Posted On: 12/31/17 10:50 AM
The Clarkston-East English Village matchup was the biggest game of the year in the young season. It had all the drama and intrigue that you could possibly want. Two top ten Class A teams squaring off, 2018 Michigan commit David DeJulius squaring off versus 2018 Michigan State commit Foster Loyer and a city team against the suburban team.
This game was a tale of two halves, as Foster Loyer came out hot early with 13 points in the first quarter on an array of jumpshots from distance and midrange as Clarkston took a 26-16 lead after one. The Wolves limited David DeJulius to an inefficient 6 points. The second quarter saw Clarkston gas the EEVP full court press for easy triples and layups. CJ Robinson caught fire, nailing 5 triples including a corner three at the second quarter buzzer to give Clarkston a 49-31 lead heading into the break.
After the break, EEVP coach Juan Rickman adjusted his defense, electing to go to a 2-2-1 half-court trap mixed in with some man to man. That change stifled the Clarkston offense, and then it happened……………David DeJulius. The Michigan commit absolutely took over in the second half, pouring in 25 points in a performance that had the crowd on their feet for large stretches of the second half. David was unstoppable, rocking defenders to sleep with crossovers before burying triples and stepback jumpers from midrange, getting to the paint at will and finishing at the rim or with floaters, throwing dimes to teammates when blitzed. DeJulius would lead his EEVP team to a comeback victory after being down 20, in one of the best performances I’ve ever witnessed at the high school level with 42 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds.
As we look toward the future for both teams, here are five items that stick out in the aftermath.
The 2018 Michigan commit absolutely went off, finishing with 42 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists in a performance that those present will tell their kids about in 20 years. DeJulius was clutch when it mattered, pouring in 17 points during the critical 4th quarter while leading his team to a come from behind victory after being down 20 points at one point in the second half. David was simply unstoppable.
There is nothing DeJulius can’t do offensively, nothing. He’s a three level scorer off the dribble, and he did just that against the #1 team in the state in Clarkston. David has the best handles in Michigan, and he had it on full display, rocking defenders with crossovers and change of speed getting tons of separation on nearly every possession. He made Michigan State commit Foster Loyer fall with a nifty behind the back dribble in transition that had the crowd buzzing. With that said, I’ve traveled the entire country and viewed all the shoe sponsored circuits and national AAU events and DeJulius may be the best shooter off the dribble in America. He knocked down 6 triples off the bounce, yes 6, after breaking defenders down in isolation and hitting an array of stepbacks and pullups. Add another 4 midrange jumpers off the dribble and there were 10 total made jumpshots off the bounce this game. David also has the best floater in the state, as he is superb with that weapon when going right and stopping in the 7-10 foot range to avoid shotblocks. He did that on 3 occasions against the Clarkston defense. Did I mention he has good vision? DeJulius found his shooters for open triples in the corners when Clarkston tried to blitz him with double teams. In transition he had a few lobs and dumpoffs once he pushed tempo and forced the Clarkston defense to commit to stopping his drive. Michigan is getting a gifted offensive player that is extremely polished from a skillset standpoint. He may not be the tallest, fastest or best leaper, but man can DeJulius play.
On a Clarkston team with two high major commits in Foster Loyer (Michigan State) and Taylor Currie (Wisconsin), and another prospect embattled in an eligibility scuffle (Michigan State commit Thomas Kithier), CJ Robinson goes a bit under the radar. All CJ does is produce though, and it was no different in the matchup versus East English.
While the David DeJulius/Foster Loyer matchup had all the pregame hype, it was Robinson that stole the show in the first half. CJ buried multiple triples on his way to 18 points at the break. He faced the unenviable task of guarding David DeJulius and limited him to 6 of 15 shooting in the first stanza. Not worldbreaking, but that is a great job considering his foe. Perhaps his biggest contribution was his clutch basket to end the first half, as Robinson buried a three from the right corner to beat the 2nd quarter buzzer to give Clarkston a 49-31 and all the momentum heading into the intermission.
CJ currently holds a Division II offer from Lake Superior State and will likely pick up a few more at that level in due time. Robinson is a very good shooter that can score at the rim and a solid on-ball defender that will be a nice two-way player at that level.
Much like CJ Robinson, East English forward/wing Zavon Godwin is going under the radar. On a perimeter centric team with David DeJulius and a few other DI prospects, you don’t here Godwin’s name much. Well, let me tell you, the Bulldogs success in March will be largely predicated upon Zavon’s contributions.
The 6’4 Godwin is probably best utilized as a 3 & D wing that spaces the floor from distance, finishes in transition and plays lockdown perimeter defense. He’s not able to fill that role on an undersized EEVP team that needs his size and athleticism in the paint. While sophomore Colin Golson is a solid scoring option with his back to the basket, he’s not able to provide the rim protection and defensive versatility that is needed in today’s era of small ball. That is where Zavon comes in. You don’t typically associate a 6’4 prospect with shotblocking and rim protection, but Godwin provides a ton of it. He blocked 4 shots against Clarkston and altered many more, a few against the much bigger Taylor Currie. Zavon rebounded the ball extremely well, and high-pointed several boards by simply outjumping the opposition. He’s also invaluable on the defensive end because of his lateral movement and ability to defend guards on switches.
Godwin is a no-brainer Division I athlete that hasn’t been able to showcase his offensive arsenal based on the EEVP roster composition. He currently holds a few DII offers from Northwood and Ferris State, but his ceiling is higher than that. If the Bulldogs are going to make a deep run, look for Zavon to have a huge impact on the defensive end of the ball.
As of right now, the Wolves are a very good team, but not elite. Offensively they are just as good as anyone, with Foster Loyer running the show, CJ Robinson as one of the best 2nd options in the state and Taylor Currie providing points in the paint.
However, Clarkston has some work to do on the other end of the floor. The team lacks depth, grit and top end athleticism. While Currie is a fine offensive player with tremendous hands, soft touch around the basket and a great looking jumper for a big man, he’s not a very good rim protector and does not have the ability to switch on the perimeter. That’s where Kithier would plug the gap and put the Wolves over the top. Thomas is a very good rebounder, provides solid rim protection and moves extremely well for a 6’8 prospect. His ability to switch on the perimeter would make Clarkson extremely dynamic on the defensive end. Oh, and he’s also one of the best passing big men in the country that has soft touch around the basket.
While I don’t agree with the MHSAA’s ruling as it relates to Kithier’s eligibility, that entity may very well control Clarkston’s season on the hardwood. Without Kithier, the Wolves will likely win their regional, as their district is no match to be candid. Assuming they make it to Breslin, they may not have enough to repeat. Add Kithier to the mix and Clarkston is the hands down favorite to win Class A once again.
For a December, non-conference game, the Clarkston/EEVP matchup was about as good as it gets. Two top 10 teams in Class A with a plethora of talent going at it. Why not structure the state playoffs to ensure these type of competitive games are around come March?
The current form of the state playoffs is simply outdated, and frankly, not fair to Detroit area teams. To put this in context, Clarkston’s district this year (number 13) features Oxford, Lake Orion, Holly and Ortonville-Brand. Only 1 of those teams has a winning record currently, while none are even a threat to beat Clarkston come March.
Compare that to district 24, which has the likes East English Village, Cass Tech and Detroit King. Three top 15 Class A teams in a single district is an absolute nightmare. How does the MHSAA justify that? The MHSAA needs to rectify the situation by moving to a seeding format or some other suitable structure that ensures good competition and fair matchups in the playoffs.