Leadership, defense has Roseville boys hoops off to solid start

By: Jason Carmel Davis | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published January 14, 2014

 The Roseville High boys basketball team was off to a 3-1 start at press time. Pictured is Panthers senior point guard AJ Simley (25) taking a floater during a Dec. 10, 2013, game against East Detroit.

The Roseville High boys basketball team was off to a 3-1 start at press time. Pictured is Panthers senior point guard AJ Simley (25) taking a floater during a Dec. 10, 2013, game against East Detroit.

Photo by Sean Work

ROSEVILLE — Second-year Roseville High boys basketball coach Sean Hansen said defense will always be the cornerstone of any team he coaches.

Hansen said his team has done of real nice job of sticking to that early this season, as the Panthers at press time were allowing just 46.8 points per game. That number puts Roseville (3-1, 0-0 Macomb Area Conference White division) in the top 25 percent of defenses in the 36-team MAC.

“We’re a man-to-man defensive team, concentrating on contesting every shot and securing the rebound so not to give our opponent multiple shots in any given possession,” said Hansen, who has coached at Madison Heights Madison, Clawson High, Berkley High, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley and Macomb Community College.

Hansen said he has implemented a press at times early this season, which he admitted needs some work. The Roseville coach also said his teams have played zone in the past, and that the type of defense the Panthers run in a given game depends on the opponent.

Hansen said defense would be a major factor in how his team performs in the MAC White, where Roseville has finished fifth each of the last three seasons. Rebounding, forcing steals and having a solid defensive field-goal percentage on a consistent basis would allow the Panthers to compete for a league title, he added. Roseville last won a division title in the 2007-08 season as a member of the MAC Blue.

“Our league will be tough. Warren Mott and Grosse Pointe North return key players and, I believe, are the frontrunners going into league play,” Hansen said, adding that Sterling Heights Stevenson, Utica Ford II and Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse will also factor into the league title race.

“We also have to take care of the ball. We’re (averaging) 18 turnovers a game right now, and that’s not good. We’d like to keep the turnovers under 12 a game.”

Strong leadership has also played a role in the team’s start. Hanson said the beginning of any season presents a number of challenges and that having solid leadership from seniors or players who have played varsity basketball is imperative for success.

Hansen said senior swingman Elijah Collier has stepped up to lead the team during the first part of the season. Collier leads the Panthers in scoring and also led the team in that category last season. Senior point guard AJ Simley has done a great job at the point guard position. Senior forward/center Brandon Hrelja and senior swingman Jamal Thomas-Radway have also stood out, Hansen said.

Roseville had a .750 win percentage through four games but had been outscored by its opponents by 4.5 points. The Panthers, who were averaging 42.3 points per game, run a continuity offense called the “shuffle,” which is predicated on ball movement, moving without the ball and getting open without the ball. Hansen said the players are more comfortable with the offense than last season, adding they have done a nice job executing the attack.

“We also like to spread the floor as a change of pace,” Hansen said. “Having the summer and offseason with the team has helped greatly with the development of our offense.”

Hansen said team goals span the classroom and the court.

“We want to play hard and selflessly for the team’s success,” Hansen said. “When we do these things, the outcome will always be positive.”

Roseville next faces off with Sterling Heights Stevenson in a matchup set for 7 p.m. Jan. 16 at Roseville.