Three years ago, New Haven basketball coach Tedaro France thought it was possible for his young phenom to be a Mr. Basketball candidate.
“I knew when he was a freshman that if he stayed here all four years he’d have a chance for this,” France said. “I knew then he had the talent and the potential and the drive and the work ethic to be special.”
A year later, France realized that sophomore Romeo Weems was a dead solid lock to be the 2019 Mr. Basketball.
“I knew his sophomore year when we won the state title and he had a huge, huge game in the state championship game,” France said. “The next morning he called me to let him in the gym. I knew right then that this kid is not content with just being good, he wanted to be great. I knew that with his drive and how hard he works that he was going to do it.”
Weems did it all right.
Weems, who signed with DePaul, is the state’s 39th winner of the Hal Schram Mr. Basketball award, given annually to the state’s top senior by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan.
The award is named for the late Hal Schram, who covered high school athletics for the Free Press for more than 40 years.
But Weems didn’t just win the award, he turned this year’s race into an avalanche. He accumulated 3,689 points, easily outdistancing Canton’s B. Artis White, who finished second with 1,798 points. Chandler Turner of Detroit Renaissance was third (1,520 points) and Westland Glenn’s Joe Moon V was fourth (1,372).
Weems garnered 653 first-place votes, which were 375 more first-place votes than the other three finalists combined.
It was the widest margin of victory in the history of the award, surpassing 1,457-point margin U-D Jesuit’s Cassius Winston won by in 2016.
The 6-foot-7 Weems was taken aback by many of the names of former winners on the trophy, including Shane Battier, Winston, Chris Webber, Monte Morris, Jason Richardson and Foster Loyer.
“It means a lot,” he said. “They’re some of the best players to ever come through here. It was a great accomplishment that I can become one of them some day.”
Last summer he helped the USA Basketball U17 team win the World Championship in Argentina and last week he was named to next month’s Jordan Brand Classic game in Las Vegas.
Weems plays on the wing for New Haven (24-1), which plays unbeaten Harper Woods Chandler Park Academy in Tuesday's Division 2 quarterfinal game at Ortonville-Brandon at 7 p.m.
He has been a dominating force at both ends of the court. This season he is averaging 27.8 points, 11.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 4.2 steals and 2.6 blocks per game. He has scored a school-record 2,124 career points.
Over the course of the last couple of years, Weems has had the opportunity to leave the state to attend a prep school like so many other have chosen to do in recent years.
But that seemed like a foolish path to Weems.
“It’s for more exposure,” he said. “I’ve got exposure, but it’s just that more people will know you around the country. I really had that. I was already committed to college and I didn’t really need anything. I just figured I’d stay, stay loyal to my coach.”
As a freshman, Weems became aware of the Mr. Basketball award and it became a main focus for him a year later after New Haven won the Class B state title.
“Ever since sophomore year, I felt I was able to get it,” he said. “We won the state championship and I felt I was playing well stats-wise and we were winning and I felt I was a big part of that and I could win it one year.”
In that championship game, a 45-36 victory over Ludington, Weems hit 5 of 6 shots, including his only 3-point attempt, and 8 of 11 free throws for 19 points. He also added 10 rebounds, four blocked shots and three steals.
The next morning, he had France on the phone, attempting to get into the school gym.
“He said he didn’t think he played that good,” France recalled, “so he wanted to work on a few things.”
Weems has no recollection of that call probably because it was one of hundreds he has made to France over his career.
After scoring 47 points in a game in the middle of this season, Weems was in the gym with France the following morning at 5 a.m.
Late last week, France told Weems he was Mr. Basketball. A soft-spoken youngster, Weems didn’t say much, but asked to sit down.
“He kind of broke down,” France said. “This was a goal of his that he wanted to get. To him it means so much to be named one of the best players here in this great state that has a rich basketball tradition. To be a part of that, he was so excited and not just for himself, but for his teammates and this school and this county.”
Between his junior and senior year, Weems, the first player from Macomb County to win the award, zeroed in on a couple of areas of his game he thought he needed to improve upon to become Mr. Basketball.
“My shot improved,” he said, “and my ball handling and decision-making has been better.
“I’m just blessed to get it.”
Al Snyder, chairperson for the Mr. Basketball award, has been impressed with Weems for three years now and nothing changed when he saw him help New Haven win the regional title last week.
“He wasn’t sharp so what he became was a great team player,” Snyder said. “He gives them the ball and all of a sudden he’ll get a slam dunk or hit a shot. He plays hard. He had 12 or 13 rebounds and half a dozen blocks shots and a half dozen assists.
“I left knowing, without a doubt, he’s the No. 1 player in the state. There is no doubt he is Mr. Basketball.”
Mick McCabe is a former longtime columnist for the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1.
The voting Here are the results of the 39th annual Hal Schram Mr. Basketball award, given by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan. Only BCAM members are permitted to vote (Points are awarded on a 5-3-1 basis):
- 1. Romeo Weems, New Haven: 3,689 points
- 2. B. Artis White, Canton: 1,798 points
- 3. Chandler Turner, Detroit Renaissance: 1,520 points
- 4. Joe Moon IV, Westland Glenn: 1,372 points
Welcome to the club
Here are the 38 former winners of the Hal Schram Mr. Basketball Award:
- 2018 Foster Loyer, Clarkston (Michigan State)
- 2017 Isaiah Livers, Kalamazoo Central (Michigan)
- 2016 Cassius Winston, U-D Jesuit (Michigan State)
- 2015 Deyonta Davis, Muskegon (Michigan State)
- 2014 Deshaun Thrower, Muskegon (Stony Brook)
- 2013 Monte Morris, Flint Beecher (Iowa State)
- 2012 Matt Costello, Bay City Western (Michigan State)
- 2011 Dwaun Anderson, Suttons Bay (Wagner)
- 2010 Keith Appling, Detroit Pershing (Michigan State)
- 2009 Derrick Nix, Detroit Pershing (Michigan State)
- 2008 Brad Redford, Frankenmuth (Xavier)
- 2007 Corperryale (Manny) Harris, Detroit Redford (Michigan)
- 2006 David Kool, Grand Rapids South Christian (Western Michigan)
- 2005 Wilson Chandler, Benton Harbor (De Paul)
- 2004 Drew Neitzel, Wyoming Park (Michigan State)
- 2003 Dion Harris, Detroit Redford (Michigan)
- 2002 Paul Davis, Rochester (Michigan State)
- 2001 Kelvin Torbert, Flint Northwestern (Michigan State)
- 2000 Marcus Taylor, Lansing Waverly (Michigan State)
- 1999 Jason Richardson, Saginaw Arthur Hill (Michigan State)
- 1998 Dane Fife, Clarkston (Indiana)
- 1997 Shane Battier, Birmingham Detroit Country Day (Duke)
- 1996 Winfred Walton, Detroit Pershing (Syracuse, Fresno State)
- 1995 Robert Traylor, Detroit Murray-Wright (Michigan)
- 1994 Willie Mitchell, Detroit Pershing (Michigan, UAB)
- 1993 Jon Garavaglia, Southgate Aquinas (Michigan State)
- 1992 Kenyon Murray, Battle Creek Central (Iowa)
- 1991 Chris Webber, Birmingham Detroit Country Day (Michigan)
- 1990 Anthony Miller, Benton Harbor (Michigan State)
- 1989 Michael Talley, Detroit Cooley (Michigan)
- 1988 Matt Steigenga, Grand Rapids South Christian (Michigan State)
- 1987 Mark Macon, Saginaw Buena Vista (Temple)
- 1986 Terry Mills, Romulus (Michigan)
- 1985 Glen Rice, Flint Northwestern (Michigan)
- 1984 Demetreus Gore, Detroit Chadsey (Pittsburgh)
- 1983 Antoine Joubert, Detroit Southwestern (Michigan)
- 1982 Robert Henderson, Lansing Eastern (Michigan)
- 1981 Sam Vincent, Lansing Eastern (Michigan State)