Look out below! Canton’s hoops team soaring at right time
There was a high-altitude object sighted multiple times Friday night soaring at dizzying heights above the Canton High School gymnasium’s basketball court.
No worries, though: It was just Chief senior forward Omar Suleiman elevating toward the rim for one of his multiple dunks against Plymouth-Canton Educational Park rival Plymouth.
The Chiefs throttled the Wildcats 58-40 on a night when the athletic program honored its 2012-13 team that earned KLAA division and conference titles before securing its most-recent district championship.
Could this 2022-23 squad be returning in 2033 for the 10th anniversary of an identical trio of accomplishments?
Don’t bet against them.
Chief operating officers
Currently tied atop the KLAA West Division with Brighton (with a potential division title-deciding matchup against the Bulldogs looming Friday in the Phase III gym), Canton appears to be peaking at a perfect time.
Fueled by a starting line-up that includes the tall and long-armed trio of Suleiman (6-foot-5), Dante Favor (6-8) and Bradley Eziuka (6-4) and a solid — and at times spectacular — backcourt of junior Caleb Williams and sophomore Teddy Winstel, the Chiefs can give teams fits at both ends of the hardwood.
Plymouth found this out the hard way on Feb. 10, failing to score its first bucket until nearly six minutes into the game.
Led by Favor’s four swats, Canton racked up 10 blocked shots, making the lane a dangerous place to roam for penetrating opponents.
And the Chiefs forced 11 turnovers in the first half alone — a testament to their scrappy/disciplined brand of defense.
When Suleiman wasn’t throwing down rim-rattlers, he was shredding the nets with three long-range treys. They weren’t quite as dramatic as the beyond-half-court buzzer-beater he beat Salem with two weeks earlier, but they were evidence that the Lake Superior State University-bound star is a threat from 20 feet and beyond — and when he decides to get up close and personal with the rim.
Eziuka is Canton’s version of Golden State’s Andrew Wiggins — not necessarily a nightly headline-grabber, but a consistent contributor. Eziuka scored 17 points against Plymouth (sharing scoring honors with Suleiman) in as non-flashy of manner as possible. He didn’t record a three or a dunk, but his fingerprints were all over his team’s decisive victory.
One big Favor
And Favor can light up the scoreboard as efficiently as shutting down the opponents with shooting range that many 6-8 forwards don’t possess and a catalogue of slick moves from 10 feet and in.
When a Canton starter needs a breather, the Chiefs’ coaching staff usually calls first on Devon Pettus (when he’s not starting himself), a 6-1, 220-pound Energizer Bunny who averages nearly a rebound a minute.
The Chiefs’ overall record of 12-7 is deceptively vanilla. Their pre-KLAA slate was as brutal as the ones Michigan State’s Tom Izzo annually draws up for the Spartans as it included state-ranked Hamtramck, Detroit Cass Tech, Ann Arbor Huron and University of Detroit Jesuit (all losses).
But the Chiefs are battle-tested and know what’s required to beat the best.
Challenge await the Chiefs
Winning the division won’t be easy with Friday’s home game against Brighton and a division round-robin schedule finale at Northville on the docket, especially considering the Bulldogs handed Canton a 66-52 loss in the teams’ first encounter at Brighton on Jan. 24. But if I had to wager my LeBron James rookie card tomorrow on Brighton or Canton, I’m taking the Chiefs.
Securing a conference crown is also not a given as potential match-ups against Salem (which has battled the Chiefs down to the wire twice), Howell (which handed Canton its most-recent loss) and Brighton possible before a KLAA title game clash against either Dearborn, Belleville, Livonia Franklin or another East Division dark horse awaiting.
The road ahead is filled with challenges for every high school hoops team that has legitimate dreams of hoisting hardware.
But Suleiman-fueled Canton is as dangerous as any, simply because it has the capability to travel effectively through the air.
Look out below!
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