Having a freshman on a varsity boys basketball team is uncommon, and even more so when he becomes an impact player.
But to have five freshmen in one area starting across three teams? That’s nearly unheard of, but this season, we’ve watched this rare group do some pretty impressive things.
Braylon Frantz is the starting point guard at St. Clair. Through 17 games this season, he averaged 14.4 points, 5.4 reounds, and 5.2 assists.
Jackson Kohler runs the Yale Bulldogs’ offense, and through 15 games, he averaged 10.1 points, 5.7 assists, and two steals.
And then there’s the trio at Port Huron Northern: Alex Jamison, Cam Harju, and Amir Morelan.
Jamison was averaging 13.3 points and 3.8 rebounds through 16 games, Harju averaged 11.7 points while shooting 36% from beyond the arc, and Morelan managed 4.1 assists and 9.9 points per game.
“They’re all so different, it’d be pretty good if they were all playing together,” St. Clair head coach Matt Distelrath said.
That certainly would be quite the team, and in fact, they often do play together on various elite travel teams in the offseason, giving them the experience needed to prepare for their varsity debut.
“The speed and quickness and aggressiveness that you see at a lot of the AAU tournaments I think has helped their transition to the varsity level,” Yale head coach Garnett Kohler said. “It’s a whole new ball game, but playing that has helped.”
It’s that experience along with their unique talents, Huskies head coach Brian Jamison said, that has made his team so successful this season.
“They complement each other well. They each bring something a little different to the table…they all have a unique skill set, but they fit well together,” he said. “Sometimes you see teams with talented freshmen but they’re the same type of player, where these guys all can do different things and are fierce competitors.
“When we do live drills in practice, they’re going after it. None of the three, and true for all of my team, like to lose.”
So what makes this group so different?
One word comes to mind when Brian Jamison thinks of his son, Alex: versatile.
“He can play a lot of positions for us, make threes, and is a good free-throw shooter. He’s a kid who can plug into a lot of spots and can guard a lot of guys,” he said. “He’s been real versatile for us and filled in different numbers, plays the four sometimes, plays the one sometimes, he’s been all over the place.”
As for Harju, he has the unique ability to make shots – from anywhere on the court and under any circumstance.
“Cam can just make some really tough shots. He has the ability to score whether he’s off-balance, off the dribble, or off screens,” Brian Jamison said. “Most kids need to have their feet set where Cam is just amazing at making shots that would be really tough for a lot of basketball players. He makes it look pretty easy.”
And then there’s Morelan, who’s overall athleticism gives him a court vision like no other.
“He does such a nice job of getting in the paint and then from there, he can score himself or he’ll find our shooters,” his coach said. “I think he jumped right into our team and took off running. He’s more of an instinctive point guard, pass-first, which is refreshing because so many kids want to score whereas I think Amir enjoys setting people up.”
While most freshmen athletes across any sport wouldn’t be described as consistent, that's what Distelrath said of Frantz, who has only improved as the season’s gone on.
“I think his high [score] has been in the twenties, but his low is eight to 10, and even those nights he’ll have a lot of assists, so there hasn’t been a lot of peaks and valleys,” Distelrath said. “He started off the year averaging just above three rebounds and now he averages five a game, and his defense has improved. He’s always been a solid defender, but he’s turned into a good varsity defender, which is nice to see.”
Much like Frantz, Jackson Kohler brings consistency to the point guard position, even under pressure as he averages just 2.1 turnovers per game, which is something Garnett Kohler said the team has struggled with in the past.
“All of the other guys have helped too, but he’s helped bring down those turnovers…and he’s handling the ball for us 85% of the time, so I think that’s a big thing he’s brought to our team,” Garnett Kohler said. “One of his biggest strengths is his basketball IQ. He reads things well…A lot of it is just instinctual, and he does study the game a lot off the court. He watches a tremendous amount of basketball.”
Whether they’re leading scorers or making plays for their teammates, there’s no doubt this group has been fun to watch this season, and just to think, it’s only just begun.
For in-game updates and other news, follow Calli on Twitter @ newberry_calli
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