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Clawson boys basketball team hopes to stay in hunt

By: Jon Malavolti | Royal Oak Review | Published February 9, 2011

 Clawson High junior Deshawn Gilbert (2) shoots during a game earlier this season. The Trojans are hoping to lock up their first league title in a long time.

Clawson High junior Deshawn Gilbert (2) shoots during a game earlier this season. The Trojans are hoping to lock up their first league title in a long time.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

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The last time Clawson High’s boys basketball team won a championship, some of the current Trojans weren’t born yet. And the ones that had been were doing a different type of dribbling.

So with a few weeks remaining in the regular season, Clawson is focused on securing its first title in nearly two decades.

“Clawson has not won a championship in 17 years, and we want that to change,” Trojans coach Billy Shellenbarger said. “And we know we have the ability to do that.”

The coach recently said ending the drought has been the team’s goal all season long.

“Our goals for the second half of the season still remain the same as they were in November,” he said. “We want to win a conference championship.”

That goal has certainly remained in reach for the Trojans, who were a half-game out of first place in the Macomb Area Conference Silver Division at press time. Clawson was 5-3 in the league, hot on the heels of Center Line High and Marysville High, which were both 5-2.

But the league has turned out to be one of the most competitive throughout the entire MAC, making the challenge even tougher for Clawson to finally fill that vacant spot in the trophy case.

Clinton Township Clintondale and St. Clair Shores Lake Shore sat a half-game back from the Trojans with identical 4-3 marks, with St. Clair Shores Lakeview (4-4) and Marine City High (3-5) not far behind, either.

“We know we are in a good spot to do it … but we cannot look too far ahead,”

Shellenbarger said. “In our conference, anyone can beat anyone. There is parity in our league, and we have to be ready and prepared each night.

“When I say prepared, that means I have to prepare them with a game plan and they have to execute it. If we do that, we can beat anyone.”

And although they finished the first half of league play at the top of the standings, Shellenbarger knows the Trojans have accomplished “essentially nothing yet.”

“We preach humility every day,” the coach said. “What have we done? Essentially nothing yet.

“If we win the league, then we can say we did something. But until then, we have no reason to be overconfident.”

The coach noted that the team needs to be “fearless and tougher” to win the title, keeping with the program’s identity of toughness and a solid work ethic.

“We must respect every opponent and game plan like each game is the championship,” Shellenbarger said. “If we don’t play with that attitude … we won’t win. The second time around is always tougher when you play teams. Everyone knows who we are; there are no secrets.”

The Trojans’ toughness has certainly shown itself on the defensive end of court. Their 43.3 points allowed per game average is one of the best in the MAC. Clawson is one of four teams across the conference’s five divisions that average holding the opposition under 44 points a game.

On the offensive side of things, Clawson mirrors much of the division in relying on its entire roster to contribute.

“This season we aren’t “superstar” heavy, we are more of a working class type of team,” he said.

A busy offseason of hard work has helped former role players step into leading roles.

“We have good, solid athletic guards that have improved immensely from last season,” Shellenbarger said. “We put a lot of time in the offseason, and you can see it in their strong play. But with that said, we don’t have to rely on our guards to carry us offensively night in and night out. That’s because we have some really good size and skill inside.

“So depending on the team we play, we are able to diversify our game plan accordingly, because we have solid guards and solid bigs that can both hurt some teams.”

Shellenbarger highlighted the play of senior guard Tyler Marwin and senior center Eric Thompson as examples of the Trojans’ versatile potency.

The coach said Marwin “has emerged as a scoring leader,” averaging about 15 points per game.

“Without question, he put in the most time in the offseason on his game,” Shellenbarger said. “He wants to win and is a winner. He has a tough edge to him and shoots it exceptionally well from (beyond) the arc — 50 percent — which is unheard of. He has a solid mid-range game as well, and can take it to the post if we need him to or if he has a mismatch on defense.”

Thompson, meanwhile, “has turned into a force in the middle,” according to the coach, capable of recording a double-double in points and rebounds “on any given night.”

“He has a big body and uses it well. He is another kid that has improved significantly from last season,” Shellenbarger said.

The coach noted that juniors Jalen Harrison and James Steffen likely will also “be key to our success down the stretch.”

Clawson will certainly need all the help it can get if it wants to not only survive the division, but the district, as well.

“Our district draw is tough, and the overall district tournament is tough,” Shellenbarger said.

The Trojans drew a first-round bye in the district tournament — beginning March 7 — and will face the winner of Madison Heights Madison and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood. Defending Class B state champion Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day sits on the other side of the district bracket.

While the Trojans aren’t fazed by their possible postseason opposition, they know they will continue to have their title-winning work cut out for them come tourney time.

“We’ll play anyone and look forward to it, but it won’t be easy,” Shellenbarger said.

 

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