Although winter does not official hit us until Dec. 21, the arrival of the high school basketball season means that winter is here for hoops fans far and wide. Once again, there is no shortage of great individuals and teams throughout the state this winter.
Check out the following slides to see which teams are the favorites to take home state title this season in all four state classes.
Class D 2016-17 champion: Powers North CentralLast year, Powers North Central won its third-straight Class D title after a 78-69 win over Buckley. Powers nearly had its party spoiled by Southfield Christian in the semifinals but the Jets pulled off a last-second 84-83 win in double overtime. The Jets completed its third-straight unbeaten season.
Powers was led by the Associated Press' Co-Class C player of the year in Jason Whitens. This year, however, Powers has to cope with the loss of Whitens and five other seniors. Powers saw its nation-leading 84-game win streak come to an end already this season, losing 65-43 to Rapid River.
Top dog in Class D for 2017-18
Although Powers North Central needs to make up for graduation losses, Southfield Christian does not have the same problem, returning a lineup of playmakers.
Bryce Washington returns for his senior season after his junior averages of 20 points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals helped him get named Co-Player of the Year for Class D by the Associated Press. Also, junior guard Harlond Beverly (12.5 points) returns after an excellent season last year and can be considered the top junior in the state in Class D while fellow junior teammate Caleb Hunter -- the third son of former Pistons star Lindsay Hunter to play for Christian -- is right up there with him. Also, sophomore DaJion Humphrey is shaping up to be the next future star for the Eagles as well. It looks like the Eagles' dynasty is still alive and well.
Players on Buckley's bench react after a made basket cutting the Powers North Central lead to five during the Class D final at the Breslin Center at Michigan State University in East Lansing on Saturday, March 25, 2017. Powers North Central defeated Buckley 78-69 to capture the Class D state title. (Joel Bissell | MLive.com)
Other contenders in Class DBuckley did not lose its first game of the season last winter until the state finals when it fell to three-time champion Powers North Central. It did all of that without starting a single senior. With all of its starters back, Buckley will look to complete the job this winter. Leading scorer Denver Cade (21 points per game) is back as a senior, along with Austin Harris (18.5 points) and Joey Weber (10.8 points).
Despite graduating last season's top scorer in guard Gunnar Libby, Hillman returns its next top five scorers. Brandon Banks (13.1 points) and Billy Kolcan (7.1 points) each return for their senior seasons while Kory Henigan (9.7 points, 7.4 rebounds) is back for his junior year. This year, with Powers North Central rebuilding from significant graduation losses, Hillman will look to make a run for its first state title.
Class C 2016-17 champion: Flint BeecherPowers North Central was not the only team to three-peat last year as Beecher accomplished the same feat. In fact, it was Beecher's fifth state championship in the last six years as the Bucs have one of most impressive dynasties of all time. Riding the effort of Class C player of the Year Malik Ellison last winter, Beecher finished 23-5, beating Grand Rapids Covenant Christian, 73-58.
With Ellison now graduated and at Eastern Michigan, Beecher will look to try and build on its dynasty with 6-0 sophomore guard Jalen Terry. Also, sophomore Earnest Sanders is an explosive player who should be a key difference maker as well.
Top dog in Class C for 2017-18DEPSA made it all the way to the Class C semifinals. Despite going 14-12 last season, the tough PSL scheduled payed off in the Class C run. Although key scorer Jamal Keesee and starter Amari Hudson graduated from last year's team, the cupboards are far from bare for the Pioneers. Point guard Pierre "PJ" Mitchell (Central Michigan) will return for his senior season, joining 6-foot-5 All-State guard Gary Solomon. A key paint presence returns as well as 6-foot-8 Deante “Spider” Johnson (Cleveland State) is back for his senior season.
Other contenders in Class C
Aside from Beecher, there are some solid teams out there looking to go deep into the Class C tournament, including last year's runner-up, Grand Rapids Covenant Christian.
Last year, it all the way to the state championship game with just one senior starter. Leading scorer Carson Meulenberg (13.4 points, 7 rebounds) is back in hopes of getting Covenant back to the Breslin at the very least. Tyler Cammenga and Trenton Koole each averaged 9.1 points for the Chargers last year and they return to improve on those numbers.
Also, Pewamo-Westphalia should be strong again this year. Losing to Covenant Christian in overtime in the region semifinals last winter, the Pirates probably believe they had just as much of a right to be in the Class C finals as well. A lot will returns this year, including starters Bryce Thelen and Jimmy Lehman, who are back for their senior seasons. Andre Smith returns after a solid sophomore season as well. The Pirates were in the state title game in 2014 and has been a solid bet to win at least 20 wins each season since.
Finally, watch out for Detroit Pershing. The Doughboys are a proud program and look to contend in the PSL and, hopefully, beyond this winter. Pershing returns four starters and nine players, including senior guard Ron Hill (17 points) and senior forward Jaylen Benning (11 points, 7 reb).
Class B 2016-17 champion: New Haven
New Haven won its first state championship in program history last winter, beating Ludington, 45-36, in the title game. Eric Williams and Romeo Weems were a solid one-two punch for the Rockets during the run, especially in the playoffs. Although Williams has graduated, Weems returns as one of the nation's top juniors and looks to repeat after a 27-1 season a year ago.
New Haven celebrates a 45-36 victory over Ludington to claim the Class B state final at the Breslin Center at Michigan State University in East Lansing on Saturday, March 25, 2017. (Joel Bissell | MLive.com)
Top dogs for 2017-18 in Class BOf course, New Haven is the top favorite again this winter. Led by Weems (6-6), New Haven has a lot of talent to work with. Last year, Weems averaged 18.1 points, 11.4 rebounds, 3.9 steals, 3.6 assists and 2.8 blocked shots. Also, 6-7 shooting forward Ashton Sherrell (12.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2 blocks) will score plenty while Ronald Jeffery could have a breakout junior year.
Wyoming Godwin Heights plans to be right on New Haven. Going 22-2 a year ago, they return a pair of Division I seniors in 6-foot-4 combo guard Lamar Norman and 6-7 forward Markeese Hastings (Butler). There is enough back to keep Godwin Heights as a top contender in Class B.
Other contenders in Class BWilliamston has been knocking on the door of the state championship game for the last two seasons and it is hoping that it can finally break through this season. Senior guard Cole Kleiver (16 points, 4 assists) and junior forward Sean Cobb (13 points, 8 rebounds) are back to make that happen. Senior guard Frankie Toomey and sophomore guard Mitchell Cook.
Benton Harbor has been waiting fifty-two years for those counting to break its championship drought. Benton Harbor got close last year, making it all the way to Class B semifinals before losing to eventual champion New Haven. Sophomore forward Carlos "Scooby" Johnson averaged 16 points, 14 rebounds and 4 assists last year. Elijah Baxter will be the floor general as a senior point guard. Benton Harbor already has two dominant wins over Dowagiac and Goodrich.
Catholic Central is led by 6-foot-10 Marcus Bingham, who has signed with Michigan State, and 6-8 Jacob Polakovich. Bingham, a potential Mr. Basketball finalist, averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds a game last year, while Polakovich averaged 15 points and 9 rebounds. Catholic Central went 19-6 and lost in the regional finals to Spring Lake. The Cougars opened with a 90-84 win over Detroit Country Day to start the season.
Despite River Rouge losing its top scorers due to graduation from a year ago, senior guard Jayvien Torrance-Jackson will run a roster with younger talent, including a trio of juniors made up of guard Micah Parrish and forwards Donavan Freeman and Dan Few. After making the semifinals a year ago, River Rouge will look to make a push for its first state title since 1999.
Although Hillsdale lost part of its one-two punch from last season in Ethan Bernard, it returns Bryce Drews who was selected to the Class B AP all-state team and could contend for Mr. Basketball this winter. Hillsdale went undefeated in 2016-17 before being upset in the district semifinals.
Frankenmuth was 21-3 last season and lost, winning a district title and sharing the Tri-Valley Conference East Division title with Bridgeport. The Eagles return four-year starter and one of the top players in Class B this season in 6-foot-4 guard Mario Whitley, who averaged 25 points and 14 rebounds last season. Frankenmuth picked up a 74-67 win to start the season.
Class A 2016-17 champion: ClarkstonLike New Haven in Class B, Clarkston claimed its first state championship last winter by beating Grand Rapids Christian, 75-69, in the Class A championship. Clarkston lost only one game last year as it dominated its way through the state tournament. Clarkston guard Foster Loyer teamed up with Dylan Alderson to make up the best back court in the state while Taylor Currie moved in from Ohio to become a standout 6-9 center for the Wolves. Also, Clarkston had plenty of depth that played solid roles, allowing its stars to shine constantly.
Clarkston celebrates a 75-69 victory over Grand Rapids Christian in the Class A state final at the Breslin Center at Michigan State University in East Lansing on Saturday, March 25, 2017. (Joel Bissell | MLive.com)
Top dogs for 2017-18 in Class AWhen Michigan State signee Thomas Kithier transferred to Clarkston from Macomb Dakota, it looked like the Wolves were going to be the overwhelming favorite to win it all again. However, since the MHSAA ruled Kithier ineligible, it does change things a little for Clarkston. Instead of being the overwhelming favorite, they are just a heavy favorite. Not much of a difference, right?
Senior guard Foster Loyer (Michigan State) returns as a top Hal Schram Mr. Basketball candidate and is the best guard in the state. Loyer was the MLive Detroit Player of the Year last winter when he averaged 25.1 points, 6.4 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 2.7 steals. Then, there is Taylor Currie, the 6-9 power forward who reclassified to the class of 2018, making him a potential Mr. Basketball candidate. He is committed to Wisconsin. Replacing Alderson (Toledo) will be hard as he could also score from deep and drive the lane very well. However, CJ Robinson is showing flashes of greatness, although he lacks the size Alderson had.
Cass Tech returns six players that had starting experience on last year's PSL championship team. Three-year starters Randy Gilbert (6-6), Jalen Tobias (6-6) and Matt Richmond (6-2) are all back and each averaged between 10 and 11 points last year. Also, Chris Murray (6-2) returns for his senior year after adding 11 PPG last year as well. Beyond that, there is a senior-heavy roster with senior guard Noah Schon, senior forward Justin McAbee, senior guard Malik Jones, and senior forward Ben Zeka.
East Lansing has lost two games in the last two seasons, both coming in the region championships. This year, the Trojans are hoping for a taste of bit more – much more actually. With 6-8 senior forward Brandon Johns leading the way, East Lansing plans to be a formidable team once again. A Mr. Basketball candidate, Johns averaged 20 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks last season. Joining him is an up-and-coming freshman named Marcus Wourman, who will be playing point guard.
East Lansing has lost two games in the last two seasons, both coming in the region championships. With 6-8 senior forward Brandon Johns leading the way, East Lansing plans to be a formidable team once again. A Mr. Basketball candidate, Johns averaged 20 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks last season. Joining him is an up-and-coming freshman named Marcus Wourman, who will be playing point guard. Watch out for senior guard Noah Schon, senior forward Justin McAbee, senior guard Malik Jones, senior forward Ben Zeka and junior guard Jack Morse. The Trojans already have two convincing wins over DeWitt and Jackson.
Other contenders for Class A
Skyline is looking to rise up on the state level and it has the talent to be tough this year. Brandon Wade, a Duquesne commit, averaged 21.4 points, 6.6 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game last season and will be entering his fourth year on varsity. His brother, Ryan Wade, has four DI offers while senior guard Jack Ammerman is one of the top three-point shooters in the state.
Moving up from Class B, Hazel Park brings back a lot of depth and has the talent to make some noise in Class A this winter. Carl Bow (20 points, 3 assists, 5 rebounds) and David Hearns (16 points, 5 assists, 4 steals) return as four-year starters on a senior-laden team.
Led by the return of future Michigan State Spartan Gabe Brown (6-8), Belleville's entire starting lineup is back. Brown (15.9 points) and guards Delvin Alverson and Davion Williams (Michigan State football commit) each averaged in double figures for scoring last winter. Belleville also added sharpshooter Kaevon Merriweather, who transferred in from arch rival Romulus.
Last year, Wayne saw its season end with an 18-4 record, falling against eventual semifinalist Romulus in the district finals. Senior point guard Rashad Williams (Cleveland State) returns and he's developed into one of the area's top scorers, especially from 3-point range. Senior Terrance Williams is another guard who averaged double figures scoring as well, giving Wayne plenty of depth at the position.
After winning the last five Catholic High School League A-B tournament championships, Detroit U-D Jesuit finally has a rebuilding year ahead. After graduating two Division I forward/centers in Ikechukwu Eke and Greg Eboigbodin, its top guard, Julian Dozier, moved to Arizona over the summer. Jesuit is loaded with speed and athleticism at guard with Zachary Winston, Elijah Collins (Michigan State football) and rising junior Daniel Friday looking to keep the Cubs among the state's elite.
Sleepers in Class C-DWatch out for Grand Rapids Calvin Christian in Class C, which returns 6-foot-10 senior Blake Verbeek (17.4 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 blocks). Coach Ryan Stevens entered the season just 12 wins away from 300 for his career.
In Class D, Frankfort returns all five starters from a 16-7 team last year that lost a heartbreaker in the district finals. A team that is at or near 20 wins often, Frankfort will have what it needs to make a deep run.
Sleepers in Class A-B
East English returns only two starters but one of them is a potential Mr. Basketball front-runner David DeJulius (Michigan). A clear favorite for Mr. PSL this winter, DeJulius returns after averaging 26 points last winter.
Detroit King will be looking to improve on its great season from a year ago. King picked up Marcus Gibbs, a player who blew up off of the bench for Cass Tech last winter. He will be a difference maker from the start, joining fellow talented senior Antonio Marshall and junior John Massey on a solid scoring roster.
The Cavaliers will look to be the top team out of the flint area this season. Junior forward/center Mike Fletcher (11.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.2 blocks) will be joined by senior wing Omari Duncan (15.1 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists) while Ja’Kavien Lewis (11.7 points, 3.6 assists, 3.3. rebounds, 3.1 steals) will be a reliable presence at guard.
Troy is going to be senior-led team, including a trio of guys returning that averaged double-figures scoring in Jason Dietz (16.7), Leon Ayers (12.8) and Danny Sully (11.5, 10.5 rebounds). Keep an eye on freshman guard Brody Parker as well.
At Canton, the guard trio of junior B. Artis White, senior Eian Barker and junior Vinson Sigmon gives the Chiefs good ball handlers and scoring while 6-6 forward Chase Meredith will be a physical force near the boards.
Warren De La Salle will be led by forward Luke Pfromm, who just led the Pilots football team to a state title as a quarterback. Justin Fischer (6-5) returns as one of the longest guards in the league with great shooting range and should be crucial at both ends of the court.
Detroit Old Redford offers one of the best junior guards in the state in Mark "Rocket" Watts. Watts averaged 25 points per game last year and 5 assists. 6-8 sophomore Isaiah Jackson will join the team when the next semester starts in January for a nice boost.
Dearborn Divine Child has a strong cast led by 6-7 forward Quinn Blair while Cameron Urbanick can fill up the hoop as well.
Bridgeport was 19-3 and returns a strong core of players, including senior guard Charles Garrett, who went over the 1,000-point mark in the first game this season. Bridgeport shared the TVC East title with Frankenmuth, but lost to the Eagles in the district final.
Spring Lake might be a sleeper team to watch if they can replace last year’s backcourt. Coach Bill Core’s team has size in Sam Johnson (6-9) and experience Griffin Lorimer and Jack VanWingen. Those seniors are back for their third season on the varsity. The Lakers have reached the Class B quarterfinals in two of the past three years and are hoping to get over the hump.