Don’t be too quick to revoke Ypsilanti basketball’s membership as one of the area’s elite teams.
If there is one positive that came out of their 8-12 season last year, by far their worst record in recent history, it was that the young group that took some lumps remains in tack and a year older.
Only one senior graduated, and head coach Steve Brooks likes what he has seen in summer ball and early scrimmages.
“Last year we only had one senior so we got a good pretty good group of guys coming back,” he said. “We have to be cautious because we’re going to a new conference and we haven’t played these teams, but these kids have worked hard all summer.”
The Phoenix also dealt with injury issues, and having senior Kyle Woodyard, who was named to the all-state country team this year, back is perhaps the biggest boost for Ypsi.
“We were really missing him last season,” Brooks said. “He’s going to bring a lot of ball pressure and quickness. He’s a great kid and we don’t see too many kids as mature as him.”
In the paint the Phoenix will look to Conner Heine, a 6 foot 5 inch center who Brooks also has holding down the wing.
“He’s the rebounding man,” Brooks said.
Jadonte McGurre is another returning starter on who Brooks expects to rely for points from the wing.
“He should be our slasher,” Brooks said. “He’s been looking good.”
Marshean Wilson, who Brooks described as a tireless worker, rounds out a group of four returning starters.
And the talent runs deep beyond just the starting five with Aarion Allen, Carlos Williams, Derek Richardson and several others coming off the bench.
Brooks is also excited about the power that Arnie Lincoln will provide when needed.
The 6 foot 4 inch forward weighs in at 240 pounds.
“He’s a bruiser,” Brooks said. “We’ve got a lot of depth. We’re going to kind of rely on that.”
With the Mega Conference dissolved, Ypsilanti will see the likes of Ypsilanti Lincoln, Chelsea and Dexter in their new home in the Southeastern Conference, and face tests against the always tough Ann Arbor Schools.
But the Phoenix will start their season Tuesday facing an old power from the Mega Conference, Wyandotte, and it will close the year up against familiar foes in a tough district with Belleville, Romulus and John Glenn.
Brooks believes his team can hang with any of the schools, be them in the SEC or old rivals, so long as they remain injury-free.
“At this point, we’re healed and ready to go and looking forward to having a big year,” he said.