Posted On: 12/14/17 7:20 AM
The Renaissance/Flint Carman Ainsworth matchup was one of the better games at the Horatio Williams Tipoff Classic. Carman Ainsworth controlled the action for most of the first half, as they applied pressure defense that rattled the Renaissance backcourt into a few turnovers that led to easy transition dunks for a 32-22 lead at the break. CA senior Omari Duncan was the benefactor, putting on a dunk fest in the first half on several breakaways. Coach Vito Jordan would regroup his Phoenix squad at the break, and the tide changed in the third quarter as 2019 wing/forwards Chandler Turner and Carrington McCaskill absolutely took over. McCaskill hit jumper after jumper, while Turner was creating off the dribble, hitting from midrange and finishing at the rim. Keon Henderson was re-focused and playing lockdown defense while making good decisions with the ball as Renaissance took a 43-37 lead late in the third. Both teams would trade blows in the 4th quarter and it seemed Renaissance had a bit more in the tank, but couldn’t hit free throws down the stretch as Ja’Kavien Lewis nailed several big triples as the Cavaliers won a 61-57 thriller.
As we look toward the future for both teams, here are five items that stick out following the epic showdown at the Horatio Williams Foundation Tip off Classic at Cass Tech.
The Cavaliers have talent for nearly every level of basketball. The headliner of course is 6’7 junior Michael Fletcher, a Division I forward prospect that also holds DI offers for the grid-iron. While Fletcher is an established name that most know about, let’s take a look at a few of Ainsworth’s lesser known names.
Omari Duncan is a Division III/NAIA level prospect that brings a ton of athleticism and energy from the wing spot. He had a stellar game with 15 points and a few assists. He was at his best in transition where he was able to fill the lanes and finish with authority at the basket. In the half court he was able to knock down a triple, make sharp off-ball cuts to get free for layups and displayed plus vision with a few nice dimes. At 6’4 with a college ready frame, Omari looks to be an ideal three and D type player. Duncan has the size and agility to defend two, and possibly three positions if the opposition is going small. Offensively, he should be able to provide floor spacing and attack closeouts while feasting in the open court.
Ja’Kavien Lewis is a solid Division II prospect, and is likely on the cusp of Division I looks with a much improved outside shot. Lewis buried three triples on the way to 15 points for the game, one of those being a stepback off the bounce that legitimized the rapid improvement in his perimeter stroke. He also displayed phenomenal passing ability in the open court, hitting teammates with several precision passes in stride for easy layups and dunks. As always, Ja’Kavien played tenacious defense both on and off the ball. The main question surrounding Lewis is whether his perimeter stroke is good enough to warrant Division I consideration taking into account his size. While the sample size is small, his improved shooting appears sustainable based on mechanics and comfort level. His defense is beyond question at this point, as he’s a top 5 defender in the state and can play that side of the ball against any guard. Ja’Kavien has some playmaking ability as well, and although he’s not likely to be an isolation scorer at the next level, he can run an offense and make some things happen with a ball screen. It will be interesting to track his growth moving forward, as he appears to be trending up.
Coach Vito Jordan has a legitimate squad this year with size, skill, athleticism and experience. It all starts on the wing spots with juniors Carrington McCaskill and Chandler Turner, both of whom hold several Division I offers. Turner is a extremely skilled 6’6 guard/wing capable of playing the 1-4 spots at any time. He’s a three level scorer with a plus handle, a superb shot from distance and midrange and great body control when finishing. The 6’7 McCaskill is an elite athlete that is likely the most electric finisher in the state. He’s also added a smooth looking jumpshot from distance with an evolving faceup game to compliment his elite offensive rebounding ability. Holding down the 4/5 spot is 6’5 Devin Holmes, a versatile defender that has the athletic ability, physicality and motor to make life tough on the opposition’s best player at 2-3 different positions. In the backcourt, senior Cortez Garland and freshman Keon Henderson hold down the 1 and 2 spots interchangeably. The 5’11 Garland is a very good shooter with his feet set and surprised people with his driving and finishing ability versus Carman Ainsworth. A reliable perimeter scorer that can space the floor, Garland’s ability to be a consistent third scoring option around 10-12 points per game will be instrumental in the success of the Phoenix as he was injured last year. Henderson is a lightning quick freshman that is already a great on ball defender that digs in on that end. Keon already has a very good handle, but can be a bit out of control at times, as most underclassmen are. If Coach Jordan can channel Henderson’s aggression off the dribble into a more controlled pace without high risk for turnovers, Keon has the potential to be one of the best freshman in the PSL.
The Phoenix have a ton of lineup versatility, as they have two players 6’6 or taller that can play the perimeter or the post, a versatile defender with size, a reliable floor spacer at one guard spot and a freshman oozing with potential on both ends. That versatility allows Renaissance to play multiple ways and through multiple players depending on where the matchups are favorable. We think the 9-14 record last year is extremely misleading, as Renaissance lost a whopping 9 games by single digits, with 7 of those losses by five points or less. That said, Turner and McCaskill were only sophomores and Garland sat out the majority of the year due to injury.
The only conern is a potential lack of depth, as the Phoenix starting 5 can compete with just about anybody in the state, but there are questions beyond that. While Clarkston is the favorite in Class A, Renaissance could be a major player come March if they can remain healthy. The Phoenix have the look of a borderline top 10 team right now, and they’re just scratching the surface of their potential.
Michael Fletcher is a versatile and skilled 6’8, 230 pound forward that can overpower smaller defenders on the block and convert at the rim or simply use superior footwork and skill to abuse larger/slower defenders. Big Mike, as he’s commonly referred to, holds several Division I offers and had a superb Summer with Greenwood Elite on the AAU circuit by all accounts………….yet his role isn’t optimized for Carman Ainsworth.
Fletcher went large stretches of the game versus Renaissance without even touching the ball, let alone getting shot attempts. Big Mike is simply too talented to ignore. When he gets the ball, good things are generally going to happen. He has the skillset of a 20ppg scorer at the High School level. Fletcher draws fouls at a high rate and can demand double teams out of the post. If the Cavaliers are intent on making it to the Breslin, a heavier dose of Big Mike may be in order.
The 2019 guard/wing does not get a ton of publicity, but has one of the most versatile and skilled games in the entire Midwest, let alone Michigan. I’ll go ahead and say it, he’s very undervalued as the #12 prospect in Prep Hoops’ current rankings. Chandler is among the top 5-6 prospects for his class in my opinion. Outside of Romeo Weems, there is simply no prospect in the 2019 class that can impact the game from as many spots on the court as Chandler does. 6’6 prospects with the ability to create shots off the dribble and range out to 25 feet don’t come along often. Turner is a three level scorer that is an ideal fit for the 2/3 at the next level, with the potential to play some PG down the road with more development.
Chandler is going to have a huge year this season for Renaissance, and I think its just a matter of time before he picks up that first high major offer.
Let’s face it, the Detroit large enrollment schools haven’t been what they once were over the last decade or so. Since 2000, only 2 public schools from Detroit have won a Class A championship (Detroit Pershing in 09 and Detroit Western in 15), after winning a combined 10 state championships from 1979-1999. Well, the cycle appears to be coming full circle.
Cass Tech has ascended to a top 10 team under the watch of Coach Steve Hall over the past few years. The Technicians have become the deepest team in the state, play fundamentally sound basketball and lockdown defense. East English Village has been a perennial threat over the past 3-4 years, consistently having some of the best backcourt players in the entire Midwest with an uptempo attack that is hard to deal with. And then there is the aforementioned Renaissance, a young team that will be in the mix this year, and may very well be a top 5 Class A team next year. King is one of the best defensive teams in the state under George Ward, and that well-oiled machine isn’t slowing down any time soon. The Class A PSL teams are on the way up.