A call to New Haven basketball coach Tedaro France felt necessary Tuesday morning to ask him if four-star small forward Romeo Weems still was at the school.
After all, Weems’ main competition for this year’s Mr. Basketball award bolted for prep schools — Southfield Christian four-star senior guard Harlond Beverly to Montverde Academy in Florida, and Detroit Old Redford four-star senior guard Rocket Watts to Spire Academy in Ohio.
When asked to comment about Weems’ situation, France replied: “Romeo is still here in New Haven and will graduate a Rocket.”
Weems, who helped New Haven to its first state championship in 2017, decided in late May he was going to play his college ball at DePaul, surprisingly picking the Blue Demons over Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State and several other national powers.
When Watts and Beverly were contacted by The News this summer to ask how their college recruiting process was going, both said they were taking their time and never mentioned the possibility of transferring.
But, another recruiting process was going on with Watts and Beverly — and Beverly and his parents decided later in the summer that Montverde Academy was the right place for him to finish his prep career. Former Detroit Mercy assistant coach Jermaine Jackson persuaded Watts to play for him in Ohio, and also tookWatts’ Old Redford teammates in 6-foot-9 juniors Isaiah Jackson and Andre Polk.
Isaiah Jackson, a five-star power forward, was the No. 1-ranked player in Michigan by 247Sports, also ranked as the secon- best player in the country at his position. He has offers from multiple Big Ten schools, including Michigan State.
Another transfer: Detroit Country Day junior guard Wendell Green moved to La Lumiere Academy (LaPorte, Ind.) earlier this summer.
In total, four of the state’s top 10 players have left the state in Watts, Beverly, Jackson and Green.
“It was a pleasure to coach and mentor Harlond for the last few years,” Southfield Christian coach Josh Baker said of Beverly, who led Christian to the Class D state championship this past March. “He was a great player for us. He made our program better and he is a great kid and great student.
“I would have loved for him to stay but he has a great opportunity at Montverde and we hope he takes all that he learned at SCS and has a great year in Florida.”
Baker admits it’s difficult to see players and other kids transfer.
“It’s tough because you invest and put in a ton of time, but you also know that no matter who it is you only have them a few years and you’re trying to prepare them as best as possible for whatever they decide to do next,” Baker said. “I do feel parents should be able to decide what’s best for their kids, I genuinely believe that and that applies across music, art and athletics, but basketball now …
"It’s crazy now, crazier than I’ve ever seen.”
Montverde won its fourth national championship in the last six years last March, finishing 35-0. La Lumiere Academy won the national title in 2017 with former Saginaw Arthur Hill star Brian Bowen leading the way.
Other top players from the state have transferred to prep schools earlier this decade, including Josh Jackson (Detroit Consortium), Devin Daniels (Kalamazoo Central) and Bowen (Saginaw Arthur Hill), but not several top players in the same year like this.
Obviously, things went well for Jackson, who played at Prolific Prep Academy in Napa, Calif., then a year at Kansas before being picked No. 4 overall in the 2017 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns.
Daniels moved four times in as many years, from Kalamazoo Central to jProlific Prep Academy his senior year, then to Utah for his freshman year, starting 26 games and averaging 9.9 points and 4.6 rebounds before transferring and sitting out last year at North Carolina State.
Things haven’t gone well for Bowen since high school. He already owned an offer from Michigan State before moving on to La Lumiere, but decided late his senior year that he was going to Louisville. He never played there after being identified in the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball, with his family being accused of being paid $100,000 by adidas to commit to Louisville, ultimately leading to Rick Pitino’s firing.
Bowen now is playing professionally in Australia which wasn't in his plans a couple of years ago.
Weems is happy at New Haven and should start preparing his speech for winning the Mr. Basketball Award — with his biggest challengers no longer in the conversation.