Chippewa Valley basketball playing with ‘something to prove’

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Fraser-Clinton Chronicle | Published December 15, 2023

 Chippewa Valley senior Jordan Wright (#13) and sophomore Brandon Bellante (#33) go up for a block against a Warren De La Salle player.

Chippewa Valley senior Jordan Wright (#13) and sophomore Brandon Bellante (#33) go up for a block against a Warren De La Salle player.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Chippewa Valley sophomore Joshua Johnson shoots the ball during a matchup against Warren De La Salle on Dec. 8 at Chippewa Valley High School.

Chippewa Valley sophomore Joshua Johnson shoots the ball during a matchup against Warren De La Salle on Dec. 8 at Chippewa Valley High School.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Expectations were the topic of conversation coming into the season for Chippewa Valley boys basketball.

The Big Reds entered last season fresh off a Macomb Area Conference Red and district title, but the only thing last season brought was an underwhelming feeling for the group.

“Last year, we had big goals coming off a MAC Red title, a district title, and a close regional loss, and we talked about those goals ahead of time,” Chippewa Valley coach Corey Smith said. “That team did not live up to it early on, and we had to recalibrate everything last year. This year, the big talking point is small goals and not talking about the big picture. It’s all about being better today than we were yesterday, and if you do those things and stay consistent then the big goals will take care of themselves.”

Chippewa Valley opened up the season 3-6 last year before ending the season on an 8-6 run, falling in the district championship game.

Both sides of the court never seemed to work as a cohesive unit as Chippewa Valley was a middle-of-the-road team in points per game and points allowed averages in the MAC Red, but a veteran-heavy group of seven seniors is ready to show that last season was nothing more than a fluke.

“I feel like we have a certain edge this year, like a certain competitiveness,” senior center Adrian Kosznicki said. “We have something to prove after how our season ended.”

Chippewa Valley’s edge has been their defensive effort so far this year, which currently allows 49.7 points per game (first in MAC Red).

Senior forward Jordan Wright, a 6-foot-4 and 200-pound big, has led the Big Reds’ defensive effort this season with junior forward Cass Sanders, senior guard Donovan Harris, senior forward Joshua Anderson, and senior guard Rayshaun Hester all stuffing the stat sheet on the defensive side.

“I do stress defense more than offense, so that’s my nature as a coach, is discipline,” Smith said. “We’re blessed because this team can match up with just about anybody defensively. We have guys that are long and athletic, so we can play so many different ways defensively. We’re deeper this year than I’ve ever been as a coach, so we can get a lot of guys out there with fresh legs.”

On both sides of the court, Wright has been everything Chippewa Valley hoped he’d be this season as a senior leader.

Wright brings just about everything to the Big Reds from passing to his dominant presence in the paint.

“Jordan (Wright) is unbelievable,” Smith said. “In my opinion, he’s the best player in the MAC Red returning. There’s some stiff competition, but in three games, he’s been 15-ish points and 11-ish rebounds per game with over five blocks per game, three steals per game, and over four assists per game. Defensively, he can guard just about anybody from point guard to center. He’s what keys our defense.”

The Chippewa Valley offense is averaging right around last season’s total at 50 points per game, but the addition of junior guard/forward Zachary Baszczuk after the new year should bolster the scoring department.

Baszczuk suffered a knee injury before the start of the season, but said he’s been able to learn more about his team from a different perspective.

“It’s definitely a lot different just because I’ve never really been in this position where I’m out for an extended amount of time, but it helps me personally see what’s actually going on and see the mistakes that myself and my teammates make,” Baszczuk said. “It’s easier to recognize.”

Expect Harris, senior Dennis Barth and sophomores Brandon Bellante and Joshua Johnson to be offensive contributors as well this season.

Chippewa Valley is currently 3-3 on the year with one of the crazier wins you’ll see in a high school game, suffering 32 turnovers as a team and scoring four points in less than 20 seconds to take New Baltimore Anchor Bay into overtime on Dec. 5 at Chippewa Valley High School.

Anderson and Sanders tallied two steals, along with a Wright putback, to send the game into overtime while Hester sealed the win with a steal and score.

It wasn’t the most impressive win against an Anchor Bay team that sits two divisions below Chippewa Valley in the MAC Blue, but it was a win that Smith said showed resilience and fight in his guys.

“One of the mantras we live by, and I tell all my teams whether we’re good or bad in a year, is that, ‘Good teams find ways to win and bad teams find ways to lose,’ and so that’s what I told them after the game,” Smith said. “It was an ugly win, and it shouldn’t have taken that, but it did, and we found a way to win. The sign of a good team is a team that can win those games.”

Chippewa Valley will travel on Dec. 19 for a grueling MAC Red matchup against Grosse Pointe South, after the Chronicle went to press, before hosting the Chippewa Valley Tournament on Dec. 27 and Dec. 28.

There’s plenty of basketball left for the Big Reds, but they’re hungry to rewrite last season’s mistakes.

“We just want to leave it all out there,” Wright said. “We don’t want to end our high school careers thinking about what could’ve been.”