FLINT, Michigan — The incoming freshmen class didn’t have to be spectacular to keep Mott Community College among the elite JUCO programs in the country. The Bears went 17-1 in conference (26-4 overall) and won the state championship last season with a freshmen-laden squad. The Bears eventually lost at the buzzer in the semifinals of the regional tournament by a point. It was the 15th straight season of 25 or more wins for the program, but that’s not enough for the average spoiled Mott fans — they want more titles.
This year, Mott’s highest impact players will primarily be sophomores, but not for lack of talent in this class. Hall-of-fame head coach Steve Schmidt has once again ushered in a solid group of prospects for 2010-2011.
The Mott freshmen:
Walter Davis, 6-4 g/f Memphis (TN) Southwind High School: Long and lean jumper with an improving perimeter game. Davis is active on defense and runs the floor with speed and athleticism. He spent most of his high school career as a frontline player, but he has shown an ability to knock down mid-range jumpshots since coming to Mott. He’s an exceptionally quick jumper, which should translate to rebounds. Davis could mirror the hybrid guard/forward role that sophomore TJ Cameron played last season for Mott.
Brandon Wright, 6-5 g/f – Memphis (TN) Hillcrest High School: An all-region performer and consensus top 20 player in basketball-rich Memphis, Wright is a smooth scorer who won’t overwhelm you with athleticism. Deceptively quick with great touch in traffic, Wright should be able to play multiple positions at Mott. Once he gets in basketball shape, I expect him to be competing for starter’s minutes as a freshman.
Joemar Black, 6-3 guard – Flint Northern High School: A known commodity in Flint for several years, Black played at Northern for three years and Mount Zion in Raleigh, North Carolina, during his season season. Black was considered among the top players at the Elite 75 camp in North Carolina last year. He is exceptionally athletic and will compliment Davis as a transition scorer. Black has tremendous upside as an on-the-ball defender as well. In 2009, an ESPN recruiting analyst called Black a potential “steal” for a mid-major IF he can develop a reliable jumpshot. That’s a big “IF,” of course.
Robert Littlejohn, 6-8 Forward – Memphis (TN) Mitchell High School: Littlejohn is Mott’s tallest player, but he’s somewhat nimble for his size and shouldn’t slow the Bears’ tempo much. He will be counted on to take some defensive pressure off the Bears top returning player, 6-6 sophomore forward Mike Brigham. He was ranked as one of the top 40 seniors in the state of Tennessee last season.
Jamal Dantzler, 6-3 guard – Chicago (IL) Von Steuben High School: Dantzler is a quiet playmaker who is at his best slashing to the basket. He has a prototype build for a shooting guard. Dantzler was recruited by smaller-level D-1 schools and projects to be an impact player as a freshman for the Bears. Dantzler graduated from Von Steuben, the alma mater of Mott’s former national player of the year and two-time national champion winner, Jeremie Simmons.
Darryl “Boo” Marshall, 5-9 point guard – Memphis (TN) Ridgeway High School: An all-tournament performer as a senior and considered to be one of the best pure point guards in Memphis, Marshall led his team on a collision course with Joe Jackson (McDonald’s All-American and Memphis commit) and White Station last season. After dusting WS in the regular season, Williams’ team lost by a point after a pair of Jackson free throws. Marshall is a unique player at the JUCO level. He’s a pass-first point guard which, at this level, is an endangered species. He is the consummate team player and probably the best-prepared to contribute early of this class. Marshall will challenge sophomores Demetrius Miller, Sam Burton and Marshawn Norris for a starting guard spot. I think he’s that good.
Laron Rodgers, 6-3 g/f – Romulus High School via Western Wyoming CC: Rodgers, the only transfer on this year’s team, comes by way of Western Wyoming where he averaged nine points per game as a freshman. Rodgers comes from one of the top high school programs in Michigan and should fill out the roster nicely with his strength and energy on the defensive end. He might be the strongest player on the team in the weight room, but seems to lack the offensive polish of some of his teammates. He can, at times, be wildly explosive to the basket.
* The final roster usually includes a local walk-on or two, but I will leave that for later.