame show, Williams also said, “If we go out and lose this game but our kids are successful in life, then we’ve won.”

It’s impossible not to admire how the Beecher program is run (and actually, that starts at the top of their athletics program with Athletic Director Courtney Hawkins). Today was a culmination of years of work that Williams and his team have put in to accomplish this championship. But what I’ve always admired more is that, although Williams undoubtedly wants to win as much as anyone, he never loses sight of the bigger picture, of the more important lessons that he has a chance to use sports to convey to his kids. Win or lose, he always understands the moment and he understands how to teach his kids to productively channel their emotions. To me, he’s simply the best high school basketball coach in Michigan. He didn’t need the championship today to validate that, but hopefully it helps him start to get the recognition he deserves for what he and his kids have built at Beecher.

Left to right, Chris Hutton, Damon Franklin and Nate Cox.

Last week, we took a look at how Flint area kids are doing at the JUCO level. Here’s the list of updates on kids at the NAIA and Division III level. If any have been left off, feel free to add names in the comments and I’ll at them into the story. (more…)

The weekly updates to the Flint area standings and scoring leaders are posted through last Friday’s games. Send any corrections or omissions to patrickhayes13(at)gmail(dot)com or leave them in the comments.

— Patrick Hayes | Great Lakes Hoops

Montrose's Keith Boswell has a very nice all-around game for a big man.

Prior to Friday, I’d heard of Montrose’s Keith Boswell and Lake Fenton’s Sean Canning before, but only through impressive statlines that the two seniors routinely put up. I had no idea what exactly either guy did to compile those numbers, however.

Now, the Montrose-Lake Fenton game was not a good one. Lake Fenton struggled to shoot the ball, had a couple key players in foul trouble and had no answer for Montrose inside. Montrose cruised, leading by double-digits most of the second half. But neither team’s top player disappointed. (more…)

Monte Morris is one of the top PG prospects in Michigan.

The Michigan State basketball team has obvious problems at the point guard position, with the flaws of both Kalin Lucas and Korie Lucious on display most nights.

The last time Michigan State had a great leader and efficient playmaker at the point guard spot, it was Flint Northern grad Mateen Cleaves.

The class of 2013 in Flint includes two highly recruited PG prospects in Monte Morris of Beecher and Denzel Watts of Carman-Ainsworth.

So it’s only natural to think Tom Izzo might look Flint’s way again, right?

I broke down the possibility at Michigan State blog The Only Colors, including looking at the strenghts of both Morris and Watts. Here’s an excerpt:

There are certainly other point guard prospects both in-state and out-of-state that Michigan State will consider, but if Izzo is looking for a tough-as-nails leader to plug into that position, both Watts and Morris are smart kids who have been raised in the Flint basketball tradition and already display some of the toughness, talent and intangible qualities that many of the best players Flint has produced over the years showed during their high school and college careers.

Check out the whole post and share your thoughts. Michigan State certainly needs to add depth at that position over the next two years.

– By Patrick Hayes | Great Lakes Hoops

I don’t think anyone was surprised to see that Buctown took down Saginaw Buena Vista last night in a clash of two of the state’s best teams in class C. What should surprise you, however, is how they did it.

The Bucs fought back from an 11-point deficit in the first half AND gave up 41 points to senior guard George Goodman on their way to the win. Goodman, one of the state’s best and least-known players, shot 7-for-9 in the first half alone.

For the Bucs, it was a young man the Flint Journal called an “unlikely hero” that gave them the extra boost in the second half to get the win, 89-82.

(Jequarius) French, the second player off of Beecher’s bench, scored 12 of his career-high 22 points in the third quarter as the second-ranked Buccaneers beat the fifth-ranked Knights, 89-82, Wednesday night in a battle of state Class C powers at Beecher.

French’s previous career best was 11 points. He averaged 6.6 points before Wednesday’s game.

Beecher coach Mike Williams called French, a 6-foot-3 junior who played junior varsity ball last season, “one of the hardest workers I’ve ever coached.”

– By Jared Field | Great Lakes Hoops

Christian Vaughn-Dawkins has once again put together a great afternoon of high-level high school basketball in tribute to his brother, Dorian Dawkins.

Dawkins, son of Saginaw High coach Lou Dawkins, collapsed and died at a basketball camp at Michigan State in 2009. Dawkins had an undiagnosed heart condition (acute myocardial ischemia).

To honor his brother, as well as raise money for the American Heart Association, Vaughn-Dawkins organized the first-ever Show Your Heart Memorial Classic last season, featuring some of the best high school teams in the Midwest. (more…)

Here’s the docket for the Michigan Regional Sports Network. These guys do a great job covering sports across the state.

Friday
Saginaw Buena Vista at Flint Northwestern 7:15 pm

Saturday
St. Clair at Mott 3 pm

Monday
Flint Beecher vs Detroit Consortium 1 pm
Thea Bowman (IN) vs Dearborn Heights Robichaud 3 pm
Saginaw vs Chicago Orr 5 pm

All games live at www.mrsn.us

Tuesday night I took in a double feature of Belsay Road’s finest with Burton Genesee Christian/Lansing Christian and Burton Bentley/New Lothrop. Both games were fairly competitive from what I could tell — I didn’t stay to see the end of either one because I was a little worried with the weather and wanted to somewhat take them both in.

While the games were fine, in and of themselves, one thing that stood out to me was the overall lack of talent. It’s not a shot at these programs, but something I’ve been struggling with overall in Genesee County. We used to always have killer class A and B teams, and our smaller area schools always had a few diamonds in the rough that could play for anyone.

Just a few years ago, this same double-header would have featured college level players like GCS’s Scott Soldan and Kevin Payne, LCS’s Peter Bunn, DeOndra Callahan, Mickey DeVries and Jonah Hatt, Bentley’s Joey Jerisk, Patrick Ellison and Jermaine Wyatt, and New Lothrop’s Ryan Praski, Brian Sheridan and Jason Knieper, just to name a few.
(more…)