Novi Franklin Road Christian will have a different set of voices on the bench for the remainder of the boys basketball season after Renardo Brown reportedly stepped down following a 2-4 start.
Athletic director Glynn Blackwell will serve as interim coach and he was greeted Tuesday night by three-time defending MHSAA Class D champion Southfield Christian, which rolled to a 68-40 victory.
Assisting Blackwell on the bench Tuesday was Franklin Road school superintendent Dan Robinson, who formerly coached at Livonia Franklin, along with current assistant Dominique Williams.
Brown, a native of Highland Park who played at West Virginia University, went 12-10 last season. He could not be reached comment Tuesday night.
Blackwell, a Highland Park High grad as well who played four seasons at the University of Illinois, declined to go into specifics regarding Brown’s sudden resignation.
“I would just say this – he (Brown) was a great guy and did a good job, imparted a lot to the kids, and so decided to go in a different direction,” the Franklin Road A.D. said.
Southfield Christian, which improved to 4-2 overall and 3-0 in the Blue Division of the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference, led 15-5 after one quarter and 33-14 at halftime as junior forward Marlo Brown and freshman forward Bryce Washington combined for 20 points.
The 6-foot-4 Brown, the only returning starter from last year’s state championship squad, finished with a game-high 24 to go along with 17 rebounds, while the 6-2 Washington added 23 points.
“I thought Bryce played pretty well for a young guy,” said Southfield Christian coach Josh Baker, who guided the Eagles to state titles in 2012 and 2013 before taking leave of absence last year. “I thought Marlo (Brown) rebounded well like usual. A lot of our guys drove and found people, and made some nice passes.”
Franklin Road (2-5, 0-2) simply could not trade baskets with the Eagles during the second half and the Warriors had a difficult time grabbing defensive rebounds.
“I thought at times we rebounded well on the offensive glass and got a lot of second chances there,” Baker said. “I thought (Austin) Hearns really hurt us driving to the basket. We had a hard time stopping him. He was pretty aggressive. Their zone gave us some problems early and later I thought we got in gaps and drove the ball, and kicked, took open shots and got on the glass. We scored well in transition when we got stops and turnovers.”
Hearns, a junior guard, finished with a team-high 16 points, while junior guard Gavin Harris added 10 for the Warriors, who didn’t help themselves at the free throw line going 18-of-34 (52.9 percent).
The Warriors return to action Friday with a game at home against MIAC Blue foe Grosse Pointe Woods University-Liggett.
“What we’re trying to accomplish this year is that we want to compete every game,” Blackwell said. “We have some athleticism, we have some size, so we’re just trying to work out the kinks. We’re going to work on the details. Like tonight – a lot of missed layups, missed free throws – those are things that will allow us to keep us in the game a lot better. We know Southfield Christian is a great team. We did pretty well against their trap, their press breaks, but again we’re focusing on details, more discipline and hopefully they’ll buy into those things.”
Blackwell said he won’t make wholesale changes going forward.
“Every coach has a different philosophy and I’m not going to try and tweak it too much because I don’t want it to be too overwhelming for them,” he said. “Besides, coach Brown and I worked together on some of the plays. I was more like a spot coach. I just didn’t do the day-to-day coaching as coach Brown did.”
Meanwhile, Southfield Christian’s two losses this season have come against Class A foes Detroit Pershing and North Farmington.
Prior to the season, the Eagles also lost 6-2 senior point-guard Bakari Evelyn, who scored 28 points in last year’s state final. Evelyn is reportedly playing at an Arizona prep school. His initial transfer to Gilbert (Ariz.) Christian, now coached by former Detroit Country Day coach Kurt Keener, was red-flagged in November and he was not deemed eligible by the Arizona Interscholastic Association because of a legal guardian issue.
Despite the turnover of talent, Baker remains optimistic that his team can make it a four-peat. But this year it will be in Class C instead of Class D because the Eagles have moved up a class.
“I think by the end of the year we’ll be as good as any of them … yeah for sure,” the Southfield Christian coach said. “I like these guys and they’re getting better.”