BY DAN STICKRADT
While talent is always in abundance locally on basketball courts each winter, this year some stellar coaching had a big help in the success of area teams.
A huge help.
In fact, perhaps 2010-11 was truly the year of the coach in the coverage area for www.northoaklandsports.com.
In a year where seniors were not plentiful and expectations not high for a lot of teams, several local teams still captured league titles, a few others won districts or enjoyed long or unexpected tournament runs, while a few others simply righted the ship from a disastrous year the previous season.
Just look at a few examples:
* Clarkston overcame a 1-4 start to eventually win the OAA Red Division title and advance to the Class A regional finals for the ninth straight season.
* Auburn Hills Oakland Christian, with only one senior in its main rotation, won the MIAC Blue league and reached the Class D regional finals.
* Rochester won the OAA Blue Division crown, its first league title in 11 seasons.
* Rochester Adams advanced to the Class A regional finals in a rebuilding year, the furthest the Highlanders have ever gone in boys basketball.
* Troy Bethany Christian and Rochester hills Christian shared the FBAC Red Division title, with Bethany Christian reaching the state semifinals of the MACS Division I state tournament and Rochester Hills Christian the state quarterfinals. Rochester Hills also went from four wins to 16 wins this season.
* Troy and Auburn Hills Avondale shared the OAA White Division crown, with Avondale doing so under a new coach and Troy with a young team. Both teams were knocked out in the postseason by perennial power Pontiac by slim margins.
* Auburn Hills Christian Academy, an independent, reached honorable mention in the Class D Associated Press polls for the first time and finished with only a pair of losses in its sixth year as an MHSAA-member school.
* Clarkston Everest Collegiate moved above five-hundred in its second season and first with a schedule of all varsity teams.
The list goes on and on.
Of course, these teams could not have reached the summit in their respective leagues or enjoyed success in various postseasons without quality players … and there were plenty of them. These were coachable kids, players who yielded to their coaching staffs and played for the school name on the front of their jerseys, not the name on the back.
College recruiters were commonplace in the bleachers this season at several schools and with a plethora of young talent coming up through the ranks that will continue in the near future.
All of that talent can be found on the 2011 All-Area Boys Basketball Team, selected by NOS staff in conjunction with area coaches.
Below are the profiles of the players honored on the first-team, second-team, third-team and fourth team. The first and fourth teams had six players each, while the second and third teams listed five players apiece.
RAY TILLMAN, Auburn Hills Avondale 5-11 sr. SG: This four-year starter finished with well over 1,000 career points and had a stellar senior season which saw him chalk up 538 points in 23 games, good for a 23.4 average. He also was third on the team in rebounds at 5.5 an outing, averaged three steals and three assists a contest while shooting over 70 percent from the foul line. A Division I caliber football player who earned all-state accolades in that sport, Tillman is looking to play college basketball. Likely the junior college route. The All-OAA White Division and All-County Second Team choice has been selected to play in BCAM All-Star game this summer.
“His desire for basketball is unbelievable,” said coach Jeff Borja. “Hiss quickness and court vision is awesome and he has the ability to levitate, almost float in the air, which is hard to find. He has incredible jumping ability. The thing about Ray is that he is a quiet leader, but he leads by his play.. He has more passion and desire to win more than anyone I’ve coached. He’s a fierce competitor.”
TONY HARRIS JR., Auburn Hills Avondale 5-8 sr. PG: Harris was called up to varsity midway through his freshman season and has been an impact player for the Yellowjackets ever since. The three-year starting point guard helped Avondale share the OAA-White crown at 13-3, post an 18-5 record and reach the district finals for the third time in four years. He averaged 17.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 4.0 steals a game while shooting 70 percent from the foul line. Harris, also a standout defensive back on the football team, will play basketball at Division II Lake Superior State next season.
“Tony was another four-year player for us and our vocal leader this year,” said Borja. “With me coming in as the new coach, it was nice to see Tony and the seniors buy in really quick to make it a smooth transition. Tony was a key to that. He’s a great kid to have on your team because he backs down from nobody. He has the drive to play at the highest level and that helped us win 18 games this season.”
TAYLOR PERRY, Rochester 6-4 jr. F: In his third season on the varsity and second as a starter, Perry came into his own with several games where he scored at least 20 points and one other where he scored more than 30. The junior helped Rochester win its first league title in more than a decade by averaging 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists a game. The All-OAA Blue Division honoree also earned Bank Hoops All-State Ninth Team in Class A, one of six non-seniors chosen. He verbally committed to Western Michigan before the season.
“Taylor had an outstanding year for us,” said coach John Pleasant. “He led us to our first league title in over 10 years, and he led the team in points, rebounds and assists. I anticipate that Taylor will have a great senior season next year.”
JAMES YOUNG, Troy 6-5 soph. G/F: Troy finished 17-5 and shared the OAA White Division title this season with Auburn Hills Avondale and Young was a big part of that as one of the most dominant players in Oakland County all season. The two-year varsity performer, who missed half of last season for academic reasons, poured in 22.7 points with 9. 5 rebounds and 2.5 assists a game. He played all five positions at times this season and has established himself as one of the top-10 sophomores in all of Michigan, earning all-state honors by various publications. He is already on the radar of numerous Division I colleges across the Midwest.
“James has great court presence,” said coach Gary Fralick. “He’s an excellent passer, he is very long and athletic and he played efficiently up top in the 1-3-1 zone. He was All-Oakland County Dream Team as a sophomore.”
NICK TATU, Clarkston 6-2 jr. G/F: In his second season as a starter, Tatu vaulted from honorable-mention all-area status to the first team after leading the Wolves in multiple offensive categories and to both a OAA Red Division and district championship. With the green light to shoot, Tatu poured in 16.8 points with three rebounds a game, shooting nearly 40 percent from outside the three-point arc. He nailed a career-high six triples in a win over Southfield Lathrup and earned all-league honors after being the top 3-point shooter in the conference.
“Nick’s an outstanding shooter, but I think he improved his all-around game and that he needs to keep developing more of his game and not just be an outside shooter if he wants to play in college,” said coach Dan Fife. “He was our top shooter, one of the best in our league, and he had some great games. I think he sees where he needs to improve. We will work on some of the other parts of his game, get him to become a scorer, not just a shooter, and work on his defense so he can become more of a complete player.”
JAKE DUZEY, Troy Athens 6-4 sr. C: Headed to Iowa for football, Duzey was the top post player in the three divisions of the OAA for basketball this winter. Quick and strong and with long arms, Duzey’s athleticism shined in the low post, where had averaged 13 points, eight rebounds and three blocks a game. The three-year starter in basketball once recorded eight blocks in an upset win over Clarkston. He earned All-OAA White Division honors.
ALEX JONES, Rochester Stoney Creek 6-2 sr. PG: The quarterback on the Cougars’ football team, Jones took the leadership reigns for a basketball team under a new coaching staff and void of 10 players from the previous season and led them on the court. The All-OAA White Division honoree also helped Stoney Creek win its first postseason game and to the district finals for the first time. He averaged 15.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.0 steals a game and earned Team MVP honors. He is undecided on a college choice and if he will play collegiate athletics.
“Alex broke two school records this year,” said coach Steve Norgrove. He scored 35 points in a game and recorded seven steals in another. He’s a good all around player, had a good year even though he played with less talented players. He carried the load for us offensively. Tough to stop even though our opponent’s game plan was to shut him down.
ANDREW HAMMETT, Rochester Adams 6-2 sr. G/F: The sole returning starter for the Highlanders this season, Hammett overcame a slow start to become the Team MVP and an All-OAA White Division selection in his third year on the varsity, second as a starter. This season he helped Adams win 10 of its final 12 games and reach the Class A Sweet 16, the furthest the school has ever advanced in 41 years of the school. Hammett, who also plays defensive back, wide receiver and quarterback as a three-year varsity veteran in football, finished his final prep basketball season with 14.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.7 steals. He also established a new school record with 92 steals in a season.
DREW PERRIN, Auburn Hills Oakland Christian 5-10 jr. PG: The Lancers’ run to the regional finals in Class D was behind the direction of this heady point guard, who ran the show and consistently got the ball into the right hands. A first-year starter who came off the bench the past two years, Perrin averaged 10.7 points and 6.4 assists a game, with the assists average being one of the highest in school history. Perrin, who was a first-team all-state selection in soccer and also runs track, was runner-up in the voting for League MVP in the MIAC Blue Division. He was also named to the All-State lists by multiple publications.
“He was no doubt the leader on this team,” said coach Dennis Hopkins. “He was the emotionally leader, the guys all liked him, and he was the leader on the court. He’s the type of player who can score who always seems to get the ball to the right person. He’s very composed out on the court.”
MARCUS HARDY, Clarkston 6-7 sr. F/C: In his second season as a starter after moving over from Bloomfield Hills Lahser, Hardy came into his own this season in leading the Wolves in the post. He averaged 11 points and 10 rebounds a game as an All-OAA Red Division player, but more importantly his numbers continued to rise as the season went along.
“I almost wish it were college and I could give Marcus a redshirt year. He came such a long way from the beginning of last year to the end of this year,” said Fife. “The thing about Marcus is that he is far from reaching his potential. His best basketball is ahead of him. Whoever he plays for in college, they may have a very good player in 2-3 years. He’s developing a nice touch and he plays some nice help defense, blocks shots and gets a lot of rebounds. I think he could become a pretty good player in college.”
MARK HAZELWOOD, Oxford 5-10 jr. SG: While the Wildcats still struggled below the .500 mark, Hazelwood had one of the best seasons of any player at Oxford in the past two-plus decades. He averaged 17.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists a game to earn All-OAA Blue Division honors. His scoring average was the highest in nearly 20 years at the school and he shot 75 percent from the foul line (82-for-109) and 34 percent from outside the three-point arc. He had highs of 29 points and seven assists in games this year and had multiple games of over 20 points. He has been invited to the BCAM Top 100 Showcase this summer and was named honorable-mention all-state.
“The thing about Mark is how hard he worked in the offseason. He had a15-point scoring improvement from last year, when he averaged around 2.5 points a game,” said coach Paul Marfia. “He had 61 three-pointers, 10 shy of our record. But he’s more than just a shooter. He drives to the bucket and is a good passer. We have not had a kid like this here I’m told in a long time. He’s a great kid and he’s more than just stats. He has an incredible work ethic.”
BILLY KLOTZ, Rochester 6-2 sr. F: A rare three-sport athlete, Klotz also excelled as a wide receiver in football and as an outfielder in baseball. In basketball, the All-OAA Blue Division honoree was second on the team in scoring with 14 points and four rebounds a game and was an aggressive-type player, often driving through traffic to go to the bucket and draw fouls all while playing stingy defense on the other end of the court. He will play football at Northwood University next year.
“Billy was our leader this year,” said Pleasant. “He provided energy every single day for us. When our team was struggling in games it was always Billy who provided the spark for us to get us going. Billy also always defended the other team’s best player. He has had a great senior year.”
JOHN STIBICH, Troy 6-1 sr. SG: One of the top pure shooters in all of Oakland County, Stibich was nearly unstoppable in games where he was in the zone. He had several games with four or more three-pointers and finished the year shooting 43 percent from beyond the arc. He earned All-OAA White Division status after pouring in 12 points a game.
“He hit 70 threes this year,” said Fralick. “He’s a great natural three-point shooter, one of the best (shooters) I’ve coached.”
TRAVIS WOODHAM, Troy Bethany Christian 6-1 sr. PG: Few have Woodham’s athletics success in high school, as the four-year starter will graduate with 12 varsity letters and all-conference honors in all three sports at least six times. Woodham, who helped lead his school to a record-setting year in soccer, which included the MACS Division I state championship, was the player who ran the show in basketball as well. The heady point guard averaged 14.3 points, 4.0 assists, 3.0 steals and 2.4 rebounds a game. He shot 82 percent from the foul line, earning co-MVP honors in the FBAC Red Division and leading his team to the MACS-I state semifinals and a share of the league title. He once had 10 steals in a game to set a new school record.
“Travis is the motor of our team,” said coach Jack Walker. “He plays non-stop. He’s also a really good defensive player. We had him guard one of the other team’s best players, and then he comes down the court and sets up our offense. We’ll miss having him around.”
AUSTIN KARBOWSKI, Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes 6-2 sr. G: Another three-sport standout, Karbowski is also an All-CHSL honoree in baseball and football. He also earned All-State honors in football this past fall. During the basketball season, the All-Catholic selection finished with a fine 19.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.4 steals a game. He was All-State in football last fall.
“Austin has grown to become a scorer instead of just an outside shooter,” said coach Sean Wightman. “He has the ability to create offense both off the dribble as well as from outside, which makes him difficult for teams to guard. He also has good range on his jump shot and plays excellent defense.”
TAYLOR RAWLINGS, Rochester Stoney Creek 6-5 sr. F: Rawlings saw an increased role this season after the Cougars lost seven of their top 10 players from the previous year and he flourished. Named All-OAA White Division Honorable Mention, Rawlings was voted the Coveted Cougar Award and the team’s Best Defensive Player after becoming the team’s top inside threat. He finished the year with 13 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.0 blocks an outing.
“Taylor recorded six double-doubles this season,” said Norgrove. “He held the school scoring record for one week at 29 points in one game. He took 20 charges on the year, that is an incredible stat, and almost averaged a double-double for the season.”
MATT DELLINGER, Clarkston 6-2 jr. F: Dellinger does not light up in the stat chart as a leader in most games, but his six points and four rebounds, coupled with stingy defense, was a big reason why Clarkston went on a 15-game tear to reach the Class A regional finals. He earned All-OAA Red Division status for the league champion Wolves, who have won league titles in seven of the past eight years.
“He was a big key to our team,” admitted Fife. “He’s not a big-time scorer. He understands his role and he plays great defense and does all of the little things. He’s a tough kid who is fundamentally sound. We don’t win this many games if we don’t have players like Matt on our team. The kid gives his heart and soul while out on the court.”
NATHAN DREWS, Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest 6-1 soph. G/F: The team’s sole returning starter, Drews had a fine sophomore season in his own right and is emerging as one of the top underclassmen in the area. Named to the MIAC Blue Division First Team, Drews poured in 15.9 points and three assists a game for the Crusaders. Drews is also the starting quarterback at Northwest, helping his team to a share of the MIAC crown and to the playoffs last autumn.
“Nathan is a pure shooter and has a fire to win,” said coach Dan Pontillo. “Nathan is guarding the other team best player and he scores them.”
DONALD ALLEN, Clarkston Everest Collegiate 6-5 jr. F/C: After playing timid as a sophomore during the program’s inaugural varsity season, Allen matured by great measures to become one of the better post players in the CHSL this past winter. The All-CHSL selection averaged nearly a double-double by collecting 11.9points and 9.0 rebounds a game.
“Donny is an excellent player. He is difficult to guard and harder to keep off the glass,” said coach Ann Lowney. “I expect even better things from him next year.”
D.J. SZYDLOWSKI, Rochester Hills Christian 6-4 sr. C: Szydlowski started nearly every game in his four years in both soccer (goalkeeper) and basketball (center) and he dominated in the low post threat this season helping his team go from four wins to 16 wins this season with a league co-championship. Named co-MVP of the FBAC Red Division, Szydlowski averaged 13. 5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.2 blocks a game for the Eagles.
MATT NESTOR, Rochester Adams 6-2 sr. G: None more for his baseball talents, as he will join the pitching staff at Western Michigan next school year, Nestor was a key cog in the Highlanders’ run to just its fourth-ever district and to the regional finals. The All-OAA White Division honoree averaged 9.4 points was the glue-type player who made crucial plays at the right time and played better in the final month of the season.
EVAN MAHONE, Troy 5-8 jr. PG: Mahone grew a couple of inches before the season and his court vision improved, as he was the steady point that fed the Colts’ top guns all season. Mahone, one of three players to earn-conference accolades in the OAA White, averaged 9.3 points and three assists a game for a team that finished 17-5. He poured in a career-high 27 points in a mid-season win over Troy Athens.
COACH OF THE YEAR
DENNIS HOPKINS, Auburn Hills Oakland Christian: In his sixth season with the Lancers and ninth overall as a high school varsity coach, Hopkins has grabbed the attention of many as being one of the better young coaches in the game.
Hopkins, who also coached at Clarkston Springfield Christian from 1997-2000, where he won a MACS Division I state title in 2000, guided the Lancers to a MIAC Blue Division and district championship this season, along with a berth in the Class D regional finals. His team lost on a buzzer-beater to Detroit Westside Christian. Oakland Christian, which finished the season 23-2 overall and 13-1 in the MIAC-Blue, did so with only one senior in the top 10 players and with two freshmen and a sophomore in the playing rotation.
The Lancers climbed to as high as No. 6 in various Class D state polls this season. Next season with a slight enrollment bump, the school will compete in Class C for the first time and should again be a top-10 team in the state. This is the fourth straight season that Oakland Christian has won a district crown under Hopkins and the team will return 11 of 15 players next season.
“It was a lot of fun to coach this team. They worked hard and we were competitive in every game,” said Hopkins, who was a standout basketball and soccer player at Northland College (Wisc.) in the mid-1990s. “Even the games we didn’t play well, we usually found a way to win. Next year, we return just about everybody that played significant minutes, and even though we are going to be in Class C, I still think we have the talent to compete with a lot of teams. We were one of the best teams in the state this year. We were one shot of making the state quarterfinals this season and that (loss in the regional finals) was to a team that reached the state semifinals.”
2011 ALL-AREA BOYS BASKETBALL TEAM
NAME SCHOOL HGT. GR. POS.
Taylor Perry Rochester 6-4 Jr. F
James Young Troy 6-5 Soph. F
Jake Duzey Troy Athens 6-4 Sr. C
Ray Tillman A.H. Avondale 6-1 Sr. G
Tony Harris Jr. A.H. Avondale 5-8 Sr. PG
Nick Tatu Clarkston 6-2 Jr. G/F
Andrew Hammett Roch.Adams 6-2 Sr. F
Marcus Hardy Clarkston 6-7 Sr. F/C
Drew Perrin A.H. Oakland Chr. 5-10 Jr. PG
Mark Hazelwood Oxford 5-10 Jr. SG
Alex Jones Roch.Stoney Creek 6-2 Sr. SG
Travis Woodham Troy Bethany Chr. 6-1 Sr. PG
Billy Klotz Rochester 6-1 Sr. F
John Stibich Troy 6-0 Sr. SG
Taylor Rawlings Roch. Stoney Creek 6-5 Sr. F
Austin Karbowaki Waterford Our Lady 6-2 Sr. F
Matt Dellinger Clarkston 6-2 Jr. F
Matt Nestor Roch. Adams 6-2 Sr. F
Donald Allen C’ston Everest Collegiate 6-5 Jr. F
DJ Szydlowski Rochester Hills Chr. 6-4 Sr. C
Nathan Drews R.H. Lutheran N’west 6-0 Soph. SG
Evan Mahone Troy 5-8 Jr. PG
COACH OF THE YEAR
Dennis Hopkins A.H. Oakland Christian Sixth Season
Auburn Hills Avondale: A.J. Susick, 6-6 jr. C; Ryan Brancheau, 6-4 sr. F; Auburn Hills Christian Academy: Bobby Elliott, 6-5 sr. G/F; Auburn Hills Oakland Christian: Josh Peterson, 6-6 jr. C; Charles Heyden, 6-4 jr. F; Nathan Piasecki, 6-1 jr. F; Clarkston: Mitch Baenziger, 6-2 jr. F; Clarkston Springfield Christian: Alex Trull, 5-10 sr. G; Kevin Bettinger, 6-1 sr. F; Clarkston Everest Collegiate: Richie Cross, 6-0 soph. PG; Blake Beauchamp, 6-0 soph. G; Lake Orion: John McCarty, 6-4 fr. F; Connor McCormick 6-0 sr. G; Rich Eaton, 6-4 sr. F; Lake Orion Baptist: James Noruk, 5-9 jr. SG; Conner Welby, 5-8 sr. PG; Oxford: Chris Calvin, 6-5 sr. C; Jacques Touissant, 6-0 jr. PG; Rochester: Paris Periera, 5-6 jr. PG; Nick Bradley, 6-1 sr. G/F; Rochester Adams: Akhemji Williams, 5-5 fr. PG; Zack Littleson, 6-4 soph. F; Rochester Stoney Creek: Tyler Curtis, 6-2 sr. F; Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest: Mike Miller, 6-3 sr. F; Rochester Hills Christian: Josh West, 5-11 sr. PG; Troy: Alex Wise, 6-1 sr. F; Jeff Holmes, 6-4 jr. F/C; Troy Athens: Tyler Channell, 6-2 sr. PG; Caleb McIntosh, 6-3 jr. G/F; Marcarius Zachery, 6-3 jr. F; Troy Bethany Christian: Daniel Sprankle, 6-1 jr. F; Jono Grono, 5-10 sr. G; Troy Christian Leadership Academy: Not available; Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes: Garrett Ross, 6-3 soph. F; Jared Ritch, 6-0 sr. G.
Category: All Area Teams, Auburn Hills Avondale, Auburn Hills Christian Acadamy, Auburn Hills Oakland Christian, Clarkston, Clarkston Everest Catholic, Clarkston Springfield Christian, High School, High School (M-Z), Lake Orion, Lake Orion Baptist, Lake Orion Shalom Baptist, Oxford, Prep Wraps, Rochester, Rochester Adams, Rochester Hills Christian, Rochester Hills Lutheran NW, Rochester Stoney Creek, Troy, Troy Athens, Troy Bethany Christian, Troy Christian Leadership Acadamy, Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes