Former Flint Northern standout Tez Thomas is one of our 14 players to watch in 2014. Thomas transferred to Flint Beecher after Northern earlier this year.
With the graduation of the Flint area’s class of 2013, among the top classes for basketball talent in the area in the last decade, a market correction is certainly in order. Don’t get me wrong, what’s left after the departure of Mr. Basketball (Monte Morris), Denzel Watts, J.D. Tisdale, Bart Williams and company isn’t exactly chopped liver — there are some lesser-known kids out there this season who can really go.
Here are 14 players you should probably make a special trip to see this season. You should know most of these guys, but a few names might surprise you. One name that is missing is would-be senior Kaylin Johnson, a young man with high-level potential who sat out most of his junior year at Flint Northern last season. He is currently in a correctional facility after a run-in with the law over the summer. He’s the most physically gifted player in our area. Here’s hoping he can turn his life around before it’s too late.
Cam Morse, senior, Flint C-A (Player of the Year): Morse, a 6-3 combo guard, has evolved into a better all-around player than his D-1 counterpart from last seasons, Denzel Watts. Morse leans on skill more than brawn, and will put up numbers in the SVL South that will turn more than a few heads (he already has games of 29 and 30 points) this season.
Malik Young, senior, Flint Southwestern: Young certainly deserves consideration for the top senior in the Flint area this season, though his playing status is unclear after a preseason knee injury has kept him on the sideline. He’s small, maybe 5-10, but he has a quick burst and lives in the lane. He has been a difference maker at SWA for three years and, without him, the Knights have little chance of making a postseason run. Young will find out this week his playing status for the season.
Jake Daniels, Holly, junior: I saw Daniels for the first time when he was in the 8th grade. He was the smallest player on the floor, at the time, but he competed like he was 6-7. Daniels can play either guard spot and is under the radar after sitting out his sophomore season. Daniels started as a freshman at Grand Blanc before transferring to Holly to play for Lance Baylis and the fun-n-gun Bronchos.
Jaire Grayer, junior, Flint Southwestern: The son of former NBA player Jeff Grayer is probably the best college prospect on this list. At 6-4, he can take his defender inside and out. The Knights will lean on Grayer and fellow junior Neshua Wise (who really should also be on this list) for scoring in the absence of Young and, of course, nationally-recruited sophomore Miles Bridges, who is now playing at Huntington Prep in West Virginia. To be the best player in his family would be difficult, but he could certainly be as good or better than his similar-sized older brother Kevin, who was a stud at the JUCO level and all-conference at Midwestern State University.
Justice Green, senior, Flint C-A: One of the most athletic guards in the state under 6-feet tall, Green had a pretty successful summer playing with the Michigan Mustangs. As a point guard, Green has a high ceiling. He could play his way into a mid-major scholarship this year, as scouts can get a two-for-one at C-A with Morse also in the backcourt. Green started his high school career at Flint Powers before transferring to C-A two years ago.
Amariontez Thomas, senior, Flint Beecher: Thomas, former standout at Flint Northern, transferred to Beecher when his high school closed earlier this year. At 6-3, Thomas is a terror in transition and a very competent outside shooter — he’s at his best, however, when scoring inside. He is serviceable at four positions at the high school level and will be the Bucs best all-around scorer. He is still nursing a concussion he suffered in a preseason scrimmage, but when he returns he will have a huge impact on the Bucs.
Kyle Woodruff, Holly, sophomore: Woodruff is the best pure shooter in Mid-Michigan since Brad Redford (or maybe Travis Bader). Is he Brad Redford? No; but, keep in mind that Redford wasn’t really Redford until his junior season. Woodruff is on track to be the best shooter in the state, but he’s not a one-trick pony. At 6-2, he has good size and is already on the college radar screen.
Marquavian Stephens, senior, Swartz Creek: Stephens is the quintessential position-less, just-play-him type of kid. He’s going to rebound, run the floor and attack the basket for a full 32 minutes (if you let him). He may well be the best player on this list at finishing around the basket. Stephens plays more like 6-5 than 6-2. He’s the best player on a pretty solid Creek squad this season, aided by the transfer of 6-1 guard Torandis Mack from IAF.
Jaylin Fordham, junior, Goodrich: There are a few players at Goodrich worthy of making this list, including Grant Smith and Travis Veenhuis (can’t have a golfer on this list, right?) I think Fordham is much more skilled than his older brother (Carlos), albeit it less athletic. He’s an above average shooter and ballhandler with nice upside for Goodrich head coach Gary Barnes, fresh off a year-long furlough.
Dylan Morris, senior, Ortonville-Brandon: The Blackhawks’ sharpshooter already has a 29-point performance to his credit this season. Coaches in the Metro League know not to leave this kid open, but somehow (at only 5-9) he still makes it happen.
Jaylen Arkwright, senior, Clio: Like the aforementioned Malik Young, Arkwright is slight but wicked quick. He has the ball on a string and is a tremendous passer. Coupled with senior Chauncey Bryant, Clio is a destination for basketball for the first time in, well, a really long time. Arkwright is the younger brother of former Flint C-A standout Keion Arkwright, who played in the Drew League in Los Angeles last summer.
Quay Burks, sophomore, Flint Beecher: Burks was among the top freshmen in the state last season, logging big minutes for the Bucs in the run to the state class C title. He scored nine points in 22 minutes to help lead the Bucs to a razor-thin margin of victory in a low-scoring affair. He’s a big-bodied kid who is still growing (6-3) and developing into an inside-outside threat. He will be counted on to pick up some of the scoring slack, alongside Amariontez Thomas, after the departure of senior Emmanuel Phifer to prep school.
Alec Myers, senior, Flushing: This 6-1 point guard, brother of former Flushing standout Brent Myers, spent half of last season at Goodrich, had some off-the-court issues, and has returned to Flushing. When his head is in the game, he’s a difference maker. He’s tough, physical and has some “old man” in his game.
Jamil Demps, Flint Hamady: Heady little point guard with nice handle, a little pull-up in the lane and a flair for the dramatic. Demps hit a deep 3-pointer at the buzzer on opening night to give Hamady a win over a resilient Flint Powers team. The Hawks will go as far as Demps can lead them.
A Few Extras
Best team(s): Carman-Ainsworth and Holly (toss up). SWA would be in the mix as well, if Malik Young and Ra’mon Lewis were healthy.
Big Ups: Justice Green (Flint C-A), Jaylen Fykes (Flint Hamady) and Carlos Fordham (Goodrich).
Top shooter: Kyle Woodruff, Holly (not close)
Best handles: Jaylen Arkwright, Clio
Best defender: Jacob Littles, Swartz Creek
Freshmen to watch: Dylan Alderson, Davison and Malik Ellison, Flint Beecher
Top coach: Mike Williams, Beecher (until proven otherwise)
Best gym: Flint Powers (brand new and really, really loud)
Surprise team: Montrose (This football school can hoop, too — Malik Taylor, Antonio McMillion and Jimmie Hodges to name a few
Highest-impact transfers: Tez Thomas (Flint Northern to Flint Beecher) and Alec Myers (Flushing to Goodrich and back)
Best storyline: Can Beecher three-peat without Monte Morris, Eric Cooper, Markell Lucas, Emmanuel Phifer, et al? Or, is this the year Flint Hamady, led by senior point guard Jamil Demps and new coach Kenyada Dent, finally breaks through to knock off the Bucs?