Tuesday, June 26, 2012

WL Western's Jones continues to rack up BCS offers

Name a local prep football player that has been more sought after than Walled Lake Western’s Josh Jones.

Chances are you can’t.

Jones started off with several MAC level offers including Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Ball State, Bowling Green and Toledo, where he initially gave his verbal commitment to. But Jones still had his sights set on getting an offer from a BCS conference school, and who could blame him?

Shortly after committing to Toledo, the BCS offers began to come in, starting with Iowa and then Illinois. With those BCS offers on the table for the soon-to-be senior defensive back, decommitted from Toledo and started weighing his options between the two Big 10 schools.

Now Jones has a third BCS offer to mull over as Pittsburgh University from the Big East offered Jones a scholarship on Monday. Jones is considering all three offers from Iowa, Illinois and Pittsburgh, but by the time signing day comes around I expect Jones to have offers from several more big time schools.

As a junior in 2011, Jones busted on to the scene as he became one of the state’s best lockdown players in the secondary as he recorded 40 tackles, eight pass breakups and three kick returns for touchdowns for the Warriors, who advanced all the way to the Division 2 state semifinals. Look for Jones to show off some of his talents on the offensive side of the ball in 2012 as the Warriors look to return to the final four.

Jones stock has been on the rise since the end of the 2011 football season, and it's only going soar higher and higher by the day.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Lathrup's Williams commits to play at Toledo in 2013

Southfield-Lathrup star point guard Jon-Jon Williams might still have one more year of high school eligibility left, but he already has his future planned out at the next level. Williams announced late on Sunday night that he will be playing at the University of Toledo in 2013.

Over the course of the past few months, Williams had received a handful of offers from the MAC conference, including Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan according to Williams, who will run things for a Southfield-Lathrup team that many expect to be strong contenders in the state next year, averaged over 26 points per game last season to go with six rebounds, five assists and three steals per contest as well.

Williams proved to be just as dominant of a force as anyone in the state last year as he poured in 30 or more points in 10 different games and showed he can be just as good of a distributor as he tallied several double-doubles last year.

Toledo and head coach Tod Kowalczyk are getting an absolute steal with the commitment of Williams who was one of, if not the best perimeter player in Oakland County as a junior and is only going to get better by the time he steps on campus. Williams was also rumored to have been considering rising Horizon League contender Detroit-Mercy and had received interest from Oakland University.

Williams is the first of the top two prep hoopsters from the county to commit for next year as Troy’s James Young continues to have offers pouring in from everywhere.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Head-Scratching Decision at Lathrup

Southfield-Lathrup recently made a decision that was a bit of a head scratcher. The Chargers allowed head coach Mike Avery, who had been the head coach at Lathrup for 15 years walk away, after he chose not to reapply for the position. Avery’s replacement will be Desmond Denham, a well-regarded coach in the AAU circuits, who served as an assistant to Avery last year.

Denham will turn out to be a great hire for Lathrup in my mind, but I can’t help but wonder why the Chargers allowed Avery to walk away. Avery was one of Oakland County’s top coaches during his 15 years in charge, and took home several league titles during that span of time. Big things were (and still are) expected out of the Lathrup basketball program with star point guard Jon-Jon Williams returning for his senior year.

The good news for Lathrup is that Denham is familiar with the program and has coached several local stars on some of the AAU teams he has coached in the past, including Williams for several years. The familiarity between Williams and Denham should have an immediate impact as the Chargers won't miss a beat from the start of the season.

It seemed like Avery had accomplished more than enough with the Lathrup program to assure himself some job security, but that didn’t turn out to be the case for some reason. Like I said earlier, I truly believe that Lathrup made the right decision by hiring Denham, but I don’t think a coaching change was necessary in any way, shape or form.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Local Softball Stars Ready for Summer Ball

Saturday may have marked the end of the high school softball season, but many summer leagues and teams are just heating up. One team that has plenty of local stars on board is the Michigan Lookouts.

The 16U Lookouts will have some of the best that the state has to offer in the class of 2013 including Lakeland ace Selena Hicks and Waterford Mott ace Devin Schomberg. The Lookouts will also have several more of the KLAA’s best which includes Hartland’s all-everything Chantel Olschanski who is one of the state’s top all-around players, and Kettering star outfielder Taylor Steinhelper. Schomberg will have a familiar face to play alongside with versatile teammate Carly Banchiu also on the roster. Farmington Hills Mercy slugger Meghan Terrance will likely help give the Lookouts some big time offensive contributions.

Other members on the 16U team include St. Clair duo of Bailey Dembinski and Brittany Schweiger as well as a duo from Chelsea, Taylor Cooley and Jessie Fox while Monroe’s Mazi Joslin will also be on board.

On the 18U Lookouts team will have no shortage of talent as some of the state’s best will play, including North Farmington ace Katy Severson and Raiders outfielder Nikki Wald. Farmington’s Sarah Gutknecht and Birmingham Seaholm’s Jordan Lennington will help carry the load for the Lookouts this summer as well.

The 18U team will also have Mattawan’s dominating ace Stacy Thompson, who helped lead her team to the state finals in back-to-back years and nearly a repeat as state champions this year before falling in an extra-innings heartbreaker. Vanessa Garcia and Kat Hoffman will be teammates of Severson at the University of Detroit next year, but will also be playing for the Lookouts with the Raider ace this summer.

Adrian’s Brooke Stewart, Chelsea’s Ally Smith, Michigan State’s Ellie Stoffer, Milan’s Adraya Garrett and Blissfield’s Courtney Brothers and Karissa DeVore will also be playing for the Lookouts this summer

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Elite Eight - Top Dogs

8. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood/ Birmingham Brother Rice Golf
I don’t know if it’s possible to put together a more dominant effort on a stage as big as the state finals, than what Cranbrook did this weekend. After shooting a very strong 299 on day one of the tournament, the Cranes didn’t leave any doubt that they were tops in Division 2 on Saturday as they shot a sizzling 289 and beat second place DeWitt by a whopping 27 shots.
The Warriors finally captured the elusive state title that they have missed out on for the past 14 years. But thanks to an impressive showing on day two of the Division 1 golf state finals, Brother Rice edged out Battle Creek Lakeview by one stroke after shooting a 297 on the second day.

7. Brett Sunde, Madison Heights Bishop Foley Baseball
Sunde went 3-for-5 on the weekend with a double in the semifinal game. Then he hit one of the longest home runs you will see in a high school game, and he did it in the state title game against one of the state’s top pitchers while drawing three walks. Sunde helped lead the Ventures to a repeat as Division 3 state champions on Saturday and was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 35th round of the MLB draft. Not too bad of a spring, is it?

6. Birmingham Marian Soccer
The Mustangs got back to their winning ways after missing out on last year’s state title as Marian knocked off defending state champions Plainwell, 3-1 to win the Division 2 state title. I’ll admit that I couldn’t have been more wrong about the Mustangs, and they showed just that as they dominated Plainwell from start to finish, which is exactly what they’ve done during their entire playoff run.

5. Madison Heights Bishop Foley Baseball
The Ventures capped off their back-to-back state championships in dominating fashion as they topped Saginaw Nouvel 6-2 in the semifinal game on Friday and then disposed of Lansing Catholic, 8-2 in the state championship game. Over the past two years, Bishop Foley put together an 80-6 record after finishing this season with a 41-3 record behind perfect records from pitchers Garrett Schilling (14-0) and Brian Bayliss (15-0).

4. Mackenzie Larson, Birmingham Marian Soccer
Larson has been overlooked in the postseason because of the high scoring Mustang attack, but the senior keeper has been as good as it gets and that was the case once again on Saturday as she stopped seven of the eight shots she faced. Larson caps off her high school career with three state championship rings and helped lead the Mustangs to an impressive 22-2-1 record this year in net.

3. Brian Bayliss, Madison Heights Bishop Foley Baseball
Not sure how much better the season could have gone for Bayliss, as the senior ace finished with his unblemished 15-0 mark and had an ERA of under 1.00 and did it against some of the state’s elite teams. Bayliss capped off his remarkable senior season by leading the Ventures to the Division 3 state title, by pitching seven innings of six-hit baseball and fanned eight Lansing Catholic batters on the day.

2. Kelly Sweeney, Birmingham Marian Soccer
Is Sweeney really a freshman? It’s a fair question, because the freshman phenom has played like a seasoned veteran all year long, especially in the playoffs. Sweeney came up big once again for the Mustangs, as she netted a pair of second half goals in less than 10 minutes that then gave Marian a commanding 3-0 lead early on in the second half. It’s scary to think that she’s only going to get better over the course of the next three years.

1.Garrett Schilling, Madison Heights Bishop Foley Baseball
Schilling was, without a doubt the MVP of the championship weekend as the super soph put on a show all weekend long. On Friday, Schilling pitched a gem as he shut down Saginaw Nouvel and led the Ventures to a 6-2 semifinal win as he fanned seven batters. But that’s not all of the damage that Schilling did on the weekend as he proved to be a menace at the plate as well.
Friday, Schilling went 2-for-4 with three RBI to help his own cause, then on Saturday, he went 2-for-4 with two RBI, including what proved to be the game winning RBI single in the third inning to give the Ventures a 3-0 edge. Schilling is showing that not only is he going to be a long term ace, but he will also be one of the main offensive contributors for Bishop Foley for the next two years.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

State Semifinals and Finals Predictions

Division 3 State Semifinals
Madison Heights Bishop Foley vs. Saginaw Nouvel
Bishop Foley has been flat out dominant all season long and that has had a lot to do with its pitching. Brian Bayliss has been as good of an ace as any in the state, while Garrett Schilling has put up ace-like numbers as well.
Prediction: Bishop Foley 6, Nouvel 1

Mancelona vs. Lansing Catholic
Both teams are coming off of a thrilling extra-innings win, but Lansing Catholic has been dominant all season long behind its 30-5 mark, so the edge will go to Lansing Catholic.
Prediction: Lansing Catholic 8, Mancelona 3

Madison Heights Bishop Foley vs. Lansing Catholic
Bishop Foley has had some of the best pitching in the state all season long, while Lansing Catholic has been one of the top offensive teams from start to finish. But in the playoffs, good pitching always beats good hitting.
Prediction: Bishop Foley 4, Lansing Catholic 0

Division 1 State Semifinals
Lakeland vs. Mattawan
The Eagles have an incredibly tough path to get to the final game as they have face defending state champion, Mattawan. The Wildcats have yet to allow a run in the playoffs while mowing through the competition, but Lakeland has been nearly unbeatable over the course of the past few months.
Prediction: Lakeland 2, Mattawan 1

Hudsonville vs. Garden City
Hudsonville won back-to-back state titles in 2009 and 2010, but missed out last year. Now the Eagles look motivated to get back to the state title game as they have been dominant all season long.
Prediction: Hudsonville 3, Garden City 2

Lakeland vs. Hudsonville
Lakeland has just found ways to win this season, starting off 16-2 this season without junior ace Selena Hicks and then rallying for three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning in a quarterfinal win over Sterling Heights Steveneson.  It won’t be an easy task to knock off a 38-3 Hudsonville team, but Lakeland just has the feel of a team of destiny and it helps to have some of that Joe Alsup magic.
Prediction: Lakeland 3, Hudsonville 2 (10 innings)

Girls Soccer State Finals
Division 1
Troy vs. Okemos
Troy went into this season as the No. 3 ranked team in the nation, and for good reason. The Colts are as talented and as deep as anybody around and that has started to show during the playoffs. Keeper Alison Holland has proved to be one of the best keepers in the country all season long and should prove to be the difference against an Okemos team that is ranked second in the state.
Prediction: Troy 2, Okemos 0

Division 2
Birmingham Marian vs. Plainwell
Plainwell has allowed just one goal throughout the playoffs, but Marian has scored 19 goals throughout the playoffs, so expect a contrast of styles in this game. Plainwell is the defending state champion, while Marian won two straight titles in 2009 and 2010. I’ll give the ever so slight edge to the defending state champions in this game.
Prediction: Plainwell 3, Marian 2 (2 OT)

Division 4
Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes/Clarkston Everest Collegiate vs. Grandville Calvin Christian
Lakes/Everest has yet to lose a game this season, and the perfect record was put to the test on Wednesday when the Lakers topped defending state champion Bishop Foley. First year head coach Katie Hearn has the Lakers rolling along this year, and Calvin Christian is just one last hurdle they have to clear to cap off a perfect season.
Prediction: WOLL/CEC 3, Calvin Christian 1

Monday, June 11, 2012

Battier Chasing Down NBA Championship

Shane Battier has accomplished plenty during his basketball career. The former Oakland County and Birmingham Detroit Country Day star led the Yellowjackets to a 3-peat between 1995-1997. In 1997, Battier was named Mr. Basketball in the state of Michigan, an award given to the top high school basketball player in the state. Beyond high school, Battier’s high school career, he’s played in two NCAA National title games with national powerhouse Duke and has won one – coming in 2001 over Arizona. Battier also won the NCAA Player of the Year award and went on to be the sixth overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft.

After signing with the Miami Heat in the offseason, Battier will now be the fourth former Oakland County prep basketball player to play for an NBA title. If the Heat and Battier are able to win a title, Battier will join B.J. Armstrong (Birmingham Brother Rice) as the only players from the county to win an NBA championship. Armstrong was the point guard for the Chicago Bulls in the early 90’s as the Bulls won three straight titles from 91-93.

Other recent former Oakland County prep stars to play for NBA championships are Walker Russell (Pontiac Central), who was a part of the 1988 Detroit Pistons squad that lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games. Southfield’s Ira Newble is the other Former county star to play for an NBA title as he played alongside LeBron James in 2007 for the Cleveland Cavaliers who were swept in four games by the San Antonio Spurs.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Elite 8 - Weekend Warriors

8. Riley Kennedy – Birmingham Brother Rice Lacrosse
After Brother Rice fell behind in the Division 1 state title game, Kennedy simply took over as the senior led the Warriors attack that went on to take a 7-2 lead after falling behind 2-1. Kennedy capped off his high school career with five goals in the state title game as Brother Rice won its 10th straight state title with a 14-8 win over Ann Arbor Pioneer.

7. Brian Bayliss-Garrett Schilling – Madison Heights Bishop Foley Baseball
Both Bayliss and Schilling put together dominant performances on Saturday as Bayliss nearly threw a shutout in the regional semifinal win over Dundee, and Schilling throwing five innings of one-hit ball in the regional final win over Riverview Gabriel Richard. The Ventures are now rolling towards a repeat thanks to their aces.

6. Taylor Timko – Pontiac Notre Dame Prep Soccer
Timko is as good of a goal scorer as there is in the state. The super-soph had already tallied 27 goals heading into Friday’s regional final against Grosse Ile, but she’s still not done scoring. The Michigan commit netted two more goals on Friday night, as she helped lead the Irish to a 4-1 win over the Red Devils and lifted her season scoring mark to 29.

5. Kelly Sweeney – Birmingham Marian
It’s hard to believe that Sweeney’s just a freshman, because the Marian star has been playing like a senior all year long. Friday night was no exception as Sweeney scored both Marian goals to lead the Mustangs to a 2-0 win over Fenton. This season’s Marian team might be younger than most year’s, but the Mustangs have plenty of players playing like upperclassmen, starting with Sweeney.

4. Jake Lowery-Jacob Jessen – Hartland Baseball
Lowery shut down Rochester Adams in the second regional semifinal game on Saturday, allowing just two hits during his seven innings of work, while Jessen was just as dominant in the regional final against Lake Orion as the senior allowed just one hit over his five dominant innings on the mound. The 1-2 punch of Lowery and Jessen could very well lead the Eagles to a state title.

3. Hannah Grieb – Rochester Adams Soccer
Can you say clutch? Grieb spent the majority of the 2012 season on the Highlander’s JV squad, but earned her way onto the varsity roster for the postseason and she took full advantage of the opportunity. Shortly after the start of the second overtime in the regional final, Grieb netted the game winning goal to lift Adams to a 2-1 win over Midland Dow. That’s about as clutch as it gets.

2. Jessica Parry – Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes/Clarkston Everest Collegiate Soccer
Parry is as good as it gets when it comes to taking free kicks, and she showed just that on Friday afternoon. Parry recorded the final two goals of the Laker’s regional final win over Saginaw Nouvel, both on free kicks. The first tied the game at 3-3 and the last came with just over six minutes to go to record the game winner. Parry also assisted on the second goal of the game for Lakes/Everest on a free kick pass to Ava Doetsch.

1. Selena Hicks – Lakeland Softball
Hicks defined dominance on Saturday afternoon, as the junior ace pitched a total of 14 innings and allowed just five hits and zero runs, while striking out 20 batters. Hicks shutdown a dangerous Athens team in the regional semifinal, limiting the Red Hawks to just three hits, and only one through the first six innings. In the regional final, Hicks held a Romeo team that had plated seven runs against Clarkston to just two hits in seven innings to lead the Eagles back to the state quarterfinals where they will face Sterling Heights Stevenson.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Catching Up on the Recruiting Trail

Over the course of the past week, several Oakland County football players have received plenty of interest from the Division 1 level. So here's a quick rundown of what has happened on the recruiting trail as of late.

Farmington safety Isaiah Gourdine joined Walled Lake Western defensive back Josh Jones on the list of area athletes that have received offers from the Iowa Hawkeyes football program over the past few years. If Iowa can land both of these standout secondary studs, the Hawkeyes will be landing two of the state’s best and most underrated players.
The Hawkeyes will learn if Jones will be joining their squad for the 2013 season as the junior will make his decision between Iowa and Illinois on Friday (June 8th).
:12:05 UPDATE: From what I've been told, Jones is NOT expected to make his decision on Friday and will take more time to make his decision.

Also receiving an offer from the D-1 level recently was Auburn Hills Avondale’s Clark Clancy who was offered to play for Western Michigan, while South Lyon East quarterback Cam Thomas was offered by Grand Valley State.
Thomas has already received an offer from Bowling Green and will likely hear from several more Division 1 schools before his high school career is over.

Avondale track and field star Kyle Redwine is considering USC as well as a number of other PAC-10 and BIG 10 schools to run at next year. Redwine won the Division 2 state title in the 100 meter dash and is also regarded as one of the nation’s top 200 meter dash runners as well. Redwine’s teammate, Nate Chapman committed to run at Michigan earlier this spring.