None of the top high school senior basketball players in the state of Michigan were invited to the McDonald's All-American Game or Jordan Brand Classic, the two premier high school all-star games in the country. No worries, though. They can all be seen this Saturday, April 1 in the inaugural Mitten Student Athlete Classic at Waterford Mott High School. Admission is only $10.
The game is the state's first high school basketball all-star game since in years, something the promoters, and skill trainers, Myke Covington and Reggie Butler, wanted to bring back to the state.
"We wanted to give players the recognition due, for going through high school, having a good high school career, accomplishing so many goals, and just being forgotten about," Covington said. "I felt like a game was needed, and these guys play against the best of the best in AAU all the time. You count the number of McDonald's All-American nominees that we have, and none of them made the game. But that shouldn't take away from them being celebrated. We're just bringing more awareness to the state of Michigan basketball."
The game will feature 22 of the state top players, including 2017 Mr. Basketball winner Isaiah Livers of Kalamazoo Central, who committed to Michigan, Michigan State commit Xavier Livers of Grand Rapids Christian, Detroit Cornerstone's Jamal Cain, who will attend Marquette in the fall, and three-time defending Class C state title winner Malik Ellison of Flint Beecher. Ten of the 22 players have already committed to Division I schools, with players like Greg Elliott of Detroit East English Village Prep, Jermaine Jackson Jr., of Macomb Dakota, and West Bloomfield Kevin McAdoo still waiting to make their decisions.
Mitten Classic roster:
Xavier Tillman - 6-8 - Grand Rapids Christian - Michigan State
Jamal Cain - 6-7 - Detroit Cornerstone - Marquette
Jermaine Jackson Jr. - 5-9 - Macomb Dakota - undecided
Greg Elliott - 6-4 - Detroit East English Village Prep - undecided
Amauri Hardy - 6-2 - North Farmington - Oklahoma State
Isaiah Livers - 6-8 - Kalamazoo Central - Michigan
Kevin McAdoo - 6-2 - West Bloomfield - undecided
James Beck - 6-7 - Grand Rapids Christian - Oakland
Greg Eboigbodin - 6-9 - UofD Jesuit - Illinois-Chicago
Nick Welch - 6-6 - Monroe St. Mary's Catholic Central - Northwood
Keion Epps - 6-6 - Wayne Memorial - Eastern Michigan
Mike Flowers - 6-3 - Southfield A&T - Western Michigan
Ike Eke - 6-9 - UofD Jesuit - Marquette
Dylan Alderson - 6-5 - Clarkston - Milwaukee
CJ Wilson - 5-9 - Orchard Lake St. Mary's - undecided
Jack Ballantyne - 6-9 - Macomb Dakota - undecided
Demetrius Lake - 5-11- Holland - Schoolcraft
Davion Bradford - 6-1 - Detroit Cornerstone - undecided
Darian Owens-White - 6-1 - River Rouge - undecided
Malik Ellison - 5-9 - Flint Beecher - undecided
Christian Rodriguez - 5-11 - Wyoming Godwin Heights - undecided
DreQuan Bell - 6-4 - River Rouge - undecided
"We've had relationships with a lot of these guys since they got into high school," Covington said. "I do a lot of skills training, Reg (Butler) does a lot of individual skills training with the big guys, and I coach AAU. We wanted to give these guys respect, and we asked them if they would be interested. All of them said yes. It was a one-question no-brainer for them, and no one rejected it."
"There were plenty of other guys who could have been in it. I wish I could have taken a closer look at Eric Williams of New Haven. We wish we could have touched more guys, and do it bigger, and we didn't want to knock anybody that was left out. We want to continue to grow this going forward."
In addition to the actual basketball game, there will also be a 3-point contest, featuring Jackson, Ellison, McAdoo, Cain, Elliott, Lake, and Livers, and a dunk contest with Cain, Beck, Alderson, Eke, Epps, and Livers. Covington also wants to incorporate community service into the event, and there will be a player appreciation luncheon to honor the participants for their hard work over the last four years.
"Basketball is the vehicle driving this," said Covington. "But we want to reach out further to these guys. All of them are going to play in college, and we want to get them out here in the community so people can see them, see how important they are, put a face to name, and continue to build on their character."
"We have a couple of guest speakers coming to speak to them, like Sebastien Bellin. He played at Oakland, and was caught in the Brussels bombings last year, so he's going to speak to them on the appreciation of everyday life, and not taking it for granted. Marv Fox is an incredible inspirational speaker, and he is going to give them more of the athletic motivation and how you can fuel it in life."
NBA legends Rick Mahorn and Earl Cureton will coach the teams in the Mitten Classic, an added bonus for the players. Teams will be announced on Tuesday, March 28.