Posted On: 02/12/18 6:00 AM
Last Saturday, Grand Rapids Union High played host to one of the best one-day events of the high school season. The Redhawk showcase featured teams from both sides of the state. Several of these are considered top ten in their classes, and each featured a standout or several that impressed. One of the most entertaining game of the event pitted the hosts against the Class B top ten Old Redford Ravens. Below is brief synopsis of the game followed by the matchup’s “Ten Best.”
The game started with both squads shooting at a high clip. Between them, the first quarter alone saw nine made threes. The Redhawks especially were sharing the load, too, with five different players hitting from beyond the arc in the first half. After a quarter, Union held a solid seven-point advantage, but the Ravens answered in the second. They picked up the pressure and junior guard Mark Watts led his team to increase their scoring. It was 38-36 in their favor at the half. The second half was also entertaining, and the game remained tight. Union had pulled away a bit of the lead by the fourth, however, and maintained it with defense and hustle. They ended up winning 70-64.
The Ten Best
MVP – Justin Fox – 5’10 – 2018 (GR Union)
Scoring 24 points in an upset win, Fox was extremely impressive. First of all, he is quick. Combine this with his ball-handling, and most defenders have difficulty keeping up with him. The lefty also has a great outside shot that he takes confidently (he made three). However, he does not rely on this too much, which is nice to see. What is probably most impressive about his game is his rim-attacking. He is undersized in most matchups, but he still drives in fearlessly, and his speed and creativity make him deadly. He positions his body to get contact or to get the shot off completely clear of his defenders. In this game, the opponents inside were 6’7 or 6’8 and long, but he outmaneuvered or deceived them to finish over and over. I left thinking he was a college-caliber athlete, and, that night, he received two JUCO offers to validate my thoughts.
Best Offensive Performance – Mark “Rocket” Watts – 6’3 – 2019 (Old Redford)
Perhaps the top junior prospect in the state, Watts is the offensive leader for his Ravens on a consistent basis. The floor general got numerous assists as he distributed the ball, often in transition. He also showed himself to be a capable scorer, and scored in a variety of ways. His speed got him in the lane for a number of drives off of which he laid the ball in or pulled up for a clean midrange jumper. Three threes fell for him, making him a threat from distance that defenders had to always be wary of. He took advantage of this by faking the shot and driving in. He finished with 26 points, leading all scorers.
Best Under-the-Radar Performance – Jaivian Fowler – 6’6 – 2019 (GR Union)
Capable of making star-like plays for the Redhawks, Fowler was fairly quiet this game. However, his impact could still be seen in the box score and if one watched closely enough. He looked like the most solid offensive big man on the floor. Though he was outsized by the forwards of Old Redford, he was stronger and played a more fundamental post up game. He planted himself and used some simple, smart maneuvering to evade their longer arms and score on numerous possessions. In doing this, he finished with a quiet 11 points.
Best Prospect – Isaiah Jackson – 6’8 – 2020 (Old Redford)
Ranked by Prep Hoops second in his class, Jackson is definitely a talent with a high ceiling. In warmups he was scary with his dunk package, and his in-game dunk was impressive as well. He made a few mistakes in this game that could be attributed to age. However, he showed many good things, too. The shots he finished looked nice and were very hard to stop because of his length. He also grabbed a number of boards and blocked or altered quite a lot of shots. Overall, he made some mistakes but showed flashes of very dangerous, elite-level talent. He recently received an offer from Florida State University to add to his list of interested D1 programs, and I am intrigued to see how he continues to develop.
Best Underclassman – KeJuan Andrews – 6’0 – 2021 (Old Redford)
Only a freshman, Andrews was an easy choice for this category. He played aggressive defense, at one point stealing the ball from Fox and getting the layup off the break. He also made one three which he took confidently. The rest of his points were off lay-ins, one of which he got by beating his defender one-on-one in an isolation play. He had 9 points in a tight, high-level game, showing that his talent transcends age.
Play of the Game – Mark “Rocket” Watts and Isaiah Jackson (Old Redford)
This game had many exciting moments, but this one in particular may have been the most impressive. Both of these teammates are top players in their respective classes, and collaborated to make this play happen. Watts caught a pass off the fast break and lead the pack, but knew he had defenders and teammates trailing him. At the last second, he shot a behind-the-back pass to Jackson who elevated for a high-flying flush in transition. This served as an shining example of what two top-ranked players can do when they play and work together.
Best Offensive Performance Part 2 – Jose Torres – 6’1 – 2019 (GR Union)
A recent addition to the Redhawk lineup because of transfer rules, Torres is now a starter and a heavy offensive contributor that Union needed. He started off the game hot, hitting two first quarter threes. He was quiet in the second quarter, but scored ten more points in the second half to finish with 16. His points came from three pointers, layups, and floaters. Along with being another scoring threat, Torres showed other values like making the right pass, being one of a few reliable ball-handlers, and some hustle plays, including one that sealed his team’s victory.
Best Outside Shooter – Troy Lattimore – 6’1 – 2019 (Old Redford)
Lattimore contributed heavily in the first half, hitting three threes in the first quarter alone. In a game full of outside shooters, the first period made him look like the most confident and consistent of them all. On his first he hesitated, then shot right over his defender. The second was also contested but he still took it right off the dribble. The next two he hit off catches, one of which was in transition. He seemed able to make his threes regardless of what situation he was shooting in, and, in doing so, contributed a much-needed 14 points, all just in the first half.
Best off the Bench – Deshaun Blaylock – 6’3 – 2018 (GR Union)
One of few seniors on this young team, Blaylock checked in and made an immediate impact. Open in the corner, he hit his first attempt of the game with a three pointer. Later, he hit a second off a handoff. Another look came in the form of a midrange pullup which did not fall but looked nice and in rhythm. He finished with six points in a six point win and showed himself to be a solid shooter.
Biggest Takeaway – GR Union
Redford was considered the favorite by most in this game, but Union stepped up to the challenge and performed very well. The Redhawks are currently 9-6, but each of their six losses were close, and they’ve won or played close with some notable teams. While still not an elite-level Class A program, Union surely has promise looking at this year and next. They graduate four players among which is a major blow in Fox. However, juniors Jose Torres and Jaivian Fowler and sophomore Jeremiah Pittman are all contributors who will return next season and could lead the team to similar or greater success.