Promising Ypsilanti Aiming for Historic Finish
January 7, 2016
By Chip Mundy
Special for Second Half
YPSILANTI – It was 30 minutes after Ypsilanti Community finished its victory over Flint Hamady on Tuesday, and 7-year-old Jaylon Allen was running around the court like any other ordinary 7-year-old.
As Ypsilanti basketball coach Steve Brooks watched him on the court, he spoke glowingly of the promise the youngster had in basketball.
“Mark this down, he can run my offense right now, and he’s 7,” Brooks said.
Eleven years ago, Brooks was in the same position, watching a young player with a ton of hope. That player was Corey Allen, older brother of Jaylon and star of Ypsilanti’s unbeaten team that has advanced to the Class A Quarterfinals two of the past three years.
“Corey has been around like that,” Brooks said, comparing the brothers. “At that time, his dad was our middle school coach, so he would go to the middle school practices.
“Corey has been our leading scorer since he hit campus. He started as a freshman, and we had guys like Jaylen Johnson and Janeau Joubert, and he led us in scoring. His first three games were 17, 27 and 25 as a 14-year-old.”
Mutual respect and admiration
The bond between Brooks and Allen has been a special one. Although Brooks is fond of all of his players, he admits that it is not unlike the relationship shared by Michigan State coach Tom Izzo and his star player Mateen Cleaves during Cleaves’ successful career that included an NCAA championship nearly two decades ago.
“He really is my Mateen Cleaves,” Brooks said, “but don’t get me wrong. We go at it. I’m a disciplinarian, and as they get older, they want to do the social things. We had a heart-to-heart last Sunday. He’s a Mr. Basketball candidate, and I needed him to step it up.
“He had kind of deferred to the other guys because he already has a scholarship, and he wants some of the other guys to get seen. I was like, ‘Corey, those other guys depend on you,’ and he’s back to the old Corey.”
Allen showed it Tuesday night against Flint Hamady. After Ypsilanti trailed by one at halftime, Allen broke a tie game in the third quarter with a long 3-pointer, then stole the ball and drove coast-to-coast for a layup and a quick five-point lead. The Grizzlies (5-0) never trailed after that.
“He’s been getting big baskets since I’ve known him,” Brooks said. “He had 45- and 50-point games in middle school, and he has led us in steals, so he’s just not a shooter.”
Allen, a 6-foot-3 guard, has committed to play at the University of Detroit Mercy, and although he admits that he is looking forward to playing in college, he is in no hurry for the high school portion of his career to end.
“Detroit Mercy was like a family when I went on my visit,” Allen said. “They took me in like I was a part of the team. The coach kept it real, and I really liked that, and I liked the players. I played against some of them in AAU circuit, so I know them well.
“But ever since I was in the eighth grade, I’ve wanted to win the state championship for Coach Brooks. All through high school, we’ve been making runs and coming up short. Now this is my senior year, and I’m pushing to make that happen.”
Allen speaks of Brooks much like Brooks speaks of him.
“Coach is a tough guy,” he said. “He wants the best out of all of us, and he pushes us the hardest. That’s why we love him. I love him to death. He’s a father figure to me.”
And vice versa.
“A lot of times he gets the brunt of a lot of stuff because he’s like a son to me,” Brooks said. “The expectations are really high, and the standards are really high for him. He’s a humble kid, and I’m really going to miss him after he leaves.”
Task at hand
Ypsilanti has never won an MHSAA championship in basketball. The team did make it to the Class A Finals in both 1968 and 1969 but lost both times. There was another great run during the late 1970s when the Phoenix won three consecutive Class A Regional titles before losing in the Quarterfinals.
After the 2012-13 school year, Ypsilanti and Willow Run merged to form Ypsilanti Community High School, and the Phoenix became the Grizzlies. That was Allen’s first year in high school and the start of the most recent run of success.
Allen is not only a leader on the court; he is a leader off the court as well. It was something he picked up on as a freshman.
“At first, I wasn’t the type to seek out to be a leader,” he said. “We had a lot of leaders when I was in ninth grade. I was very quiet and took the teaching from them and worked on everything all through my high school career.”
While Allen isn’t a one-man team, he is the one everyone looks up to.
“The kids love him,” Brooks said. “We go as he goes, and I try to explain that to him. Whether he wants it or not, the other guys all look up to him all the way down to the seventh grade. All the kids know who he is, and they respect him.”
Junior guard De’Money Gentry said Allen’s leadership skills are felt both on and off the court.
“He pushes us and makes us do our best all the time,” Gentry said. “If we’re messing up, he just tells us to keep our heads up and keep doing what we need to do.”
Allen is surrounded by a talented team that made it to the Class A Quarterfinals a year ago, losing to eventual champion Detroit Western International. The Grizzlies lost just two players off that team and have even more on the way as injuries have been a problem at the start of the season.
Marquis Smith, star quarterback who is being recruited by such schools as Iowa State, Syracuse and Cincinnati for football, did not play all last season because of a dislocated shoulder but is expected back soon.
“He really is like the spirit of the team,” Brooks said of Smith. “He brings a positive attitude and confidence, and when I’m down, he’s the kind of guy to come into the office and cheer me up.”
Smith attended Willow Run prior to the merger and is excited to be part of such a successful program.
“I like to be part of a positive program,” he said. “I can’t explain how it feels to be winning. It’s the way we click together like a brotherhood. We’re on the same page with each other, and we know what’s happening and what we are capable of doing on the court.”
Junior guard Jamezell Davis has given the team a scoring spark early in the season and should take some of the heat off Allen, and there is plenty of depth waiting to get healthy and eligible.
Starting forward Jalen Maxwell is trying to come back after a concussion, and center Josh Perkins is battling a back injury. Guard Marlin Talley, son of former Mr. Basketball Award winner and University of Michigan player Michael Talley, missed the game Tuesday with an illness.
And then there is guard RayJon Williams-Jackson, a starter from last year who is on crutches after suffering a knee ligament injury in football.
“He does all the tough stuff, so we miss him,” Brooks said. “He does all the dirty work.”
Brooks also anticipates a big addition in a few weeks when 6-foot-5 forward Michael Bruce becomes eligible. Bruce originally attended Willow Run but chose to move on to Belleville after the closure instead of coming to Ypsilanti Community. He will be eligible in two weeks.
“He’s going to make us a different team,” Brooks said. “We will be a real good team. We’ll be a more confident team because he’s real skilled.”
Best kind of wins
Brooks wants to win as much as anybody, but he sees the big picture. The players understand that, too.
“He teaches us how to be better young men off the court,” Allen said.
Brooks calls it “educational athletics.”
“They are great kids; we don’t have any issues,” he said. “They are always well-mannered, they don’t get technical fouls, they don’t talk back to officials or things like that, and I’m really proud of them in that regard.
“It is educational athletics on this level, and that is what some people kind of lose sight of. Of course you want to win, but you want to teach them lessons along the way.”
Brooks, who took over at Ypsilanti in 2003, is relishing the run the Grizzlies are having, and he says the future looks bright – even before the arrival of the 7-year-old prodigy whom Brooks says can run his offense right now.
But he’s not looking that far in advance.
“By then,” Brooks said, “I’ll probably be eating popcorn and be at the point where I can just come out and watch the games.”
Chip Mundy served as sports editor at the Brooklyn Exponent and Albion Recorder from 1980-86, and then as a reporter and later copy editor at the Jackson Citizen-Patriot from 1986-2011. He also co-authored Michigan Sports Trivia. E-mail him at email@example.com with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Ypsilanti Community’s Corey Allen (5) goes to the basket during Tuesday’s win over Flint Hamady. (Middle) Grizzlies coach Steve Brooks huddles with his team during a break. (Below) Jamezell Davis (3) pushes the ball upcourt during a fastbreak Tuesday. (Photos by Betsy Howell.)
Breslin Bound: 2022-23 Boys Quarterfinal Preview
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
March 21, 2023
It finally feels like spring, at least here in East Lansing. And tonight, 32 teams will attempt to build into their spring breaks a trip to Breslin Center.
Below is a glance at all 16 of tonight’s Quarterfinals across four divisions, with all games tipping off at 7 p.m. unless noted. Winners advance to Thursday and Friday’s Semifinals, and we’ll detail the teams more then as we preview those concluding rounds of this year’s tournament.
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Ann Arbor Huron (23-2) vs. Detroit Cass Tech (25-1) at University of Detroit Mercy, 5:30 p.m.
After an early postseason exit last season, 2021 Division 1 runner-up Huron has put together another deep playoff run. Sophomore guard Macari Moore leads three players averaging double-digit scoring at 17 points per game. After winning its first Regional title last season since 1998, Cass Tech is back at the Quarterfinals for a second straight March. Darius Acuff is another super sophomore, also leading three double-digit scorers at 21.6 ppg to go with 5.8 assists per contest.
Grand Blanc (24-2) vs. Rochester Adams (17-8) at Lake Orion
Last season’s runner-up is two wins away from playing for another title, but this time the Bobcats are led by first-year coach Tory Jackson. Seniors Tae Boyd (15.4 ppg) and RJ Taylor (14.3) are a strong 1-2 punch. Adams is coming off its first Regional title in this sport, with junior 6-foot-7 football standout Brady Prieskorn among top contributors for a Highlanders hoops team that has won seven of its last nine games.
Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (14-10) vs. Warren De La Salle (17-8) at University of Detroit Mercy
These Detroit Catholic League Central rivals will meet for the third time, with St. Mary’s winning the first matchup by 17 on Jan. 10 and the reigning Division 1 champion Pilots taking the rematch by 12 on Jan. 31. Sophomore Trey McKenney is a force at 25.5 points and 11.1 rebounds per game for the Eaglets, while Phoenix Glassnor is another sophomore standout leading De La Salle at 18.4 ppg.
Muskegon (24-2) vs. East Lansing (16-9) at Caledonia
East Lansing has won six straight and 12 of its last 14 games, with three of those wins over opponents responsible for four of their losses this winter. Only one starter is a senior, and sophomore Cameron Hutson leads the way at 19.3 ppg. Muskegon is in the midst of a ninth 20-win season over the last decade and earned its first Regional title since 2015. Senior Jordan Briggs (18.7 ppg) has qualified for the MHSAA single-season record list with 84 3-pointers, connecting on nearly 40 percent of his tries from beyond the arc.
Cadillac (22-4) vs. Saginaw (20-6) at Alma
The Trojans are seeking their first Semifinal appearance since 2013 and have lost only to Division 1 opponents this season, with guard Javarie Holliday leading a mostly senior-powered lineup at 15.8 ppg. Cadillac also won its Regional last season and is seeking to return to the Semifinals for the first time since 2015, with 6-6 junior Charlie Howell the leading scorer (15.3 ppg) and rebounder (7.4 rpg).
Ferndale (18-8) vs. Goodrich (22-4) at Lake Orion, 5:30 p.m.
The Eagles are working to reach Breslin and the Semifinals for a third-straight season and have won 13 of their last 14 games while navigating a power-packed schedule again this winter. Senior Chris Williams leads a balanced lineup at 13.5 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Goodrich is a combined 93-20 over the last five seasons and playing to make the Semifinals for the first time with senior Jack Locey (18.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.2 apg, 2.0 spg, 45 3-pointers) among those filling the stat sheet.
Hudsonville Unity Christian (18-9) vs. Grand Rapids South Christian (23-3) at Calvin University
These rivals will be filling Calvin for a rematch after South Christian won the regular-season meeting 58-50 on Dec. 16. The bad news for the Sailors is they lost leading scorer Carson Vis (17.7 ppg) to injury in the Regional Final, but senior Jacob DeHaan (13 ppg) leads three others averaging at least 8.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Unity has won 11 of its last 12 games, with two-point upsets of Grand Rapids Catholic Central and Grand Rapids Christian along the way. Juniors Trayton Fisher and Colin Neiuwenhuis both average about 11.5 points per game and have combined for 97 3-pointers.
Chelsea (21-5) vs. Romulus Summit Academy (24-2) at Milan
These are two more teams looking to reach the Semifinals for the first time, Summit having played in a Quarterfinal as recently as 2021 and Chelsea’s last trip to the season’s final week in 2000. Juniors Jacob Stephens (22.7 ppg) and Joseph Cabana (22.2) set a strong pace for the Bulldogs. The Dragons have doubled up all four of their postseason opponents so far and done the same in 16 wins total this winter.
Detroit Loyola (25-1) vs. Flint Beecher (21-4) at Waterford Mott
A 67-58 loss to Division 1 Flint Carman-Ainsworth on Jan. 29 remains the only defeat on Loyola’s list this winter. All five starters are seniors, with Dashawn Martin (15.1 ppg) leading three averaging double-figure scoring. Beecher’s losses were to Division 1 and 2 opponents, including three playing tonight. Robert Lee leads a senior-dominated lineup at 24.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game as the Bucs attempt to make the Semifinals for a third-straight season.
Laingsburg (25-0) vs. Ecorse (19-4) at Ypsilanti Lincoln
The Wolfpack’s closest game this season was seven points, its Regional Semifinal win against Jonesville, as it attempts to reach Breslin for the first time since 2013. Junior Zander Woodruff is averaging more than a point per minute of playing time, leading at 24.4 ppg. Ecorse is seeking a return trip to the Semifinals and has won 17 of its last 18 games. Senior guard Malik Olafioye also is putting the finishing touches on a high-scoring career.
St. Ignace (22-4) vs. Traverse City St. Francis (22-4) at Gaylord
St. Ignace is playing in its first Quarterfinal since 2001, seeking to reach the Semifinals for the first time since 1983. Junior Jonny Ingalls (22.4 ppg) leads three Saints averaging at least 13, plus he’s dishing 5.4 assists per game. St. Francis has won 11 of its last 12 games with that lone loss to Cadillac (see above) in overtime in the regular-season finale. Senior Wyatt Nausadis has paced the scoring at 20.1 ppg after quarterbacking the football team to a Division 7 runner-up finish in the fall.
Pewamo-Westphalia (19-6) vs. Niles Brandywine (24-2) at Portage Central
Brandywine has reached the final week for the first time with its first Regional title, and its only losses this season remain against Division 2 Benton Harbor. Junior Jaremiah Palmer leads a lineup with four players averaging at least 9.7 ppg at 12.9 per game. P-W is making its second-straight Quarterfinal appearance after edging North Muskegon by three and then Grandville Calvin Christian by two last week. Senior Jamison Eklund is averaging 22.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.
Painesdale Jeffers (25-1) vs. Munising (24-1) at Negaunee
The Upper Peninsula is guaranteed to send a one-loss team downstate to the Division 4 Semifinals, and for both programs it would be a first-time trip. Jeffers is playing its first Quarterfinal, and Munising its first since 1954. Junior Levi Frahm leads four Jets scoring in double digits at 20.5 ppg, while senior Kane Nebel is surrounded by a similar balanced attack and leads four double-digit scorers at 15.8 ppg.
Taylor Trillium Academy (21-3) vs. Marine City Cardinal Mooney (15-11) at West Bloomfield
Trillium is another first-time Regional champion, taking this step after falling just a four-point loss shy of reaching the Quarterfinals a year ago. Senior DaMaryon Fishburn is averaging 22.7 points, 9.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game for the Wildcats, and junior Keymarryon Fishburn adds 15.3 ppg. Cardinal Mooney has won seven of its last nine games to reach the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2016 and after falling in Regional Finals the last two seasons – avenging the 2022 loss to Genesee Christian to advance. Senior Trent Rice leads three double-digit scorers at 12.9 ppg.
Frankfort (17-8) vs. Hillman (22-4) at Gaylord, 5 p.m.
Frankfort is another team on a nice streak with eight wins over its last nine games including 50-44 over 2022 semifinalist Lake Leelanau St. Mary in last week’s Regional Final. Senior Emmerson Farmer and sophomore Carter Kerby supply the backcourt with between 10-11 ppg apiece. This will be Hillman’s fourth Quarterfinal over the last nine seasons as the Tigers seek their first Semifinal trip. Trenton Taratuta is a big-time scorer averaging 27.4 ppg with 60 3-pointers but also 9.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 5.2 steals per game.
Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (20-6) vs. Kalamazoo Phoenix (17-2) at Richland Gull Lake
This is a familiar spot for Tri-unity Christian, the reigning Division 4 champion. All five starters average between 6-13 ppg and four have high games of at least 20 points this season; senior Roy Fogg tops both lists at 13 ppg and 25, respectively. This is new territory for Phoenix, which won one game just two seasons ago but has won 10 in a row heading into this week. Senior Cameron Lewis-Atkins (19.9 ppg) leads five players averaging 11 or more points per game. Phoenix avenged one of its losses, to Eau Claire, in the Regional Semifinal.
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PHOTOS (Top) A fan holds up a sign supporting Painesdale Jeffers between the third and fourth quarters of last week’s Regional Final win over Stephenson. (Middle) Tri-unity Christian’s Roy Fogg pulls in a loose ball during his team’s Regional championship victory over Lansing Christian. (Top photo by Cara Kamps; middle photo by High School Sports Scene.)