Let’s begin with the bad news headed your way if you are a fan of one of over 600 high school basketball teams that did not leave the Breslin Center Saturday carrying a state championship trophy:
All four winners can repeat next year, which would be a first in state history.
With 6-foot-9 Deyonta Davis and 6-3 Joeviair Kennedy, Muskegon could be the Class A favorite and preseason No. 1, as the Big Reds were this season.
Milan will have the top inside/outside duo returning in 6-7 Nick Perkins and Latin Davis, who combined for 58 points in the Class B final with Davis tying the championship game record with seven three-point shots.
Detroit Consortium will return — we’re hoping — 6-8 Josh Jackson, who was sensational with 22 points and 13 rebounds.
The Class C title was the culmination of a year of determined play after losing to Flint Beecher in last season’s quarterfinals.
“Playing with most of the guys last year, I already had trust in them,” said Jackson. “We just had something to prove. I knew they wanted to win just as bad as I did.”
But even before that quarterfinal loss, the Consortium players had to deal with the loss of coach Al Anderson, who unexpectedly passed away last February.
“It hurt really bad and we wanted to sit and sob and cry about it,” said Jackson. “But at the end of the day, we knew what he wanted was for us to win a state championship more than anything. We knew that was something we had to do.”
Tobias Tuomi, whose grandfather, Dennis, was the legendary football coach at Detroit Lutheran West, became coach this season and put the finishing touches on a program that could never quite win the big game.
“He really enforced defense this year versus our team last year because we had so much talent and last year, we just tried to score more than the other team,” Jackson said. “This year, we played great defense.”
Consortium defeated Pewamo-Westphalia, 61-44, to win the title and in the process Jackson gained a few fans.
“He’s a great player; I’ve got a lot of respect for him,” said Lane Simon, who guarded Jackson. “With that much talent, he’s pretty humble … He’s athletic, tall, long, just a great player all around.”
The Cougars will lose some talented players, but as long as Jackson is around, Tuomi has the wild card working for him. He knows Jackson will make certain his teammates are ready for next season.
“He’s really grown as a leader vocally, but what he does on the court, he sets the tone for everything we do,” Tuomi said. “It’s a lot easier to get everybody else to run around and defend — get on the floor for loose balls and rebound — when you’ve got a guy this talented willing to do anything he can to win.”
I detest making comparisons between today’s players and all-time greats, but Pewamo coach Luke Pohl said Jackson is better than any player any of his 17 teams have ever played against.
And then he said something that raised the bar immeasurably for the youngster.
“For the guys that are old like me, I saw Earvin Johnson play over here at Everett,” he said. “I had season tickets when he was a senior. He’s a similar type player to him. Whether he’s going to become that kind of player is another story.”
That brings us to Class D and the dog and pony show that has become three-time defending champ Southfield Christian.
Bakari Evelyn wanted to transfer to Detroit Consortium at the end of the first semester, but balked when his mother learned he would not be eligible until next season.
After missing 10 games, he returned and helped win the state title.
But after the game he would not say he will definitely be back at Southfield Christian next season.
“I don’t even know what the future holds,” he said.
Coach Josh Baker was asked about the thought process involved in allowing Evelyn to rejoin the team
“I don’t even want to talk about it,” he said. “I really don’t have the ability to say. That’s it. No comment.”