CITYBEAT: Flint City Report – Northwestern reigns

Posted: December 16, 2009 by Marcellus Miller in Citybeat, High School

It is that time again to submit my annual predictions and synopsis of the Flint city basketball race this year.

Unfortunately, my alma mater Flint Central no longer is a part of this picture after closing following the 2008-2009 school year.

“I can’t believe that it is closed.  It doesn’t seem like that long ago I was sitting on those steps right there,” said 1994 graduate George Miller Jr. as he pointed to the large steps leading to the north entrance.

I can understand his sentiment very well. As a 1996 graduate myself, it is very strange to know that the once hallowed halls of 601 Crapo Street are no longer buzzing with students and staff.  On the other hand, one less school makes my basketball analysis a bit less tedious, so I will take the silver lining wherever I can find it — no matter how far I have to reach.

Speaking to the subject at hand, the city race is off to an interesting start.  At the time of this writing, there have been two city games thus far, with Northwestern (NW) playing in and winning both versus Flint Northern and Flint Southwestern Academy (SWA).  These outcomes further fuel my belief that NW is the class of the city and it has less to do with talent this year than maybe ever.

Why are they the best?  Easy…heart.  They seem to want it more, play faster, and work harder than the rest.  That is a reflection on the coaching staff as well.  Coach David Bush has done a great job along with his staff of getting his players to buy into the idea that hard work and discipline very often trump just pure skill.  That is not to say that they do not have skilled players, but we will delve into that below.  I will list my team breakdowns in predicted order of finish.

Flint Northwestern: As mentioned above, this team is the class of the city this year.  They sport a trio of players that can battle any three perimeter players in the area and just maybe in the state.  Led by Travon Mitchell (who is in my opinion the best player in the city), Jaylen Magee and Deondre Parks, NW is poised to make another run at the state title like last year.  In the two city games so far, they have been unable to have all three in the lineup much, but still prevailed.  Mitchell sustained a hip injury early in the first half against Northern, while Magee sat out against SWA.  Additionally, just like last year they have a deficiency in the post that will hamper them along that quest.  Mitchell will be counted on to move from the perimeter to a post position as the premier athlete on the team.  Charles Morgan has the size, but his biggest threat is his ability to step back hit the jumper, even from 3-point range.

3-point shooting shouldn’t be the problem for NW as Magee, Parks, and Mitchell are all proficient in shooting.  Evidenced by his 23 ppg average thus far, Magee has scorer written all over his game.  He is a surprisingly good athlete and attacks the rim with force.  Parks is more deadly from beyond the arc and is likely one of the best if not the best shooter in the area.  Because of the shooting prowess of those three, teams find it difficult to play zone against NW, and if you don’t have three very quick perimeter players to match up, man-to-man is not too much fun either.

Flint Northern: If winning were based on skill alone, Northern would easily outclass its city counterparts.  Top-to-bottom, this team is clearly the deepest (or will be).  Like the others, they will also be led by a perimeter player in Shaquille Smith.  The junior PG is ranked 4th in the area on this site while being ranked 6th by the Flint Journal.  Although only 5’8″, he has the best first step around and can get up and dunk the ball if he so desires.  Unlike the other city schools, he will get help from the inside as well.  The 6’7″ pair of incumbent Darrell Williams and Las Vegas transfer Don Lewis will add size that no one else has.  Williams is a polished shot blocker as he proved with 9 in the first game against Beecher. But, he is also wildly inconsistent with his offensive play.  He did well in the first game against NW, so maybe that is a sign of things to come.  Lewis is a relative unknown seeing as how he was in Vegas for the past two years.  All coaches know that you can’t coach height, and he has it.  He also has a nice prowess for the mid-range jumper, but he is unable to play right now due to an ankle injury sustained in game one.  The likely best pure athlete in the city is Central transfer Gerald Williams-Taylor (just ask Detroit Southeastern big Percy Gibson who he dunked over along with a couple teammates in a scrimmage).  He is 6’4″ and built like a tank, but is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet.  Trust me, his coaches are doing anything they can to get a mean streak in him.  He is developing a nice shot to go with a world of athletic ability and if he ever decides that he must take over a game, look out.

Joining them right now are 6’4″ Chaz Johnson (Central transfer), and 6’3″ Dalvin David to add even more size to the group.  Senior wings Aundre Gibson (Central), and the surprisingly effective Douglas Toins will help Smith out on the perimeter as well.  Northern also boasts the two best (and only two that I know of) freshmen on varsity in the city in Dewrell Tisdale Jr. and Richmond Lewis.  Tisdale is already standing at 6’2″ and Lewis scored 11 in his debut.

What is the most interesting and exciting part about this group is the players that should be joining them at the midway point.  6’6″ Donald Fisher (has to sit because he transferred and then came back), Rick Dent (SWA transfer), Cameron Lefear (SWA transfer), Eric Long (Hamady transfer), and Shaun Coffer all can expect to contribute upon their returns.  Coach Thomas Tucker’s biggest issues will be finding ways for the chemistry to gel and how to keep everyone involved.  It is a senior-heavy team which bodes well for the playoffs and they play perhaps the most difficult out of conference schedule around, including a trip to play #8 class C ranked Traverse City St. Francis over the holiday week, class B #1 Birmingham Detroit Country Day, class B #3 Powers Catholic, class A #6 Carman-Ainsworth, and class A #18 Clarkston, amongst others (all rankings by Steve Bell for so the Vikings will be well-tested.

Flint Southwestern Academy: Many people, including me, see this as a re-tooling year for the Knights.  Unfortunately for them, they lost the afore-mentioned Dent and Lefear to transfers and many thought Williams-Taylor, Johnson, and Lewis would end up there as well.  However, as their performance against NW last night showed, they are fully capable of competing as is.

Much like that NW team, SWA boasts a trio of good guards in Jojuan Graham, Josh Young, and Chuck McLauren.  Graham is leading the city in scoring with a 24 ppg.  After a summer in which he played AAU ball for the Mid Michigan Lakers, he has been determined to expand his game and take on a leadership role.  He was initially ranked at #9 in GLH editor Jared Field’s Flint-area top 15 and may be moving up the board with his early performances.  He has the mid- range jump shot that most high school guards have abandoned and is increasingly effective off of the dribble.

His scoring mate this season has been McLauren, who entered last night’s game with a 20 ppg average.  This was a bit surprising to those who watched the Knights last year, but for those who saw McLauren in the summer, we knew he had developed into a much more efficient scorer.  He has the quickness to frustrate defenders as well.  The one who is tasked primarily to get the ball to them and the rest of the team is the PG Young.  Young is looking for a breakout year after having to sit behind Brandon Thompson last year.  While not overly fast, he has some deceptively quick movements with the ball.  He needs to improve the speed at which he gets his jumper off, but he can shoot it well enough.  A guy to look out for to emerge on the team is Marquez Poole as well.

Coach Nathaniel Perry’s team has some youth mixed with their veteran guards that makes them a very dangerous team.  They sure gave NW all they can handle and only sit in this third position by a small margin.  I anticipate the city race being as tight as ever this year and the games being exciting to watch.  I would encourage all that can to go check them out this year.

Predicted team order of finish:

1. Northwestern

2. Northern

3. Southwestern Academy

Preseason 1st Team All-City

G- Shaquille Smith- Northern

G- Jaylen Magee- NW

G- Jojuan Graham- SW

F- Travon Mitchell- NW

F- Gerald Williams-Taylor- Northern

Preseason 2nd team All-City

G- Deondre Parks- NW

G- Chuck McLauren- SWA

G- Josh Young- SWA

F- Ricky Dent- Northern

F- Darrell Williams- Northern

— Marcellus Miller

  1. Poole hit some big shots in OT vs. Northwestern. It’s a tough call between Graham/Smith/Magee as to who’s been the best so far this season. Graham was pretty quiet against NW early, then all of a sudden he scored like 10 of 12 SWA points in a flurry and he’s finished with 20.

    And Mitchell was obviously in pain, but hardly came off the floor vs. SWA. Really strong player.

  2. Yeah, the one that is clear is that the city is dominated by guard play. If any of the bigs step up, they can really change the outlook of the city series easily…

  3. John says:

    They tried to Stop Graham from scoring Tuesday night but he still put up 20… He saw a lot of diff matchups to stop him…. Good scorer One of the best guards around period……

  4. Williford says:

    I agree. If the big men step up, this could be a whole new ball game. Imagine the way things would be if the city was dominated with big men, as opposed to guards.
    They did throw every defender at him. Their game plan seemed to be to stop Graham at any cost. It was a hard-fought game. In all seriousness, SWA should have won that game.
    Northwestern is a strong team though.

  5. Keep in mind that NW played without their leading scorer as well…let’s just say that I have a feeling things are going to be very inetersting this year…

  6. Williford says:

    Yes. You’re right. Maybe I missed it, but why did he have to sit?

  7. Well, rumor has it that it was due to a suspension from school for an undisclosed violation.

  8. Williford says:

    That’s unfortunate. Well hopefully he can come back strong after the suspension.

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