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West Michigan Boys Basketball Preview

Zach Harig goes in-depth on 2021 season
Kobe Bufkin during a dunk
Posted at 1:16 PM, Feb 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-09 17:55:44-05

(WXMI) — Simply Zach Harig's opinion going into the 2021 boys basketball season in the FOX 17 viewing area.

Note: None of the following lists are in a particular order.

Boys Basketball Season Preview

Cream of the Crop

  • Grand Rapids Christian

After a 20-2 finish to the shortened season last winter, Eric Taylor's group is looking strong yet again. Michigan basketball signee Kobe Bufkin will lead the way along with fellow guard Donovan Brown-Boyd who really burst onto the scene last season.

Kobe Bufkin leading his teammates into a game in 2019-20 season
Grand Rapids Christian guard Kobe Bufkin (4) leads his teammates into a game during the 2019-20 season.

  • Grand Rapids Catholic Central

Despite losing a tremendous senior class including Mykel Bingham and Devon Boyd, the Cougars will reload once again. Jack Karasinski broke out as a sophomore last season and has improved over the off-season as he gets set to lead the way.

Grand Rapids Catholic Central's Jack Karasinski
Jack Karasinski of Grand Rapids Catholic Central.

Guard Ryan Grantham is coming off of an impressive summer and will look to fill big shoes in the backcourt as and freshman Durral Brooks will likely see major minutes as well. 6'9" senior Gabe Quillan will be a force to be wreckon with on the interior while sophomore guard Kaden Brown will be another player to watch for TJ Meerman's group.

  • Forest Hills Northern

A senior led team where the sky is the ceiling, Joe Soules' Huskies team has major expectations this winter. Senior guards Trinidad Chambliss and Ethan Erickson are two of the top players in West Michigan and combined for 50+ combined points on several occasions last season, including against Flint Powers Catholic early in the season. Now, Northern welcomes in Fruitport transfer and 6'7" Gavin Fischer to help lead the frontcourt with senior Dan Gutierrez.

Trinidad Chambliss and Ethan Erickson
Forest Hills Northern guards Trinidad Chambliss (4) and Ethan Erickson (35) before a game in the 2019-20 season.

Challengers

  • Zeeland East

Zeeland East is a senior led team with one of the best trios in West Michigan with the Claerbaut twins and Trip Riemersma. The Chix won 16 games last season and will look to win the new OK Green this winter.

Zeeland East boys basketball
Zeeland East's Trip Riemersma (30) and Nate Claerbaut (10) in a huddle during a game in the 2019-20 season.

  • Muskegon

The Big Reds lost a lot of senior talent from last year's team but are still loaded with talent. 6'8" Northern Michigan commit Michael Reed will look to lead the way for Keith Guy's team this season as they once again expect to be competing for a conference title and maybe, a trip to the state finals. Kalil Stimage also comes in as a transfer from East Kentwood and will help in the backcourt.

  • Northview

Kyler Vanderjagt is one of the most talented players in West Michigan and as only a junior. Vanderjagt uses his big frame to bully his way inside but has also developed a smooth jump shot from behind the arc as well. David Chana's team has a lot of other talent as well including fellow junior guard Jalen Charity.

  • Kalamazoo Central

6'5" forward Gerald Crawford will fill the shoes of Trevon Gunter (GVSU signee) and a talented senior class after a 16-6 finish to last season. Head coach Ramsey Nichols also boasts an impressive backcourt that will shoot the ball well.

  • Unity Christian

Unity Christian doesn't rebuild, they just reload. Even after losing a really good group of seniors, Zac Velthouse and the Chandler twins (Drew and Cam) will now carry the torch for Scott Soodsma's group.

  • South Christian

Senior post Connor Dykema will lead the way for the Sailors on the interior while 6'5" forward Ty Rynbrandt and 6'6" Elliott Grashuis added length on the wings. Sam Medendorp also returns at the forward position with guards Sam Meengs and Jared DeHaan from a team that won 15 games last season.

  • Coldwater

Coldwater returns guards Ethan Crabtree and Spencer Rodehisler from a team that went 16-6 last season before the season cancellation. The Interstate-8 champions from last season should be ready to compete once again this winter.

Top Talent

  • Kobe Bufkin, Grand Rapids Christian
  • Donovan Brown-Boyd, Grand Rapids Christian
  • Jack Karasinski, Grand Rapids Catholic Central
  • Kyler Vanderjagt, Northview
  • Ethan Erickson, Forest Hills Northern
  • Trinidad Chambliss, Forest Hills Northern
  • Gavin Fischer, Forest Hills Northern
  • Zac Velthouse, Unity Christian
  • Koby VanderWoude, Caledonia
  • Tommy Gregwer, Grandville
  • Connor Dykema, South Christian
  • Finlay Tate, Paw Paw
  • Grant Pikkart, Portage Central
  • Gerald Crawford, Kalamazoo Central
  • Colin Weber, Hopkins
  • Brandon Claerbaut, Zeeland East
  • Nate Claerbaut, Zeeland East
  • Trip Riemersma, Zeeland East
  • Jakhary Towns, Godwin Heights
  • Brady Titus, Tri-Unity Christian
  • Carson Gulker, Zeeland West
  • Conner West, Sparta
  • Sam Krist, Rockford
  • Ethan Crabtree, Coldwater
  • Caleb Taylor, Gull Lake
  • Seth Schuitema, Grant
Caleb Taylor of Gull Lake
Gull Lake's Caleb Taylor (1) during a game last season.

Ready to Breakout

  • Dallas Hopson, Forest Hills Central
  • Santana Phillips, Ottawa Hills
  • Clay Lake, Byron Center
  • Michael Reed, Muskegon
  • Brady Bosma, West Ottawa
  • Jalen Overway, Holland Christian
  • Ryan Grantham, Grand Rapids Catholic Central
  • Tristen Perry, Hopkins
  • Damarie Thompson, Godwin Heights
  • Harmon DeVries, Schoolcraft
  • Ryne Peterson, Pennfield

Teams to Watch

  • Grandville

Tommy Gregwer returns for Ryan Klingler's club after being one of the top scorers in West Michigan as a junior last season. While the Bulldogs went just 2-19 last winter, they could surprise some teams in the OK Red.

Tommy Gregwer of Grandville
Grandville's Tommy Gregwer during practice this season.

  • Rockford

Sam Krist and Brendan Schueller make up a senior led backcourt for Rockford this winter. After going 8-14 last season, the Rams should be much improved with a lot of experience in an OK Red that should be up for grabs.

  • Gull Lake

After finishing second only to Kalamazoo Central in the SAC East last winter, Gull Lake should be ready to compete again. The Blue Devils return senior guard Caleb Taylor, one of the top scorers in West Michigan last season as well as 6'6" junior Hayden Garrison.

  • Byron Center

After going 9-12 last season in Joe Rodriguez's first year at the helm of the Bulldogs, Byron Center is ready to win even more this winter. 6'5" Senior Clay Lake is a name to watch in West Michigan as they look to compete in the insanely talented OK White.

  • East Grand Rapids

Speaking of the OK White, East Grand Rapids returns some nice pieces from a 14-8 team last winter that finished third in the old OK Gold. Sophomore Simon Neuhaus should raise some eyebrows along with talented seniors like Ben Whiteside.

  • Paw Paw

With a scorer like Finlay Tate, Paw Paw will win a lot of games this season after a 9-13 record last winter. After Otsego lost a talented senior class, the Wolverine Conference should be up for grabs and the Red Wolves could make a push at the title.

  • Schoolcraft

The Schoolcraft Eagles finished last season unbeaten at 21-0 before the cancellation of the remainder of the postseason. The Eagles bring back an insanely talented senior class that includes post player Harmon DeVries, forwards Tyler Degroote and Ty Rykse.

  • Grant
Grant's Seth Schuitema
Grant's Seth Schuitema during a game last winter.

Seth Schuitema is flat out one of the best scorers in West Michigan. As a sophomore last season, Schuitema helped lead the Tigers to a share of the Central States Gold title but they'll look for more than 13 wins this winter.

Top Duos

  • Kobe Bufkin, Donovan Brown-Boyd - Grand Rapids Christian
  • Ethan Erickson, Trinidad Chambliss - Forest Hills Northern
  • Kyler Vanderjagt, Jalen Charity - Northview
  • Brandon Claerbaut, Nate Claerbaut - Zeeland East
  • Brady Titus, Austin Treece - Tri-Unity Christian

Freshmen to Watch

  • Durral Brooks, Grand Rapids Catholic Central
  • Christian Humphrey-Rembert, East Kentwood
  • Lukas Bakker, Zeeland West
  • Myles Steffen, Zeeland West
  • Jake VerMaas, South Christian

Lenny Padilla contributed to this article.