January 19, 2016
Romeo Weems is only 14-years-old, & already one of the best players in the state.
The three Lakeview students sitting to my right wondered who this player was that was dominating this game at all phases. I then leaned over and answered their question.
“That’s Romeo Weems,” I said. “The top freshman in the state.”
They responded with peculiar faces, in disbelief that the kid they were watching was only in the 9th grade. Weems finished that game with 19 points, 12 rebounds, six steals, and five assists in a blowout win. Just three days prior, Weems recorded a triple-double, with 24 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, and six assists, his third of the year. He has been filling the stat sheets up all season, and has been living up the hype so far, averaging 17 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, and four steals this season.
“Romeo’s a great, great kid,” said his head coach at New Haven, Tadero France. “I mean, he is talented, but, the thing I like about him is that he wants to be coached. He’s the first one in the lab, and last one to leave, and makes the people around him better.
“He does so many things on the floor, and can play the 1, 2, 3, 4, or the 5, when we go small. He wants to be coached hard, and he’s like a sponge when it comes to messing up, and learning from your mistakes. The sky is the limit for him.”
The highly-touted, Weems, plays his AAU ball for The Detroit Family, where he will be playing with the 16-Under team in the spring and summer, after he completes his first year of high school. Weems was originally going to play at Detroit Country Day, but due to the distance of his home in Macomb County, all the way to Country Day, the almost one hour trip was not feasible on a daily basis. So Weems chose to play at New Haven, where he and his teammates are off to a terrific start, at 7-1.
The Rockets made a deep run in the Class B state playoffs last season, and with the addition of Weems, along with 6-11 Innocent Nwoko (Central Michigan), 6-9 Jerry Ben (Cornell), and Eric Williams, just to name a few, they will be hard to knock off this season.
“I thought it would be a good organization to play at,” Weems said of New Haven. “I like the fellows here, the coaches are good, and I just like it here. I think I fit in good here, and Coach France pushes us to work hard. He’s a tough coach, but he lets us have fun, and we play hard for him.”
“We’re a pretty good team, and I don’t think too many teams can beat us. We have size, skill, shooters, and my guys work hard. We have a little bit of everything.”
Weems, who hails from Detroit, but moved to the New Haven area a few years ago, and actually played football first for a couple of years, as a quarterback and defensive end with the Clinton Township Cowboys. But Weems continued to grow, and got better and better at basketball. Many regard him as the best freshman in the state, and the best since Josh Jackson, now the No.1 high school player in the nation, graced Michigan’s presence at Detroit Consortium in 2012. Weems’ game is reminiscent of Jackson’s, too, when he was a freshman. They’re both around the same size, can play multiple positions on the floor, have a skill set that is out of this world, and are still able to remain humble to the game at a young age.
“I was like ‘wow’ when I first found out he (Weems) was coming here,” France laughed. “It’s a blessing to be able to coach a kid like him, and a blessing to be able to coach kids period. Romeo plays like a senior, and to me, his best attribute is his IQ. People ask me if he is really a freshman, and I say, yes. But, his IQ is so high, that I’m able to do a lot of things with him because of his knowledge of the game.
“He’s a very, very humble kid. He knows how highly regarded he is, and he hears it, but yet, he works like he’s not even him. People always tell him how great he is, but he always come to me asking how he can get better. He treats it like he’s not that great, and it’s good to see that from young kids nowadays, because kids heads get so big, and he’s a humble and hard working kid, and I’m blessed to be apart of his life now.”
In today’s age of social media, and recruiting sites popping up on a daily, filling kids heads up with false entitlement, it is easy for a young 14-year-old basketball phenom like Weems to get sidetracked, and stop working as hard. You see it on a daily, kids paying too much attention to rankings, and forgetting that success begins and ends with your work ethic. Weems said he starting hearing from colleges as early as last season as an 8th-grader. New Haven has become even more of a must-see program this year, because of the “top freshman” that they have. Weems is already a national recruit, but still none of that matters to him.
“I just play basketball,” Weems said. “That means nothing to me. I want to be the No.1 freshman in the country, and I’m not there yet. I just have to keep working hard. I think I’m close to that, but I have to work on my ball-handling, my shot, and pretty much everything.”
Branden Hunter is a sports journalist for SooDetroit Magazine. "I'm not as fast,i'm not as tall,but before I pass,I gotta ball."