Posted On: 12/10/17 7:47 PM
The Horatio Williams Foundation Tip off Classic is one of the biggest events of the year in Michigan for high school basketball. Played at Cass Tech High School in Downtown Detroit, many of the top teams in Michigan participated in this year’s event from Classes A-D. This event also played host to many college level prospects.
The opening game of the event featured Class B powerhouse and state title contender River Rouge, and Detroit Western, a team that is considered one of the most well known programs in the state. This game was a defensive battle from start to finish.
Western had the best prospect on the floor and arguably the best available senior in Michigan in 6’8 wing-forward Tray Jackson. However, Rouge had the next 5 or 6 best players, and they used that collective balance to wear down Western. They also play some of the best team defense in the state in any class, and simply wore down Detroit Western over 4 quarters of play. In the end, Rouge beat Detroit Western 49-33.
Below are 5 takeaways from this game:
Of all the teams that are being deemed state title contenders in Class B, River Rouge may have the least amount of top shelf talent. However, that does not mean they will not win Class B, as they likely play the best team basketball on both sides of the floor. Offensively, they have several players who can step up and lead them in scoring any given night. Nigel Colvin, Jayvien Torrance-Jackson, Donavan Freeman and several more.
Defensively, they are nothing short of superb. This is where River Rouge excels, and what is going to win them a state championship this season if they do. They follow the coach’s defensive gameplan to the dot, and every player on the floor able to defend multiple positions. Against Western, the only consistent threat to score was Jackson, and they continuously threw 1, 2 or even 3 defenders at him all game. They also did not allow him to get comfortable, as they got right in his face with or without the ball, and when he had the ball they stayed on him like glue. Jackson scored 13 points, but had to work extremely hard for it. By the end of the game, Jackson and his teammates were gassed.
Expect Rouge to do this to every single team’s star player every game. You can also expect games against River Rouge to be low scoring, because offensively and defensively, they have the discipline to control the tempo.
It was bizarre seeing a Detroit Western team playing like this. Normally people are accustomed to seeing them compete for championships. This year almost certainly will bring no trophies. However, they do have some pieces to build around for the future. In particular, freshman point guard Demario Walk. Walk struggled against Rouge’s pressure and physicality, but he showed flashes of serious talent. He also impressed me during the DC Summer League as well. To go along with him, they have 2 sophomores and 2 juniors returning next year.
If Detroit Western is going to have success this season, they will need a huge year out of Tray Jackson. Young for a senior, Jackson is still one of the best prospects in the loaded 2018 class. If he was a 2019 prospect, he’d likely be a top 5 player in Michigan. As a 2018, he is a top 15 prospect who is a lot more potential than production. In the first half against Rouge, he struggled to make an impact. He admitted after the game that he was not accustomed at all to being face guarded and defended like Rouge played him, and it took him time to acclimate. He only had 2 points at half. In the 2nd half, he was much more aggressive and scored 11 more points to finish with 13 of Western’s 33 points.
What stood out for Jackson was his improved handles and jump shot. His shot is much more fluid and quick, and he showed the ability to score off the dribble from mid range and from three, and he looked much more comfortable against Rouge shooting off the catch than ever before. If Jackson can continue to work on his shot making, he could become a consistent option as a plus sized wing at the college level. His motor is still a work in progress, and comes and goes way too often. When he does play with a high motor, there are few, if any players in the state who can consistently stop him.
There are rumors Jackson could do a post grad season after this year and become a 2019 prospect. If that is the case, he could become a very serious target for high major and mid major + programs to look at. At the mid major level, he would potentially become an instant impact player. As a 2018, he is a high upside wing-forward who could make a big impact after a year of acclimating to the college level. Time will reveal what his plans are, though I believe he is going to do a postgraduate season after he graduates from Western.
Despite likely not having any future D1 prospects that played yesterday, Rouge still has a team loaded with potential college prospects. Leading the group is unsigned 2018 combo guard Jayvien Torrance-Jackson. Torrance-Jackson is a gamer who gets it done on both ends. He was not the main defender against Tray Jackson, but he did defend him a decent amount of the time and he did a great job despite giving up around 6 inches in size. Torrance-Jackson has good handles in the halfcourt and knows how to create space.
During the fall, he was killing opponents at camps by breaking players down in isolation situations, and scoring at the rim and mid range. Against Western, Torrance-Jackson played as more of a playmaker, feeding teammates like Donavan Freeman, Daniel Few and Nigel Colvin. All three of these players also appear to be solid college prospects.
Rouge was impressive, especially on the defensive end. They got this win despite not having their tallest player, and likely their top prospect in 6’6 freshman forward Legend Geeter. Geeter was in a boot due to suffering a high ankle sprain in the previous game.
There was a lot of hype surrounding Geeter going into the season, as he is considered a top 5 prospect in the 2021 class. He already has a great inside-out game, and Rouge does not have a ton of height without him. With him, he can provide a skilled interior presence. It will be very interesting to see Rouge later in the season at full strength, and see what Geeter adds to the squad.