Posted On: 03/28/18 6:00 AM
I started writing for Prep Hoops in late September, and, since then, I have seen loads of high school talent. Starting with leagues and expos in September and October, through the regular season and into March, I have learned new names or watched familiar faces, and I’ve seen stories play out before my pen and camera lens. With the high school season done and the grassroots season on the verge of beginning, here is a reflection on some of the best narratives I’ve followed from fall to spring.
1. Devan Nichols of Benton Harbor
(My first article featuring Devan Nichols – “Prep Hoops Top 250: Kwabene’s Top Four PGs“)
The first event I covered for Prep Hoops was our own Top 250 Expo in September. I got exposure to dozens of individual players, and Nichols was among the most impressive. He showed court vision, athleticism, and the ability to score, and his versatility was evident as he spread his scoring across all three levels. I later discovered that he was on a very talented Benton Harbor team but was sitting because of transfer rules. Once eligible, Nichols became a starter and added right away to their dominance. He consistently scored in the double digits and finished some games in the high teens. He continued to make major contributions down the stretch as the Tigers advanced towards and won their first state title in over fifty years! To round out a successful senior season, he also received an offer from Siena Heights University!
2. Grand Rapids Catholic Central
(My first article featuring Catholic Central – “Team Preview: Grand Rapids Catholic Central 2017-18“)
Last October, I weekly visited MSA Woodland to watch teams compete in their Tuesday-night fall league. Among them were the Cougars of Catholic Central. The imposing figures of Bingham and Polakovich were immediately impressive, and I also took note of Braun’s distribution and control, Boyd’s excellent shooting ability, and Belcher’s athleticism. I saw a team that started five players who could all score, shoot from outside, and work together well. I knew they would compete and predicted a deep playoff run. Little did I know that they would end up at the Breslin and fall short of a Class B title by just one point! Though the star seniors impress the most and are both high-level players, their “supporting cast” (if they can even be called that) really stepped up down the stretch. In the semifinals, Braun (2019) had a career game with 31 POINTS in the win! The next day, Belcher (2019) took his turn and posted a double-double (21 pts, 10 reb) in the state final. These big performances show the true depth of this team as well as its future promise.
3. Grand Rapids Christian’s Rebuilding Year
(My first article featuring GR Christian – “Team Preview: Grand Rapids Christian 2017-18“)
Christian was another team I looked at preseason. Last year was a historic one for the Eagles who fielded four D1 prospects, were ranked nationally, and nearly had an undefeated season up to the state finals. This year, however, they returned only one of those four and had a roster full of new and/or young talent. In an interview I conducted with Head Coach Mark Warners, I confirmed the obvious–that this year would be one for rebuilding. However, he told me having an experienced D1 prospect in Seth Milner to build around would help the process. With humble goals of self-discovery and of winning their conference, the Eagles took on 2017-18 and performed better than expectations. They finished second in OK-Gold, but they did compete all year with a tough schedule and win their district in March. Milner was pivotal to their success, but some others stood out, too. These include a young, solid PG in Kobe Bufkin (’21) and an athletic SF/SG in Cairo Rhodes (’19).