Holiday Hoops 2012
|Fulton (77) vs. Fowler (50)|
|Olivet (37) vs. Marshall (42)|
|Holt (57) vs. St John's (35)|
|Okemos (69) vs. Troy Athens (48)|
|East Lansing (71) vs. Detroit Martin Luther King (67)|
|Lansing Catholic (45) vs. Hastings (42)|
Most Outstanding Player
All Tournament Team
Program (PDF 2.9MB)
Detroit Martin Luther King
Detroit Martin Luther King was involved in one of the best games in the history of the Holiday Hoops Invitational last year at Lansing Eastern's Don Johnson Field House.
Despite current Michigan State freshman forward Matt Costello's 34 points, 30 rebounds and eight blocks, King was able to beat Bay City Western in an overtime thriller. Costello's rebound total was a new Holiday Hoops record and he was named the event's Most Outstanding Player.
Now King will be at the Breslin Center for an encore when they take on East Lansing.
"We lost a lot from last year. We had eight seniors last year, but we're really excited about what we've got coming back. Our JV won the (Detroit Public School League) championship two years ago and a lot of those same players have moved up," King coach Pierre Brooks said. "We only have one player with varsity experience but we've got a lot of players coming in that are going to contribute."
The team's heart and soul last year was guard Dennis Norfleet, who is now playing football for the University of Michigan.
"Dennis Norfleet was a four-year starter for us at King. He was the identity of our team for a long time," Brooks said.
One of the players who Woods is looking to step in to that role is junior point guard Tyrone Acuff, who is 6-foot-6. Senior center D'Marco Redd and sophomore forward Armoni Lee are both 6-foot-5.
"We have decent size this year compared to past King teams," Brooks said.
In addition, playing in a big arena will be valuable for a team that doesn't have a ton of experience on this type of stage.
"We're very excited to play in this type of atmosphere. A lot of kids on our team haven't travelled outside the (Detroit) city limits so just getting them in a different environment, a different atmosphere is just going to be a big thing for our program," Brooks said.
This will be East Lansing's third consecutive trip to the Holiday Hoops Invitational.
In the 2010 Holiday Hoops Invitational, the Trojans lost to Rockford before coming back to last year's event and defeating Ann Arbor Huron.
"We played really poorly. It was probably our worst game of the year that year," East Lansing coach Steve Finamore said of the 11-point loss to Rockford. "Last year we were really amped up to play in it. We had spirited practices and we were playing Ann Arbor Huron and they were pretty good, so our guys were jacked up."
That victory was at Lansing Eastern High School's Don Johnson Field House, which leaves East Lansing hungry to get back to the Breslin Center floor once again.
"The kids are really excited. The kids are more excited than I am. I love the Breslin, don't get me wrong, I love being out there, but basketball's basketball. I'll play anywhere. It doesn't matter as long as there's two hoops, a couple of refs and two teams," Finamore said. "For the kids, it means a lot more."
Finamore's Trojans don't have a ton of height – nine of the 14 players on the roster are guards – but their affinity for the three-point shot and a fast tempo make them a fun team to watch as well as a difficult team to prepare for in a one-game situation.
Senior guard/forward Javon Haines averaged 16.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per game last year and may be due for a breakout season while also stepping into a leadership role.
"I haven't told him how good he can be and haven't told him how good he is. I want him to work for everything," Finamore said of Haines. "He's doing it in a variety of ways now. We run plays for him inside. We run plays for him outside and in transition he scores and his defense has gotten a lot better."
Senior Ahmad Newsome is also a returner, but will move to the point guard spot on this year's team.
Last year's Holiday Hoops Invitational matchup against Fulton didn't go so well for the Fowler at Lansing's Don Johnson Field House, but the Eagles will enter the Breslin Center determined to notch a win after last year's defeat.
The Eagles have a new coach in Eric Buhr, who coached the freshman team at Fowler for 19 years and the junior varsity for two seasons. He's coached the current roster at the lower levels of the school's basketball program.
"It's a different year. The personnel has changed. In football and baseball and basketball prior to the varsity level, they had a tremendous amount of success and they're kids who want to win games and they're going to work their tails off to do so," Buhr said of his team. "Obviously the memories of games past against Fulton the last couple of years have not sat well with them. …
"They're going to be ready to play and they're going to bring their best game in this matchup."
Buhr inherits a team he's familiar with and a squad loaded with experience.
The Eagles have nine seniors on the roster, led by 5-foot-10 guard Trent Goerge, a three-year varsity player who averaged just over 11 points per game last season and was a second team all-league player.
Kevin Koenigsknecht can play guard and forward and is also in his third year on the varsity. Goerge and Koenigsknecht are the team captains.
Senior forward/center Dan Buhr, Eric's son, is also a reliable scorer for the Eagles and is used as the main post presence for an otherwise small Fowler team.
"I've built that rapport with them in the past," Eric Buhr said of his previous work with this group. "We have a really good communication with each other and a really strong bond with each other and I always expect their best and they've been willing to give it so far."
Fulton has been known in the past for its football program, which has won at least 10 football games each year from 2004-07 and played in at least the district final round all but once from 1998-2010.
But the last two years it's been the Fulton basketball team's turn to represent the school deep in state tournament play.
The Pirates fell in a Class D state quarterfinal last year and reached the Class D final during the 2010-11 season before losing to Wyoming Tri-unity Christian.
Nine seniors graduated from last year's team, including most of the team's scoring with Tyler Walden, Cody Johnson and Corey Hungerford all moving on.
Now head coach Todd Walden's job is to rebuild his team after two years of success.
"We're real happy with our younger kids. I think it's going to be a big learning curve with these kids," Walden said. "They've been part of the program and seen some of the places that those seniors last year took us. There's no doubt we're going to miss them. You can't graduate nine seniors and not feel the impact, but I like our team."
The Fulton roster only has one senior, but junior Dalton Trefil has the ability to fill it up from beyond the three-point line.
It's a young, balanced group as the Pirates have also gotten solid contributions from sophomores Gregg Jones and Talon Hyde.
"I think we're very close to the place we were three or four years ago when those kids that graduated were freshmen and sophomores starting out and they made some freshmen and sophomore mistakes but they grew up fast and these kids are a lot the same way," Walden said. "It's a close-knit group, just like we've been the last four or five years and I think that's been a big key."
This will be the second consecutive season Fulton has faced Fowler, as the Pirates defeated the Eagles last season at Don Johnson Field House in Lansing.
Many of the 12 teams in this year's Holiday Hoops Invitational field have youth on the roster, but Hastings comes to the Breslin Center with an older group.
There isn't a freshman or sophomore on the varsity roster and seven seniors will help make the Saxons a poised bunch.
"Five of them played a ton (last year) and two of them even played a little bit towards the end of the season. We won our district with that group, so we have that coming back," Hastings coach Don Schils said.
Schils, who is in his 20th year as a coach for the Saxons and serves as a co-coach along with Steve Storrs, is interested to see how his team handles the atmosphere.
"It's going to be daunting to them too and if not, it'll be a great learning experience for these environments. We hope to be playing in some big games and playing in a stadium like this is only going to help that. We're playing a very good program in a great venue over the holidays and it's not going to get any better than that," Schils said.
Four of the returning seniors are guards, led by Maxwell Clark and Luke Heide.
Schils describes Clark as a great athlete who does a little bit of everything for the Saxons. An above average passer and shooter, Clark will even be among the team's top rebounders on particular nights despite standing just six feet tall.
Heide is the team's best knock down shooter.
"Any time in high school that you've got decent guards, you're going to be OK. If we get consistent scoring in the post, just a little bit of scoring, we're going to be tough," Schils said.
Seniors Alex Cherry and Stefan Horvat are the team's two biggest post players at 6-foot-4.
The biggest strength of this team according to Schils is the defense.
"We defend extremely well and any time you defend well, you give yourself a chance to win," Schils said.
Holt posted a 9-12 overall record last year and lost several close games, but a year of seasoning has toughened the Rams up as they entered 2012.
"It was such a frustrating year and everything that could go wrong did go wrong and everybody's really bought in and committed and re-committed and we had a great preseason. Our practices have been more competitive than ever and guys have just bought in," Holt coach Matt Essell said.
The Rams finished sixth in a tough Capital Area Activities Conference Blue, but returned three starters to this year's team.
Junior forward Colin Jones is perhaps the most intriguing player for Holt. A 6-foot-3 forward who averaged 14 points and eight rebounds per game last year, Jones has solid moves inside and can step out and knock down jump shots from behind the three-point line.
"He's really valuable in that he likes the big moment. Some kids at the end are taking the big shot and it's tough for them and he loves the moment," Essell said. "He rebounds. He's a very good post defender and he's just really skilled as well."
Jones has been a starter since his freshman season.
Junior guard Don'Quall Jackson is a scorer and a passer and is usually the primary ball-handler for the Rams. He and Jones are two of six returning players who saw varsity action at some point last season.
"Instead of having really young kids starting, we've got juniors and seniors that I'm counting on, so I'm hoping that maturity buys us some more wins this year," Essell said.
That much was apparent in Holt's first game of the season, as the Rams earned a three-point victory over Lansing Waverly in the final minute of a non-league game.
"This year there's just kind of a different demeanor from the kids. Down the stretch they made all the right decisions and all the right plays and that didn't always happen last year," Essell said.
Lansing Catholic lost an all-state guard from last season in Stevie Repichowski, but the Cougars have a nice blend of returning players and other contributors to be hopeful this year.
"It's an interesting team because we have three or four key returning guys and then we have a freshman and three sophomores up on the varsity that will play significant minutes for us as well so you have a few veterans and some guys that have never played any varsity basketball at all," Lansing Catholic coach Darren Zwick said. "We're trying to blend those two together. I think there will be a lot of peaks and valleys, but in the end I think we'll be a pretty strong team."
Six players who had varsity experience from last year's 21-win team return, led by senior forward Dillon Rush and 6-foot-8 junior center David Poljan.
David's brother Tony is a 6-foot-7 freshman forward who also is expected to contribute.
"It's difficult when you have a guy that averaged 20-plus points a game to find a guy that can step in and fill that role, so it will be by committee," Zwick said. "There will probably be a little bit more balance than maybe we've had the last couple years because we don't have that one guy that is going to need to score around 20 points per game."
That balance could serve the Cougars well and make them more difficult to guard.
"When I look at our team, I see five or six guys that could all score somewhere between eight and 14 points a night," Zwick said. "I do like the balance approach. It's always great to have that go to guy, but I feel we have a couple of those guys as well, so I've got a lot of confidence in this group."
Marshall reached the Class B regional finals last year before losing to eventual Class B state champion Sexton.
But the Redhawks have brought back some contributors from last year's team in coach Nick Dent's first season.
Two experienced guards lead the backcourt in seniors Robbie Ranville and Tony Wimberly. Senior Trevor Travis anchors the middle and stands at 6-foot-7.
Ranville may be the team's best shooter, while Wimberly may be the team's most athletic player.
"The three guys who really contributed a lot last year as juniors. Robbie and Trevor are captains for us this year. We're really looking to those three guys to really be the team leaders and to really contribute," Dent said. "We're a senior heavy team."
One of those seniors, guard Matt Murphy, has assumed the point guard duties after playing on the junior varsity last season.
Six seniors are on the roster all together, providing great experience for a team that was just two wins from reaching the Breslin Center for the Class B semifinals last season.
Now Marshall finds itself on Michigan State University's home floor for the 2012 Holiday Hoops Invitational and they'll face an opponent they're used to playing this time of year in Olivet.
The Redhawks knocked off the Eagles last year on their way to the Class B regional finals and the two schools face each other normally during holiday break.
"We consider it a rivalry game. We're neighboring communities and it's an important game any year and it's always a hard-fought competitive game and I'm sure this year being at the Breslin Center will make it even more intense," Dent said.
There are quite a few teams in this year's Holiday Hoops Invitational yearning for players with varsity experience, perhaps none more than Okemos.
The Chieftains lost their entire starting five from last season, when they made a bold run through the Class A state tournament and lost to eventual state runner-up Rockford in the quarterfinals.
The athletic backcourt tandem of Chris Harrison-Docks and Jarad Motley was a particularly tough loss. The pair made up most of the scoring and teamed brilliantly with one another.
In addition, the Chieftains have a new coach in Jeff Wonch after Dan Stolz retired following 17 years on the Okemos bench.
It's been a matter of learning and getting prepared on the fly for Okemos as the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue presents them with no favors.
"Right when I met the team, their work ethic, they just work so hard and the more we get to know each other, the more we're getting to add in and teach and just becoming better and better every single day and they know they're trying to improve every day," Wonch said. "The work ethic they bring is probably their best strength."
While experience at the varsity level is limited on this roster, the team has been around the Okemos program for some time.
Among his returning players, Wonch has four seniors and a junior. Seniors Nathan Lafayette and Nathan Janick stand 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-5, respectively.
"We do have some strength inside," Wonch said.
Darius Morris is a promising guard that got playing time a year ago as a sophomore and learned from Harrison-Docks.
"A lot of guys are looking to step up for the first time," Wonch said. "I think they've kind of read the writing on the wall for a while now. Even when they weren't getting the opportunity last year, they were thinking next year will be our year, so they're trying to take advantage of that and step up and be leaders and be the go to guys."
Olivet coach Brian Dartt and the Eagles know Michigan State well. Entering his 13th season as coach, Dartt was quick to highlight the amount of Spartan fans in the Olivet community when the 12 teams participating in the 2012 Holiday Hoops Invitational were formally announced at a press conference earlier in December.
His Eagles will see a foe they know well when they take the Breslin Center court today.
"For our kids to get a chance to come play on the floor that some of their local heroes play on, it's going to be a lot of fun, and then to add the fact that we're playing Marshall, which is 12 miles down the road from us. … We play them every year during Christmas time, usually just home and away series and as of late we've been playing in the district tournament and they knocked us out of the tournament last year in the district championship game," Dartt said, "so it's a big deal."
The only thing that may be bigger than the rivalry between these two is Olivet senior center Quintan Harris, who checks in at 6-foot-8 and averaged over 16 points and eight rebounds per game as a junior. Harris has committed to play for Michigan Tech next season.
"Everything we do will be centered on him, offensively and defensively," Dartt said. "We run an offense that really revolves around his presence in the post and his ability to pass. He's a really good passer as far as his vision and so you'll see a lot of cuts and a lot of people getting bounce passes from him. We get a lot of good looks because of that."
The Eagles also have an experienced backcourt with three senior guards in Trent Strang, Nick Coolidge and Brett Whitely.
Olivet went 13-5 last season to finish in third place in the Kalamazoo Valley Athletic Association.
St. Johns won their league last season in the Capital Area Activities Conference Red, but has a first-year coach in Denny Baratono and some inexperience on the roster.
Baratono was coach at Ovid-Elsie High School for a season before becoming the St. Johns coach when Caleb Miller stepped aside as coach prior to the season. Baratono had served as an assistant under Miller for four seasons.
"It's going to be a struggle all year long, I think," Baratono said. "They're going to be on and off a little bit because they're young. We're talking about juniors and sophomore and then the people coming off the bench are juniors and sophomores."
The experience on this version of the Redwings lies in the backcourt. Bryce Wischmeyer, Austin Cleaver and Tyler Mazzolini are all senior guards who return after varsity action last year.
Wischmeyer gained experience as a junior filling in for star guard Jonathan Harden, who missed almost half the season with a broken wrist. He learned how to run the offense with several players who are back in the rotation this season.
While the post isn't as experienced, there's talent that St. Johns can use today against Holt and into the future.
Matt Pearsall is a 6-foot-7 junior forward and sophomore Austin Ervin can also be used in the paint at 6-foot-5. The two often aren't on the floor at the same time, but the Redwings are big up front when the pair gets minutes together.
Junior forward Josh Hafner can knock down shots from outside and also slash to the basket and was an all-league honorable mention selection in the CAAC Red last season.
Last year, Troy Athens' crosstown rival Troy faced off against Okemos at the 2011 Holiday Hoops Invitational at Eastern High School's Don Johnson Field House and fell to the Chieftains.
Now the Red Hawks will get their chance in this year's edition.
It will be a battle of young teams. Okemos lost their entire starting five and coach from last season while Athens will carry eight sophomores on the roster.
"We think we're going to be pretty good once we get some games and some experience under our belt, but it's also a growing year for us with eight sophomores. We start three, we start a junior who's new to the varsity and then we have one senior," third-year Troy Athens coach David Scott said. "Some growing pains but we've got some good athletes and some exciting talent."
The lone senior in the starting lineup is senior Jeff Koch, who checks in at 6-foot-8.
The rest will find themselves in a big environment on the campus of Michigan State University and Scott is anxious to see how his team will handle it.
"We're going to be nervous. Nerves will definitely be a factor," Scott said. "We'll have played some pretty good teams in our league before coming (to the Breslin Center) and so with a couple games under our belt hopefully we'll get ready, but anytime you get an opportunity to play in a venue like this, especially if it's your first time and it will be for all of our kids, it's exciting. Hopefully we can overcome that."
In addition to Koch, Athens boasts a sophomore with good size in 6-foot-5 John Van Hoef. Sophomore guard Tim Shayoka got varsity experience as a freshman.
"We're kind of looking for that continued development from those two guys and Jeff and those are kind of our big three returners and then we're looking to build some nice pieces around them," Scott said.