Somewhere near Flint— After the departure of the Flint-area’s most promising class of 2012 basketball prospects, frankly I question whether it is even worthwhile to discuss the upcoming year in great detail. In fact, a D-1 college head coach that I spoke to recently said, “If you’re going to lose scholarships, this is the year to do it because the 2012 class is weak, but the 2013 class is loaded.” So, with that said, I am asking today if it is ok just to skip that year entirely. Ok, so I know that is not possible, but for the purposes of this column the answer is yes.
The basketball crop in the Flint-area has been down for years, but the class of 2013 is angling to be on of the best ever as a whole. There were classes in the 80’s and 90’s that would beg to differ, but this one is as deep as ever, well at least on the wing. I will preface this discussion by saying I will focus only on the Flint-area as it is defined in my mind, which will include one long distance shout out. Here are the best of the best in no particular order:
Anton Wilson (Macdonald Academy, NC) – Some of you still don’t know, so today I will let you in on a secret. You ready? Anton has found a way to travel back in time! How did he do it? Prep school of course! Transferring from Carman Ainsworth to Northwestern (briefly) and then to MacDonald Academy has allowed him to re-classify himself from the 2012 class to the 2013 one. Having already been receiving offers from D-1 programs, this will only serve to help him, as he will have a whole extra year to develop his game and his strength. A prep school schedule and exposure will aid him as well. I am going to still count him as Flint-area because that’s where he was groomed. He is the best wing prospect of the group right now.
Monte Morris (Beecher) – “Man Man” is fresh off of an unofficial visit to Arizona State as well as picking up a recent offer from USC to add to his collection. Michigan, Indiana, Georgetown, Xavier, Syracuse, CMU, etc. have all shown interest or offered as well. It is a safe bet that he will grace a D-1 floor with potential to have an immediate impact right away. Rivals.com lists his shooting as “developing” but clearly they must haven’t seen him play recently as his shooting is already there. Scouts.com has him ranked number 11 at point guard in the class. He thinks the game like few at his age and rarely makes poor decisions with the ball. Even with his smallish frame he still finishes well, but will certainly need to work on eating something that will put some meat on his bones. What I do know is some college coach is going to be really lucky to have him. He is humble as well and seemingly refuses to let all of the attention go to his head. That will serve him well as the recruitment chase increases throughout the year.
Richmond “Richie” Lewis (Flint Northern) – The recently tabbed “momma’s boy” (Flint Journal) is much more than that as an up and coming point guard. Tasked with leading a Flint Northern team this year that lost the other four starters from last year and a highly touted 2014 prospect for various reasons, Richie’s work will be cut out for him. However, the task doesn’t seem to faze him one bit. He has added some strength to his frame by also being the team’s starting quarterback for the last couple years, which also has helped him develop as a leader. He has even started to pick up serious looks from D-1 schools on the gridiron as well. On the court, he has drawn interest from Dayton, CMU, WMU, and Providence. Being the focal point of his team this year will only serve to increase those very soon. He’s a scrappy defender for his size and is coming along as a deep threat. As he gains more control during games, his stock will continue to rise. Clearly being a momma’s boy is not half bad.
Denzel Watts (Carman Ainsworth) – In my opinion, Denzel has the most college-ready physique of all the 2013 class of guards. Having played football earlier in his career and being dedicated to personal training, he has the strength to bully smaller guards on the court. As perhaps the leader of the three-headed guard attack with Team Detroit/Dorian’s Pride this summer (along with Lewis and Morris), Denzel helped propel his team to multiple championships and a trend of winning that we had not seen in some time. Like Lewis, he will have to lead a high school team that lost its other best players from last year (led by the aforementioned Wilson) and will be largely inexperienced. The spotlight will be solely his and what he does with it will determine how high he goes. At one point compared to former Flintstone Mateen Cleaves, Watts has garnered the attention of UM, MSU, Purdue, Florida State, USC, and Dayton amongst others. As his shot selection becomes more consistent, his stock will continue to rise.
Dewrell “JD” Tisdale Jr. (Swartz Creek) – Much to the chagrin of Flint Northern staff and supporters, JD has decided to take his talents to South Beach, I mean, Swartz Creek. In a move that for a variety of reasons has gotten more attention than many other recent transfers, he ad his mom decided that the education he was receiving was not sufficient enough for his future (considering Northern was ranked LAST of ALL the Genesee County schools academically in a recent Flint Journal article, I would suggest there was good reason). As for basketball, he has been sort of a late bloomer. Forced to play inside most of his career because of playing with the likes of Morris, Lewis, and others, he had to blossom on the AAU summer circuit primarily. Starring for the grassroots Mid Michigan Lakers AAU club, he made the successful switch from undersized big, to big (6’4.5”) point guard. A huge break came for him being named MVP, MOP, and seemingly every other award you can think of at a regional prestigious Five Star Camp in PA. At the follow-up elite invitation-only version of that same camp in Chicago, he was touted as the breakout player of the camp. At a recent workout, one D-1 mid-major college coach said, “If he grows 2 inches and gets stronger, we won’t have a chance to get him.” At the 2011 Bankhoops.com camp, one college coach said, “All I wrote was- ‘Wow, he’s gotten better’.” A recent unofficial visit to CMU helped him realize how far he has come. JD is the most athletic of the bunch, regularly throwing down 360 dunks and making the spectacular pass look easy. He will need to work on his ball control and decision-making to really solidify his position in this class. Drawing his most recent interest from Wichita State (who doesn’t normally recruit this area) to add to EMU, Oakland, Drake, CMU, Toledo, Bowling Green, Holy Cross, and more, a permanent switch to PG at Creek will only serve to increase his stock. If he establishes that he has developed a consistent jump shot, look out because the sky is the limit.
And now let me touch on a few names that are lesser known, but maybe shouldn’t be:
Cullen Turczyn (Lapeer West) – Here is a name that hasn’t been mentioned enough with the best of the group. After a solid year with West after starting his career at the rival Lapeer East High School, Cullen also joined the Lakers and had a breakout summer. Armed with a dead-eye jump shot from behind the arc and cat-like quickness, he more than makes up for his short stature. A unique ball handling ability that surprised many at tournaments allowed him to get to the basket a lot more than anyone expected. He has been a starter on AAU teams before that included Morris, Lewis, Tisdale, Grand Blanc football stars Jordan Fields and Lester Liston Jr., and others, so clearly talent is not his issue, but rather maybe exposure. That changed this year and I don’t believe that it was nearly the end for Cullen.
Zeshawn Jones-Parker (Lapeer West) – The big man of this group (not really, since he may be 6’3” tops) plays the game with almost an innocence about him. That is, until you have to face him on the court. He is quiet, even seeming aloof at times, but will battle like a junkyard dog in the post if pushed. He plays well above his size and regularly out dueled those who were up to ½ foot taller. He led his AAU team in blocks and rebounds and was near the top in steals (he sealed their first tournament win with a steal and lay up in OT at a tournament in Saline). In a tournament this summer in Lansing, he was named to the all-tournament team, but probably should have earned the MVP despite his team’s loss in the championship. That is how much he dominated play there as a member of the Lakers. He may choose to go the football route (as Fields and Liston above) because he is a monster at wide receiver and running back for West on the gridiron. But if he chooses basketball he will have a chance at doing some big things on the next level as his guard skills continue to improve and he moves his game outside on the perimeter. I know I would not want to face the combo of he and Cullen for their high school anytime soon.
Max Cummings (Swartz Creek) – Often forced to play outside his normal position last year with Creek, Max still excelled on the court. And like Jones-Parker, Liston, Fields, and Lewis, he can flat-out bring it on the football field as well as a start wide receiver. Max is a great shooter and has a knack for making shots in the lane that can only be described as “squirrelly” around the big trees on the court. In the summer, he was able to move back from PG over to his more natural position at the 2 (SG) and therefore not be the primary ball handler. This freed him up to play more loose on the court and be more comfortable with his game. Despite breaking a toe, he still came back to compete in the team’s final summer tournament in Grand Rapids. Being able to continue at SG during the season (Tisdale will spend much time at PG) will allow Max to grow into possibly the biggest surprise of them all.
Eric Cooper (Beecher) – After a serious knee injury kept him out much of last season and pretty much the entire summer, Eric begins his athletic quest back as a quarterback/wide receiver on Beecher’s football team. Before the injury though, he was starting to make serious noise on the hardwood. He spent the latter part of the prior summer teaming up with Tisdale and forming a defensive backcourt that was difficult to deal with. He is tenacious on defense and will mix it up with anyone. A quiet kid off of the court changes dramatically once he steps on it. By him working his way back from the injury and heading right back out onto the football field shows his toughness. If he can further develop his ball handling and passing as a PG, he can surprise a lot of people. However, playing behind Morris doesn’t help much in the way of getting a chance to show the development there. Hopefully, he will shine again in AAU as there is still much inside this kid that has yet to come out.
Other names in the class that could be on the cusp of making noise; Bart Williams (Grand Blanc), Rayshon Thomas (Northern), Framar Harris (Southwestern), Raheen Dudley (Northwestern), Cal Henry (Creek), Jequarius French (Beecher), Jaylen Randle (Carman).
— By Marcellus C. Miller, Columnist