Witt’s dominance hard to go unnoticed

Chassell girls have tools to make deep run

Ewen-Trout Creek’s Jake Witt dunks against Chassell during the first quarter Thursday in Ewen. Witt finished with 24 points, 24 rebounds, seven blocks and three dunks in his team’s 63-42 win. (Bryce Derouin/Daily Mining Gazette)

I don’t like getting caught up on hyperbolic statements, but after enough thought, I’ve come to this conclusion: Ewen-Trout Creek’s Jake Witt is the second-best boys high school player I’ve seen in the U.P. 

My top five would go like this:

1. Jason Whitens, North Central

2. Jake Witt, E-TC

3. Brock Bower, Bark River-Harris

4. C.J. Paquin, Cedarville

5. Dawson Bilski, North Central

Now, before you fire up your computers to email me about some random guy that played in the 60s for a now-defunct school, consider that I’m talking about people I’ve watched myself. So that includes mostly the smaller schools in the central U.P. from as early as 2001, along with my time spent in the Copper Country. 

Witt earns the second spot because he’s the only player to feature size (6-foot-7) and strength that is unmatched in the U.P. He’s built like he’s ready to start at defensive end for Michigan Tech, and he has the athleticism to dunk and block shots from angles rarely seen in the U.P. Those attributes allow him to dominate and affect a game at an immense level on both sides of the floor, making him the priority of every team’s game plan. 

The other guys on that list never had to worry about being triple-teamed daily or had opposing offenses scheme entirely around them, which makes it all the more impressive that Witt is able to put up the numbers he does with all the extra attention he receives. 

It likely won’t happen, but with E-TC’s latest No. 2 ranking in the state, Witt could receive mention for the Associated Press Class D State Player of the Year. The ranking means people downstate are at least taking notice of E-TC, which would mean Witt. But even if Witt averages over 30 points a game and 15 rebounds, the award will likely go to . . .

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. . . someone on Southfield Christian. You may have noticed Southfield Christian was ranked ahead of E-TC in the latest state poll. If you really want to look down the line, if the winner of the Negaunee regional wins its quarterfinal matchup, it will assuredly play Southfield Christian in the state semifinals. 

Bryce Washington was last season’s Class D Co-Player of the Year with North Central’s Jason Whitens. Washington became Southfield Christian’s all-time leading scorer this season when he reached 1,236 points. He has 10 Division I offers, including Pittsburgh and Central Michigan. 

Junior Harlond Beverly averaged 12.5 points last season and is considered by downstate outlets as the top junior in Class D. Beverly has six Division I offers, including Michigan State, Ohio State and Missouri. 

So yeah, that’s what’s waiting for a U.P. team if it can advance downstate. 

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The No. 2 Chassell girls are one of the more impressive Class D girls team that I’ve seen. The Panthers understand defensive angles in their full-court trapping pressure and the players cut off drives well in the halfcourt. Routinely doing little things like that showcases a high basketball IQ. 

Offensively, the Panthers cut as well as anyone to the basket, and their teammates consistently find them in stride for easy layups. In an 80-58 win over Calumet on Monday, Chassell shot 54 percent (32-59) while assisting on 20 of the 32 made baskets. It’s that kind of unselfish basketball that really elevates teams. 

It also helps when you have a do-it-all guard in Milly Allen, who is making her case as the Copper Mountain Conference Player of the Year. Against Calumet, she scored 30 points while making 11 of 13 shots, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range. Plus, Chassell features the tall, athletic Sydney Danison on the block. Both players spent time playing AAU over the offseason, and it’s clear it has paid off. 

After dominating central U.P. teams in the Carney Summer Team Camp, and rolling to 11 straight wins, the Panthers appear to be heavy favorites to return to the regionals in Kingsford, where a regional semifinal matchup with No. 1 Munising awaits.