Posted On: 01/24/18 2:46 PM
The 2018 Fast Break Invitational is one of the best single day events in Michigan. Tons of the top teams in the state came to Belleville high school to square off in showcase games in front of multiple coaches and scouts alike. Each game proved to be extremely competitive, and featured multiple college level players on each team.
The third game of the day featured PSL powerhouse Detroit Pershing, and KLAA contender and Class A sleeper Novi. Novi finally got to full strength this past week thanks to the second semester starting, which meant that transfers were eligible to play. They also had a key player who recently returned from injury. The full strength Novi team is a serious dark horse contender in Class A, and this game was highly anticipated because of that alone.
Pershing is one of the most talented teams in Michigan as well, and have to be considered one of the favorites in Class C, regardless of their record. Pershing has played one of the toughest schedules in Michigan this year, and they are a class C school. So far this season, every single loss has been to a Class A school,and 4 of the 5 losses coming into the game were against top 5 teams in Class A, and top 10 overall teams in the state. The game was hotly contested from start to finish, and all the top prospects for both sides had moments where they were able to showcase their talents.
Pershing came out ready and had a few quick highlight plays to start the game off. D’Juan Seal in particular had a strong early showing. Novi responded well though, and made Pershing pay for a lack of focus and communication on defense, as 2019 Jiovanni Miles buried his first 4 3s in the first quarter alone. Both Pershing and Novi traded baskets through one, and Novi held a narrow 20-16 lead. The second half was again competitive, but Novi was able to get a few extra stops and were able to go into the break with an 11 point lead. Like most of the first half, the second half was largely even and in the end, Novi was able to hold off a late Doughboys comeback and ended up winning the game 72-61. As stated above, both team’s top players were able to show their stuff to scouts and coaches in the stands. There were plenty of highlights, and the players were really going at it. Below are my 10 awards given out for top performers from the game.
Miles was on fire for much of the game shooting the ball. Although he did not score a ton in the second half because he was being keyed on so much, he still made a huge impact on both ends. There was not anybody shooting the ball better than him this game, and he also was the top rebounder, pulling down 9 rebounds. Efficiency was also big for Miles, as he knocked down 4 first quarter threes, yet did not start chucking shots the last three quarters. He ended the game 5-7 from deep and simply took shots within the system. Miles also had the 2nd highest individual assist total, dishing out 4 dimes as well, and he posted a game high 2 blocks to go with it.
Miles currently holds 3 division 1 offers, but that number should increase and could even double or triple come the end of summer if he plays as good as he did this game in AAU. He finished with 22 points on 7-10 shooting, 5 assists, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks. Miles easily takes home the player of the game award in this one due to his dominance and efficiency filling the stat sheet.
Miles would be the expected pick for this award, but Novi doesn’t win this game without Maddox doing what he did. The Oakland commit had a huge offensive impact on the game without doing his typical high level scoring that I was accustomed to seeing. Rather than forcing a ton of shots to get his stats, he played within the flow of the game and took what Pershing gave him. Only taking 7 shots, Maddox quietly went about assuming the role of playmaker this game, regularly feeding Miles for his 3s. Tray also did a good job getting to the free throw line. He went 8-10 from there and constantly put pressure on Pershing’s defense by going downhill right at their defenders and either going into contact, or kicking it out to Miles and Williams for 3 point looks.
Maddox showed another dimension in this game that I have not seen before, and this added versatility as a playmaker and game manager makes him an even more impressive pickup for Oakland University. I expect Maddox to have a highly successful basketball career for the Golden Grizzlies.
Hill did not have his best offensive performance, but I did think he played great defense for much of the game. Going up against much larger guards generally, Hill was able to get under them and he used his quick lateral speed to usually stay in front of Novi’s guards and caused a lot of discomfort and disruption throughout the game. In particular, he did a great job guarding Trendon Hankerson, who is one of the top available guards left in the state. Hill finished the game with 10 points and 3 rebounds, and played solid on ball defense for the Doughboys. Top JUCOs in the region should be all over Hill if looking for a quick and well-rounded point guard.
Best shooter: Jiovanni Miles
Miles shot an efficient 5-7 from deep in this game, and made his first 4 attempts in the first quarter. It is hard to top many shooting performances like this. What really was impressive about this performance was that Miles did not just start bombing threes just because he had the hot hand like so many people would do. He stayed composed and took open looks within the system, which was crucial because taking shots out of your team’s rhythm would have played right into Pershing’s hand, and there are very few teams in the state who can play up tempo with the Doughboys. Miles also showed great elevation on his shots.
His first 3 makes in a row came from the right corner off the catch. When teammates drove to the hoop, they fed Miles for easy shots. Miles rises up extremely well when he shoots, which mitigated how effective opposing defenders contested his shots. Coming off screens was no different, as he displayed good footwork to 1-2 into his shot and then he again elevated well to minimize the effectiveness of opponents contesting his shot. When talking about top shooters in Michigan, there are not many better than Miles, especially when he is on like he was this game.
Best player off the bench: Nik Williams- 2018 5’10 SG Novi
Williams appears to be one of the better 6th men in the state I have seen this season. For Novi in this game, he provided a huge 2nd quarter spark. He had 8 points in the second quarter, knocking down a pair of threes and a layup. His ability to shoot the ball off the catch provided a lot of spacing, especially when teammates like Miles and Maddox were on the floor. Having 3 great shooters like that forces teams to really play up and give little helpside assistance. Initially, Pershing played off Williams, but they had to quickly abandon that because of how hot Williams was in the 2nd quarter. Williams scored an additional 7 points in the second half, including another made 3.
That type of scoring off the bench at the high school level can be a game changer in big games, and if Williams can consistently provide solid shooting and rebounding like he did this game, it will take Novi to another level, and will help them live up to the preseason expectations of this team being a darkhorse contender in Class A. Williams scored 15 points, grabbed 6 rebounds and had a pair of assists.
Best big man: Jalyn Benning- 2018 6’5 F Detroit Pershing
Benning has impressed each time I have watched this season, and I like his game more and more each game I see. Offensively, he is simply a handful because of what he can do. Despite usually giving up some height, Benning has a good low post game because of his nimbleness and good footwork down low. His hook shot over his right shoulder is nearly unstoppable, and he has good touch on the ball combined with being a physical big body that he can easily create enough space to get shots off without being blocked normally. Benning’s face up game is also solid, and he can take players off the dribble from the high post. He knocked down a mid-range shot off the catch in the second half, which shows he can even step out some. Benning moved well around the mid-range area to get open looks, and when teammates dropped passes off too him he made a nice power move to get to the rim and finish. He also rim ran and got some easy baskets in transition simply by beating Novi defenders down the floor.
Jalyn provides an awful lot of good things that could make a JUCO team very happy. He could be a big time instant impact forward at that level and could use it as a platform to go higher after a year or two. He finished with 16 points on 7-9 shooting and had 5 assists.
Brown quietly had himself a game. He has the size, athleticism and skillset to play multiple positions on both ends, and that makes him an intriguing college prospect to me. Against Novi, his production was extremely quiet. His numbers were spread out all throughout the game, and he did not try to force the issue on either end. That shows that he can play within a system with ease. I would like to see a little more takeover aggression from Brown, because I think he has the talent, but his willingness to play within a system and not just hunt for stats is encouraging as well. Brown had a nice rim run basket early in the game that led to a light 2 hand flush, and also showed off the ability to shoot from deep. Brown also did a good job at feeding teammates entry passes to the high post or low post, then making smart cuts to areas he could get the ball back from and he was in positions to score.
Brown’s recruitment is surprisingly light, but I think he has the talent to play at the Division 1 level. A year of JUCO could be great for him though due to his lack of recruitment. Or he could become a potential impact guy at a high D2 or NAIA program. He has received some interest from Ferris State and Indiana Tech, two top 5 programs in D2 and NAIA D2 respectively. Wherever he ends up at any level, Brown has the talent to make a solid contribution over 4 years.
This was a tie between Novi’s two recently eligible to play guys. Both made impacts on the game and take Novi from being a mediocre team to the upper echelons of the state basketball hierarchy. Both guys are still working on shaking off the rust, which was evident in this game, but both showed enough that they still made positive impacts on the game. Woody provides an entirely new dimension for Novi.
Being 6’9 and knowing how to play, he provides a true interior presence. He also has a good looking jump shot and can occasionally step out to three or mid-range and hit shots. He hit an extremely impressive turnaround fade away bank shot from mid-range in the second half against Pershing. Shots like that by guy’s as tall as Woody are essentially unguardable at any level. He struggled finishing around the rim compared to what he normally does, but I will attribute it to rust as it was only his second or third game back. D2 programs appear to be the main level of schools pursuing Woody at this time.
Hankerson is the man pulling the strings much of the time for Novi, and without him they struggled this year. Of the two players that just became eligible, I think Hankerson was the most sorely missed due to him being the team’s PG. Novi never played with a quality big man until this year, so I think they knew how to play without one. In this game, Hankerson seemed a little rusty just getting back up to speed totally. He did have a big impact early on though, as all three of the 3s made by Miles I believe were off of Hankerson’s drive and kicks. His size and IQ allow him to physically be a problem for most point guards on opposing team’s.
Hankerson’s size allows him to be able to get into the teeth of interior defenses and still be able to get passes wherever he wants them to go. His passes also frequently hit player’s in their pockets ready to score, which is an important skill to being a great passer. He did not have a big impact scoring but he did have a few nice drives and finishes to score on his own. Once he gets back into full swing, Novi will be extremely scary for teams to play. Like Woody, Hankerson has a ton of Division 2 programs on him, and he should have options when he is ready to commit.
Best intangibles: Blake King- 2018 6’3 F Novi
He often gets lost in the group of scholarship level players listed above, but King and Williams are two of the better role players you will find anywhere. Williams appears to provide scoring punch off the bench. A microwave type scorer. King provides everything else. He is physical, defends well on the interior, and he makes the simple unselfish plays on both ends needed for his team to win. King is one of Novi’s top rebounders, and he also is a good passer from the post who looks for his teammates in areas they can score. His stats are not really eye opening, but what he provided for them was very crucial. There is a reason he starts for Novi and plays big minutes. He finished with 6 rebounds and played solid defense.
Toodles has always been one of the more exciting players to follow in the state, and he continued to excite the crowds in this game. Everything about Toodles’ game is done with a lot of power and anger, and he had several plays in this game that fit just that. His opening basket was a big time breakaway jam that sounded like the rim was snapping. He also had a block that sounded like a gun went off if you were by the hoop he blocked the shot on. More than just a powerful athlete, Toodles also has shown a ton of skill development over the past year. He dominated this past summer in AAU on the NY2LA circuit, and has continued that in high school. D’’Juan knocked down a corner three early on, and had a few nice drives from the perimeter that he scored himself on. His playmaking ability in transition was also impressive. His willingness to find others even when he had chances to score himself was great to see.
His rebounding is normally one of his biggest strengths, but in this game he only grabbed a handful. Toodles did play solid defense though when he wasn’t gambling. He showed the ability to check multiple positions, regularly guarding the 2, 3 and 4 spots against Novi. He currently has around a half dozen high D2 offers to choose from, but I believe that he has the ability to potentially play D1 if a school were to offer him.