Basketball Check In

It’s the midway point of the season, and this has been long overdue, and for that, I apologize. Let me explain. I wanted to get a bucket load… more than a bucket load of highlights in because I felt that with all the Christmas tournament basketball games going on there had to videos coming out left and right. I only sent out highlights from the MICDS Holiday Invitational, which was super convenient for me because my residence is contiguous to the MICDS campus and it went along with my schedule for the other engagements I had to honor. Back to the midway point and January is almost over as we are approaching the final week of the month. It’s clear who are the cream of crop in St. Louis, but there’s still a fair amount of schools that are still up in the air terms of their certainty as a top or mid-tier side, which we’ll dive into.

For my hardcore followers, you know that I picked St. Mary’s as the No. 1 overall team in St. Louis over then nationally ranked Vashon. Defiantly bold, but ultimately wrong as they proceeded to lose to SLUH the following week. Oh yeah, I got plenty of stick for it and probably has dampened my reputation as an expert if you will (not saying I am, but I know the area well). The Dragons recently defeated CBC for the second time at the Martin Luther King Shootout (an odd way to title the tournament) 64-55. They suffered another loss to Illini recruit Javon Pickett and Belleville East 73-66 which Pickett scored 30 points. Perhaps it is a good thing Southside Catholic drop a couple which usually bodes well for the long haul. The sharp shooting Tony Burks leads the team in scoring, while Yahuza Rasas remains to be a powerful post presence and of course there is Yuri Collins, who is the best sophomore point guard in the area.

Yes, I still think they can beat Vashon, but I never said they'd beat them and it’s a tall task.

The Wolverines won’t make it easy and this fixture could happen as both schools are slated in Class 4. They just won the Topeka Invitational Tournament Championship with victories over Topeka High School (58-44), Wichita South (85-43) and Wichita Southeast (71-51). Now at 13-2 on the season, Vashon arguably has the best overall talent in the Missouri, specifically heightwise with Kansas State commit Levi Stockard and Joseph Reece at 6’8” and Tromon Weston who is 6’9”. It’s rather difficult to say the Wolverines are best at because they got great post play, but a loaded backcourt as well with Daniel Harris, Casey Cody-Jackson, Koray Gilbert, Darren Huntley and super sophomore Mario McKinney. A lot of the experts have their eyes peeled to what McKinney will do down the road, but it won’t be a shock by any means if we see the other guards playing in college at high levels. GSV will finally get to see Vashon on film as they take on Gateway STEM this Monday night at home at 7 pm. One last thing, the Wolverines might have the highest rated freshman class in the state by multiple outlets and rankings.

The Red Devils of Chaminade, unfortunately for many who wanted to see someone else to be the top of the top in the area is still there, and looking at their roster it doesn’t seem like they’ll be getting off anytime soon. I wouldn’t say they have the same titanic aura about them as the last couple of seasons, but talent wise they’re one of the best and might be the tallest team in the state as well. The two go-to-guys have been Jericole Hellems and Karrington Davis. The two junior dynamic forwards are arguably the best duo around as Hellems is averaging 21 points per game and Davis with 19. Both attack the glass well, have decent mid-range ability and light it up from beyond the arc. Predictably the two both have plenty of D1 attention, and it will only continue to grow as their careers proceed. Reggie Crawford, Marin Vrucinic and junior point guard Jadis White have been key figures too. A welcoming piece to the team is freshman Luke Kasubke, who quickly made his presence known this season as one of the best freshman talents in the area. With a more catch and shoot role, he averages seven points per game and shoots 46 percent from the field. The boy is just 6’6” tall and has a lot of potential.

Webster Groves is 11-2, but both losses have come in tournaments that they didn’t win, which included their own Webster Classic against Champaign Central and to SLUH in the Coaches vs. Cancer Christmas Tournament. The good news for them and the basketball junkies in town, and the bad news for their opponents is the return of Carte’Are Gordon. If you need a reminder of what he can do look here. With him added to an already solid unit the Statesmen will be fully loaded and capable of knocking off anybody who stands in their way. Courtney Ramey is having the season we all expected him to have and he’s so far he’s lived up to most people's expectations. Cam Potts has been one of the best guards around when it comes to driving and pulling up inside 15-feet from the basket. Ray Adams is one of the most consistent three-point shooters and will get more open looks with Gordon joining the fray and drawing attention in the paint. Another decent long ball shooter is R.J. Wright who has introduced himself this season as a new impact player as has Kevin Butler done so. One of the players I was particularly looking forward to seeing this season is Isaiah Ford who transferred from Affton. Predictably his scoring output is lower, but his work rate and production are where it needs to be as well as his athleticism.

Surprise Squads

Ritenour
Coming off a season-ending district championship loss to Chaminade, which they got nuked 103-49 the Ritenour Huskies got clobbered by Ladue 88-61 in the first game of the season. With an experienced and highly athletic group of kids, the Huskies won the St. Charles West Tournament and had competed hard with everyone else they’ve faced. Since December 19 they have gone 9-2 and hung with Chaminade and CBC. If you like track meets in a gym, then the Huskies are a team to watch. Ritenour is averaging 72 points per game, which is the most in the Suburban South and they have given up the most points per game in the conference as well as 64 per contest. Point guard Robyion Hughes is averaging 18 points, five assists, and three steals while Kobe Smith and Carl Garmon average double figures in scoring. You have to give a lot of credit to head coach Mike Nelke who may be turning this program around. He might be best known for being the Clayton head coach from 2012-2015 and ended with a record of 34-46 and let go after the 14’-15’ season. He landed on his feet with at nearby Ritenour in the following offseason, and his current overall record is now 28-15. There is a good outside bet that the Huskies can win 20 games and equal Nelke’s win total at Clayton and a great opportunity awaits them Wednesday night as they host Gordon, Ramey and Webster Groves in a Sub. South Conference matchup. One thing you should know about Ritenour is they love to shoot and shoot often. They’ve attempted a total of 1,119 shots so far this season, but for the most part, it’s worked out fine. Another strength for the Huskies is their ability to grab cookies from the cookie jar. They have stolen the ball 199 times, and I would wager that they’ll crack 200 after Wednesday night.