D1 Preview: Contenders' Stories Told Through Tough Tourney Roads
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
March 23, 2022
The final four teams playing in this weekend’s Division 1 boys basketball bracket at Breslin Center have certainly earned the memorable opportunity ahead.
The Detroit Catholic League Central saw all five of its teams finishing among the top six in Division 1 Michigan Power Ratings (MPR) – and No. 6 Warren De La Salle Collegiate has outlasted the rest. The I-75 corridor as always was impressive this winter – and reigning champion Grand Blanc is back.
Grand Rapids Northview has become one of the stories of the season as it’s emerged from a growing number of annual Division 1 contenders from the west side of the Lower Peninsula. And Belleville could become the headliner this weekend after emerging from a bracket that originally included the best from the Detroit Public School League and the southeastern part of the state.
DIVISON 1 Semifinals – Thursday
Warren De La Salle Collegiate (18-7) vs. Grand Rapids Northview (25-1), noon
Grand Blanc (20-5) vs. Belleville (19-6), 2 p.m.
FINAL – Saturday – 12:15 p.m.
Tickets for this weekend’s games are $12 for both Semifinals and Finals and are available via the Breslin Center ticket office. All Semifinals will be broadcast and viewable with subscription to MHSAA.tv, and all four Finals will air live Saturday on Bally Sports Detroit, with the Division 4 and 1 games on BSD EXTRA and the Division 3 and 2 games on BSD’s primary channel. All four will be broadcast live as well as on the BSD website and app. Audio broadcasts of all Semifinals and Finals will be available free of charge from the MHSAA Network.
Here’s a look at the four Division 1 semifinals (with rankings by MPR at the end of the regular season, and statistics through Regional Finals):
Record/rank: 19-6, No. 44
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association East
Coach: Adam Trumpour, ninth season (148-52)
Championship history: Class A runner-up 1998.
Best wins: 47-45 over No. 10 Detroit Cass Tech in Quarterfinal, 59-48 over Romulus in Regional Final, 50-47 (OT) over Ann Arbor Skyline in Regional Semifinal, 38-37, 62-45 and 63-43 over Dearborn.
Players to watch: Da’Jon Johnson, 5-10 sr. G (12.1 ppg, 3.0 apg); Mario Johnson, 6-4 sr. G (10 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.8 apg); Bryce Radtka, 6-8 sr. C (10.6 ppg, 8.0 rpg).
Outlook: The Tigers are headed back to the Semifinals for the first time since 2002, having won nine of their last 10 games and with five of their losses by a combined 11 points. Four seniors start, joined by sophomore guard Jalen Jenkins, another contributor to the balanced attack with 10 points per game. Trumpour, who assisted on the staff that guided Romulus to the 2013 Class A title, has led Belleville to District titles four of the last six seasons (not including COVID-abbreviated 2019-20) and also brought the Tigers to the Quarterfinals in 2017-18.
Record/rank: 20-5, No. 8
League finish: First in Saginaw Valley League
Coach: Mike Thomas, fifth season (88-22)
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2021, Class B runner-up 1952.
Best wins: 67-60 over No. 4 Detroit Catholic Central in Quarterfinal, 65-58 (Regional Semifinal) and 64-63 over Flint Carman-Ainsworth, 80-62 over No. 20 River Rouge, 70-66 (OT) over Division 2 No. 4 Ferndale, 68-57 over Division 3 No. 2 Flint Beecher.
Players to watch: RJ Taylor, 6-0 jr. G (16.8 ppg, 51 3-pointers, 4.3 apg); Amont’e Allen-Johnson, 6-1 jr. G (13.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.2 apg); Tae Boyd, 6-3 jr. G (13.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg).
Outlook: The reigning Division 1 champ kicked off this season against some of the best teams in the state, and started 1-3 – but after catching their stride, the Bobcats have been nearly unbeatable. Grand Blanc is up to 18 wins over its last 19 games, and the defeats have no doubt been beneficial to this run too coming against Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice, Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, Detroit Martin Luther King and Muskegon. Something else to keep in mind: No seniors start, and eight of the team’s top nine rotation players should be back next season. Taylor made the all-state first team in 2021.
GRAND RAPIDS NORTHVIEW
Record/rank: 25-1, No. 24
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference White
Coach: David Chana, third season (47-15)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 54-52 over Kalamazoo Central in Quarterfinal, 68-55 over No. 9 Muskegon in Regional Semifinal, 71-48 over No. 17 Rockford in District Final, 68-64 (OT) over No. 5 Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice, 64-51 over Grand Rapids Christian.
Players to watch: Kyler Vanderjagt, 6-4 sr. G (22.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg); Jalen Charity, 6-6 sr. G (13 ppg, 6.0 rpg); EJ Ryans, 6-3 soph. G (10.4 ppg, 3.3 apg).
Outlook: Northview’s buzzer-beating win over Kalamazoo Central on Tuesday added to the excitement of a run that’s landed the Wildcats in their first Semifinal since 1990. Aside from an eight-point loss to Grand Rapids Christian at the start of February, Northview is undefeated and has pulled out four victories by five points or fewer. Vanderjagt made the all-state first team last season when Northview finished 8-6, and he’s nearly equaled his scoring average from last year this winter; he will continue his career at Belmont in Tennessee. Senior guard Grant George adds 7.7 points per game off the bench.
WARREN DE LA SALLE COLLEGIATE
Record/rank: 18-7, No. 6
League finish: Fourth in the Detroit Catholic League Central
Coach: Gjon Djokaj, second season (31-11)
Championship history: Class B runner-up 1982.
Best wins: 50-48 over No. 2 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in Quarterfinal, 68-33 over No. 11 Canton, 49-46 over No. 1 Detroit U-D Jesuit, 59-54 over No. 5 Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice, 73-51 over No. 4 Detroit Catholic Central, 91-49 over Detroit Western, 57-44 over Coldwater, 76-69 (2OT) over Division 2 No. 4 Ferndale.
Players to watch: Tamario Adley, 6-3 sr. G (11.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg); Michael Sulaka, 6-8 jr. F (10.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg); Nino Smith, 6-0 jr. G (10 ppg, 4.3 apg).
Outlook: With Tuesday’s win over St. Mary’s, De La Salle had earned a victory this season over every other highly-ranked Catholic League Central team. Defeating the Eaglets sent the Pilots back to the Semifinals for the second season in a row and third time in four seasons (not counting COVID-abbreviated 2020). Six players average at least eight points per game, and five had made 16 or more 3-pointers entering the week. Four starters are back from last season’s Semifinal team that lost 55-39 to Ann Arbor Huron, and three starters plus top-scoring sub freshman Pheonix Glassnor (8.0 ppg) should return next winter as well. Junior Triston Nichols (8.8 ppg) and senior Caleb Reese (8.0 ppg, 4.1 apg) also start.
PHOTO Grand Rapids Northview’s EJ Ryans (5) lays up a shot during his team’s Regional Semifinal win over Muskegon. (Photo by Tim Reilly.)
St. Clair County Celebrates 1st Mr. Basketball Winner, PHN's Jamison
By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com
March 29, 2023
The Jamison family has spent plenty of time over the years driving long distances as Tyler chased his basketball dreams.
After the Port Huron Northern senior achieved one of the biggest ones, they had to put some more mileage on the family vehicle.
As the newly-crowned Mr. Basketball, Jamison was invited to a special presentation during the Boys Basketball Finals this past Saturday afternoon at the Breslin Center. It was an invitation Tyler and his family didn’t hesitate to accept, and the drive from Port Huron to East Lansing was nothing.
But it did cause a pretty big change to some other travel plans.
Tyler and his family were scheduled to fly to Florida on Friday for spring break. That flight had to be canceled, though, and instead, the family made the drive down later.
“There were some jokes about just leaving me and letting me find my own way down there,” Jamison said.
While they joke, there’s nowhere the Jamisons would have rather been Saturday than at the Breslin. As a true basketball family – Tyler’s dad Brian is also the coach at Northern, and his brother Alex was a standout freshman for the Huskies – they have a great appreciation for the Mr. Basketball Award and its significance.
“I had said a while ago, ‘Hey, if we’re still in the tournament, we’ll be playing Friday,” Brian Jamison said. “I even mentioned that it would be a miracle, but Tyler could win Mr. Basketball. Now we’re eating plane tickets and driving down to Florida. But it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we’re not missing this.”
Jamison was the overwhelming winner of the award, which is named after Hal Schram and given out by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan. He received 3,058 points in the vote to become its 43rd winner. Curtis Williams of Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (2,004 points), Kaden Brown of Grand Rapids Catholic Central (1,918), Sonny Wilson of Detroit U-D Jesuit (1,883) and Ryan Hurst of North Farmington (1,811) were the other finalists.
“It was just insane,” Tyler Jamison said. “I can’t even really put into words how I felt – it was just a dream come true, a culmination of all the hard work that’s been put in over the years. My mom was in the other room (when his dad called to tell him), and I just hugged her and we were kind of screaming. The dog was getting riled up. It was fun. There were a few tears shed.”
Jamison, who signed with Fairleigh Dickinson in December, finished the season averaging 26.7 points, 11.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.3 steals per game. He was named the Macomb Area Conference White division MVP after leading Northern to the league title and a 20-4 overall record.
Even with all that, winning the most prestigious individual basketball award in the state didn’t seem like a reality.
“We purposely try to play a tough schedule, and we purposely got into some showcases because we wanted people to see, not only him play, but us play,” Brian Jamison said. “We had beaten Skyline and Hamtramck, and went up to Croswell-Lexington and won up there, and I thought, ‘OK, now he’s done it against some of the better teams.’ Up to that point, when we played those tougher teams, he’s always showed out well, but it’s different when you’re not winning them. But at that point, I thought he had a chance. Really, I was just hoping he would get on the list. To win it was kind of above and beyond what I had hoped for.”
On the court, Tyler’s impact on the program was pretty obvious and immediate.
He’s the program’s all-time leading scorer – a record he set as a junior – with 1,763 career points. He also holds Northern records for career rebounds (825), points in a game (59), rebounds in a game (28), career field goals made (638) and career free throws made (439). As a junior, he was named MAC Blue MVP.
Northern did not lose a league game in either of the past two seasons.
But Northern is likely to see future success because of Tyler’s non-statistical impact.
Leading a young team, including a group of star freshmen – his brother Alex, Cam Harju and Amir Morelan – was a major part of Tyler’s job this season.
Northern’s home games were must-see events this winter, as the Huskies were one of Division 1’s top teams, and Tyler was providing nightly highlights and must-see performances. Even in his final game, a loss against Macomb Dakota in the District Final, Jamison treated the standing-room crowd with a 46-point performance and a halfcourt shot at the third-quarter buzzer in a valiant effort.
“That’s the big thing, you want the students and the school community to support you, and they did an amazing job,” Tyler Jamison said. “We also had people from the community that wanted to support us and watch us play. Port Huron High had a really good season, too, and I think both schools in the city had that public support. That’s huge. It makes you feel like you’re playing for more than yourself.”
Among those crowds were the next generation of Huskies, some of whom were coached by Tyler in youth basketball. As he’s the first Mr. Basketball winner from St. Clair County, those kids now have a hometown example of someone who has reached the highest heights.
“I think interest gets sparked when the little kids come to the gym, like, ‘Hey, I want to do that,’” Brian Jamison said. “They want to play for Northern or (Port Huron) High. And with him winning Mr. Basketball, I think it gives kids a little bit of ‘Hey, why not me?’ I do think it helps motivate younger people. We’ve had great crowds at our games. I think the area is excited about basketball. It really is a great basketball area.”
With all of that excitement surrounding him, Tyler had one more challenge after the season – keeping the secret that he had won. He found out six days before the award was announced.
“It was terrible – especially when it’s something of that magnitude,” he said. “You want to tell everyone. You want to tell your friends and family. It was hard to be like, ‘No, I don’t know.’”
Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Tyler Jamison, second from left, with his parents and brother, stands with his newly-received Mr. Basketball Award trophy during the ceremony at the Detroit Free Press. (Middle) Jamison throws down a dunk. (Photos courtesy of the Jamison family.)