By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half
GRAND RAPIDS – Standing 6-foot-10, Grand Rapids Catholic Central’s Marcus Bingham, Jr., has a rare combination of size, length and skill.
However, another asset in his overall game has come to the surface during the early weeks of this season.
“He’s leading our team in 3-point percentage,” Catholic Central coach TJ Meerman said.
For Bingham, who has averaged 27 points and 16 rebounds during the Cougars’ 3-0 start, the improved range has come through his time in the gym.
“It all ties in with the work I’ve put in on my shot,” Bingham said. “And I’m just going to keep getting better and better, so why not? I can shoot, so why not use it, and Coach likes it when I shoot it.”
Meerman has no qualms about Bingham hoisting up 3-pointers, especially when he makes the commitment away from practice.
“He loves to be in the gym, and on our days off he’s still in the gym working on his handles, working on his shot,” Meerman said. “You don’t get to shoot it that well without putting in a lot of time outside of practice time, and he does that. It’s exciting for me, and it’s exciting I’m sure for Coach (Tom) Izzo and the Michigan State staff as well.”
Bingham, who recently signed with the Spartans, also possesses abilities that sets him apart from other high school players.
“He handles it well, he passes well and then he has a seven-foot reach to go with that height,” Meerman said. “With his skill and length, he’s capable of doing things that not a lot of people can do in basketball.”
It’s been an incredible rise. Bingham didn’t play high school basketball at all as a freshman. He played only half a season last year after transferring to Catholic Central, but averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds per game. That was followed by a successful AAU season, and the Division I college offers began rolling in.
A growth spurt didn’t hurt either. He sprouted up eight inches over the past two years.
“I’ve grown, but I’ve also gotten a lot stronger and bigger,” Bingham said. “I’ve just been working, and being bigger I can do things easier. It has been a blessing.”
Meerman has seen a big difference in Bingham from a year ago, and admitted that the end of a frenzied recruiting process also has helped.
“I think he’s more comfortable playing structured basketball,” Meerman said. “He hadn’t played a lot of basketball in his life outside of his sophomore year, and the distraction with the mass recruiting wave that came his way toward the end of the season is gone. It has been a nice relief for him to just focus on school and ball.”
Bingham also added 12 pounds of muscle to his frame.
“He has a ways to go with that, but you can see the difference in his play and with his pace of play,” Meerman said. “He’s understanding the system and the way we want to play, and becoming a senior he understands he has to play at a higher level that he did last year.”
The Cougars claimed conference and District titles a year ago, but are striving for more with a talented nucleus surrounding Bingham.
Senior Jacob Polakovich, along with junior guards Austin Braun and Darrell Belcher, and sophomore guard Devon Boyd are main contributors, too.
“We have a great group of guys, and they like to share the ball,” Meerman said. “I like how dynamic we are, and we have good guard play and very good bigs.”
Catholic Central recorded 25 assists in its season-opening win over Detroit Country Day – a positive early sign.
“We’ve been playing good and sharing the ball more than we did last year,” Bingham said. “We’re just working hard as a team to do what we have to do to get wins.”
Meerman scheduled an early-season gauntlet of the top teams to help measure where the Cougars stand.
Three of their first five games included or will include teams that competed in last year’s MHSAA Finals, and the first two were on the road. Catholic Central downed reigning Class A runner-up Grand Rapids Christian 73-49 on Dec. 12, reigning Class C runner-up Grand Rapids Covenant Christian 62-58 on Friday, and hosts reigning Class B runner-up Ludington on Dec. 29 as part of its invitational.
“We wanted to find out right away who we are and what we need to work on,” Meerman said. “That’s what we’re working on right now, and we have our last early test on the road against one of the best teams in the state.”
Catholic Central will travel to Wyoming Godwin Heights tonight for a highly-anticipated showdown between elite teams.
The undefeated Wolverines feature Division I recruits Lamar Norman and Markeese Hastings.
Tickets sold out Monday afternoon.
“It’s going to be exciting to be a part of that, and gyms don’t sell out like that unless players have put in a lot of time in the gym,” Meerman said. “It’s an opportunity for us to compete against the best and see where we’re at, and it’s going to be fun. It will be a game and crowd they will remember their whole lives.”
Bingham is looking forward to matching skills against Hastings, who has committed to Butler, and Norman, who recently reopened his recruitment after previously committing to Texas-El Paso.
“I’m really excited just knowing that everyone is going to be there to see Catholic Central and Godwin play,” he said. “Godwin is a good team, and we’re just going to go out and fight and do what we have to do to win.”
Dean Holzwarth covered primarily high school sports for the Grand Rapids Press and MLive for 16 years and more recently served as sports editor of the Ionia Sentinel and as a sports photojournalist for WZZM. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Grand Rapids Catholic Central's Marcus Bingham (30) defends in the post against Spring Lake last season. (Top photo courtesy of the Grand Haven Tribune; middle photo courtesy of the Grand Rapids Catholic Central boys basketball program.)
Foster Loyer’s four-season career at Clarkston from 2014-15 through 2017-18 certainly must be considered among the most accomplished in state history as he led the Wolves to back-to-back Class A championships in 2017 and 2018 and is listed in the record book 25 times.
Among Loyer’s most notable entries were 2,325 career points (12th most), 272 career 3-pointers (tied for ninth), records of 119 consecutive free throws and 634 career free throws, a .921 free-throw percentage as a junior (tied for fourth) and .900 career percentage (second), 589 career assists (sixth), 278 career steals (15th) and 102 games played (tied for sixth).
Loyer went on to play at Michigan State and then Davidson.
See below for more recent record book entries for boys basketball.
Four Onaway standouts were added for single-season and/or career records. Jager Mix, who graduated in 2022, was added for 92 steals last season and 225 over his four-season career. Kevin Pearson, a 2021 grad, was added for 81 steals as a senior and 247 over his career. Joe Sigsby, a 2016 grad, was added for 127 steals, and Jadin Mix was added for 124 in 2021-22. Their totals rank ninth and tied for 10th, respectively, on that all-time list. Jager Mix also was added for 967 career rebounds, and Onaway as a team was added for tying the record for most points in a quarter with 49 during the first quarter of a win over Fife Lake Forest Area on Feb. 3, 2022. Jager Mix is playing at Alpena Community College, and Jadin Mix is a senior this school year.
Uchenna Amene was added for 11 steals in a March 7, 2022, game against West Bloomfield Frankel Jewish Academy and for 97 steals total over 25 games. He was a sophomore at Southfield Christian that season and now is a senior at Detroit Catholic Central.
Owen Franklin graduated from Oscoda in 2021 as the school’s all-time leading scorer, and nearly 44 percent of those 1,477 points came on 3-pointers. Franklin made the state career 3-pointers list with 216 over four seasons. He’s playing baseball at Northwood.
Traverse City Christian sophomore Reece Broderick became one of the state’s most accomplished long-distance shooters in just his second year of high school this past winter, drilling 104 3-pointers – good for third-most for one season all-time – over 23 games. He connected on 42 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.
A pair of Rudyard four-year varsity standouts entered the record book after their graduations in 2022. Tate Besteman made the career rebounds list with 762 over 89 games, and EJ Suggitt made the career 3-pointers list with 215 over the same 89 contests. Besteman played this past season for Mid Michigan College, and Suggitt is playing baseball at Spring Arbor.
Success from 3-point range played a significant role in Mesick finishing 21-1 in 2021-22, as the team made 195 of its 578 attempts – with game highs of 15 twice in wins over Baldwin and Pentwater.
Then-senior Tristan McFolley earned the first listing under single-game rebounds since 2013 with 30 in Detroit Cesar Chavez Academy’s game with Hope of Detroit Academy on Dec. 8, 2022.
Tawas found its groove from long range Jan. 10 against Oscoda, drilling 22 3-pointers in an 86-31 win. The total tied for fifth-most in one game.
Although Norway felt just short, 40-37, in its District loss to Crystal Falls Forest Park on March 8, Alex Ortman kept the Knights close scoring 20 of his team-high 25 points in the fourth quarter to make the single-quarter scoring list. He’s now a senior.
Kobe Clark has listings in two MHSAA record books, with three for boys basketball joining those he earned for football during his Schoolcraft career. He was added in hoops for 531 career assists and 290 career steals over 94 games from 2016-17 through 2019-20, and also for 82 steals as a senior. Tyler DeGroote also was added to the record book, for scoring 20 points during the first quarter against Delton Kellogg during Schoolcraft’s Jan. 11, 2022, victory. Clark began at Saginaw Valley State for football and now plays basketball and Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and DeGroote is continuing at Rockhurst (Mo.).
Past Detroit Cooley star Larry Fogle has added a seventh record book listing a half-century later. Fogle grabbed 33 rebounds on Jan. 18, 1972, during a win over Detroit Mackenzie. He went on to play at Louisiana and Canisius, and then briefly with the New York Knicks.
Trevon Gunter scored 42 points in Kalamazoo Central’s 84-56 win over Richland Gull Lake on Jan. 17, 2020, including 31 during the third quarter – second-most and just one shy of the record for points during one period. A senior that season, Gunter plays currently at Grand Valley State.
Mark Wittbrodt held the record for consecutive free throws at 70 until 2008, and that entry in the record book has been joined by several others from the Bay City Western star. He was added for his 192 3-pointers, 436 free throws, .842 free-throw percentage and 266 career steals over three seasons from 1991-93, as well as for six single-season accomplishments. He went on to play at Michigan Tech.
Ellsworth’s Jacob Jenuwine tied for 12th on the single-game 3-pointers list when he connected on 11 as part of scoring 39 points total in his team’s Feb. 14 win over Alanson. Jenuwine graduated this spring.
Bellevue senior Dawson Wing capped his three-season varsity career last winter with three entries in the record. He was added for 12 blocked shots in a 2021-22 game against Colon, 107 for the season last winter and 203 blocks over his career. Teammate Caleb Betz, a senior this fall, was added for 12 steals in a game against Athens.
Logan Mansfield capped his Morenci career in a big way last winter. The senior drilled 90 3-pointers over 24 games to earn his school’s first individual record book entry in boys hoops since the 1987-88 season, when John Craig had 132 blocked shots that would have been the second-most recorded at that time. They currently rank 13th.
New Haven earned a pair of record book entries during its March 10 win over Memphis. The Rockets bested their previous single-quarter school record with 41 points during the opening period, and they also made the statewide single-game 3-pointers list with 16.
Whitehall’s Camden Thompson, a junior this fall, earned his first record book entry last winter – and the first for his school in boys basketball. He grabbed 303 rebounds over 21 games.
Grand Rapids Wellspring Prep junior Zeekeal Jackson earned his school's first boys basketball record book entry this past season as well. He made the single-season steals list with 106, over 22 games, and just missed the single-game list with a high of 10.
Jonesville’s Brady Wright was among his team’s leading scorers during his three varsity seasons ending this past winter, but he also was a major contributor defensively. He made the records with a season-high 101 steals over 25 games as a senior, and made the career list with 232 steals over 61 games.
Sophomore Christopher McLavish Jr. made a memorable impact last season with a pair of record book entries. He made the single-quarter points list with 20 in a Feb. 21 game against Flint Powers Catholic, but even more memorable were his 97 3-pointers over 25 games for the season – tying him for 11th all-time on that list.
PHOTO Foster Loyer directs Clarkston's offense during its 2018 Class A Semifinal.