Afternoon Hoops (Det. Renaissance )

The first stop on my basketball trek Friday was Renaissance High in Detroit. This was my first opportunity to see new U-M commitment, Renaisssance's 2G Joe Crawford, play live -- and I'm pleased to say that the skills he displayed were very exciting! His teammate (and U-M recruit) F Mailk Hairston was impressive as well!

The competition (City High) wasn't able to keep up with the pace set by the home team and eventually lost by 43 points, 86-43. Phoenix stars Crawford and teammate Malik Hairston obviously did not have to play the entire game. That said, their abbreviated play was still enough to get a good dose of some big time skills.

Coach Mark White calls Joe his " Baron Davis" and it's easy to see why. Joe already has an NBA body and strength that allows him to finish plays after contact. His "and 1" ratio is going to be amongst the highest of any team he's on. The part that surprised me most was Joe's dribbling ability. Joe got to the lane with ease off of a crossover or hesitation dribble. The fact that he has excellent range really opens up his driving opportunities, as his opponents really have to overplay his jump shot. Once Joe gets into the paint his hops are on full display. His aerial assault is something to see! So too is Mailk Hairston.

Joe Crawford

I came away in awe of the smoothness of Malik's game. Before I spoke to Coach White, I was thinking that this kid was the right-handed Jalen Rose. Not surprisingly, many others have made this comparison. Even coach White calls Malik "my Jalen Rose." The talk of this kid being able to play 3 positions is extremely accurate. He's 6'5" and handles the ball like a player 4"-5" shorter. We'll have much more on both Joe and Malik later in the week. In the meantime, I'll detail a little of my conversation with coach White.

Malik Hairston

Once the game was over I took a little time to take pictures and speak with Joe and Malik. After that was done I stayed over an hour more talking basketball with Coach White. I gave him my impressions of his players and I was surprised to see that they were right in step with some of his perceptions. He said that he had the new Detroit Southwestern when I mentioned how Malik reminded me of Jalen. He labeled Malik as Jalen, Joe as Voshon Lenard, and he even had another kid that he labeled as his Howard Eisley. I had a very sobering moment when he told me that he had mentioned the Jalen comparison to Malik. Mark said that Malik didn't really follow the comparison because he's too young to remember! That's the first time I've felt old since one of my son's friends called me Mr. Webb! At any rate, much of our conversation really demonstrated how genuinely Mark felt about the kids. He made it a point to mention their academics. (He even turned me on to a 6'8" freshman with a 4.0 GPA on his JV squad). It's easy to see that he has something special going on there…and it's not just ON the basketball court. It's off it as well.

Malik, Mark, and Joe

After talking about his players, our conversation switched to some of the other top players in the state. When I mentioned Dion Harris he simply said, "best player in the state!" I love Dion's game as well, but I had to stick up for my hometown (Flint) and give Olu Faumutimi mention. Mark replied by saying that Olu was one a hell of a player, but that Dion could do it all. "Dion makes all the players around him better." He elaborated by saying that Dion is from his neighborhood so he's seen him develop over the years and Mr. Harris has what the experts call a complete game. "A lot of people think that Dion is lackadaisical, but I've seen him at his best and there's no one better when he's at his best!" (For those who missed it, my scouting report on Dion from his game vs. LeBron James can be found here: Dion Harris).

The next topic of discussion that was pertinent to Wolverine fans was Crawford's AAU teammate, sophomore sensation Jarrett Smith. "I like his game a WHOLE lot." Apparently Jarrett was impressive on the AAU circuit this summer. Ironically, I'd heard so much about Jarrett that I had to see him for myself. I caught one of his home games last Tuesday and I traveled to Walled Lake Central after I left Renaissance High on Friday to catch Jarrett in a road contest. My full report (with a variety of pictures) can be found here: Jarrett Smith.

Remember to check back later in the week for a lot more on future Michigan Wolverine, Joe Crawford (and on Malik Hairston as well).

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