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.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Young Colts

The future is bright for the Troy boys basketball program and longtime head coach Gary Fralick. First off, the Colts, coming off an 18-6 season where they won a district championship, have possibly the best freshman in the state in 6-4 (and still growing)dynamo wing James Young. To say Young has been amazing this season, would be an understatement. On a team laced with veteran talent like Damon Brown and Bobby Wunderlich, Young as stepped to the forefront and quickly developed into the Colts number one option on offense – a role he shares with Wunderlich, a true workhorse in the paint. His breakout was early in the season when he had back-to-back games of 25 points and 15 rebounds. One of those games was against county thoroughbred Clarkston and Ball State-signee Matt Kamieniecki. Then on Thursday, he put in another colossal effort in a rivalry game against crosstown foe, Troy Athens, by scoring 25 points and grabbing 10 boards in a Colts 'W.' Expect Young to develop into a major league D1 recruit who will almost certainly end up going down as one of the greatest Troy bballers ever. It will definitely be fun and exciting to watch his progress over the next three and a half seasons.
Sophomore point guard Evan Mahone is another fast rising star for Fralick's gang of gritty hoopsters. Earning a starting spot at the beginning of the year, Mahone has been an injection of energy and hot shooting running the offense for a still work in progress Troy squad – the Colts are 5-7. This kid goes hard every play and is the definition of spunky on the floor. Against Athens, Mahone knocked down five 3-balls on his way to 15 points. Lurking in the shadowns is Maceo's Baston's son, an eighth grader expected to step into a role on the varsity for the Colts next season. Baston himself prepped in Dallas, Texas before coming to play his college ball at Michigan, where as a senior center and co-captain he helped lead the Wolverines to the 1998 Big Ten Championship. Drafted by the Bulls in the second round of the '98 NBA draft, he has spent considerable time in the NBA as well as playing ball with multiple teams overseas.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

One More Valley Guy

Let's not forget about Darris Sawtelle, a behemoth of an offensive lineman who prepped at Birmingham Brother Rice, and is also in the fold for the new Mitchell-regime at Grand Valley State. A high school All-American in his days under legendary Rice football coach head coach Al Fracassa, Sawtelle  graduated from Rice in 2007 and started his college playing career in the SEC at Tennessee. After redshirting in the fall of '07 and missing time in '08 due to injury, Sawtelle left Planet Rocky Top last May when current USC coach, Lane Kiffin, took over the Volunteers program. The 6-6 320 pound tackle is the grandson of former Detroit Lions all-pro defensive lineman, Darris McCord, who as a member of the Lions infamous "Fearsome Foursome" (along with Alex Karas, Roger Brown, and Sam Williams) helped lead the franchise to its last NFL World Championship in 1957. McCord was an All-American in the early 1950's at Tennessee and Sawtelle initially wanted to follow in his footsteps playing in Knoxville. Following a meeting with Kiffin in Kiffin's first few days on the job – Kiffin has recently left the Vols' program to go head the glitzier and glammed-out USC Trojans football team in the fall-out resulting from Pete Carroll leaving South L.A. for an NFL job with the Seattle Seahawks  – ,Sawtelle decided that Tennessee was no longer the place he wanted to spend the remainder of his college days. With ole' grandpa signing off on his choice to leave the Vols, he made the switch to GVSU this past summer.  
"I'm coming to Grand Valley because I like the coaches, I know guys on the team and it's a winning program," said Sawtelle in the wake of his transfer. "and there are not many things I like more than winning." "Other Division I schools called (after I left Tennessee), but I don't want to sit out a year, I want a chance to compete and I like I said before, I like the idea of coming to a place that wins a lot,"
The Lakers have won D2 national championships four times since 2002.

Valley Guys

Two former OC prep football stars have decided to leave Division 1 ball and finish off their respective collegiate careers with D2 power, Grand Valley State. Kyle McMahon, formerly of Eastern Michigan and Norman Shuford, formerly of Akron, have both enrolled in classes this semester at GVSU and will both be eligible to suit up for the Lakers immediately. McMahon, a quarterback, who prepped at Pontiac Notre Dame Prep and will be a senior this fall, is expected to compete for the first string signal calling job. A part time starter for EMU last season, McMahon will benefit from his experience as a field general at the D1 level. He threw for 1752 yards and nine TD's, while rushing for 240 yards and 2 TD's in three seasons in the Eagles program. Shuford, a running back and defensive back in his two seasons (one a redshirt year) with the Zips, prepped at Farmington Hills Harrison and will most likely make the full-time switch back to toting the ball on offense when he puts on his new Black and Blue Lakers' uniform. He will most likely be in the mix for ball carrying duties as soon as spring practice gets started up in just a few of months and will have three years of eligibility remaining.
On the college signing front, it looks like two more county prepsters from the gridiron have found homes at the next level. Expect CC's Mike Kinville to ink with Central Michigan and West Bloomfield's Aaron Foster to pen with Bowling Green when signing day comes around this upcoming Wednesday. From his spot at linebacker, Kinville was a captain for the 2009 state champion Shamrocks and helped spearhead a defense that will probably go down as one of the best in state history. He has all the tools – size, strength, and work ethic - to make it as a solid, if not outstanding, MAC baller. Foster, a long and lean, wide receiver and defensive back, is a great land for the BG'ers. His spot on the school's recruiting roster might have opened up when Kevonte Martin-Manely decided to back-out of his offer and commit to Iowa. That said, BG got itself a super talent. Versatile on both offense and defense, Foster is also a very good kick and punt returner.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Prospect Primer - A Grand Excursion

A slew of local prep football talent is slated to sign national letters of intent with their respective college selections on February 3 – which is this upcominh Wednesday. Oakland County will be sending its share of players to very well-respected, big time D1 programs, but a number of the area's best high school gridiron gladiators look to be ready to ink with the state's top D2 school, Grand Valley State, a national small school powerhouse built to prominence early last decade by current Notre Dame head coach, Brian Kelly.
West Bloomfield's Cameron Fields and Matt Judon, Clarkston's Dakota Bender, Troy's Bobby Wunderlich, and Farmington's Marco Iaderosa are all said to be sold on signing with the GVSU Lakers and new coach Matt Mitchell next Wednesday morning.
Fields is a super-burner with innate shiftiness who will play WR and help significantly in the Lakers' return game. Judon, Fields' teammate at WB, is a jet-fast linebacker/safety with a serious nose for the ball and penchant for monster hits that could jump in immediately and help out the GVSU 'D'. If all goes as planned, both Fields and Judon will have shunned mid-major D1 offers to sign with the young and energetic Mitchell's new regime. Bender will either be used back at his prep position as a running back/scat back or be asked to transition to defensive back. Wunderlich, Troy's QB as a senior, will return to the safety spot he earned a team-high 8 picks as a junior with head coach Gary Griffith's Colts. Iaderosa will use his heavy foot and try to eventually win the Lakers placekicking and/or kick-off duties.
Other OC'ers currently playing with the GVSU Black and Blue:
Dominique Darden (Groves), Demarco Donaldson (S-Lathrup), Derrell Heygood (S-Lathrup), Charles Hill (Hazel Park), Suave Lavallis (OL St. Mary's), Ricky Thomas (OL St. Mary's), Mark Morrison (Seaholm), Danny Richard (West Bloomfield), Bryan Thomas (South Lyon), Edwin Vushaj (WL Western), James Wojciechowski (Birmingham Brother Rice).
 According to the newly-revamped Michigan prep rankings, Oakland County boasts four of the state's top 30 college recruiting prospects. OL St. Mary's Robert Bolden, a fire-armed and fleet-footed QB heading to Penn State this summer, is ranked the highest of the bunch, "signing" in at Number 4 overall. Southfield Christian's Taylor Calero, an under the radar raw talent projected as a defensive end in the college ranks and committed to Michigan State, comes in next at Number 19. Bolden's teammate, the Number 20th ranked recruit in the state, Ernest "The Furnace" Thomas, is a quick and instinctive safety, originally committed to going out west to UCLA, but who has since had a change of heart and re-opened up his recruiting process. Rumors are that Michigan and Michigan State (possibly Notre Dame too) are in the late-stages of jockeying for Thomas' services. Thomas, who split time quite proficiently at the running back position his senior year last fall, has a father who played in the NFL in the 1980's and seems to have a very high ceiling for future growth. Finally, Birmingham Brother Rice's Kevonte Martin-Manley, on his way to Iowa by way of an early-verbal commitment to Bowling Green, checks in as the state's Number 29th ranked-recruit. The consummate two sport star, Martin-Manley (named all-state twice) is currently in the midst of having a spectacular senior campaign on the hardwood, leading the Rice hoops squad in the scoring department for the second straight year.
In other related recruiting news, 6-2 WR Montrell Robinson of Southfield-Lathrup has backed-out of his verbal commitment to Central Michigan to follow former Chippewa head coach, Butch Jones, who recruited him to Mt. Pleasant, to Cincinnati , where Jones' was recently tapped as the Bearcats new sideline general following Kelly's departure to Notre Dame.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Blood On The Tracks

The OAA Red is a bloodbath this season. The "Red Zone" is always a top echelon and extremely competitive boys basketball conference, but the 09/10 campaign has been especially rough and rugged with parity reining amongst a cadre of Metro Detroit's best and brightest hoop squads.  Although the race for the CHSL crown may end up being just as tight this year, the talent from floor to ceiling in the OAA's top tier division is far superior. When it all shakes out at the conclusion of the season, the fiercely combative OAA Red could easily wind up being the best conference in the entire state.
It might be a cliché, however it couldn't be more accurate to say every game is a war and there are no nights off for every team, top to bottom. Oak Park and Avondale, supposedly the weakest of the star-studded bunch of county cage powers in the conference, are both capable of beating any team they face in league play. The re-charged Knights of Oak Park led by up and coming first year head coach, Denolious Burkes, dropped their first six games of the season (all non-conference affairs), yet have taken three of their next five with all three wins coming against conference stalwarts – West Bloomfield, Southfield, Southfield-Lathrup.  
North Farmington, who lost to both West Bloomfield and S-Lathrup, just beat conference leader and perennial conference king, Clarkston, 42-40, last Friday night on the road in the very tough to win Wolves Den. The Raiders are a very deceiving 6-5. 4 of NF's five losses have come via buzzer-beaters from the opposing team. In three of those affairs, Kyle Vinales went for 40 points. C-Town is 8-2 and ranked number 8 in the state according to the AP. Southfield is sizzling this year behind the Blue Jays excellent corps of juniors (Brundidge, Barnes, and Owneu) and a steady group of role players (Atterberry, Kelly, Floyd, Brown, Ware) that play their tails off. West Bloomfield is always dangerous cause of great coaching an outstanding front court – Larry Johnson, Spencer Parker, David Pool. Despite starting the season slow, Pontiac is starting to gain steam with two straight convincing wins against North Farmington and West Bloomfield.
And then there is the high-caliber of individual prowess that takes place in the Red.
This season the OAA Red boasts a roster of some of the best prep players in all of Michigan:
Carlton Brundidge (Southfield)                       committed to Michigan as junior
Matt Kamieniecki (Clarkston)                         signed with Ball State
Roy Marble, Jr. (S-Lathrup)                            signed with Iowa
Desmond "Pee Wee" Barnes (Southfield)      mid-major D1 recruit as poing guard
Bryan Coleman (S-Lathrup)                            mid-major to small D1 recruit
Jalen Crawford (Oak Park)                             mid-major to small D1 recruit
Kyle Vinales (North Farmington)                    signed w/d2 power G. Valley St, but had d1 offers
Urban Bingham (North Farmington)              mid-major to major D1 recruit as power forward
Juwaan Moody (Pontiac)                               mid-major to small D1 recruit as combo/lead guard
Anthony "The Ant" Adams (Pontiac)              mid-major to small D1 recruit as point guard
Other players getting looks by college programs:
Larry Johnson, Jr (West Bloomfield)  
Spencer Parker (West Bloomfield)                
Ray Tillman (Avondale)
Tony Harris (Avondale)
Marcus Hardy (Clarkston)
Patrick Owenu (Southfield)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


By Scott M. Burnstein

Madison Heights Madison junior point guard R.T. Merritt proved his merit on Tuesday night in his team's monumental comeback effort. Leading an energetic rally back from trailing virtually the entire game, Merritt's free throw with five seconds remaining propelled the host-Eagles past Ferndale, 64-63. 
Merritt finished with 10 points, five assists, and three steals. Sophomore Tevin Washington led the Madison scoring attack with 15 points. Ashton Curd, Merritt's backcourt mate, registered 13 points and four assists. Damon Bozeman, another talented sophomore on the Eagles roster, recorded a double-double of 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Madison moves its record to 7-2 overall. Ferndale goes to 8-2 with the loss. Senior guard Shawn Amiker led the visitors with 25 points. Amiker is one of the more underrated players in the county and it showed while he helped Ferndale claim a 38-29 halftime lead and a 54-56 advantage going into the fourth quarter.
But just as Amiker might be under-valued in area hoop circles, so are Merritt and Curd, often lost in the sea of Metro Detroit's outstanding stable of little men this season. The pair spearheaded the furious Eagles' comeback effort that culminated in Merritt's game-winning free throw. Inspired by Merritt's momentum-seizing antics, Madison stepped up big on defense on the following possession and didn't even let Ferndale get off a potential game-winner of its own prior to the final buzzer. The Eagles backcourt has been getting it done on the court in a major way for the past three seasons. Although Merritt and Curd are only juniors, they have both played on the school's varsity team since they were freshman. Last year, Madison won the MAC Gold league title with a 15-6 overall and two seasons ago the Eagles took home a leauge crown and a district championship.
There's little time to celebrate for the Eagles after the climatic 'w', however, as first year head coach Steve Rhoads (30 year sideline veteran over at Berkley prior to taking the Madison gig), and his crew must start preparing immediately for their crosstown throwdown with Madison Heights Lamphere on Friday.

Winning Ways

On the heels of Country Day's loss on Saturday night, the city of Birmingham is home to the two final undefeated boys basketball teams in Oakland County – with DCD being located in Birmingham, the city had three unblemished squads as of just a few days ago. Class A public school, Birmingham Seaholm is 10-0, while Class D private school Birmingham Roeper is 11-0. These two sets of hoopsters have a bit in common too. Each team is led by a standout senior and both squads took home wins on Tuesday night to keep their respective records perfect. Seaholm, whose high-powered offense is headlined by all-state swingman Richaud Pack (committed to Florida International), demolished crosstown foe Birmingham Groves, 73-32. Roeper, a fundamentally sound and defensive minded bunch, with four year starter and two year all-conference stud point guard Ryan Zinser at the helm running the team's offense, defeated arch rival Auburn Hills Oakland Christian, 47-32. Pack dropped 24 points in the Maples 'w' and Zinser recorded his standard sizzle of 18 points (11 of 12 from the free throw line) and seven assists in the Roughriders road victory. For much of the last decade, the two Birmingham schools played an annual non-league game against each other. That is not the case this season and that is very unfortunate for all OC hoop heads, because it would have been a good match-up.  
Hazel Park's Dakota Ogles was ITZ (In Tha ZONE) all night long Tuesday in his team's marathon throwdown with Hamtramck. Ogles had a monster outing, netting 37 points and hauling down 17 boards in the Vikings 88-86 down to the wire-victory over Ham-Town on the road. Ogles is a major reason why HP is 8-2 and one of the front runners for a OAA Blue crown as we sit right now. Hot-shooting Gamal Algahim, Zach Schultz, and rock solid point guard Wesley Ellis are all playing big for the Vikes this season.
Shouts go out to Country Day, who bounced back from Saturday's loss with a hard-nosed comeback win on the road at Taylor Kennedy on Tuesday. The Yellowjackets, taking some lumps of late while missing the services of the soon-to-return 6-11 Amir Williams, fell behind by a t halftime, but rallied in the second half for the 63-56 win, Senior Ray McCallum topped the Yellowjackets in the scorebook with 18 points, sinking a flawless 8-of-8 from the charity stripe. Junior power forward Carter Elliott was integral in the 'W' for DCD, reaching double digits in scoring for the first time in his varsity career and notching a well deserved double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds.  
Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook also rebounded from a tough loss on Saturday with a hard fought, 51-45 win Tuesday night on the road at Livonia Clarenceville. The Cranes scored a meager 28 points in a loss to Roeper on Saturday. Almost doubling that total on Tuesday, Cranbrook was led by junior Sterling Morrow's game-high 20 points. Sterling's big brother, Steven, added 11 points for head coach Shane Finney's Cranes, who improve to 6-4 on the year.  With the Metro Conference set to disband at season's end, Cranbrook is preparing for a move into the Catholic League in 2011.
A couple of quality wins were in the cards for Novi Detroit Catholic Central and Madison Heights Madison on Tuesday evening as well. CC downed Orchard Lake St. Mary's 63-47 behind another great outing from its junior duo of Shea Kettner and Kyle Cooper. Kettner scored a game-high 19 points and Cooper 14 points and eight boards to lead coach's Bill Dyer's grit-laced group of ballers. Madison won it at the last second at home over Ferndale. Trailing almost the entire contest, junior shooting guard Ashton Curd sank a game winning free throw with under five seconds remaining to lift the Eagles to the dramatic 64-63 win. Tevin Washington headed Madison's scoring attack, putting in 15 points, while Ferndale's Shawn Amiker's tallied a game-high 25 points.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Balancing Act

With a chance to break a two game-losing streak hanging in the balance, Southfield's boys basketball team, used a balance attack to gain a thoroughly efficient road win on Monday night. The Bluejays went into the quite unfriendly confines of the Rochester Hills Adams gymnasium and came out with a 67-58 defeat of the host-Highlanders in OAA crossover action in a game that kicked off the week's prep hoops action.
Southfield's inside-outside combo of all-state guard Carlton Brundidge and fast-rising junior big man Patrick Owenu, combined to wreck havoc on the undersized Adams defense. Brundidge (verbally committed to Michigan as only a junior) scored 14 points, dished five assists, and corralled six rebounds and Owenu put in 14 points, hauled down 10 boards, and blocked three shots to lead the winning effort. Joshua Brown added eight points and Landon Atterberry recorded a solid game of a six points, five rebounds, and two blocks.
Needing a victory in the worst way after dropping back-to-back games to Clarkston and Oak Park last week, the Bluejays got it improve to 8-3 overall. The county's leading scorer last season as a sophomore with a 25 point per game average, Brundidge has sacrificed his prodigious point mongering for the better of the team this season. Although his scoring average is down, his team's record is up – last season the 'Jays hovered around the .500 mark all year long – as is his assist and rebounding totals. This development tells you all you need to know about what a warrior this 6-2 human sparkplug and future Maize and Blue'er truly is.
Adams, coming off a win over crosstown rival Rochester in a game played on the campus of Oakland University on Friday night, falls to 7-2 on the year. Senior guard Connor Boyle paced the Highlanders with 14 points and four assists.
Junior guard Jordan Littleson scored 13 points (3-of-5 from 3-point distance), eight of which came in the a frantic fourth quarter which saw Adams storm back from almost two dozen down to cut the Bluejays lead to just six points with less than three minutes remaining.
Keeping pace with the athletically-superior Bluejays in the first nine and a half minutes of the game, the Highlanders stumbled in the late second quarter and found themselves down 33-20 at halftime. A frenetic and energized Bluejays defense held Adams to a mere five points throughout the entire second quarter. The Highlanders outscored Southfield 23-17 in the game's final stanza of play.
The Southfield lead ballooned to as big as 23 at 48-25 midway through the third quarter. Down but not out, Adams started to shoot itself back into the game and used a spunky defensive spurt to significantly chop into the Bluejays advantage on the scoreboard heading down the stretch. Littleson's third triple of the game at the 2:46 mark of the fourth quarter made it a two possession game at 57-51. Led by the cold as ice, Brundidge, Southfield stayed strong and finished the Highlanders off at the free throw line. Brundidge, Owenu, Brown each hit multiple big time free throws in the closing two minutes to seal up the win for the Bluejays.
Southfield returns to the court on Thursday when the Bluejays are set to host North Farmington, a squad riding some serious momentum following its win over # 8 in the state-Clarkston on the road Friday night. Adams will travel to Lake Orion on Thursday night for its next game action.

Boys BBall Rankings - Week of The Rebound

OC Top 10
1 Birmingham Detroit Country Day (10-1) – 'Jackets will rebound from their first loss of the season – experienced Saturday on the road at Kalamazoo Central – in resounding fashion with a beatdown of Taylor Kennedy on Tuesday night – Mark It Down!. Kenny Knight, Lee Bailey, and Carter Elliott deserve credit for doing all the dirty work that doesn't necessarily make it into the stat sheet when teammates Ray McCallum, Amir Williams, and Chris Fowler get most of the headlines for high-flying 'Jackets.
2 Clarkston (8-2) – Sophomore sensation Nick Tatu should get the words "Coldblooded Assassin" tattooed on his shooting hand, cause this kid's stroke from the outside is so so deadly!
3 Southfield (8-3) – Southfield's dynamic duo of a backcourt in Carlton "Captain Amazing" Brundidge and Desmond "Pee Wee" Barnes, are just too good. These two outwork almost everyone they go up against. They GO that HARD.   BELIEVE THE HYPE!!!!
4 Birmingham Seaholm (9-0) – The Maples very own "Big Punisher", wing forward Shawn Conway, is a freak of nature on the basketball court and the football field.
5 North Farmington (6-5) – A defensive-gem of a win over a tough-as-nails Clarkston team on the road says a lot about the Raiders second semester prospects. Transfer Big Urb Bingham is a beast in the paint. He can step out and hit the 15 footer too. The Raiders four buzzer beating losses will only help to harden the team's resolve as the season goes into the stretch run.
6 Pontiac (5-6) – Wow, just when I was about to count the Phoenix down and out, they come through with two huge momentum building wins last week against North Farmington and West Bloomfield. Way to go, men!
7 Waterford Mott (8-2) – Get busy my main man, Emmanuel Simpson!
8 Holly (8-3) – You cannot stop the Bronchos "L-Train", Thomas Lovachis, you can only hope to contain him. Holly has three legitimate "number one" options on offense, in Lovachis, Lance Hopkin, and Justin Fowler.
9 Birmingham Brother Rice (6-5) – Don't let the record deceive you, the Warriors have won six of their last seven and have looked mighty good doing it. Kevonte Martin-Manley has hit the zone for the past two weeks and is shooting the ball unbelievably well. Joey Alessi is a rising star and Drew Holinski and Adam Gorski are the lunch pail guys that make the proverbial Rice wheel go round. Rice has legit chance at taking home the CHSL crown when things are all said and done in March on the floor at Calihan Hall.
9 Walled Lake Central (8-2) – Justin Kucera is so superbad on the hardwood, he could change his name to just Cera and tell everybody he is the brother of "Superbad" star Michael Cera.
10 (a) Novi (8-2) – Wildcat junior forward Samier Ozier has got that Boom Boom Pow that has all his opponents in the KLAA jocking his style!
10 (b) Southfield-Lathrup (4-6) – Roy Marble, Drew Gilchrest and company will get it together before season's end and be dangerous going into tournament play in March.
10 (c) Ferndale (7-2) – Don't sleep on the Eagles and while you're at it, don't snooze on Ferndale's crazy def cage connection on the court that is the backcourt of Jody Hill and Shawn Amiker. Can you say OAA-Blue championship?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bumped Off

Encountering its first bump in the road in what has so far been an early-season route-fest, the Birmingham Detroit Country Day boys basketball team had its victory train derailed on Saturday night in a dogfight with a spirited Kalamazoo Central squad on the road. The game, played in front of an overflow crowd of more than 3,000 spectators at the Maroon Giants' Zuidema Gymnasium, ended with Kalamazoo Central pulling the 74-64 upset win over the highly-touted Yellowjackets.
Both squads were playing without the services of star players as a result of injury. Country Day was without 6-11 junior center, Amir Williams, gone until next month with a sprained knee suffered back in the first week of January, and K-Central (ranked number 9 in the state in Class A by the Associated Press) was minus all-state wing and Dayton-signee Devin Oliver.
Stepping up in his teammate's absence, Dyland Hughes did his best Oliver impression by going for 26 points and nine rebounds. T.J. Buchanan also delivered a knockout performance for the Maroon Giants, posting a glittery overall floor game of 23 points (4-of-6 from 3-point range), eight boards, and six assists.
The Yellowjackets, the number one-ranked team in the state in Class B, suffers their first defeat of the season and drop to 10-1. Kalamazoo Central, coming off a 2009 season where it advanced all the way to the Class A state championship game, improves to 9-2.   
The Maroon Giants closed out the game late with a highly-proficient success ratio from the free throw line. Hughes was 11-of-14 from the charity stripe – seven of them coming down the stretch in the fourth quarter – and Buchanan was a perfect 11-for-11.
Establishing control of the game in the first half, K-Central had a 31-24 lead at the break and a 50-41 advantage heading into the fourth quarter. Despite shaving their deficit down to just two possessions with under three minutes remaining, the Yellowjackets could do no further damage and Hughes and Buchanan buried numerous free throws in the closing two and a half minutes to put the final nails in the proverbial coffin.
Ray McCallum, Country Day's heavily-recruited all-state point guard, scored a team-high 21 points to go along with nine boards and five assists to lead the Yellowjackets in the state sheet. 17 of his 23 points were put in during the fast-paced second half. Junior guard Chris Fowler had a more than solid effort of 16 points and seven assists.
Most prep prognosticators believe that Country Day is the best team in the state, regardless of class size. Proving their case last week, the undermanned 'Jackets handily took care of defending Class A champion Detroit Pershing – the two ranked team in the state in Class A – and high scoring Michigan State-recruit Keith Appling by a score of 83-74.
Senior center Angelo Griffis scored 13 points and pulled down eight rebounds and junior power forward Darius Norman netted seven points and hauled in 10 boards for K-Central.
When the Yellowjackets and Maroon Giants met up last season at the Motor City Roundball Classic at Chandler Park Academy in Harper Woods, the 'Jackets emerged victorious in a game that featured more than 165 combined points scored by the two high-octane squads. Ranked number one in the state for all of last season, Country Day lost in the quarterfinals for the second straight year to Flint Powers, a team they had defeated at home earlier in the campaign. Country Day's head coach, Kurt Keener, has won a total of seven state titles in his 32 year career, the most recent coming in 2007.
There will be precious little time for the Yellowjackets to nurse their wounds, as the team takes to the road for their third straight road contest on Tuesday night against a very good Taylor Kennedy team.

Riding High!

Two of the county's three remaining undefeated teams took the floor early Saturday night but only one of them could stake claim to being the owner of an unblemished record by evening's end. That team was small school upstart, Birmingham Roeper, upping its record to a perfect 10-0 by dominating a visiting Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook team, 46-28 in a game that took less than 90 minutes to complete.
Senior point guard Ryan Zinser continued his more than stellar career running the Roughriders' offense by scoring 13 points, dishing eight assists, and swiping away four steals to lead the team's winning effort. A senior dominated team, Roeper is off to the best start in boys bball school history. Power forward Cole Stasek notched eight points and 10 boards and shooting guard Jacob Saslow put in nine points, while doling out three assists and collecting three steals. Zinser (all-conference the past two seasons), Saslow, and Stasek are the squad's tri-captains and Zinser and Stasek are both four year varsity players. Fellow seniors, Derek Dunlap, Damani Tilton, Tomas Jhashi, and Aaron Solomon give sturdy support as role players.  6-5 sophomore center Jack Gorland is a growing presence in the post. Saslow, an all-state soccer player in the fall, is the team's top defender and Jhashi, the 'Riders sixth man, along with Saslow and Zinser are the team's top 3-point shooters.
The Roughriders started 10-1 in 1994 and 10-2 in both 1995 and 2001. Longtime Roeper head coach Ernie Righetti, who is one of only a handful coaches left who still pull double duty coaching both boys and girls, thinks his 2010 team could end up being a very special one.
"These guys are true to each other and to the program," said Righetti following his squad's defeat of Cranbrook. "Everyone knows their role and they embrace it. That's rare in high school basketball. We can't worry about rankings or what we are going to end up doing in the state tournament right now. Our primary focus for the rest of the season is winning the conference. We'll deal with what comes after that when the time comes."
Roeper's boys hoopsters have not raised a conference championship banner since 1995. Although the 'Riders find themselves without a single smudge on their overall record, the state pundits have yet to take notice and Roeper fails to appear in any of the major state rankings. The program's last district title was in 2006 when Ryan Zinser's brother, Eric, an all-state selection, captained the Roughriders to a 19-5 record and a spot in the Class D Sweet Sixteen. Righetti-coached boys teams have won a total of seven district championships since 1994.
Birmingham Detroit Country Day, the number one ranked team in Class B and arguably the best team in the state regardless of class, dropped its first game of the season in Kalamazoo early Saturday night. The Yellowjackets, playing without 6-11 starting center Amir Williams – out until the start of February with a knee sprain – lost to unranked Kalamazoo Central, 74-64. Oddly enough, DCD routed # 2 in the state, Detroit Pershing, last Saturday on a neutral floor in Lansing, while playing without the services of the heavily-recruited Williams. Country Day is now 10-1. Senior point guard Ray McCallum scored 23 points in the game.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Instant Feedback - Down To The Wire

There was a multitude of nip-and-tuck battles on the high school hardwood that took place Friday night throughout the county. Local players and teams alike in both girls and boys hoops came up big with the game on the line.
Here are some of the best performances of note:
Brian Wandschneider nailed a game-winning trifecta in the closing seconds of Lake Orion's game against Troy Athens, lifting the Dragons to a thrilling 49-48 win. LO is 6-5 and looking sharp in rebounding from '09 disaster of a season.
Holly got a career high 31 points from senior guard Justin Fowler in the Bronchos 79-75 overtime victory in very hostile waters over Oxford on the road. Lance "The Hammer" Hopkin chipped in with a 20 spot and super-transfer, Thomas "The L-Train" Lovachis locomoted his way to 16. After playing in the shadow of his big brother, Jordan, the past few seasons, its nice to see Justin Fowler coming into his own this season shooting the rock at a very prolific clip.
Pontiac Notre Dame Prep's 6-7 Sophomore Kellen McCormick (son of former UOFM star and NBA'er and current national sports broadcaster, Tim McCormick) had his breakout game of the season against defending CHSL champ, Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard. The Fighting Irish topped Gabriel Richard 56-52 in double OT and McCormick not only recorded 17 points and seven rebounds, he also drilled four triples, including one at the conclusion of regulation to send the game into extra sessions.
Junior Justin Peguese's 25 points and six boards sparked Berkley to a 72-68 OT win over Troy. Ryan Bush added 19 points for the Bears, who push their record over the .500 mark with the victory by moving to 5-4.
In girls action, Lakeland had to go three overtimes to finally end up getting the best of Waterford Mott, 53-46, at home in a KLAA clash. Stephanie Lock paced the victorious Eagles with 19 points, but the star of the game came from the losing side of the scoreboard. I'm talking about Mott's Tiffany Coleman, who put in a goliath effort of 24 points and 22 rebounds.
Cager Quips:
Mad props goes out to head coach Denoulios Burkes and his Oak Park boys bball crew who are more than holding its own in the ever rough and rugged OAA Red. The upstart Knights made it two upsets in a row on Friday by clipping the Southfield Blue Jays' wings in their 69-64 home win.
Juwaan Moody who? That's what OL St. Mary's Allen Robinson has people over at Eaglets central the past few weeks with his remarkable play. The junior swingman is almost single-handedly the Eaglets contenders once again after starting the season slow and making OLSM fans practically forget about losing the high-scoring Moody to Pontiac. Like Oak Park, St. Mary's is riding a two game win streak, with both 'W's coming in upset fashion. Robinson scored 26 points in the team's 63-54 defeat of a very good Detroit Reinassance squad on Friday night. This junior juggernaut is also a rising star on the football field, playing a mean wide receiver and defensive back combo. Robinson's game has been so on-point as of late, I've decided to nickname him "Al B Sure", because head coach George Porritt is sure to get a solid and most likely spectacular outing from the rangy and fast 6-2 baller every time he hits the court.  Evan Webster has his mojo in overdrive in Friday night's win too, exploding for a career high 23 points and 5 triples.
Don't look now OC hoop heads, Hazel Park is sitting at 7-2 right now. Zach Schultz busted the nets up for 20 points in the Vikings 71-46 beatdown of Farmington on Friday night.
MH Lamphere's Kelvin Toma continues to get busy all up, over, and across the hardwood and tell McCallum, Brundidge, Pack, Vinales, Marble, and co. that he can put up points with the best of the best in the OC. Toma went for 30-plus for the second straight game on Friday, torching the twine for 33 in the Rams win over Clintondale.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bonus Bytes - A Gentleman and a Scholar

We already knew that Birmingham Seaholm's Richaud Pack was a great basketball player – 29 points per game, scholarship to Florida International – and a great student (4.0 grade point average), but on Monday he showed what a big heart he has and what a true gentleman he is when he went to Chicago to attend the funeral of his future college coach, Isaiah Thomas's mother, Mary. On his return to the state, he dropped a triple-double of 28 points, 11 boards, and 10 dimes, in the Maples 85-72 defeat of Berkley.
Burney wishes Greg Ganfield - gone to GR Forrest Hills Northern - would have stayed a little longer as Pontiac's football coach. He was in the process of building something very special with the Phoenix and I just hope it continues in his absence.
I can't decide which team got itself a more needed win on Tuesday, Pontiac with its triumph over North Farmington or OL St. Mary's with its besting of UofD-Jesuit in OT?
Rich Rod and Mark D'Antonio are licking their chops with the recent recruiting free-up of St. Mary's Ernest "The Furnace" Thomas, a onetime UCLA signee. Both UofM and MSU would be greatly benefited by the landing of this high-ceiling talent. Thomas has just recently grown into his adult body and has gotten better each year on the gridiron playing for the powerhouse Eaglets. Although a star running back this past football season, Thomas is projected as a safety in the college ranks.
They don't have much natural athletic talent, but there are not many teams in the state, nor probably the entire nation, that play as hard nosed and gritty as head coach Bill Dyer's Novi Detroit Catholic Central Shamrocks boys hoops squad. Last season, CC advanced to the CHSL tourney final and the Class A Elite Eight on pure will and timely-playmaking from a cadre of cash-money seniors – Tim Dezelski, Brett Smith, Jamie Morris, and Steve Harding. This season, decimated by graduation, Dyer's squad has stayed more than competitive bringing back just one returning starter. The Shamrocks opened the season 4-2. Juniors Shea Kettner and Kyle Cooper (both reserves last year) embody the CC hoops mentality to the fullest and have been carrying on the torch left by the '09 class. Kettner went for a career-high 25 points in a game against arch rival Brother Rice last Friday night. Cooper had 12 points and eight rebounds in the game.
A quick programming reminder for all you prep fiends: Every afternoon between 3 and 5 PM the Comcast TV network (channel 900 on most digital boxes in the county) shows MHSA state final classics from the past. For instance, on Thursday afternoon, the Birmingham Detroit County Day-Albion 1997 Class B boys basketball state final game, was replayed. The '97 title team, current 'Jackets head coach, Kurt Keener's 6th state championship banner, was captained by Shane Battier (Duke/Houston Rockets) and included future NFL player Javin Hunter (Notre Dame/Baltimore Ravens), and future college stars, David Webber (Central Michigan), David Manciel (Central Michigan), and Mike Knight (Albion).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Heights

The Hills is MTV's hit semi-fictional docu-drama focusing on twentysomething socialites frolicking around L.A. I think one of the local cable access stations around town should create a reality television series based on the high-octane pair of boys hoops squads spawning out of Madison Heights and call it, what else but, "The Heights".
Both Madison Heights Madison and Madison Heights Lamphere play exciting brands of basketball this season and are led by electrifying star players. Madison, a steadying developing Eastside Oakland County power over the past decade, is 6-2 overall, 4-1 in the MAC-Blue and picked up a 77-72 win on Wednesday night on the road against Warren Fitzgerald. Lamphere, led by scoring machine senior gunner, Kelvin Toma, is 5-4 and notched a 'w' against Center Line at home on Wednesday.
The Eagles are spearheading by the outstanding junior backcourt of R.T. Merritt and Ashton Curd and have a new coach at the helm in Metro Detroit sideline stalwart, Steve Rhoads (formerly having led the Berkley Bears program for over 25 years). Curd scored a game 21 points, while Merritt netted 13 points and dished off eight assists in the Fitzgerald win. Also contributing to the Madison arsenal are Damon Bozeman, Tevin Washington, Tony Lowry and D.J. Larkin, Demetrius Moore, and Valdez Showers. Bozeman scored 15 points in Wednesday's game and Larkin, Showers, and Lowry were all standout players on the Eagles excellent football team back in the fall.
The Rams' Toma is one of the area's most underrated perimeter players. The 6-2 swingman averaged 15 points per game last season as an all-conference selection and this year has upped the ante significantly. Toma is currently pumping in over 25 points per game. In December he tallied a career high 43 and last night in his team's 62-57 defeat of Center Line he scored 31, connecting on 15 of 16 from the free throw line.
Augmenting Toma in Lamphere's outside attack is junior point guard, Mitch Kozlowski and junior sniper, Ryan Horvath. Kozlowski and Horvath are a great QB-WB combination on the gridiron in the fall and its flows over onto the hardwood in the winter. Although Horvath runs the show behind center calling signals on the football field, the pair switches places on the bball court where Kozlowski runs the team from his spot as the Rams' designated floor general. Horvath benefits from numerous Kozlowski "drive and kicks," and has a reputation for keeping opposing defenses honest with his dead-eye 3-point shooting.  Transfers Christian Keener and DC Davis, each recently gaining eligibility, will significantly aid's Lamphere's cause as the 2010 season heads into the proverbial "back nine."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rolling Rice

The Birmingham Brother Rice boys basketball team are as explosive as a stick of dynamite right now. The red hot Warriors pushed their winning streak to six games and made it two in a row on the road by downing a previously unbeaten Warren De La Salle squad 58-50 in CHSL action on Tuesday night.
Starting the season 0-4, Brother Rice is now 6-4 and sitting atop the conference standings. De La Salle, state quarterfinalists last season, drops to 8-1 overall. Part of the reason for the Warriors' early-season woes was the absence of starters, Kevonte Martin-Manley and Adam Gorski. With both back in the line-up as of late, head coach Ed Shaffer's squad has been firing on all cylinders and looks primed for a serious run at the Catholic League crown.
On Tuesday, it took a little while for Brother Rice to find its groove, however, once it did, it was "all she wrote" for the host-Pilots. Falling behind after the first quarter, the Warriors re-claimed their mojo by getting toasty from long distance. Joey Alessi's three straight triples midway through the second quarter helped catapult Brother Rice into a halftime lead. Extending their lead into double-digits in the third quarter, the Warriors never looked back. The closest the Pilots would get the rest of the way would be when they trimmed their deficit to six points at a score of 52-46 with just under two minutes remaining in the game.
Alessi, who is having a breakout junior campaign, scored a game-high 23 points to head Brother Rice's offensive production for the night. Martin-Manley – an all-conference performer in both basketball and football the past two seasons – netted 15 points and junior forward Drew Holinski put in 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
Junior guard Sterling Johnson, one of the only returning players from De La Salle's 2009 CHSL title team, paced the Pilots with a team-high 16 points.
All-State shooting guard, Alex Marcotullio, the star player on the '09 squad, is currently seeing major minutes as a freshman in the Big Ten at Northwestern.
Fortunes for Brother Rice seem to be trending opposite of what happened last season when the Warriors started the year 5-1 and finished 9-12. Brother Rice hits the court next again on Friday night at home against UofD-Jesuit, losers to Orchard Lk. St. Mary's in overtime on Tuesday.
The improved play of Alessi and the return of Martin-Manley, have been the keys to the Warriors winning streak (getting back starting point guard Adam Gorski has helped greatly as well). Since coming back into the fold at full strength earlier in the month, Martin-Manley has been playing out of his mind. This past Friday night, he erupted for 34 points in Brother Rice's 57-50 defeat of arch-rival Novi Detroit Catholic Central on the road in a very hostile playing environment. The Iowa football commit sank an unbelievable 8 of his first 9 3-point attempts en route to hitting 9-of-12 on a hard as rocks CC defense. This 6-2 silky smooth sharpshooter isn't afraid to pull the trigger and coach Shaffer isn't afraid to give him the green light.

Boys Hoops Rankings

OC Top 10
1 DCD (10-0) – Burney loves this year's once again stacked Keener Kage Krew but he has to admit he's surprised that the 'Jackets have not missed a single beat with 6-11 junior center, Amir Williams out of the line-up.
2 Clarkston (7-1) – As expected of any Dan Fife-coach team, the Wolves are growing stronger each game. Senior forward/center Matt Kamieniecki is as consistent as they come – "Kammy" goes hard and brings it every night with no exceptions. Wolves senior point guard Tyler Scarlett is playing at the highest level of his career thus far. 
3 Birmingham Seaholm (8-0) – Inside the mind of Maples point guard Christian Pino: Richaud Pack or Shawn Conway? Shawn Conway or Richaud Pack? Decisions, decisions, decisions……
4 Southfield (7-2) – Carlton Brundidge is a straight WARRIOR. The Bluejays "Captain Amazing" could be the hardest working player in the county (and this kid already has a scholarship in the bag up in the A-squared with the Maize and Blue). Head coach Gary Teasley needs to get a little more from the squad's supporting cast – guys with last names that are not Brundidge or Barnes – if he wants the 'Jays to legitimately contend for a state title. I like Landon Atterberry and Jaylon Floyd to fill this void
5 Novi (7-2) – I'm nicknaming Wildcats junior rising star Samier Ozier, "Sham Wow" in addition to the obvious back-up moniker of "The Big O",  because since the start of the season, Ozier and his game have been residing at the corner of Awesome and Amazing. Don't sleep on Sham Wow's running mates, Jeremy Mims and Justin Hopton.
6 RH Adams (6-1) – These Highlanders are the definition of the word scrappy!
7 Stoney Creek (8-1) – I have a feeling this is going to end up being a very special year for the Cougars!
8 Waterford Mott (7-2) – John Schaeffer is a coldblooded hoops stud! Sophomore Chris Dewberry will make a significant imprint on the Mott bball program before he leaves in 2012.
9 West Bloomfield (6-4) – You can't stop Larry "Lil' Gran Mama" Johnson, you can only hope to contain him!
10 a. Holly (6-3) – Transfer Thomas "The L-Train" Lovachis is a locomotive of a force on the court and his presence in the Bronchos line-up automatically makes them as a dangerous as they've been in recent memory. His 15 points, 5 board, 5 dime performance in a Holly "w" on Monday served notice of his intent to do serious bodily harm to the entire Flint Metro Conference.
10 b. Southfield-Lathrup (5-5) – Get busy my main man, Delvon Borgan. Nice game winner against North Farmington last week. Your primetime playmaking ability makes Burney proud!
10 c. N. Farmington (5-5) – The Raiders have had a good helping of bad luck, but some good luck is on the way with 6-8 junior transfer Urban Bingham (17 points, 10 rebounds in first game in the Brown and Yellow) becoming eligible this week.
Honorable Mention:
Waterford Kettering (6-2)
Walled Lake Central (6-2)
Clawson (8-0)
Roeper (9-0)
Brother Rice (5-4)
Pontiac (3-6)
Madison (6-1)