By John K. Schroder, Special to the Macomb Daily
POSTED: 12/05/08, 12:01 AM EST | UPDATED: ON 12/05/2008
Another in a series of previews of Macomb County boys basketball teams. Here, the Macomb Area Conference
Coach: Tedaro France
2007-08 record: 2-10 MAC Gold, 5-17 overall
Outlook: First-year coach France, a former New Haven player, makes his high school debut at the helm and takes over for Russ Collins, who led the Rockets to two consecutive district championships before falling to a 5-17 overall record last year. With three starters among six returning players, the runnin' Rockets hope to jettison the Gold doormat label with some renewed hope and better execution this year.
A pair of seniors top the returning cast as Shawn Robinson, a strong defensive guard, and Bryan Lawton, a forward who the coach looks to score more often, are expected to provide leadership in a potential turnaround campaign. Sophomore guard Tyler Smith is the third returning starter and he is expected to improve upon his eight points a game average from last year.
A trio of guards rounds out the returning contingent with senior Adam Berger and juniors Ricky Crayton and 6-foot-1 Desmond Clark adding to the excitement. Sophomore Robert Farr has been elevated from the JV and France hopes his 6-4 size will provide some help on the post.
"I'm very excited and it's an excellent group of kids. We need to erase last year's experience and learn how to win," France said. "Obviously we're a small team with no true post player so we're going to run a three-guard offense and run the floor. We'll run and we'll press. We'll have to run and play some great defense and crash the boards in order to be successful."
Last year the Rockets were eliminated from the state tournament in a Class C district second-round game by Detroit Communication & Media Arts, 76-37.
Coach: Jeff McGavin
2007-08 record: 9-3 MAC Gold, 15-6 overall
Outlook: The Abes return six players from last year's Gold runners-up squad that boasted the best defense in Macomb County, surrendering just 44 points per game and second-year coach McGavin hopes to overcome the loss of four seniors, including two who were all-county selections, to challenge again for the conference crown.
With defending champion Madison promoted to the Blue Division, Lincoln remains as one of five county teams looking to be in the title chase to wear the crown this winter.
Senior Anthony Williams (12 points, 5 rebounds) tops the returning cast that includes Aaron Gartin, Matt Pippin, Anthony Grabill, Charles Spann and Deandre Tucker.
"We should do well. We did lose four seniors including two all-county players, but we have some experience coming back so we will be looking to replace points and rebounds. I believe we do have the talent to do that, but of course, we'll find out on the court," McGavin said.
"We'll need to make more good decisions than bad. The talent is there. Hopefully our decisions will improve as the year goes on," added McGavin. "Another concern is rebounding. We didn't do a good job last year boxing out. That needs to be remedied as soon as possible for this team to be successful."
Last year the Abes were eliminated from the state tournament in a Class B district opener by Fitzgerald, 68-67.
Coach: Kurt Wilson
2007-08 record: 7-5 MAC Gold, 14-9 overall
Outlook: Coach Wilson starts his third year with hopes of improving and joining the chase for the Gold crown. With back-to-back double digit overall winning seasons, the battling Bathers look to improve their third place finish in the conference and reach the next level after back-to-back appearances in a Class B district championship game.
"That's been our Achilles' heel. We've gone to the district championship, but we've lost two in a row. We want to change that," Wilson said.
To expedite the change and jumpstart the new campaign, the Bathers will rely on two juniors, who each only played about half of the season last year. Kyle Capps, a 6-foot-4 power forward, hopes to rebound after suffering an ACL injury in mid-January. Shortly after Capps was sidelined, 6-5 center Leonard Perry, a transfer from East Detroit, became eligible. Wilson looks to this pair to be the nucleus of the team's success.
"Getting those guys back and playing together will be real nice. We'll need some production from Perry. He plays real nice inside and he can jump outside and hit the three," Wilson said. "If Kyle can rebound from his injury, he'll be a big help, too."
Three seniors with some good experience--guard Zachary Arnold, guard/forward Joshua Robinson, and guard Cedrick Powell--add returning depth.
Three sophomore guards are expected to see playing time and Wilson is ready to deal with the growing pains. Davion Jones and Thomas Hannah, who has a nice shooting touch, joins Darius Wilson, who will step in as the starting point guard, as the underclassmen expected to contribute.
"I have a lot of confidence in these sophomores and we'll have room for mistakes from these kids, but we'll need them to mature quickly to help us out. As a team, we'll have to do a better job of being mentally prepared every night," coach Wilson said.
"I'm looking for us to be much better and more successful," added Wilson. "If we can take care of the basketball and we're getting our shots, we should be okay."
Last year the Bathers were eliminated from the state tournament in a Class B district championship by Marysville, 85-56.
Coach: Mike Griffin
2007-08 record: 1-11 MAC Blue, 4-17 overall
Outlook: Following their first losing season in four previous years under coach Mike Griffin, the Stallions dropped to the Gold Division after eight years in the MAC Blue, where they hope to regroup despite being a young team with limited starting exposure.
Mason Marocki, a good rebounding junior, earned his way into the starting lineup very late last season and he is the only returning starter back for the Heights. Other letter winners returning are junior forward Pat Finegan, senior guard Lafi Kalil, and 6-foot-4 junior center Adam Ring, whom Griffin said "could be our best player." All four players will be captains this year.
"We should be a hard working team that hustles and plays well defensively," said Griffin. "But, we are very young and do not have much size this year. Our focus is to develop some depth and get our four sophomores to learn the system. They will all be playing significant minutes."
Those four sophomores are Gavin O'Gara, Albert Nuculli, Peris Washington and Julius Wade. The 5-11 O'Gara has a sister Tara Lynn on the Stallions girls squad, and coach Griffin said his point guard "is going to be thrown to the wolves and he is going to have to learn quick."
Nuculli is a 6-1 power forward and a good, versatile player; Washington is a 5-9 quick guard with very good defensive skills; and Wade is a 6-2 transfer student-athlete from Texas, but he'll have to wait until January before he is eligible and able to hit stride as a forward.
"We are going to have to play quicker than we have in the past," said Griffin. "It's our first year in the Gold and we know it's tough to win on the road. We're going to learn as we go and hopefully we can be a factor by the end of the year."
Last year the Stallions were eliminated from the state tournament in a Class A district opener by Utica, 70-56.
Coach: Derek LeFevre
2007-08 record: 4-8 MAC Gold, 6-15 overall
Outlook: With good size and four starters coming back Coach LeFevre begins his fourth year at the reins and looks ahead to another year of moving forward and improvement as the Marauders posted six wins overall last year and a fifth place finish in the Gold with four wins.
"I expect to compete for the league title along with Warren Lincoln and Mount Clemens," LeFevre stated.
Junior twin towers and captains C.J. Olaniyan (6-foot-6) and Joey Asbury (6-8) begin their third season on the varsity and provide a strong foundation for higher expectations at Warren-Mott. Olaniyan contributed 14 points and 12 rebounds per game last year and Asbury added 9 points and 6 rebounds.
This dynamic duo's collective credentials are impressive. According to LeFevre, Olaniyan is ranked as the third best post player in the state in the class of 2010 by MLive.com and he is being recruited heavily by dozens of Division 1 colleges. Asbury is ranked as the 18th best post player in the class of 2010 by MLive.
In addition to possibly the best two post players in the county, Warren-Mott also returns 6-4 senior Darryl Reynolds, who averaged six points and four rebounds last year, and Kevin Howze, who sank five points a night. Expected to see lots of action is freshman point guard Victor Sharpe, who, according to LeFevre, is ranked as the 21st best freshman in the state regardless of position.
Several guards from the JV team that went 15-5 last season will see a great deal of playing time. Torico Searcy (5-7), Jerome Cobb (5-10), and Brad Stewart (6-0) will be joined by 6-5 sophomore Tim Jones who is expected to provide backup support at the forward and center positions.
Last year the Marauders were eliminated from the state tournament in a Class A district opener by Warren Woods-Tower, 53-41.