Oakland CountyJanuary 07, 2013
OAA boys basketball starts to get interesting
By Christian Davis
C & G Staff Writer
West Bloomfield coach Jeremy Denha speaks with his team during a break in the action.
Though a handful of division games have taken place, the race for the boys Oakland Activities Association basketball titles doesn’t really heat up until January.
Here’s a look at each division and how some of the teams see this season’s race playing out.
Clarkston High has owned the division as of late, going 23-2 in league games the past two seasons, including an undefeated campaign last year. The Wolves’ recent success even has oppossing coaches expecting great things for them.
“They have a chance to contend for a state championship,” North Farmington coach Todd Negoshian said.
But before thinking about a trip to the Breslin Center and a state title, the Wolves will have their hands full in the Red Division, where they’ll be shooting for their third straight title.
North Farmington finished second last season and returns three starters in seniors Caleb Hogans and Sterling Sharp, and sophomore Jeron Rogers.
Negoshian called Hogans one of the best point guards in the county after averaging 15 points, four rebounds, six assists and three steals last season.
Sharp plays the other guard position and averaged 10 points, five rebounds and two assists per game last season.
Though young, Rogers is a threat down low, averaging nine points, four rebounds and three blocks as a freshman.
Southfield High, Southfield-Lathrup, Pontiac High, West Bloomfield High and Troy High make up the rest of the division.
Lathrup returns guard Jonathan Williams, who has already committed to the University of Toledo and figures to make Lathrup a threat.
Southfield has plenty of experience with all five starters returning. Coach Gary Teasley said anyone could win this competitive division.
“It’s mostly programs that I respect; I could go right down the list,” he said. “Every program is going to be a threat. Everyone is excited. The score is tied, and the games have to be played.”
Troy is the new program on the block. The Colts come to the Red after winning the White in back-to-back seasons but will be without University of Kentucky-commit James Young, who has transferred to Rochester High.
Though Troy has moved to the Red, another defending champion now calls the White home.
Rochester High comes to the division after back-to-back Blue championships, and the team returns two starters in seniors Manny Mendoza and Arben Camaj.
Though inexperienced, the Falcons have added firepower in Young, who moved into the district from Troy.
“He can score from anywhere,” Rochester coach John Pleasant said. “He can shoot the 3, he can get to the rim, he can post up, so it’s another thing getting the guys to play with him. He’s a great passer, so the guys have to get used to being ready for the ball. That’s a work in progress, but that’s a nice asset to have.”
Last season, Young averaged 25 points and 10 rebounds a game, gaining attention as a top recruit in the nation.
Rochester High will have to contend with rival Rochester Adams, which finished third last season and returns three starters in Akhemji Williams, Zack Littleson and Andrew McBride.
Williams finished last season averaging 16.1 points, 6.4 assists and 4.1 steals per game from his point guard spot, while Littleson tallied 12.3 and 5.8 rebounds per contest at forward and guard.
Coach John Hall is also counting on Ben Limb at center.
“Our youth and inexperience may cause us some issues early in the season, but overall, this should be a deep team that will play nine or 10 players a night,” Hall said.
Troy Athens is new to the division, coming from the Blue, and Auburn Hills Avondale, Oak Park High and Ferndale High return to round out the division.
Athens coach Dave Scott said he likes what he sees out of his squad so far, but that it’ll be a work in progress with so many new, and mostly young, faces on the team. He added that he hopes that by the end of the season, his Red Hawks will hit their stride and be ready for the tournament.
The Red Hawks have only three seniors and four juniors. The other half of the roster includes seven sophomores.
This division has seen the biggest changes in the Oakland Activities Association.
Lake Orion High, Birmingham Seaholm and Farmington High remain from last season, but are now joined by Farmington Hills Harrison from the Red, Berkley High from the White and Bloomfield Hills Lahser from the Gold.
Lahser won the Gold and hopes to continue that trend after returning its entire starting lineup with Kyle Riley (six points per game last season), Andrew Gikas (six points and nine rebounds), Armand Cartwright (13.5 points and 3.5 assists), Khalil Gracey (10 points, six rebounds and five assists) and Yante Maten (15 points, 11 rebounds and 4.5 blocks).
“We aren’t a team, we are a family, which is such a cliché that coaches always use,” Lahser coach Duane Graves said. “Not this time, though. These guys have been playing together for three years now, and they really know each other.”
Farmington finished second last season and, with three starters back, should be a factor again.
Coach Terrance Porter said it’ll take a team effort to reach their goals.
“The division is balanced, and I don’t think there is a clear-cut favorite. I think any one of the teams could win it,” he said. “I feel as long as we make a commitment to improving every day as a team — that includes off the floor, as well — then good things will happen.”
Lake Orion is another team looking to make its mark. The Dragons return most of their lineup, and though they finished fifth last season, they went on to win a Class A regional championship.
Arguably the most talented player in the division suits up for Seaholm. Paris Bass is a 6-foot-7 guard who can play all five positions on the floor. Last year, he averaged 17 points, eight rebounds and three assists. In the early goings this sesaon, he’s already improved on those numbers, according to coach Jose Andrades.
Seaholm also has loads of experience, with five starters who all saw varsity minutes last season.
“We’re a good team, but in a very competitive league,” Andrades said.
With Bloomfield Hills Lahser moving to the Blue, Oxford High and Birmingham Groves are the top teams returning to the division after finishing second and third, respectively.
Still, Groves coach Scott Sheckell believes newcomer Rochester Hills Stoney Creek is the favorite.
“They have five returning starters and are moving in from a tough division,” Sheckell said, adding that his own team expects to be competitive.
“We have seven seniors, so they need to lead and perform,” he noted.
Groves returns four starters of its own, featuring Emmanuel Thomas at guard, a spot where he averaged eight points per game last season.
Stoney Creek comes in after going winless all of last season, including in 10 games in the Blue. Last season’s struggles are a fact that Stoney Creek coach Steve Norgrove isn’t hiding from, and he’s optimistic heading into division play.
“We have a good shot at contending for a league title for the first time in school history,” he said. “We were young last year and competed in a brutal schedule. We lost seven games by four points or less, two in overtime.”
Norgrove added that the key is playing focused.
“We play hard, but we need to channel our efforts as a collective whole,” he said. “We need to hold one another accountable to do our jobs. If we play hard, play smart and play together, the season will be a success.”
Royal Oak High, Bloomfield Hills Andover and Hazel Park High round out the division.