Blogs > Burney's Bytes

Burney's Bytes will focus primarily on the local preps sports scene, but will also touch on some college and pro athletics, mostly in regards to athletes who hail and have played high school sports in Oakland County. My goal for the blog is to be conversational and anecdotal, a more relaxed and free formal take on high school athletics than you see in regular game day coverage.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Burney's Bytes - blog entry # 2

Burney's Bytes
Blog Entry 2
December 10, 2008
In honor of the boys basketball season getting started this week, I thought I'd take a few blog entries and recap the best high school hoops squads that I have personally seen play in my over 20 years of watching preps in Oakland County. Alright, here goes with the first two:
1. 1989-1991 Birmingham Detroit Country Day (Boys)

The three state championship teams - the first bunch of an eventual seven titles won by Kurt Keener, currently the county's most tenured head coach - led by soon-to-be Fab Five member and future NBA all-star Chris Webber could be the best basketball squad ever assembled in this area. This team had athleticism, court-savvy, depth, and most importantly the country's number one rated college recruit in C-Webb, at that time a true man playing amongst boys. The 6-10 Webber was a beast, a total freak of nature, who could score at will and run the court with the agility of a player half his size. He was probably the most dominant player this county has ever seen, averaging a devastating 25 points and ten rebounds a game over his final three seasons as a Yellowjacket.

However, these teams were not just the Chris Webber show.  Its dominance on the high school hardwood came from a good deal of additional playmaking talent that was there to augment its blue chip star thoroughbred. The 1989 state title team in Webber's sophomore year was spearheaded by senior point guard Andy Slovis, a genuine floor leader who led Oakland County in assists and steals in both his junior and senior campaigns. Following Slovis' graduation, lightning-quick Kevin Colson, who would go on to start at Florida A&M during his college playing career, took over the Yellowjackets point guard slot for the final two state championship runs. Colson was a Kenny Anderson-clone, who was just as good from beyond the arc as he was leading a fast break.Teaming with Webber in the low-post and making up the second half of an imposing twin towers for the Yellowjackets was 6-11 Christ Backos, a shot blocking presence in the lane and a big man with a soft touch. Finally, Ilyapo Montgomery, a 6-5 high-flying shooting guard/small forward, who played his college ball at the University of Detroit-Mercy, was all three teams' second leading scorer, pumping in an average of 16 points per game between his sophomore and senior seasons.
2. 1993 Walled Lake Central (Boys)
Although the '93 Vikings didn't claim stake to a state crown, they were probably the team I personally enjoyed watching play the most. Coached by Steve Emmert and led by a closely-knit group of six seniors who had been playing together since grade scholl, this was the first team to bring Rick Pitino-style basketball to Oakland County. With minimum natural physical talent, they utilized a run and gun tempo of play made popular by Pitino's Kentucky teams of the early-90's - where they pressed nearly the entire game and shot an astonishing average of 30 3-pointers each contest - to maximum output. Putting together an undefeated regular season and winning a regional championship by defeating a stacked Port Huron Northern team before a hostile crowd on its own home court, the Vikings advanced to the Class A quarterfinals before bowing to eventual state champ Detroit Pershing, a team that featured all-american talents Carlos Williams (UAB), Willie Mitchell (Michigan/UAB), and Todd Burgan (Syracuse).

At the point, this Walled Lake Central squad featured Christian Emmert, the coach's son and a cagey team leader. The two-guard spot was manned by Ronnie Thompson, who like Emmert could drain it from downtown as well as drive the lane and kick the ball out to the wings for shots from the perimeter. The aforementioned wings that Emmert and Thompson were passing to were sharpshooting forwards Eric Leaf and Adam McCarthy (that season's top 3-point marksman in Oakland County), and sixth man Justin Cherfoli, who would either spell the starting backcourt or play in a often-used 3-guard line-up the team liked employing. Chris McFarland, the Vikings biggest player at 6-4, was the team's lone post presence at the center position, holding down the lane adequately on both offense and defense. To me the best part of this team's story, is just like the guys I played with in high school, even over 15 years later, this group of seniors still remain the closest of friends.


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