Young Clintondale boys basketball team progressing

By: Jason Carmel Davis | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published January 11, 2018

 Clinton Township Clintondale senior guard Devin Pratt, left, looks to drive past Sterling Heights High’s Tyler Shaba during a Dec. 19 game. The Dragons hope to finish the season in the thick of the Macomb Area Conference Silver Division title race. Clintondale has won four division championships since 2008.

Clinton Township Clintondale senior guard Devin Pratt, left, looks to drive past Sterling Heights High’s Tyler Shaba during a Dec. 19 game. The Dragons hope to finish the season in the thick of the Macomb Area Conference Silver Division title race. Clintondale has won four division championships since 2008.

Photo by Donna Agusti

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — A young team gaining valuable in-game experience will be better as the season goes along. That’s what Clinton Township Clintondale boys basketball coach Rob Townsend hopes to see from his squad.

The Dragons roster this season features just three seniors — guards Devin Pratt and Deonte Higgins, and forward Will Bakeman. That trio also serves as team co-captains.

Townsend — who is in his 11th year leading the team — said he always leans on his seniors to lead the group, but will do so even more this season. Townsend added that junior guard Richard Washington will be relied upon as well. Townsend called the junior an outstanding two-way player.

“We need them to help the younger players through the tough times,” said Townsend, as the Dragons were 3-3 overall and 1-1 in the Macomb Area Conference Silver Division at press time.

The infusion of youth will see Clintondale — coming off a 5-16 campaign last season — go through some ups and downs. Townsend said the team must communicate better on defense, along with putting more of an emphasis on scouting the opposition. Adjusting to officiating each game is key too, Townsend said.

Spacing and timing on offense are another area the team is focusing on. The Dragons coach likes to get out and run on offense. That philosophy hasn’t changed, but he does adjust his game plan based on personnel. That applies on defense as well, as Clintondale is known for its pressing, trapping style.

“So we have different defenses we will use and different ways to attack on offense, but we will always look to be aggressive on both ends of the court,” the coach said.

Townsend has been very successful in his tenure, leading the Dragons to four MAC Silver titles (2008, 2009, 2013 and 2014).

Townsend said the MAC Silver this season looks to be a two-team race, with Warren Lincoln and St. Clair Shores South Lake out front. Both the Abes and the Cavaliers, Townsend said, return several players and have played well thus far.

“I think the other teams are pretty young, but this is high school basketball, and I’ve seen many surprises through the seasons,” Townsend said.

“We’re fortunate that we play Lincoln and South Lake at the end of league play, giving us more time to gain experience, but some of our younger players … will have to step up and perform for us to compete for a league title.”

South Lake coach Kurt Wilson complimented the teams and coaches in the MAC Silver. The Cavs last season won a share of the division title along with Sterling Heights High and Marysville High, and Wilson said it will be tough to repeat.

Clintondale has plenty of time to round into form. Townsend said he’s looking forward to seeing how the team progresses.

“I’m excited to work with this young group. They have worked really hard and are eager to prove themselves on the court,” Townsend said. “I have seen significant improvements already and look forward to seeing more.

“It is also exciting to know that we will be bringing 11 of these guys back next year, so we really will be able to continue what we start this season.”

The Dragons’ next game is against South Lake at 7 p.m. Jan. 19 on the road.