WARREN, Mich. -- The fans behind Romeo Weems were chirping. Weems could hear them chant “overrated” over and over after his 3-point shot attempt early in the first quarter during Tuesday night’s boys basketball game failed to hit any part of the rim and net.
It was an air ball.
Instead of using the more obvious “air ball” chant, the Warren Mott student section decided to take a different jab at Weems, hoping to take him down a peg or two. After all, Weems is considered the top recruit in the state of Michigan’s 2019 class and he is heading to DePaul next year to continue his basketball career. A four-star recruit ranked 51st in the nation by the 247Sports composite rankings, a lot is expected of Weems when he walks into a gym.
But as the fans blustered behind him, the 6-foot-7 New Haven forward paid no attention to the mocking. Instead, he continued to play, eventually steamrolling Mott with a monstrous performance. After the air ball, he went on to score 34 more points, finishing the game with 36 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks and 6 steals.
Weems reminded the Mott student section -- and everyone else, for that matter -- that he is not overrated. In fact, he showed why he is considered a favorite to be named the next Hal Schram Mr. Basketball, an annual award given to the state’s top senior as voted on by members of the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan.
“He loves playing in front of crowds like that,” New Have coach Tedaro France II said, letting out a chuckle before speaking. “He loves the chants. That kind of gets him going. He’s just a kid that can make great plays and can turn a close game into a game that’s so quickly."
When Weems chucked up the air ball, Mott was up 7-2. After that, New Haven went on a 20-0 run that was aided by 9 points from Weems. He had 27 points by halftime as New Haven went on to beat Mott, 84-50.
Lesson learned, Mott fans.
Still, Tuesday night’s effort is just one dominant instance of many throughout Weems' high school career. He was a huge reason why New Haven won the program’s first Class B title during his sophomore season two years ago, averaging 18.1 points, 11.4 rebounds, 3.9 steals, 3.6 assists and 2.8 blocks during that campaign. Last year, Weems averaged 23.5, points 10.8 rebounds, 5.3 assist, 4.8 steals and 2 blocks per game as a junior to help New Have make it to the state semifinals.
So far this season, Weems has had an excellent senior campaign worthy of Mr. Basketball consideration. In a win over St. Clair Shores Lake Shore, Weems had 34 points, 19 rebounds, 10 blocks, four assists and four steals. He also had another triple-double in a win over Grosse Pointe North, tallying 30 points, 11 rebounds, 10 steals, five assists and four blocks. His résumé is staggering.
With a chance at eclipsing the 2,000-career-point mark this winter, Weems has a real shot at being named Mr. Basketball. Perhaps, he has the best shot -- and Weems knows it.
“That’s a goal I want to get,” Weems said of the Mr. Basketball award. “I’m going to bust my butt every game. I play every game the same: I play my hardest and leave it all out there.”
Yet, Weems nearly opted to dash his dream of being Michigan’s Mr. Basketball. Over the summer, Weems came close to leaving the state of Michigan altogether and finish his career elsewhere. With top basketball talent from within Michigan opting to leave to finish their careers elsewhere more and more, Weems nearly became another significant statistic of that group.
“I was probably going to go out of state, (to a) prep school,” Weems said. “Oak Hill, La Lu -- probably a big prep school somewhere. SPIRE wanted me too.”
Oak Hill Academy is a prep school in Virginia that draws in all kinds of talent. Lansing native Trevor Manuel, a top talent in the class of 2015, opted to play basketball there after spending his first two years of high school at Lansing Sexton. La Lumiere -- or “La Lu” as Weems put it -- is an Indiana’s version of Oak Hill and has drawn in the likes of five-star Saginaw native Brian Bowen (class of 2017).
SPIRE Academy is the new kid on the block when it comes to basketball academy schools but the Geneva, Ohio program has sucked in five Detroit area recruits already, including former Old Redford players Mark “Rocket” Watts. Heading into the this season, Watts was expected to be the main player to challenge Weems for Mr. Basketball but he decided to leave for SPIRE in October.
Former University of Detroit Mercy and Mt. Clemens High School basketball coach Jermaine Jackson is the head coach at SPIRE and Weems said Jackson pulled hard to get him to make the move south.
“I talked to Jermaine and I just told him I couldn’t do it,” Weems said. "I was thinking about it though. I talked to my family. We talked about it and I just decided to stay with coach France.
If it was not for Weems' relationship with France, Michigan would have likely lost another top basketball talent.
“I was going to leave but I just got so much love for coach France,” Weems said. “He’s a great coach. All of my coaches ... we just probably together more than me and my pops sometimes, you know, we’re in the gym.”
The decision to stay was a huge one for a New Haven community that thrives off of its basketball program. Yet, Weems' decision to stay did not surprise France, despite top schools looking to lure him away.
“He’s just a loyal kid,” France said. “His heart is here since Day One. Just a great kid. People don’t know about him as a kid. They just know about him being a great ball player. Just a humble kid. He works hard like he’s not a ranked kid. He’s a five-star kid but he works like he’s not even ranked. He great in the classroom and he’s great in the town with the kids.”
So far, Weems believes he made the right decision.
“No regrets, nah,” Weems said. “I just keep playing hard, getting better every day.”
Weems has helped get New Haven pegged as a favorite to win the Division 2 state title in March as the Rockets are off to an 8-1 start to the season. With Weems at the wheel, France believes anything is possible.
“To see him come out here and not even score points but just lead, play defense," France said. “He does all of the things that you ask of him to do. He’s just a great leader, a great player and just a great kid to coach.”
Weems has carried high expectations throughout his high school career and the Mr. Basketball conversion swirling around him only adds to the notion. Weems is not out to live up to any expectations -- or even disprove the criticisms of opposing fans.
Weems says he has nothing to prove to anyone except himself.
“Just prove to myself that this is hard work paying off,” Weems said. “Five o’clock workouts, 6 a.m. workouts on Saturdays -- I’m in the gym at nighttime, all day. It’s just proving to myself and prove it often. I’m going to get what I deserve.”