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Jack of All Trades: Cadillac's Charlie Howell leads 2023-24 boys basketball Dream Team as Player of the Year

Apr. 28—CADILLAC — Charlie Howell brought euchre to the Cadillac boys basketball team.

Oh, and a lot more, mind you.

That includes victories, championships, leadership and now the 2023-24 Traverse City Record-Eagle Boys Basketball Player of the Year honor.

The Vikings started playing the card game on road trips, with Howell regularly joined by teammates Eli Main, Gavin Goetz and Bailey Wade.

Cadillac had limited numbers on varsity, and Howell set the tone in practice and on the court.

"He provides a super good example in practice," said Main, part of a good group of juniors returning next season. "He really exemplifies what it means to play Cadillac basketball. He's really the whole package."

Main and Howell were varsity team managers together in junior high. Then Howell made varsity as a freshman, and suddenly an eighth-grade Main was handing out cups of water to his former crewmate. They officiate youth games on weekends, helping coach up the young players as well.

Howell even joked about taking a year off to be a foreign-exchange student so he could be in the same grade as most of his teammates on the junior-laden Vikings.

"As good as he is on the basketball floor — and he's been incredible — he's just as fantastic a person off the court," Cadillac head coach Ryan Benzenberg said.

Howell helps out at all the camps Benzenberg runs, and volunteers once a week to go to elementary schools to encourage youngsters to play.

Main and Howell met in fourth grade, and Main said Howell's competitiveness is always there.

"If we're throwing the football around, he throws it the farthest," Main said. "We play tennis, and his serves are perfect. I'm like, 'You don't even play tennis!'"

Aside from being a two-time Vikings varsity captain, he also captains Cadillac Unified, a program that allows area Special Olympics athletes to play abbreviated games alongside varsity players in between girls and boys varsity home doubleheaders.

"Charlie was always right there, mixing it up, clapping his hands for them and being there," Benzenberg said.

Howell's journey to becoming Cadillac's seventh all-time leading scorer was an easy one. After standing out in junior high, Howell needed to find a role with the Vikings varsity early on — one he wasn't used to.

"I knew I had to find my role with Cole Jenema there," Howell said. "I was on the floor to guard their best player and only shoot if I was wide open."

That role expanded a lot last season with Jenema graduated, and it continued to evolve this year.

Howell wanted to play college basketball, and even at 6-foot-6, coaches told him he'd need to improve his outside shooting considerably to play collegiately.

So Howell worked on his 3-point shooting all year, increasing his percentage from 30 percent as a junior to 41 percent this season.

"That is a perfect example of how the kid works," Benzenberg said. "He took the feedback — and it wasn't the greatest feedback — and he did it."

That opened up Cadillac's playbook, as Benzenberg could run plays for Howell from three, in the post and off the dribble.

With a 4.0 grade-point average, Howell looks to go into the business, economics or finance fields. He loves math (and Legos). That former hearkens back to euchre, where they can get in 2-3 games on a road trip.

The Vikings won three BNC titles in Howell's three seasons as a starter, claiming their first of the three outright this season. The Vikes shared the BNC crown with Anthony Ribel and Traverse City Central in Howell's sophomore and junior seasons, but Cadillac ran the table this year as Howell earned the league's Player of the Year award.

"We knew we were going to win the Big North," Howell said. "We knew we could go 10-0, but it's really tough the second time you play teams."

Howell's first dunk came late in a game at Traverse City West as a sophomore to help seal a share of the BNC crown.

Benzenberg aims to increase youth participation numbers so the program only experiences "shallow valleys" instead of big ones like this year when Howell was the only senior on the team and the varsity squad had just eight players all season.

The Vikings moved up to Division 1 this season, and ran into a top-10-ranked Muskegon team whose starting lineup went 6-7, 6-7, 6-5, 6-3, 5-9.

Cadillac hoped to return to Division 2 for next season, but the Vikings will remain at D1 by just a handful of students.

Benzenberg said the junior core coming back will take a lot of lessons learned from Howell into next season, aiming to extend their BNC title streak to four. Having Howell as the team's hardest worker meant others had to step up to meet his level.

"The respect they have, they will take from his example and finish what he started," Benzenberg said. "He walked away with his head high."

DREAM TEAM

Charlie Howell, Cadillac, Sr. (Player of the Year)

Just a complete player. Can play in the post or outside, both on offense and defense. Averaged 22.0 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 1.7 steals, 1.7 assists a game. Second-team all-state in a loaded Division 1 class.

Evan Haverkamp, McBain, Sr. (Defensive Player of the Year)

Dominating rebounds changed opponents' game plan on a nightly basis. Mobile shot blocker whose length allows him to haul in rebounds many just can't. Averaged 16.6 points, 11.6 rebounds (second among all area players), 1.4 blocks, 1.4 assists per game. First-team all-state pick.

Landon Kulawiak, Buckley, Jr.

The area's second-leading scorer at 23.5 a game, he added 8.1 boards, 2.2 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.5 blocks a game. One of northern Michigan purest shooters, and one of only two non-seniors on the Dream Team. Earned first-team all-state in Division 4.

Anthony Ribel, Traverse City Central, Sr.

Last year's co-Player of the Year battled through injuries and still had a great campaign when he was available. Averaged 22.9 points, 5.0 assists and 2.7 steals a game while two different foot injuries sapped him of some spring during the season. Second-team all-state as a junior.

Luke Gelow, Gaylord, Sr.

Led all boys scorers in northern Michigan at 30.1 points a game. Second-team all-state pick headed to D1 Oakland as a preferred walk-on. Also averaged 9.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.8 blocks a game.

Jacob Plamondon, Glen Lake, So.

Kept improving and dominating more and more throughout his sophomore season. The only underclassman on the Dream Team averaged 19.7 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, 1.3 steals and 1.1 assists per game. Second-team all-state in Division 4.

Bruce Koopman, McBain (Coach of the Year)

Guided the Ramblers to the Final Four in his 30th year at the helm. The Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan Hall of Famer owns 549 boys basketball victories and another 247 on the girls' side.

SECOND TEAM

Ben Habers, Traverse City West, Sr.

The senior leader on an otherwise somewhat young Titans team. Habers attacked the game and stayed in opponents' faces on his way to averaging 16.0 points, 3.0 assists and 2.1 steals per game.

Ethan Bennett, McBain NMC, Sr.

The Comets' 6-7 big man put up huge numbers as a senior, averaging 22.2 points, plus an area-leading 12.2 rebounds and 5.8 blocks per game. Second-team all-state selection in Division 4 has an arsenal of moves in the post and can hit from outside.

Reece Broderick, TC Christian, Jr.

Another Division 4 second-team all-state pick (for the second time), Broderick kept up his long-range shooting ways as a junior, putting him in reach of the state's career record for most 3-pointers. Has 260 career 3s after drilling another 91 this season to put him 80 short of the state record.

Jayden Hanson, Bellaire, Jr.

Bellaire's interior presence put up numbers across the boards, averaging 17.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. Part of a talented junior core that looks to make the Eagles a serious contender next season.

Carter Kerby, Frankfort, Jr.

Flashy guard led the Panthers to the Final Four as a sophomore and within a couple points for a district title this year. Averaged 16.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.0 steals per game.

Ben Rodenbaugh, McBain, Jr.

Doesn't put up eye-popping numbers, but the 6-4 point guard controls the game and kept McBain's offense humming on the way to the Final Four. Averaged 7.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.8 steals per game.

THIRD TEAM

Lincoln Lockhart, Traverse City West, Jr.

Junior who isn't afraid of any moment, Lockhart will be a force next season. He averaged 15.2 points, 2.0 assists and 1.5 steals on a team with a lot of scoring options.

Jimmy Marshall, Petoskey, Sr.

One of the more underrated players in the Big North Conference, Marshall led Petoskey with 16.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.

Jaxon Childers, Benzie Central, Sr.

Turned into more of a leader this season instead of just a scorer. The results were still good numbers — 15.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 3.0 steals per game — for a Benzie team that was more balanced.

Braeden Flynn, Harbor Springs, So.

Followed up a big freshman campaign with a stellar sophomore season, putting up averages of 21.5 points, an area-leading 6.0 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2.7 steals a game. Second-team all-state pick shot 80% from the line and 36% from 3-point range.

Drake Koepke, Bellaire, Jr.

Do-it-all guard whose contributions helped Bellaire grow as a program. Averaged 14.3 points, 4.4 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 2.7 steals per game and was Bellaire's top 3-point threat.

Max Ogden, TC St. Francis, Sr.

Transferred from a crowded TC West backcourt and found a home at St. Francis, averaging 17.2 points a game. Has multiple college offers, including Division 2 Northwood.

FOURTH TEAM

Clayton Heuker, McBain, Fr. (Freshman of the Year)

Stats don't tell the whole story with the freshman's season and impact, as he provided a secondary scorer and rebounder to Haverkamp inside for the Ramblers' Final Four run. Averaged 8.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, but came up much bigger in the playoffs. The 6-6 forward will be a force in years to come.

Garret Mobley, Brethren, Jr.

The 6-9 center still has room to grow his game, which has to be frightening for his future Northwest Conference opponents. Averaged 12.7 points, 8.9 rebounds and 4.7 blocks a game.

Bryce Plesha, Frankfort, Sr.

The 6-6 post player was a key figure in the team's success the last two seasons, which included a Final Four trip in 2023. Adrian College commit averaged 15.2 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, 1.0 assist and 1.0 steal per game.

Drayten Evans, Central Lake, Sr.

The first half of the Trojans' two-headed backcourt monster, Evans averaged 23.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.7 steals a game.

Garrison Barrett, Central Lake, Sr.

Part II of one of the best backcourt tandems in northern Michigan, Barrett put up averages of 18.5 points, 3.9 assists, 2.6 steals and 1.5 assists per game.

Sam Schoonmaker, Inland Lakes, Sr.

The Bulldogs' 6-3 post player was an all-Ski Valley Conference pick after averaging 17.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game.

FIFTH TEAM

Benji Allen, Glen Lake, Jr.

Steady, aggressive guard helped the Lakers to the D4 quarterfinals, averaging 10.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.1 steals. It's hard to pick whether basketball is his second- or third-best sport (going with baseball as first).

Daniel Jacobson, Gaylord St. Mary, Jr.

Injury cut short his junior season and short-circuited the Snowbirds' hopes of a long playoff run. Averaged 19.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 2.3 steals a game.

Tyler Hall, Mesick, Sr.

The Bulldogs' glass cleaner averaged 14 points and 11 rebounds as a double-double machine. Added in 4.0 steals, 2.0 assists and 1.0 blocks as one of the more versatile big men in the area.

Patrick Puroll, Ellsworth, Sr.

Always putting up numbers, Puroll fills the stat sheet with regularity. Averaged 17.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 5.3 assists (fourth among all area players) and 4.1 steals per game for the Lancers.

Rider Bartell, Harbor Springs, So.

Really came on as a sophomore to give the Rams two prime scoring threats. Averaged 18.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.2 steals per game this season.

Jaden Alger, Boyne City, Jr.

Double-double monster in the Lake Michigan Conference, he put up 14.9 points and 10.9 rebounds a game. Also averaged 1.0 block, 1.4 assists and 1.0 steals.

SIXTH TEAM

Connor Wojciechowski, Brethren, Sr.

Just known as "Wojo" around Brethren, the senior guard has been a staple in the Bobcats lineup for years. Averaged 14.5 points, 3.3 steals and 2.7 assists a game for Brethren, which finished the season 17-7.

Grady Harless, Bear Lake, So.

Picking just one out of the Harless brothers was a tough call. Myles averaged 13.4 points and 10.3 rebounds, while Grady put up 14.5 points, 6.1 boards, 3.4 assists and 1.9 steals a contest.

Tristan Demlow, Grayling, Jr.

Leading the 11-win Vikings, Demlow was a consistent contributor on his way to averaging 14.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.8 steals per game.

Eli Graves, Kingsley, Sr.

A second All-Region appearance this year for Graves, who was the football Player of the Year. Averaged 15.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.4 steals per game.

Lincoln Hicks, Manton, Sr.

Led the Rangers to finish the regular season by winning six of their last nine matchups after a slow start, Hicks averaged 16.9 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.0 steals per contest.

Aiden Dixon, Mancelona, Sr.

One of only two unanimous all-Ski Valley Conference first-teamers (along with Jayden Hanson). Stats aren't the biggest thing with Dixon, who led the Ironmen to a league title. Averaged 7.6 points, 3.4 assists and 3.7 steals per game.

HONORABLE MENTION

Joe Gaffney, Charlevoix, So.; Miles Pritchett, Benzie Central, Sr.; Noah Hilley, Elk Rapids, Jr.; Carter Williams, Buckley, Sr.; Haven Somers, Elk Rapids, Sr.; Owen Ribel, TC Central, So.; Quinten Gillespie, TC West, Sr.; Dylan Cundiff, Glen Lake, Sr.; Ethan Kucharek, Grayling, Sr.; Carson Murphy, McBain, Sr.; Ivan Kuzmanoski, Mancelona, Sr.; Rylan Matelski, Gaylord St. Mary, Sr.; Gavin Goetz, Cadillac, Jr.; Kaden Battershell, Bellaire, Sr.; Dawson Derrer, Bellaire, Jr.; Tramel Caviness, Manistee, Jr.; Landin Sowa, Manistee, So.; Kenyon Brown, Brethren, So.; Brendan Slack, TC Central, So.; Korbyn Russell, East Jordan, Sr.; Connor Wallace, Inland Lakes, Sr.; Brady Odenbach, Petoskey, Sr.; Chas Stanek, Boyne City, Sr.; Tavin Morgan, Mancelona, Sr.; Myles Harless, Bear Lake, So.; Caden Bradford, Onekema, Jr.; Luke Bradford, Onekama, So.; Emmerson Farmer, Frankfort, Sr.; Kyle McGowan, Cadillac, Jr.; Keaton Matelski, Boyne Falls, Sr.; Luke Bramer, Lake Leelanau St. Mary, Jr.; Jerry Schaub, Lake Leelanau St. Mary, Sr.; Hudson Vollmer, Charlevoix, Sr.; Eli Main, Cadillac, Jr.; Titus Johns, McBain NMC, Sr.; Kaleb Musselman, Manton, Jr.; Tyler Hart, Onekama, So.; Thomas Fox, Johannesburg-Lewiston, Sr.

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