Mitten Classic showcases state’s top hoops players

By: Zachary Manning | C&G Newspapers | Published April 10, 2019

 North Farmington’s Yusuf Jihad goes up for a shot at the Mitten Classic April 5 at Southfield Bradford. Jihad will play at Oakland University next season.

North Farmington’s Yusuf Jihad goes up for a shot at the Mitten Classic April 5 at Southfield Bradford. Jihad will play at Oakland University next season.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 St. Clair Shores Lake Shore’s Caleb Bates goes to dunk the ball. Bates is undecided on his future in basketball.

St. Clair Shores Lake Shore’s Caleb Bates goes to dunk the ball. Bates is undecided on his future in basketball.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

METRO DETROIT — Growing up, basketball players around the country dream of becoming so good at their craft that they can be considered one of the best.

The Mitten Classic, a basketball All-Star game for seniors in Michigan, gave 26 players the opportunity to realize that dream. On April 5 at Southfield Bradford, players from all over the state came together to showcase their abilities in front of a packed gym.

This is the third year of the event, and it was co-founded by Reggie Butler.

“So I say, ‘You know what, let’s get you all together one more time, and let’s have some fun,’” Butler said.

For the players participating, it’s an incredible experience being able to play against some of the state’s best and an honor to be included in a game with such talented players.

St. Clair Shores Lake Shore senior Caleb Bates was one of the players participating. He hasn’t decided what direction he would like to go in basketball next year, but he has a few options.

“It’s really cool. You get to play with everybody that you grew up playing ball with,” Bates said of the All-Star game. “It’s real fun. It’s like a brotherhood. Everybody is family out here. It’s a real nice experience.”

North Farmington’s Yusuf Jihad was also a participant in the game, and he was humbled by the whole experience. Jihad will be playing basketball for Oakland University next season and is excited to get to work.

“I always wanted to go there. Basketball-wise, I thought it was a good fit, but I wanted to do physical therapy there, so that’s mainly my reason for going there,” Jihad said.

Bradford was chosen because of its central location. Butler and Bulldogs coach Denolius Burkes hope to continue having the game at Bradford because of the location and the intimate feel.

For Burkes, having the game at his school is great because he can show his players what it takes to get to that level. He’s hoping to build a state contender at Bradford over the next few seasons.

“It’s great for Bradford; it’s great for our players; it’s great for my son (Dontay Burkes) to see what it takes to get to that level to even participate in an All-Star game. We have (Mark ‘Rocket’ Watts) here that’s going to Michigan State, probably one of the top guards in the country. He’s able to see him up close play and perform. It’s invaluable,” Burkes said.