Friday Night Hoops: Operation Friendship Games

The Operation Friendship Games at Calihan Hall on Friday pitted the best teams from the Detroit Public School League vs. the best from the Detroit Catholic School League. Dion Harris, Joe Crawford, and Malik Hairston were all in action. We also got our first look at, DePorres star and MSU commit Brandon Cotton. Plus, we have news (and a picture) of a future University of Michigan walk on. Click for more.

Dion Harris directs the defense

The consolation game between Detroit Redford and Orchard Lake St. Mary's tipped first Friday evening. The story of the game was the second half explosion by Dion Harris. He absolutely put the Redford Huskies on his back and carried them to a victory. Despite being double, and sometimes triple, teamed, we had him (unofficially) for 18 of his 31 points in the second half. He scored in a variety of ways. That said, his most frequent and effective tool was knifing into the lane for the bucket and/or the foul. On Friday Night, Mr. Harris looked like Mr. Basketball in the state of Michigan, leading his Huskies to a 62-56 win.

Dion knifes in

Dion with the fade away

One of the treats of the night was watching two future Michigan teammates square off. We learned recently that Orchard Lake St. Mary's big man, John Andrews, would be walking on at Michigan. He looks to be about 6'6" and 215 lbs. He's a very athletic player that is physical enough to guard bigger players, but quick enough to be given the responsibility of guarding Harris. The traits we noticed most in our limited observation were his impressive jumping ability, hustle, and his very smart play. Quite frequently we saw him beating his defender down court in transition or fighting off several other players for rebounds. He had 20 points on the night and countless hustle plays. Andrews is a quality addition to the program. In my opinion, he has the ability to match the production of current Michigan walk on, Sharrod Harrell, somewhere down the line. We'll have more on John soon.

Dion Shoots over future Michigan walk on John Andrews (#33 in Red)

The title game tipped next, and it was the event that everyone came to see. This contest gave everyone, including MSU coach Tom Izzo, the opportunity to see Joe Crawford and Malik Hairston take on Brandon Cotton. These players went one on one a number of times…and while Cotton had the most points, Crawford and Hairston got the win.

Joe has unquestionable hops! He jumps completely out of frame shooting the jumper in this picture!

Malik from long distance

Joe-Joe and Malik came out to pace the Phoenix early. Crawford had 4 quick points and Malik 5, on the way to an 11-4 lead. On the other end, Joe played some good defense on Cotton, while Hairston contributed to the effort with a few double teams. Cotton was obviously frustrated by the intense pressure, but still showed his immense talent with some great drives to the basket and some nice long range jumpers. The offensive production of the Phoenix stars slowed down considerably the rest of the half. Malik had 7 and Joseph had 5 at the intermission. However, other Phoenix players stepped in to pick up the slack. Phoenix jr. guard Marcus Stout was on fire for a brief duration in the second quarter hitting 8 points in a little over a minute on two 3-pointers and another nice jumper. Renaissance went into the locker room with a 29-23 lead.

Joe checks Cotton

Joe and Malik double team Cotton

In the second half, the Phoenix expanded their lead to 13 points until DePorres went on a run to cut the lead to 43-39. That's when Renaissance coach Mark White called a timeout to regroup his team. They came out with a determination that would not let them fail. Joseph Crawford wowed the crowd with an acrobatic lay-up and also drained a few jumpers where he skied over the opposition. Their lead never got below 4 points and they went on to win 57-50. Brandon Cotton finished the contest with 23 points, while Joe Crawford and Malik Haiston finshed with 13 and 17 respectively.

Joe-Joe turns in a move similar to Jordan's reverse in the Finals vs. the Lakers in 91! He was much higher in the air than this when he decided that he wanted to reverse it on the way down!

After the game, we attempted to get over to Romulus to catch their conference championship showdown with undefeated Inkster. However, the late finish of the Friendship games caused us to arrive at the Romulus gym by the 4th quarter. The game was jam packed past its capacity and all of the doors were locked. To compound our frustration, there apparently was a storybook ending where future Michigan forward Ron Coleman hit a fade-away three to win the game at the buzzer. For more game details click here: Romulus over Inkster

Be sure to check back this week for a gallery of my remaining pictures from the Operation Friendship games.

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